The news that Wikipedia will be tagging all hyperlinks to external sites with “no follow” attributes is disappointing but not shocking. Because of Wikipedia’s high rankings in search engines like Google and Yahoo, as well as the ability for almost anyone to edit or create content on the site, there undoubtedly are spam tactics in play for attempting to place links within its content. This has caused somewhat of an uproar in the SEO community, as it is very likely that the value of an inbound link is what enables a site like Wikipedia to even become popular in search rankings.
However, these type of issues are ultimately what hurts the entire online community in general, meaning “bad link building practices”. I actually personally had a page removed from Wikipedia several months ago, and I really felt that it was not a situation where I was spamming the site. I wrote an article on the history of a product, which was already referenced on a Wikipedia page. The existing Wikipedia page contained links to other products with product history pages as well. My opinion is that editorial policies on what material is and is not appropriate within the site are highly subjective. What level of critical mass or brand awareness/name recognition allows for certain people, products and services to be listed and others to be rejected?
At any rate, that is not the point of this post. It was rejected, I learned my lesson and I apologized to the powers that be. This post is about taking a look back at some of website tools that we as website owners have used in the past, that are being devalued because of the volumes of spam, poorly created submissions and overall abuse of systems in place.
There is an etiquette involved in almost every communication process and the same can be said about link building, no matter what the type of link is that you as a website owner are trying to create.
Here are some examples:
- Web Directories
There was a time when I could submit to around 20 key web directories and expect a residual benefit in terms of search presence. I always followed the guidelines for quality submissions and if there were no explicit instructions, I kept in mind what the big players in the web directory space required (such as DMOZ, Yahoo and Zeal/Looksmart). That included appropriate Titling, avoiding the use of overtly promotional descriptions and the most relevant 4 or 5 keywords.
You could actually converse with DMOZ editors in regards to your submission and they would tell you how far down in the queue you were or possibly why you were not getting listed. At one point I had a 100% success rate with my submissions, but have only made 1 submission in the past 12 months as a result of what I know is an overwhelming backlog of poorly written submissions and websites with almost no value in terms of content or concept.
I personally have a web directory with a Google PR of 2 that I have never marketed, which gets over 50 submissions a day that are from spammers or webmasters that do not care about my guidelines.
- Reciprocal Linking
When webmasters really caught on to the value of a link, it made sense to create general link pages on their sites with the goal of creating inbound links. “What I do for you, you can do for me”. It then evolved into a practice of automatically generating these links. I could submit my website to a “link generator” designed to automatically create link relationships with whoever was in their pool of websites.
In doing this, we failed to take the user into perspective. If I am on a website about real estate, there is little reason why I want to see information on e-cards, comic books or dating. Is reciprocal linking dead? It shouldn’t be if you are providing links to resources that your website visitors would want to see, based on the content and information on your site.
Create communication to websites you think are of value to your users and explain why your site and their website should exchange links. Provide real connections. There is nothing more annoying than getting poorly crafted or poorly related link requests. Here’s my favorite response from Jim Boykin’s Blog as it relates to the poorly crafted link request.
- Blog Spam
I never have been big on the idea of trying to artificially generate links through commenting on blogs. While it seems perfectly reasonable to add a link to your signature, the objective of a blog is to communicate about a topic. If you are commenting on a topic, the communication should be related to the topic.
I don’t even have any highly popular blogs that I author, but I still receive comments linking to casinos, computer products and other services. It was out of necessity that I approve comments and sometimes require an account (depending on the blog).
Thinking About Link Building Practices
In conclusion, there have been and will always be opportunities for website owners to build inbound links to their websites, but everyone should take a step back and make certain that what they are trying to do fits “a reasonable standard” for where they are trying to obtain a link. We end up losing quality link building opportunities because good ideas spiral into cheap tactics for obtaining a search presence.
Consider how valuable it will be for a user on one website to view the information on your website before even considering placing/submitting a link request. Does it make your research take more time – absolutely. Will it bring more value long-term – absolutely. Instead of creating an environment where more link requests in a smaller amount of time is the goal, create a strategy that allows you to research more websites for quality link opportunities in a more effective amount of time.
One final note: While link building is a component of SEO, it is not just SEO’s that are to blame, or are at fault as an entire party. The same can be said for marketers, webmasters or programmers who are blamed for gaming Digg or spamming YouTube. People responsible for building links and promoting their websites and web properties are all responsible for quality link building practices. This includes anyone tasked with the job of creating a presence online for a website.
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