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When It Comes To SEO, Is Ignorance Bliss?

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by PotPieGirl on March 6, 2014 · 10 comments

I just spent an hour or so of my life over on a post at SearchEngineLand.com – mainly in the comments section. Barry Schwartz has an article summarizing what Matt Cutts explained in one of his videos about how Google determines a ‘paid link’. I have had more SEO-related entertainment on that one web page than I have had in a long time!

It also reminded me of why I “broke up” with Google…lol!

So, Google has a way of determining which links are paid for – and which aren’t.

That statement might sound totally plausible to you at face value, but if you actually go and quickly read Barry’s article and maybe even watch the video from Matt Cutts, perhaps you’ll be a bit confused like I am.

To give a quick recap:

“There are five basic criteria Google uses in this determination. The first is the most obvious, is the link an explicit link for sale; then, the others are less obvious. The others include: how close is the value to money, is it a gift or a loan, what is the intent of the audience and is it a surprise or not.”

As an example, if you give someone a free pen, that pen probably doesn’t have enough value to manipulate encourage them to link to your site.

And, according to that video from Matt Cutts, Google KNOWS when you offer someone a free pen with the intent to obtain a backlink.

So let’s see if we’ve got this straight – the Google algo, bot, spider doo-dad thing, can come to my site and see a backlink I placed in my post and KNOW if I got a free pen in exchange for placing that link?

Reeeeeeeallly?

And if all I got was a lousy pen, then that won’t harm anything, BUT – if I got a new car for that link, well, Google can figure that out, too, and they’ll get ya’ for it (oddly hearing the Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz saying, “I’ll get you, my pretty – and your little dog, too!”).

Google can figure that out…. Reeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaalllly?

Wow, I guess this thank you note to Danny Sullivan is long overdue.

Naturally, I’m kidding around =)

This isn’t an algorithm thing, kiddos – this is a human thing.

About 3 minutes into the video, Matt says “…when we’re looking…”

To that statement I ask, “When WHO is looking?”

Matt himself is looking? Or Google’s Raters? Or, is there a bug here in my office listening to all the bribes offered to me business discussions I’m having right this very moment?

Matt Cutts followed up in this comment:

“That was the goal for this video: to explain how we assess a possible paid link when it doesn’t fall into the typical, clear-cut case of exchanging money for links that pass PageRank.”

Hmmmmm…. “how we assess a possible paid link”….

Who are these “we”?  Are they here right now?  And what about my post would make them think that any link was given in exchange for something of value?  Well, except for that big ol’ Thank You Note above…haha!

Now, if on my sidebar I had a big banner that said:

“Link to me and I’ll send you a $600 gift card!!”  

I get how “they” could see that when they come “looking” – but how in the world would they ever know about the awesome new laptop Matt Cutts sent me in exchange for this link to his blog (yes, that was a joke… I never even got a free Google t-shirt from Matt – and I really like that “Report Spam” t-shirt he was wearing in the video).

All in all, I almost wish I never watched that video. My supposed “ignorance” on the paid link topic was BLISSFUL.

I really don’t understand why that video was made. It sounded more like something the FTC would put out as opposed to GOOGLE putting out there.

Folks, it’s not illegal to link to other web pages. It’s not illegal to get something of value for a link. Google is not the law – you can link HOWEVER you want to.

BUT – if you link, or obtain links, with the intention of manipulating your rankings in Google’s search results, GOOGLE may very well have a problem with that.

But we knew that already, right? Isn’t that SEO 101 – If you link with the intention to improve your rankings, your site might get penalized and not rank as well (or, in extreme cases, not rank at all).

I remember back in 2007 when I decided I was going to make money online. I figured I’d make a website, the people would come, and I’d make money. Easy-peasy… and SO blissful.

Yeah, well it didn’t take long to figure out that it doesn’t work that way. So off I went to various free forums and resources and learned that I needed BACKLINKS to rank better in Google. THEN the people would come and I’d be rich.

But rut-roh Scooby, Google doesn’t like it when you get backlinks for the sole purpose of manipulating your search result rankings.

So that was my SEO 101 lesson in a nutshell… get links to rank better, but don’t piss off Google in the process.

Got it.

And THAT has not changed over these years. Google has gotten better at detecting our SERPs manipulations SEO work, but the same theory still holds true.

It’s how I started out – link where it makes sense to link and link HOW it makes sense to link. Nothing automated… be everywhere within your niche “conversation”.

Blissful ignorance… but it worked then… and it works now.

Twice today I came across two perfect examples of sites that are doing amazingly well via blissful ignorance.

Example #1 – I was doing some keyword research and went to check the Google SERPs for a keyword I was thinking of. I had my Moz Bar turned on so I could see the ranking url stats at a glance and lo’ and behold, ranking at #1 for a fairly competitive keyword was a web page that, based on all the “knowledge” shared around the SEO community, should NOT be ranking there.

It wasn’t junk or artificially inflated with backlink “loopholes” or anything like that. It was just a beautiful case of Blissful Ignorant SEO. That person wrote some really good info on the topic of that keyword (and content that actually answered the query behind the keyword)…and then he/she went out there on the web and got involved in the conversations within that query space.

It was truly REFRESHING to see a page like that ranking at #1 in a space otherwise DOMINATED by EMD spam and spun crapola. (no tellin’ HOW many free pens those other sites had to give out to get those rankings….hahahaha!)

Example #2 – A friend of mine owns a local business. He and I were talking about online marketing and he asked me to take a look at his site. So off I go and take a look.

First impression is that site looks like it was made in the 90′s – but it WORKED for them. It was friendly to their customers, and those customers could easily find what they were looking for within the site.

How did the site rank for relevant keywords? AMAZINGLY well. They didn’t hire any SEO firm or anything like that – they just made a site….and then got really active on their social profiles.

Their Facebook page is great. Active, lots of pictures of customers and topic-related videos the staff made. Really awesome.

Blissful Ignorant SEO. Again, VERY refreshing to see it actually rewarded.

And as you may have noticed, I’m not mentioning names nor am I linking to either of the urls in these 2 examples.

No, they didn’t offer me a free pen….lol! I just know that it only takes one person to pop a few thousand crap links at them and ruin all that NON-SEO work they’ve done.

How sad is THAT?

To NOT want to link to someone deserving of a link because you do NOT want to draw attention to them? Heck, now I’m even afraid that Google knows I am THINKING about linking to them…..

I, personally, think that when it comes to your own site, ignorance IS bliss when it comes to SEO.

Ignorance of the “loopholes” and tactics and spam-blasting software and all those things that are “guaranteed” to get you ranking #1 super fast is a GOOD thing.

Learn the basics of site structure and internal linking…put out some interesting content…and then get out there and get involved with the conversations your market is having online. The moment you try to manipulate that process is the moment you run into problems.

So, which applies to YOU?

A. The more I know, the better I rank, or
B. The less I knew, the better I ranked.

 



{ 10 comments }

Charles March 6, 2014 at 11:48 am

Interesting as usual. “The more I know the better I rank” is what certainly applies to me. I didn’t make any money online for over two years until I started reading ‘em SEO forums and learning plus applying working SEO tactics. I’m still learning, still ranking, and still making money ;).

PotPieGirl March 6, 2014 at 9:49 pm

Awesome, Charles!

Robin Cockrell March 6, 2014 at 9:44 pm

I couldn’t agree with you more about getting involved with the conversation your market is having. I have 2 niches and I am very active in groups and forums for both. It does pay off and backlinks come slowly, but steady from this.

PotPieGirl March 6, 2014 at 9:49 pm

Hiya Robin =)

Slow and steady – but a solid strategy, right?

Yahia March 6, 2014 at 10:16 pm

Hey Jennifer, I am still waiting for the gift card and the laptop :-)

And for google spy bugs, that was a joke in case you didn’t get it.

Marcus March 6, 2014 at 11:37 pm

I know a fair bit about SEO, but I like and take your approach. I link when it makes sense to link. I’ve never believed in backlink software, tiered link building, link wheels, all that nonsense. That’s just blatant spam. But getting involved in natural conversations in your niche seems to work perfectly well. I’m sure I could rank better if I got all blackhat and learned the spammy techniques out there, but I’m 100% confident your approach works better over the long term.

Monna Ellithorpe March 7, 2014 at 12:56 am

Hi Jennifer,

I stopped “working” with Google a long time ago. Well I guess I should say they stopped “working” with me after closing my account down for some unknown explained reason. I do the best I can to provide valuable content and keep active conversations going. It takes a lot of time but worth it.

Sometimes it feels like chasing your tail around with Google no longer giving us a chance.

Karen March 7, 2014 at 10:47 am

Very interesting, but personally, I think Cutts is full of it.

So, how do they categorize a company like Amazon? If someone buys something from an affiliate link that takes them to Amazon, then the affiliate gets a commission. Thus, they are buying links, aren’t they?

Let’s take that one step further. Google Adsense is also buying links. As a matter of fact, they are one of the largest brokers of link buying! I certainly wouldn’t link to some of those sites if they weren’t paying for it.

The fact is, there is no way to reliably be able to tell the intent of a link. G needs to stop placing so much time and effort on links, and start creating AI bots that can tell good content from BS. Because isn’t that what the customer really wants – good content? And if a bought link is what brought you to the good content, who cares?

Jenny Locke March 8, 2014 at 3:28 am

I really do wonder how much Google can possibly know and the worrying thing is many innocent people get caught in the crossfire. Try not to rely on Google but I admit I still haven’t quite got past that yet

AnnaBella March 8, 2014 at 12:02 pm

The more I know, the better I rank…

Black hat, white hat, gray hat or polka dots… when it comes to manipulating the SERP’s we’re all doing the same thing…

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