What Does Your SEO Linking Portfolio Look Like?Commercial webmasters have been taught that link popularity has a great influence on whether a website will rank well in the search engines. There is a lot of truth in this teaching, but I have to tell you that the way that most people practice building links is wrong and may end up hurting their website in the search results.
Carpet Bombing Is Dead
Google understands that people are always looking to manipulate Google's search results. Every time Google makes an enhancement to their systems, someone gets clever and figures out a new way to manipulate the system, so they can sell their SEO services to desperate webmasters.
It is a never-ending game of cat-and-mouse. Google understands as we do that a top ten listing in Google's search results can make millionaires overnight.
When it first became clear that a massive number of links could contribute to link popularity and propel a website to the top of the search listings, deep pocket companies came out of the woodwork to carpet bomb the web with their links.
In April of 2007, Matt Cutts of Google-fame announced Google's intention to take a bite out of the "paid links" trade. Everyone from webmasters who were selling links on high PageRank pages to people who were trying to buy top listings in Google were crying about Google's interference in the "paid links" industry.
Cutts was not pulling any punches when he shared his news about Google's intention of minimizing the effect of "paid links" in their search algorithms. He said it, and three months later, Google was implementing new algorithms to limit the effect of paid links.
Taking a bite out of paid links was only step one in the war against the carpet bombers.
Step two was implemented rather quietly a short time later, and it appears to me to have been the more successful of the two steps.
What Does Your Link Portfolio Look Like?
Most webmasters generate their links in one of several ways.
For free links, webmasters seek out reciprocal links, directory listings, forum postings with signatures, etc.
Those webmasters who have a little bit of a marketing budget undertake article marketing as an additional method for generating links.
People who have an even bigger marketing budget often consider press releases, paid blog reviews, etc.
Those with the really deep pockets had always used paid links to step above the crowds.
Those webmasters who are really clever build "link baits". Link baiting is a concept where someone creates a page that other people will "want to link". The most common link baits provide some kind of tool, such as a calculator, or a paint color-selector, or a java-based application that does one thing or another.
I knew a lady one time who developed a link bait to let her hairstyling readers pick their hair length and hair color and have different hair styles applied to the website's models, so the reader could see what a particular hair style looked like on a real person. Since this java-based tool only appeared on her own website, people who were building websites and newsletters about hair care were knocking down doors to create new links to her web page.
A Link Portfolio is an analysis of the kinds of sites and web pages that link to your website and web pages. Where are your links? What kinds of links are they? Are your links all structured the same? Do they come in the same format (articles, press releases)? Here is the one important to our discussion. Do they all appear on the same kind(s) of website?
The Death of The Article Directory
Don't be jumping to conclusions here. This is not the time for you to be scanning this article. It is the time you need to start paying closer attention to what I am telling you.
Some people have observed the change in the Google algorithms that I had noticed, and on their observation, they have declared the death of article directories. But, the answer is not that simple.
It all comes back to the evolution of article marketing in 2004.
Until early 2004, most people engaged in article marketing were only interested in writing excellent content. In mid-2004, a lot of gurus started telling their readers about article marketing.
These gurus were right when they said a lot of people are making a lot of money using reprint articles to promote their businesses.
But the gurus involved in the explosion of people using reprint articles to promote their websites had one thing wrong. They were telling their readers that the only reason for the reprint article was a link back to one's website, and that link could influence a website's link popularity and its ability to rank in the search engines.
Don't get me wrong, those links can affect link popularity and the ability of a website to rank in the search engines. But, here is where they had it wrong:
The gurus said that the only purpose for article marketing was link building, so they advised that all articles should be between 300-400 words, and they advised that it really was not important whether the article was good or not, since the only purpose of the article was to provide some kind of content to get the link back to their website.
The Actual Role Of Article Directories Online
For those of you who do not realize it, the purpose of an article directory is to provide a warehouse where webmasters can go to gather articles that they can place on their websites for the benefit of their readers.
Some of the more well-known and heavily trafficked article directories include:
Now, Article Dashboard gives away their software to webmasters for free. Article Friendly was developed to be more "friendly" than Article Dashboard, for the site managers, but it costs a few dollars to acquire. The Article Beach software is also being sold in places, but it has zero support for webmasters.
With the birth of the Article Dashboard software, hundreds of new article directories popped up nearly overnight.
A couple of the article distribution companies positioned themselves to be low-cost providers of article distribution services for the new "link only" article marketers. To ensure a low-cost, big bang approach to article marketing, they programmed their services to send all of their articles to the hundreds of Article Dashboard websites.
These are the services that the carpet bombers turned to in order to get their links onto thousands of web pages across the Internet. And brilliantly, this is also the undoing of the carpet bombers.
The Line In The Sand
I am always impressed at the cleverness of the Google folks. They always develop methods to figure out who is spamming their systems and who is deserving of the links they have been given.
The Google engineers realized the problem with the article directories, and they figured out how to identify the article spammers. If you ask me, their solution was beautiful.
Think about social bookmarking for a minute. Social bookmarks can add value to a web page that is linked in the bookmark, because "a person" has voted on the referenced URL or article. That is a very powerful addition to Google's algorithm arsenal. Human editors are the same reason that Google puts such high value on Yahoo's directory listings and the listings in the Open Directory.
But, did you realize that there is a way to track articles through the concept of social bookmarking?
Here is the answer:
If an article was distributed six months ago, and no one else has chosen to publish it, except for the article directories, then it is probably safe to assume that the article is pure garbage and not worthy of the links it possesses.
When an article is of good quality, people will vote on that article, by putting it on their non-article directory website! If an article is on article directories AND it is on average niche websites, then it must be a good article and worthy of its links, including those in the article directories.
It Comes Down To Human-Validated Quality
So, what does your link portfolio look like? Are your articles only in the article directories? Or, are your links in article directories AND niche websites?
By my observation, an article can be placed in 100 article directories.
If three months down the road that article only exists on 100 article directories and no niche websites, then Google's algorithms will consider the article to be a spam article, deserving of no link popularity value.
However, if an article is in 100 article directories and 25+ niche websites, then it shows that the article has been voted worthy by 25 niche webmasters, so the article is worthy of credit for all 125 links it provides back to the author's website.
Of course, we all know that Google will never count all 125 links to a website from the various displays of an article, but it will count more of those article directory listings and niche website listings than it will if the article has received zero votes from the webmaster community.