If you’re going to be doing legitimate business on the internet, then you have to get yourself right with Google. Period. You may not like it, but that’s the way it is at this point in time. Therefore, if you want to get a good business going, you have to throw it a bone. The right PPC advertising campaign is the obvious monetary bone. The other bone is quality informative content. Google rewards websites that have higher quality content with higher placement in their search engines.
Google is also in a constant fight with people who try to game the system. There is enough of a business benefit to having a high search engine placement for a popular keyword that cheating is worth the risk to some businesses. However, if you are caught by Google you can ruin your online reputation and make it very hard to do business on the internet.
Let me say upfront that the takeaway from that last paragraph is NOT “don’t get caught.” Instead, you need to provide what Google wants and not what it doesn’t want. One of the worst things you can do is buy links instead of growing them.
Buying Links is Bad
A link is the fundamental currency of ranking measured by Google. The original algorithm, now heavily modified, said that if a page received a lot of links from other pages, then it must be popular and relevant and thus should be ranked higher in relation to other pages on the same topic.
Ideally, these links would be earned by providing things that are popular and relevant. But for a price you can find sites where you can purchase hundreds or thousands of links to push your site up the rankings.
This will work for a time. We cannot deny that buying links, so long as you haven’t gotten caught, will push your rank up. But it is like taking steroids. It’s not a good idea to start, and most people once they do start and get gains can’t stop doing it. It sets up bad business habits. Also, the more you do it, the more obvious it becomes to others that you are doing it. And once Google finds you, your business will get smashed. It’s short term gain for a long term loss.
Also, these linking companies are often quite shady. Here are some of the practices we’ve seen.
- The link’s site isn’t relevant to what your site is about
- Keyword stuffing practices (which we’ll talk about below)
- Some require constant payment or you’ll lose your back
- Links could disappear and you don’t know why
- Many different sites could be connected to the same link site and dilute the results
Finally, Google could find the link site, shut it down, determine it was a pay-for-links site, then follow up all the links back to your site and punish you. In fact, there are some even shadier companies that we’ve seen that will deliberately buy links for their competitors in a way Google doesn’t like to try to gain an edge. It’s rare, but it happens. This is highly unethical. Don’t do this. Incidentally, this is a good reason why you should check your link profile regularly.
Now, if you do want to sell advertising space on your website or something like that, there is a way to do it without poisoning your own well. By using nofollow links, you can tell Google that you don’t want a particular link to count as part of their SEO tracking.
Doing Links the Right Way
So, how do you game the system the right way? First, you need to understand what everyone wants.
- You: A higher rank in Google, more customers to your site, more attention from sources of quality links.
- Link sources: Quality content relevant to their readership that they can then use to sell ad space. More traffic.
- Google: Increasing quality and relevance of search results so people continue buying AdWords ads and use their service.
Content and relationship building is the key. You have to create great content that your link sources are interested in and then promote that content to them. There’s a lot of negotiation and grunt work involved. The best sources are going to require truly excellent content. It’s not easy and it’s not sexy.
But it works. If your content piece is good enough and it gets out there, people will notice it. They’ll want to share it and they’ll also want to repost it. We just had a client that we wrote a piece for that ended up getting picked up by business.com, a quite powerful link. Great content gets notice and good links.
Good content gives the link sources what they want. They give you the link you need and also send visitors to your site. Google’s algorithm sees the connection between your content and these great sites and promotes your content higher in the rankings. More visitors leads to more conversions and you make money.
Here’s a tip when promoting your content. Write natural content about your keyword. At the bottom, put a branded link back to your site. There is zero need to stuff your page with keywords or branding. One link is enough. Google can then associate that keyword with your branding clearly.
The way to truly game Google’s system is to put quality information out on the web and show it to as many people as possible. That is the road to a strong link profile, high SERP rankings, and a lot of attention from visitors. Combine that with a good product and service and a good sales funnel, and you’ve got yourself a business.