There are Some Lists You Just Don't Want to be On
Recently we were asked about a specific link-building service that has clearly been successful in establishing links, building PageRank, and boosting rankings. It automates the process of exchanging links between sites, and it greatly simplifies the procedures of requesting, adding, and checking reciprocal links. The service has been highly recommended and the strategy itself is technically sound.
We found only one flaw...
There are some lists you just don't want to be on!
And, to us, that's a fatal flaw. It's a snake in the grass waiting to bite us in the ass the moment we feel comfortable enough to rest on our laurels.
You see, the service provides a published list of sites that are actively involved in this link exchange network. They list each URL. They even list the number of accepted and rejected link requests. This means that if YOU and I can see this information, then so can Google! ...or any other search engine.
You may be asking why this might be a problem. Here's why. Google's Quality Guidelines clearly states;
Don't participate in link schemes designed to increase your site's ranking or PageRank. In particular, avoid links to web spammers or "bad neighborhoods" on the web, as your own ranking may be affected adversely by those links.
So what do you think the chances are that Google will see this service as a "link scheme?" ...or that they'll view the whole network is a "bad neighborhood" and label the participants as "web spammers?" Our guess is somewhere between terrific and excellent. But, hey, we could be wrong (although for the past nine years we've called the trends almost perfectly—check our archives).
The rule we follow is this:
If Google can do it, and it makes sense for them to do so, they will do it.
And that rule has yet to fail us when predicting what's to come.
Here's what's likely going on and, please, take this as a warning. In spite of Google's latest update (Jagger) that penalized sites for mini-nets, link farms and certain kinds of reciprocal links, Google is still allowing some these reciprocal link schemes to succeed because doing so enables them to expand their list (though we doubt they're checking it twice).
Of course, Google holds all of the cards in the game. Ideally, they would like to identify all of these so-called spammers so they can marginalize them. In short, they want to lull as many pigs into the pen as they can before they slam the door shut and slaughter them.
Programs and services such as this make that task easier. By quietly observing the trough where the pigs come to feed, Google can identify and tag them all at once. So convenient. It even smells like a trap. We have no doubt that, at some future algorithm update, Google will yank the rankings of another large group of link-network spammers all at once. They may even crimp their ability to rank well forever.
By the way, there is no reason for Google to be in a hurry. In fact, the longer they wait to spring the trap the better for them. By waiting, they attract more ants to the poisoned honey (i.e., temporary good rankings). And, assuming their goal is to exterminate the ants, they let the ants enjoy the honey and tell others about it, in order to pull them out of their nest into unprotected territory.
The bottom line is this: If you are interested in the fast-buck and comparatively short-term success that such a link-network scheme is currently offering, then this can help you gain links and ranking success quickly. That appears to currently be a fact. If this serves your purpose, then go for it.
However, if you are looking to build a trusted, authoritative site that Google can reward with long term good rankings, and perhaps eventually even white-list, then don't even think about participating in such an easily identifiable link-network scheme ever. Once your site, company, or personal name becomes associated with web spamming, it isn't realistic to expect that Google will ever trust you again. Simple.
We're certain that, at some point, Google will yank the carpet out from under these easily identified ranking schemes and these sites will be severely penalized. Of course, we don't know when. It could be a year or two. It could be next month, but it will happen. And, when it does, nobody should cry about lost rankings after a major update. They should accept it as the day after the party ended and expect to clean up their own mess. (And, hopefully, they'll have banked some of those profits they made while the game was on.)
So there. You've been warned.
'Cause it's better to be Ranked than Yanked,
Stephen Mahaney - President
Planet Ocean Communications