Beware False Link Flattery

If you run a blog, you may have noticed a rash of ‘trackbacks’ or ‘pingbacks’ recently. These are articles on other blogs or websites that link to your posts. When you follow the link to the site linking to you, you may find that your link doesn’t appear within the body of the article at all. In fact you can’t even find it on the page.

If you look closely, you may find a ‘Mouse here for Related Links’, as pictured. Your link is hidden under there. A process, likely automated, has found your post, amongst several others, and is linking to it, in the hope that you will Approve the Pingback and in so doing, create a link from your article to theirs. Of course the link on your article is likely to appear visibly on the page to readers and without a rel=nofollow tag (links like this don’t pass ‘google juice’.

It’s a trap!

Venus Fly TrapThese hidden related links are discounted by search engines because of the rel=nofollow and almost certainly ignored by humans, because they’re not easily found on the page. Don’t fall into the trap of approving any trackbacks or pingbacks without first checking out whether you are being linked to in a meaningful way rather than a spammy attempt like this to dupe you into building someone else’s backlink profile for them. Until spam prevention filters designed to weed out spammy comments (such as Akismet) can also detect things like this, keep your eyes open!

Image Credit: Venus Fly Trap image by BotheredByBees, via Creative Commons on Flickr.

Link Exchanges – Dead as Disco

say no moreBack when I was running our e-commerce store and getting the webmaster and other generic address emails, we were inundated with spammy link exchange requests.

You know the type:

I found your website in Google and I’d like to swap links

Reciprocal link exchanges are dead as disco (see this 2005 post from Matt Cutts, Google’s webspam team leader). It’s that simple. Google, Bing and others see them for what they are and if anything they do more harm than good.

You’ve got to admire the chutzpah of this guy, asking for a one-way link with nothing in return:

I am in the process of building up a business wrapped about my website and I am looking for some inbound linking to grow my page-rank. If you could link to my site I would be much appreciative. You probably receive quick a few link requests a month so I would really appreciate it if you could help me out by adding my site with this information.

So things have evolved, link-builders are proposing 3-way deals, rather than reciprocal. I was forwarded an email from a client that was offering two homepage links on a PR1 and PR3 website, in exchange for providing a homepage link to a fairly high profile PR6 website.

It seems that nobody told the marketing department at these companies that dubious link exchange schemes aren’t worth the money you’re paying your shady “SEO experts” to run. SEO has moved on since the early years of this decade and working with people like this is more likely to get you removed from the search engines than boosted up them.

There are variations of link exchange emails that won’t even tell you what site they want you to link to until you agree, for fear of you reporting them to the search engines for trying to game the rankings.

Perhaps that should tell them something – if you’re trying to do something promotional that you wouldn’t mention in a press release, you probably shouldn’t be doing it.

Image credit: Monty Python