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Purchase Links or Build Website Networks?

For a long time now Google’s Matt Cutts has made it clear that purchasing links will become a hazardous business both for the link seller and the link purchaser. Recently Google has cracked down on the sale of links for the intention of selling link popularity and to that end has penalized a number of well-known sites and site networks. This penalty has caused those sites to lose much of their PageRank, especially what shows within the Google toolbar. This has reduced the marketable value of the links coming from the penalized websites and in many cases also cost the purchasers a lot of money for links that most likely will not accomplish what they formerly did.

Purchasing links from websites purely for search engine positioning seems like a poor idea, especially as a long-term solution to obtaining solid SEO rankings. I think what has become clear to is that in the near term purchasing links will still continue to work, but purchases should always be made with the intent to acquire traffic from those links and brand the business so that should the site where the links are being purchased from receive a penalty from Google or another source, the money spent on the links is still money well spent.

With that said I believe that long-term, established businesses need to begin building their own networks of sites in earnest. Now when I say this I do not mean spam filled doorway pages, but honest to goodness content sites that can become mini brands in there own right. The potential business benefit, asset development, and cost savings in developing a business’s own network over the long haul seems to far outweigh the near term benefit of purchasing links, on others’ sites, that will eventually go away and have to regularly be monitored and evaluated for ROI.

In my mind a business that spends $5,000 a month in purchasing links would be much better off spending that money developing 4 of its own sites. That leaves roughly $15,000 a year per site for design, development, content, and hosting. This seems like an immensely doable project and after 1 year the business will have 4 assets that can be used to for links, traffic, content, branding, email acquisition or any other type of marketing the business should choose.

I believe eventually it will become harder and harder to purchase links purely for the manipulation of search engine positioning. But if and when organizations have their own networks then the hazards and expense in buying links can be completely avoided. Clearly this is not an overnight project, but preparing now for the future can and should ensure that the businesses looking ahead will be in the best position to take advantage of the ever changing search engine landscape.

  • http://www.brianchappell.com Brian Chappell

    Lots of FUD going around right now on this topic. I would note there is a difference in losing 2-3 TBPR’s and getting penalized, whereas you cannot rank for terms you used to.

    There has not been any evidence yet to point that a drop in the TBPR also made those sites drop in rankings.

    Not saying that couldn’t happen down the road. Currently, however, there isn’t evidence to back it up.

    Only time will tell.

  • http://www.justindavy.com Justin

    I totally agree with you Roderick. Building out content networks and sites may take more time and money up front but the value is much greater. As time goes on, you’ll see the sites that have spent the time to do things the right way leading the pack.

  • http://www.jaankanellis.com Jaan Kanellis

    I can understand the point of creating a mini network of websites, but how do you know this will actually help your primary website rank better. How do you know they don’t devalue the links from these this mini network for the pure fact that you own all of the website in that mini network? Lots of questions still exist with this technique. I am also sure Google is against building mini networks for the sake of building your PR or ranking benefits.

    I would rather pour my efforts into marketing on large website that can gain links for real reasons, like great content and what the user actually wants to see/buy all under one domain.

  • http://www.mysticliquid.com Steve

    I totally agree with this article. I have long been a supporter of a true internet allow sites to connect naturally rather then through payments.

  • http://www.brianchappell.com Brian Chappell

    @ steve

    The “true internet” you talk about simply doesn’t exist. It did for about 1 year when google first hit the market. Once it gained market share it was ripe with manipulation.

    Google’s algo is BADLY flawed for todays time; relying so heavily on backlinks. In todays market, no one wants to give them out without rapping a condom around it.

    Now throw in all the FUD flying around, you thought it was bad before, IMO google is only exacerbating the current problem. The fear of linking out to the wrong sources, not using nofollow, and then potentially seeing your site penalized will further depress the “natural linking” you are hoping for.

  • http://www.thevanblog.com Steven Bradley

    There’s a lot of thought that would indicate one larger site is better than several smaller sites. I understand your argument, but I’m not sure a network of sites is necessarily the answer for all.

    It might make sense for some and not so much for others.

    Google for their part has also indicated they don’t care much for interlinked networks of sites for the same reason they don’t care for link buying. Networked sites can be seen as a form of manipulation where you’re creating new sites for the sole purpose of the links between them.

    I’m not saying you shouldn’t created multiple sites for your business, but I don’t think this is an automatic one size fits all approach.

    Good article Roderick.

  • Roderick Ioerger

    Jaan said:
    “I would rather pour my efforts into marketing on large website that can gain links for real reasons, like great content and what the user actually wants to see/buy all under one domain.”

    Roderick says:
    I think the short answer is that it is a question of technique. For those purchasing links, I believe having a resource and asset of their own is the better way to go. Though I do not disagree with your approach as I use it as well. Often times the content I want to build is not appropriate for the site itself, but still something the site desires to use for marketing.

    Steven,
    “There’s a lot of thought that would indicate one larger site is better than several smaller sites. I understand your argument, but I’m not sure a network of sites is necessarily the answer for all. It might make sense for some and not so much for others.”

    Roderick says:
    No marketing solution is perfect for everyone, which is why I prefeced some of what I said with the idea that this would be a good soltion for sites that have been around for a while and have begun to establish there place on the Internet. Of course this is not a one size fits all solution, but for many large sites that don’t know what to do, this may be a good fit and something I believed was well worth while of discussion.

    Should anyone want to discuss this topic further I would be glad to have it offline and should it be insightful turn it into a post as well.

    Thanks for the feedback,
    Roderick

  • http://www.verticalmeasures.com Arnie – Link Building Pro

    I am a big advocate of “own it” rather than “rent it”, so I would support any company initiative to build high quality, niche sites supporting their marketing and link building efforts.

  • http://www.alloffmp3.org Jason

    Although purchasing links solely for the purpose of raising page rank seems like a bad mistake it is still done often. Even with Google serve up punishment to so many there are still lots of people that do it without even thinking. I do agree though that taking that money and create sites in the long term would be a much better investment. Whether anyone else believes that and takes the advice is a different story however.

  • Melissa

    I agree, what do you think of “free text ads” or “ads for a buck” can that be something that can help boost visitors to my blog?

  • http://michal.wlodarski.eu Michal

    The idea is cool but not enuogh.
    If you stop buying links how will you rank?
    It is better to find more money and invest into the network. And not a network of 4 or 5, but a network of 100 sites.

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  • http://www.ledbazar.com ledbazar

    well nobody wants to link out – it is like a noose around your neck, and you cant save your trousers falling down – link out is becomming fearful.

    ledbazar’s last blog post..LED Scrolling Signs with a keyboard

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  • http://www.seo-services-consultants.com SEO Services Provider

    This is really good site and rich with content.

  • http://brian.cugelman.com Brian

    It’s important to weight the relevance of links, as purchased links may be irrelevant and constitute blind promotion, versus purchased relevant links, such as press releases or articles which contain links, but are focused on a given target audience. Some commercial channels constitute legitimate purchased links.

    Brian’s last blog post..The United Nations’ Web Network (July 2007)

  • http://www.hostingclickhere.com Rob

    They can try all they want to try and put a stop to it but they will never be able to. If something is worth money someone will find a way to sell it. In the long run however, I think the majority of people will still be doing tride and true methods to get traffic because high PR links are very costly.