They just might be!
Let’s face it unless your site is very buzz worthy or you have major exposure it is almost a requirement that you take proactive steps beyond “writing great content” to get links. Today’s post is not about how to get the links but how not to get burned in the exchange. There are a few ways “clever” (I call them sleazy) webmasters will attempt to horde their link power.
Let me be clear this happens with direct swaps, three way swaps and even a paid for or bartered links. Understand that when a site links out it passes power to the other site additionally it forms an “association” with that site. Some web masters want to avoid this for both legitimate and illegitimate reasons. Again I won’t get deep into the how and why of link building today but what I want you to know is methods that some will use to give you a less then useful link when it comes to your SEO efforts.
- Link Partner Screw Job One (rel=”nofollow”) – In this instance what a webmaster does is apply the rel=”nofollow” attribute to your link. This tells search engines not to follow the link and not to count it as a valid “vote” for your site. This won’t harm your site but it won’t help it rank better either. To spot this the easiest thing to do is install a free plugin called SearchStatus into the FireFox browser and if you select the option all nofollow links will show up with a pink outline. You can also look in the code but if the person is using a robot.txt command or other overiding method you won’t see it unless you know exactly what to look for.
- Link Partner Screw Job Two (cloking out) – This is a lot easier to spot but it is also more effective then nofollow. In this method you can use a variety of ways to get it done but say you owned a site called coolstuff and wanted me to link to coolstuff.com from JackSpirko.com. If I wanted to screw you over I would create a cloaked page or even just use a cloaking script and create a url like jackspirko.com/coolstuff and either with frames or with a redirect then push site visitors to your site. However all the search engines see is an internal link to myself. All you have to do to spot this screw job is hover on your link and look at the url string in the bottom of your browser, if it isn’t your domain this is what is going on.
- Link Partner Screw Job Three (third party cloaking) – This is a simplified variation on the above. In this screw job the webmaster hoses you over by using a service like tinyurl.com or bit.ly. They go to one of these services and create a link there that redirects to your site. This service is known to search engines and is simply seen as a link that should not be counted for anything. Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc will never see this link as a link to your site. You will get nothing out of it.
The key with all these methods is you will see your link on the other site, if you click on it you will end up on your site. To a web visitor that doesn’t know what to look for it will be a link like any other link but if you are trying to improve search engine rankings they all shoot you in the foot. Most of the people doing this know exactly what they are doing! They do it for some real reasons mostly in direct link exchanges. That is where I link to your site and you link right back to mine, this is a reciplical link and search engines don’t value them as highly as a one way link. In a one way link my site links to yours but you dont’ link back. So many shifty web masters will agree to a direct exchange then cloak or nofollow their link . You get nothing and they get a good link from you.
There are legitimate reasons to use these techniques a person selling advertising may use them to appease google who despises link selling for instance but will see any of these as simply selling ads vs. selling links for SEO purposes. Many use tinyrul.com just to make long url strings short. Many affiliate marketers “cloak out” so they can use analytics to see how much traffic then send to affiliates. Yet when you arrange a link with a partner and they use one of these methods they are denying you the SEO value of the link.
Now if another site uses this to link to you with out any type of request or compensation from you, there is no reason to be upset. There are reasons to do this in those situations, we will cover them in the future. Just be aware of these techniques and when you arrange a link check for them. Building solid links takes time, money and effort so you need to recognize cheats quickly before wasting your time on them. In the end it comes down to the fact that Google and the other engines place so much value on links today that we as site owners can’t ignore their power, we also can’t waste time, efforts and money on links that don’t pass value to us.
One final thing, I want to be very clear that none of the above screw jobs harm your site. If they did you could really screw over competitors now couldn’t you? They don’t harm you they just don’t help you (other than the direct traffic they drive to your site) so you should not be paying for or bartering for links that are done in this fashion.