So what exactly is unnatural linking?
Obviously Google has been sending out notifications to site owners through webmaster tools letting them know they have detected unnatural links. What constitutes an unnatural link is something we have to explore more deeply so we can develop a strategy that is not going to bring about penalties from Google.
Who placed the link on the site?
Reading through some of Google’s previous statements about unnatural linking, we can strongly theorize that links placed by a site owner to relevant content would be the strongest. On the other hand, links placed by visitors or registrants to a website with little or no editorial review would be more the unnatural variety.
Examples of Unnatural Links
- A blog or forum that allows comments that do not have to be approved by a moderator and instantly go live.
- A link directory that automatically approves link submissions or accepts virtually any link that is paid.
- Profile links on sites where you can register and place a link without the admin approving the link in the profile.
So what about Directory Links?
Despite there being many directories that have little or no editorial policy, there is plenty of support for the notion that a well edited directory can help with rankings of a site with Google. When there is a directory owner that is actively involved in creating carefully categorized links, and linking only to vetted quality sites, the directory will in time develop into a quality resource.
And why are there many bad directories? How can I make sure mine isn’t one of them?
Because the attraction of getting paid for links can be high. It is easy to just take the money, but that can be very short sighted. Also it can take a long time to develop a quality resource. It’s easy to just sit back and wait for people to submit to your directory. It is much more challenging to make a continuing effort over time. A better idea might be to target a niche.
What about Targeting a Niche?
This is a much more feasible plan than a general type directory. If you do want to make a more general directory, choose your categories carefully and do a very good job rather than being open to any sort of link. And if you focus on a niche you will probably find it is much easier and faster to develop a well rounded directory. Moreover, targeting a niche can mean you can more easily market to a specific group (Also see Katamari Technique).
Niche Targeting Strategies
There are thousands if not millions of communities across the web. The first thing you want to do is choose a theme or topic matter. Let’s go through some real examples:
1. You create a directory of web hosts categorized into categories like Budget, Reseller, Cloud, VPS and Dedicated. You add some affiliate banners to your directory (no follow). You then find some places where people are talking about web hosting. There are forums like webhostingtalk.com, webhostingforum.com and many others. You regularly participate in the forums with a link in your signature. You continue adding quality resources and try to become a respected expert in the area. You are not a “freeloader” hanging out for the signature link! You are developing a great resource while helping other people.
2. You organize a site around something contentious like politics. There are so many facebook groups, blogs and even forums around the web where you can talk about politics. You can create Links of the Day. You can highlight articles that are pertinent current events. You can not only include links but create your own articles too, as well as embed videos. It will take work, but if you hang out in the same places long enough, you’ll find it pretty easy to get people interested in the resource you are building and even get them involved too. Consider allowing comments. And of course a few months from now the election season will be heating up and you will be in a great spot.
3. Or pick something even more specific like Survivalists. Some people predict an economic or government collapse, and they are stocking up on supplies, building shelters, and everything they need to get ready. Why not create a directory that covers gear, building shelters, weapons, storing food, etc. Then you’ll find once again there are forums, facebook groups and blogs where you can participate, build a reputation and get people coming to your site.
You have to pick something that will interest you too. Think about what the directory will be like in 2 years, not 2 weeks. Think about the places you will participate and how you will get more and more people who have heard of your resource. Participating regularly in a niche can go a long way. It takes time but once you have carved out your area, those who follow will have a lot of catching up to do!
There seems to be quite an uproar right now with the Unnatural Linking Penalty in which Google is sending out messages in Webmaster Tools, yet not being very specific about just which links are unnatural and which are not. So of course some of the burden has fallen on directory owners.
Considering the history of the directory submission process, directory owners were often paid for their time reviewing links. If the link met the quality guidelines, then the link was accepted into the directory.
Now fast forward to today, and many of those same people are either requesting changes to the link so the anchor text will not be keyword optimized or outright removal of the link from the directory. It only makes sense that a directory owner would charge for their time, as was discussed last week in “link removal requests”.
If you are getting a lot of requests for removal, it might be worth your time to craft a standard response or send them to a link on your site letting them know the process of paying you for your time to process the removal.
Additionally, you could potentially create an email campaign to ask people if they would live to consider changing their anchor text or description, or even have their link removed from your directory. An
d then again you can send people to the page you created that describes the process for requesting changes in your directory.
Hopefully, this will allow you to get better compensated for your time managing your directory! And feel free to join in on this week’s discussion of paid link removal.
I like to tell people to imagine someone from a search engine is pulling up a list of all the links pointing to your site, and then having to make a decision on the naturalness of links they find.That does sometimes happen, and additionally Google and other search engines have developed algorithms based around their manual reviews that catch unnatural patterns quite accurately now.
So now let’s talk a little bit about bad SEO practices, and how it is a waste of time and money. Marketers of bad SEO products will try to convince you to think that Google can be fooled while you make millions is all part of the bad SEO sales pitch. You buy their product or service that is supposed to fool the search engines, BUT the result is invariably the opposite. Your site becomes worthless due to an unnatural linking penalty.
What Google is especially fighting against is those links that have virtually no editorial process. Google and other search engines do not think highly of situations when links are auto approved or robotically submitted, or where content is not even written by a human.
So let’s look at some terms that are commonly associated with bad SEO companies and that should make for a good overview of what NOT to do. We’ll cover what you SHOULD do and how directories can help in another post, but for now, let's start with a crash course on what to look out for so your site's ranking doesn't become a train wreck!:
Article Spinner - This is basically a tool that takes content written by a human and “spins” it, replacing words with other words, or maybe switching the order of phrases or sentences around. This is meant to trick the search engine into thinking this is legitimate content, and then often these articles are spread around the net in different version accompanied by links that are supposed to pass an SEO benefit.
Profile Links - If you have ever owned a forum you will know all about profile links. Basically, profiles that are supposed to be for real people to login and participate on the site are instead created for the purpose of spamming the search engines with a link in the profile. There are automated tools like Captcha Sniper designed so registrations can be done from a robotic tool that goes around creating hundreds of profiles, and again this is not something google thinks too highly about. A product called Xrumor is one such product known to spam forums.
Link Pyramids and Link Wheels - Generally this is a where someone is paid to setup articles, tumblr pages, hub pages, squidoo pages, wordpress.com pages and many more that interlink with each other and are purported to then focus pagerank toward a particular page. The problem is they often employ article spinners, and are done with very little thought or editorial process, making the value of the content very low, and it really just is a waste of time and money in a large majority of the cases.
Do Follow Links - Google a while ago requested that webmasters add the “no follow” tag to links that are considered advertising links because they are paid links. Additionally, the webmaster can add the “no follow” link to things like blog comments to dissuade people from posting just for the purpose of SEO. So people in the bad SEO world are constantly craving any sort of Do Follow link that does not contain the “no follow” tag and can easily be added with automatic submission programs.
Blog Commenting - So assuming the bad SEO folks have found Do Follow targets and have a way to bypass captcha, they then go around selling “No Hands SEO” services. Just setup a few things like anchor text and a URL and their software will go around commenting on blogs on your behalf.
Ping Services - While there are legitimate pinging services meant to “ping” google that a page was updated on your site, too often products are created to ping for the purpose of telling search engines about a page where a profile link was created or a blog post was automatically added. Worse still some of them are used to provide a false referral which leads to another form of spam...
Referrer Spam - Similar to a Pinging Service, the goal is to artificially add entries to traffic laws that webmasters use to study their traffic, so that it appears a lot of traffic is coming from a site when the fact is they are simply repeatedly pinging with often false data. At one point the search engine Bing was accused of doing this!
Link Farms - This is the area that directories have sometimes developed a bad reputation. They have no editorial process and virtually accept any link, or even auto approve the links. So of course in time they get loaded up with spam, and the links are worthless, and worse result in an unnatural linking penalty.
Hopefully, that gave you a pretty good idea of what to avoid so you can choose good SEO! There is a lot that can be done help with rankings and traffic and quality directories can play an important role, so long as you avoid link farms, etc. If you are a directory owner, try to help educate your customers about what works and what doesn’t and make sure your directory is a worthwhile resource!
A great prize awaits if you use our recommended host. Take a look at our special offer to find out how you can get our product virtually free. or receive other benefits. We also have a recommended hosts page, and we give you credits such as our product just for signing up with them.