If you’ve been blogging for any length of time, you’ll be familiar with the humble link request. A cleverly composed email by an SEO company, that offers you the outstanding opportunity to link to one of their clients, for free or even for financial gain. Some of these requests even tout the potential ranking benefits for YOUR website. “Link to us, and Google will boost your rankings!” – or “Link to us and we’ll provide you with free cake for life”, or “Link to us and 100 beautiful virgin will meet you in search engine heaven”.
Hmm. Jesus loves a trier!
With search engines relying heavily on links as part of their ranking algorithm, these companies chase links through whatever means necessary. What the majority of these kind of requests rely on however, is that we as the receiving webmaster, are either idiots, or completely stupid.
As a site that has a bit of traction (with a couple of pages with decent enough pagerank) , I get bombarded with these types of requests on a daily basis. The automated ones, sent out on mass- Gmail’s spam filter tends to gobble right up, and I don’t have to waste my time reading them. Occasionally however, they aren’t as automated, and are a more tailored personalised request designed to wet my appetite as a blogger.
These too, waste my time, and irritate me in the process.
I received one such email the other day, from a company who shall remain nameless, but are well respected in the SEO industry, and have spoken at conferences such as Pubcon before. The company at this sort of practise is irrelevant, as it’s a tactic which is rife in the industry, but is at best antiquated. The following is a transcript of the email, with details removed to spare the blushes of the company in question.
I noticed you had a link to competitor.com on your site in one of your posts, and I was hoping you could add a link to a similar company, (http://www.company.com). Company is a global software company, serving the Enterprise Content Management needs of companies across a broad range of vertical markets.
We thought Webdistortion would be a great place for a link since you promote open source content. Let me know if we can offer you a donation or sponsorship in exchange for a link to Company.com. Feel free to spend some time on the Company site to see if it would be a good fit. Let me know if you have any questions or would like more information.
Linkbuilder at Notable company.
I mean. seriously?
I have a number of issues with the above, here’s my open letter of response:
Firstly – let’s start with the issue of integrity.
I blog because I get a kick out of it. I enjoy writing content that other people enjoy reading. I like growing my traffic.
I don’t however, feel that my readers should have commercial content shoved down their throat at every opportunity. Editorial control tends to go out the window once money starts exchanging hands for links, or paid reviews. It’s not what blogging is about for me.
Secondly – let’s examine exactly what you are asking for.
So, you’ve managed to find that I linked to a competitor. Well done, that must have taken all of ten minutes to run the report out of open site explorer, and find me amongst the pickings.
Now. You want me to place a paid link to your client, on the site that I’ve worked my ass off at promoting and growing, for a small sum. I take all the risk of my site getting banned by Google – lest we forget the smackdown on J.C. Penney, and the Google guidelines, and your client takes the benefits. How many other bloggers have you offered the same thing to, who aren’t aware of the inherent risks of accepting paid links on their site? This, is what gives the industry a bad name, with no disclosure on the risks involved for the site owner – for obvious reasons.
You offer nothing to either my readers or site than short term financial incentive for me. What price do you think I would put on that sort of risk? Put it this way – you or your client can’t afford the link. If you want exposure on my site, offer to buy advertising.
Thirdly – why didn’t I find the link in my initial research?
If it’s worth talking about, I’ll probably have seen it during my inital web research into the topic area. In other words, the site in question probably doesn’t have any visibility on social channels, it probably hasn’t cropped up amongst conversations with friends, and it probably isn’t worth me mentioning on my blog. I suggest you guys return to the drawing board and work harder on obtaining links naturally – starting with the overall visibility of the brand in question overall.
It pains me to see SEO companies wasting their time with these sorts of tactics that must surely have a tiny reward ratio. If the time and effort was put in increasing visibility, or coming up with creative link bait campaigns that bloggers like myself would be interested in linking to for free, they might find a shed load more links heading their way for a fraction of the cost of a paid link campaign. Get out there and create linkworthy content like the rest of us.
It’s extremely short sighted to try and cut your way through Google’s algorithm with a tactic that probably isn’t going to mean much in a couple of years when social activity gets more deeply ingrained in search algorithms anyway.
So what would have got a link?
I get it. Link building is difficult. That’s not to say that it is completely impossible to get links from bloggers, you just have to think very carefully about the value proposition, and what’s in it for them from the outset. Things which rate highly on my radar are things which will help my site grow, such as guest posts, where no money exchanges hands, but my readers end up benefiting. Please, SEO companies stop wasting your time sending me your crap to score links. Smart site owners have wised up to the practise long ago.
1990 called, and it wants its link requests back.