What signals do self-promotional links tell the search engines?

We all know the importance of building links to web sites to improve traffic and improve search engine rankings. For forums, building links to individual threads is a great way to take advantage of the long tail part of the search spectrum.

There are many ways to get links to a site. The best types of links to get are those that are freely given by another site to yours as they like the quality of the information on your site. These editorially given links are hard to get, but because of that they are more highly valued by the search engines and pass more link juice.

The other types of links are those that are popularised by the SEO Kiddies and are the easy to get self promotional links. These include:

Many of the SEO Kiddies actually think that this self promotion is SEO! On many SEO forums, when advice is asked for on link building, the above list is the most common advice given.

Think for a moment that you are Google. You need to make a decision on how much link juice to give to a particular link. How much value would you give to links gained by the above self promotional links that are easily gained? Would you filter out any value given to them? Would you still give them some value, but value the editorially gained links more?

Probably what is important are two issues: Pattern and Profile (the search engines probably have other terminology for these).

If you were a search engine and you were looking at doing an analysis of the backlinks to a site, how would you profile them? Would you look at the ratio of types of links? For example what is the ratio of the self promotional links to editorially given links? Would you be concerned if all the links to a site were gained by self promotional means?

Related to the profile of backlinks is the concept of patterns found in the link profile for a site. The search engines algorithms are not stupid and are getting smarter. A simple example is the pattern of reciprocal link exchanges. It is easy for a search engine to recognise the pattern of link exchanges in a backlink profile and devalue them. Even its more recent cousin, the patterns of the 3 way schemes are probably easily detected. Do you think they can detect the self promotional pattern of, for example, multiple hub pages and lens pages, many profile links, forum and blog comments, several blogger and wordpress blogs, all with social bookmarks pointing at them. If a search engine algorithm can detect this self promotional pattern, what do you think that pattern should tell them about the site in question? The search engines algorithms are getting smarter and are filtering link juice from many links.

Both the link profile and the link pattern are important quality (or lack of…) signals that the search engines can use when deciding how to rank a website.

I have no doubt that these self promotional links are useful for new web sites and can be effective in the short term for other sites, but are going be less effective or ineffective in the longer term. They are not going to be harmful. What is more important is a balanced backlink profile with a shift from the self promotional to the editorially gained links as a site matures. I do outsource a staged directory submission as more of my time is better spent on developing forum content and going after the editorially given links and I do use strategies to deep link to forum threads to get them indexed and ranking.

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2 Responses to What signals do self-promotional links tell the search engines?

  1. Joe January 11, 2010 at 5:08 AM #

    I would like to know what happens if I buy some backlinks packs from internet like from seo4u or aladygma-marketing …what is that? Thank you. Joe 

  2. Admin January 11, 2010 at 2:52 PM #

    You have to ask yourself, is there a pattern to the link profile that those links have that looks un-natural? How good do you think that Google will be in the long term at recognising those “patterns” or “profiles”? What does that say about the qaulity fo the site? The way I look at it, the easier the link is to get, then assume the less value that search engines will place on it in the long term.

    The links from the companies you ask about are of the ‘self-promotional’ type. They will help. But as I said above, what does this tell the search engines if all your links come from the types of sources that these companies offer. You need to balance it with the editorially gained links and put less emphasis on the self-promotional in the longer term.

    Keep pretending you are a search engine and critically ask yourself what would you do if you were a search engine?

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