Gone are the days when you built your website and waited for the search engines to crawl them and index them. In those early days of the Internet you could expect the content on your website and the meta tags to be the most important criteria the search engines used to judge where you should fall in the rankings. Not so any more.
Google introduced the idea of off page factors. Now, those factors are the most important part of the picture. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of counterfeiting going on.
All SEO boils down to two things:
Ideally, these would be equally weighted. But they’re not. If you don’t have inbound links, you’re dead in the water. For that reason, everybody who wants to be somebody is scrounging, scamming, scheming, and doing everything they think is necessary to get those links. Some of it is good; a lot of it is not. And the search engines have noticed.
That’s why Google is encouraging your competition to spy on you (as if they weren’t doing that already). Only now, your competition has some incentive for sending you the equivalent of a virtual Molotov cocktail. It’s called a paidlink report – or, at least, that’s what I’ll call it.
I’d like to get a few paid link reports anyway because I’m excited about trying some ideas here at Google to augment our existing algorithms. Google may provide a special form for paid link reports at some point, but in the mean time, here’s a couple of ways that anyone can use to report paid links:
- Sign in to Google’s webmaster console and use the authenticated spam report form, then include the word “paidlink” (all one word) in the text area of the spam report. If you use the authenticated form, you’ll need to sign in with a Google Account, but your report will carry more weight.
- Use the unauthenticated spam report form and make sure to include the word “paidlink” (all one word) in the text area of the spam report.
As far as the details, it can be pretty short. Something like “Example.com is selling links; here’s a page on example.com that demonstrates that” or “www.shadyseo.com is buying links. You can see the paid links on www.example.com/path/page.html” is all you need to mention. That will be enough for Google to start testing out some new techniques we’ve got — thanks!
That’s Matt Cutts talking. He wants you to report your competition. Why? Well, some people say it’s because Google wants to control all the paid advertising online. I think it’s more likely that Google is trying to improve its algorithms to give value to real, natural links at the expense of unnatural ones. That’s understandable, but Cutts’ suggestion is a bit too impractical. I mean, how will Google know if a link is paid or not? And does Google not itself sell links through it’s AdWords program?
The problem with this approach is that everyone online is buying links. Even if you engage in legitimate link building strategies, you likely paid for the links. I mean, articles, blogs, social bookmarking, these are all viable ways to build links. Even linkbaiting, as difficult as it is, involves building links to your website.
While writing and distributing articles doesn’t cost anything, while blogging is a low-cost activity, and while social bookmarking is a free activity, they all do require a time commitment. If you don’t have the time, you’ll have to hire someone to do these things for you. Isn’t that paying for links? Only, your competition won’t know if you’ve hired someone unless you tell them, and neither will Google. What all of this means is that Google will have to be selective in which links it singles out as paid links or not. And some folks could argue that’s not fair.
The hard reality online is that you need links. You’ve either got time to build them yourself or you’ll have to hire someone to do it for you. It’s imperative that, if you hire someone, you hire someone you can trust, not only from the perspective of quality work but now also because you don’t want someone blabbing your business all over the Internet. Those wall have ears, you know. And when the ears listen, links could very well get discounted. I wouldn’t want that to happen to you so keep this in mind – as they say, loose lips sink ships. Zip it, man. Your website’s life depends on it.