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Friday, May 6, 2005

Buying Backlinks

Is it a wise decision to buy backlinks to boost your traffic? Not really if your sole reason is to impress Google and other search engines. Doing something just for Google is never safe in the long run. But like with most things in life, it’s also strongly a matter of dosage.

We all know Google loves links (and loves them more than anything else, including on-page content), so how could a backlink possibly be bad? Well, a single backlink isn’t bad. Not even hundreds of them. In fact, it’s valuable, because it’s a good sign of natural popularity of a web page – the Google democracy still uses links as votes.

What may be changing more and more is how quickly Google’s algorithms raise the “link farm” flag. A link farm is a strongly inter-connected network of pages linking to each other to boost PageRank. If a site gets nothing but what I would call “evenly distributed backlinks” from a domain, this hints at two types of links: friendly “partner sites” links, or sponsored links. (It can’t be e.g. someone writing a blog post about a great site, because then this link would appear only once within thousands of other pages.)

Usually, sponsored links can be separated from “partner” links because they are unrelated to a site’s content. It may be a possibility Google figures out themes of a site and thus compares relevancy of connected sites. It may also be Google doesn’t understand theming, and simply goes by the numbers; they may still build a successful spam trap this way.

But none of these two types of links, partner and paid, are bad per se – it’s a matter of how high the dose is. For example, an “evenly distributed backlink” on one domain can bring 50,000 backlinks overall. We all know Google highly devaluates this link’s power (it’s not 50,000 times as powerful as a single link from this domain would be, but maybe three times as powerful). Now are these 50,000 backlinks triggering the spam flag? No, they won’t – too many legitimate sites would fall. But once this scheme is repeated on a variety of other domains, and almost exclusively this scheme is making up the backlinks to a site, the site may be penalized for it.

Sometimes, even legitimate sites get penalized – was one such example (you couldn’t find this humor site even when entering “Davezilla” into Google), and it might have been triggered by a large amount of bloggers linking to this blog as friendly “partner” site in their blogroll (blogrolls have been accused to artificially boost the blogosphere’s relevancy in the eyes of Google).

But what might be needed for the spam trigger to catch a site quickly are either links from the site in question back into the inter-connected backlinks structure, or an exclusive dose of “partner” schemes only (this is called “bad neighborhood”). Otherwise, you could attack someone else’s site – say, – by creating a link farm and linking to them from all over this link farm. But because a site like has a high amount of natural backlinks (like 1 inline link from 10,000 domain each, as opposed to 1,000 links from 10 domains each), and they don’t link to the backlinkers in return, they built a natural defense.

In short, if you want to build a natural defense and still advertise on other sites, you must provide great content. Only this way will your dose of natural links increase, and at the same time decrease the relative amount of unnatural backlinks. Faking a real web with a high amount of links to you would mean paying the real web, and all of its pages – which would be far too costly.


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