Paid Links Go Underground

    November 27, 2008
    WebProNews Staff

For every abolition an underground emerges. Google’s not exactly the law, and bootleggers during Prohibition didn’t exactly offer seminars about avoiding the revenuers. Todd Mailcoat, Rand Fishkin, John Lessnau, with six middle fingers between them, offer no such discretion and invited PubCon attendees under the table in a session titled Linkfluence: How to Buy Links With Maximum Juice and Minimum Risk.

(Coverage of PubCon continues at WebProNews Videos.  Stay with WebProNews for continued coverage from the event this week.)

About this time last year, Google issued steep ranking penalties to paid link directories, making very clear to webmasters wanting to benefit from the search engine that reaches two-thirds to three-fourths of the market that paid links without nofollow commands to drain them of their link juice were officially taboo.

Most of the paid linking world either tried to hoof it out there without Google or reluctantly complied. But guys like Fishkin, Lessnau, Aaron Wall, you could call them outlaws, but really they are the leaders of the paid link underground that was a certain eventuality.

Paid Links Go Underground

Besides the juice, why would someone still be interested in buying links after all the Google strong-arming? “You get the anchor text want,” began Lessnau, “you get on the page you want, you get the location on the page you want.”

People have reasons other than Google for not buying links he continued, like the upfront cost, the time, effort and salesmanship, the “hoping for a wave of natural links miracle.”

Apparently, that’s just silly. Lessnau then provided an outline of “safe” paid links, which includes:

A link that is relevant in the text of a webpage
A link that is the only link on the page or one of very few on the site (this is important)
Links with varied anchor text
Links from inside pages
Links that are long term.

Lessnau recommends moderation. It’s always greed that gets people.

Which type of site should one seek out? Lessnau recommends a site with good rankings and lots of natural links that is not a major link seller. He described a cautious process that involves searching for the keyword phrases he wants to rank for, finding websites and pages that would be a good fit, verifying the potential partner does not link to major link buyers, and then making a fair offer to the webmaster.
Not only should a webmaster “know when to quit buying links,” she should also keep an eye on websites where links were bought to make sure the webmasters “stay clean.”

Fishkin followed Lessnau’s presentation with less advice that sounds like the sort you’d hear on “Intervention.” His “How to Buy Links Without ‘Buying Links’” segment involved more roundabout (read: untraceable) methods of link exchange. Less drug lord, more money laundering, then.

“It pays to have alternatives,” he said.

Fishkin suggested the nonprofit route, acquiring links via event sponsorships and online charities. Buying food for an event, or supplying t-shirts, etc., and thereby earning a sponsor’s link means “essentially you aren’t directly buying a link.”

Bullet points for this process:

Find nonprofits/charities online
Locate sponsorship pages
Check to see links pass juice, then get in touch
Avoid the standard donation forms and personally check with the webmaster about listings

Another way of buying links without buying them is indirectly bribing bloggers with free stuff and then following up with an email. “Don’t ask for a link. Ask if they liked the product.”

Yeah, slick right?