I have been thinking whether or not to write this post for about two months. Today, lucky for you, I was in a “what the hell” mood so I wrote it.
Why? Because the issue discussed here is a diamond. A real, valuable gem among the sea of trash. Seriously. Let me explain.
As I have posted before, I like selling links, it is a an easy/automatic way to monetize your sites with a very stable income. Also, it doesn’t clutter up your site. I use TLA on many of my sites. A few months ago, as I was checking out my network and stats, I saw something very interesting. It is not every day, that you see a well known domain in the “link buyers” section. Yes, a well known site, had bought a link from my site through TLA. As a paranoid affiliate marketer that I am, I couldn’t just feel good about my minute of fame and move on. I had to investigate.
Please do understand that I will not say the known site’s name, or the page that the link is located. I may be an asshole, but I am not a fool, and I don’t want to expose them (don’t bother looking for the link, you will not find it). I shine the light on this issue because it is valuable information for the right kind of man, not to harm a well known site. The site discussed is really, really well known. We are talking about an Alexa rank of ~3000. It is one of the blogs almost everyone knows about.
Ok, so, bigasssite.com bought a link from me, through TLA, with the anchor text widgets (the real keyword is a hot, high traffic and competitive one). The link has been live for 3 months I think, and it keeps going.
Why should we care? Well, I looked at the page linked, and I saw a post from 2006! Yes, 2006. Now that is interesting…Â
I check the link price, its the standard TLA 8$. Nothing much, but someone bought the link! Someone on that site’s SEO team sat down and confirmed the sale. In order for that to happen, there must have been a reason. (Unless that site had a monkey as an SEO that did random things, there must have been some kind of logic behind this)
I check my page, the one the link resides on. It is a page that got a lot of traffic, a review that turned into a successful linkbait, getting diggs, links from other blogs, lots of social votes, and even linked from two high traffic forums. That means the page is a juicy one, making the bought link pretty valuable for SEO purposes (and a lot more valuable than 8$, but lets not get into that…)
Investigating the domain is pointless, it is one of the most trusted, old, ranking sites on the net. 20 million backlinks. Why does it need mine?
Ok, so, lets investigate theÂ culpritÂ page. It is a nice, PR3 page. Yahoo shows 200 links pointed at it, which is rather much for a single page, but not that weird. Its a fucking blog post, like the rest of the site…
There is a difference though. The site is separated in categories (technology and internet related). It is mostly a news site, and theÂ culprit page is just another news story, almost like everything else in there. What was I missing?
I check the comments, a classic series of useless rants from nobodies on the net. The trackbacks on the other hand are something interesting!
There is a series of trackbacks, all from authority news sites, quoting the post. As it seems, badasssite.com managed to be first, or at least one of the first to announce the story. The other news sites in the niche had to link to the original article. Bear in mind, the story is classic industry news, nothing earth-shattering. The links are not many, but they surely are authoritative! (the widget keyword is included in the article title, so the incoming anchor is “blah blah widget”)
I closely inspect the page to find an affiliate link (the widget has a lot of paid services with nice affiliate programs to refer to). No aff links, no internal php files with redirects, nothing. Who would be crazy enough to not monetize a page and at the same time buy links to it? (The page has ads on it, the same ads all over the domain. I cannot say the exact keyword, but it is one that every SEO would monetize with an affiliate link without blinking)
To the SERPs then. I check the rankings for our widget keyword. To my surprise, or not that much because the keyword is competitive, I see a shitload of results. Top ranks are all from authority sites, and right there, on spot 19, I see ourÂ culpritÂ page!
Now that is a ton of traffic. Even being on the second page is enough to bring in the visitors. I assume that the culprit page was ranking under #19, and it just needed a gentle push to get higher. The traffic is not converted right away, but since the badasssite.com is a, well, bad ass site, it gets more loyal readers by the minute.
The widget keyword is not one that the badasssite.com’s SEO team would normally strive to rank for, but it is certainly one that they would be happy to rank for. I would have done the same, if I saw my barely relevant site rank #22-23 for a keyword like that.
So, what do we learn from this experience?
- Big sites buy links. Screw Google and their best practices.
- Big sites can buy links and get away with it.Â Screw Google and their best practices.
- Smart SEO means optimize even for the keyword that is not that relevant. Opportunities do not grow on trees.
- If you see something being done by someone more experienced that you, that you don’t understand, study it better.
- If there is a cheap, effective, easy way to optimize, by all means go for it.
- Sometimes a slight push at the right direction is all that is needed.
- If that slight push happens to come from a page with a lot of linkjuice, then you are set.
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