All over the world, companies want links on websites. Why? Well, the main reason is that companies want (as we all know) to rank highly on Google. For the uninitiated, it may not be immediately clear how these two things are related.
To look at that subject a little more detail, let’s take a short but significant trip down memory lane.
A Little History
When Google was founded in 1996 by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the majority of search engines (Yahoo was the search engine at the time) relied on counting keywords on web pages to determine relevance to the search term. So, when searching for “cats for sale” – pages with the words “cats for sale” written many times would rank highly. Understandably – this system wasn’t hard to game.
Google’s angle was different. They theorised that the best content on the internet would be linked to by other sites, so their ranking algorithm was based (almost entirely) on how many links were pointing at a site. If lots of different sites all linked to the same website about cats, with the anchor text cats for sale, then there was a pretty good chance that the page being linked to was a good resource about cats – specifically ones which were for sale. They attributed a value between 1 and 10 to each site based on the number of links it had pointing at it – they called this PageRank (as in Larry Page, not Web-Page).
Google were right, of course, and their innovative new search algorithm quickly proved that this was a reliable and efficient method for ranking sites. A few years later, they became the number one search engine in the world – where they remain today. But, as these things tend to go, companies went back to trying to game the system to rank at the top.
Even though Google’s algorithm relies much, much less on links alone than it did back in the nineties, people still want links because links make their site rank highly.
The State of The Link
People still want links so badly that they’re willing to pay large quantities of money to get them. The number one ranking position in a Google search can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars per month to a company in revenue. A few high value links can often be worth an investment of $50-$500 per link.
So what happens? Bloggers are a great target. Google’s algoritm now includes lots of clever things like judging the value of a link based on the content around it. A link to a site about cats on a site about mechanical engineering isn’t worth much. A link to a site about cats on a pet blog, is worth a great deal.
A link to a site about travel bookings on a travel blog, is worth lots. Here’s where things get ethically questionable.
Selling links is a no-go, full stop, according to Google’s terms of service. If you sell links and Google find out, you will be kicked out of the search results and it can be very, very hard to get back in. What’s more – it’s rather easy to report a site selling links. Want to do it? Go ahead, there’s a very simple form to fill out to report people right here.
Why You Should Stop Spamming Your Readers
There’s a huge difference between advertising and paid links. Advertising is a transparent relationship between a blogger and a company – everyone can see the relationship, it’s fully disclosed. Paid links almost always go under the radar, they are a hidden transaction that goes on behind the scenes. As far as the reader is concerned, the links included in the content they’re reading is a legitimate recommendation from the author. If you sell paid links, you’re seriously, seriously doing it wrong.
Travel blogging revolves, as do all facets of blogging, around a degree of journalistic integrity. Your audience read your content because they expect it to be honest, frank, and to the point. They don’t expect your “honest recommendations” to be fueled by corporate motivations.
Short sighted travel bloggers, at this point, will cry “I have to make a living, don’t be so ridiculous, there’s no point running a travel blog if it doesn’t make money, and this makes money.” – and to those people I would say this: Without real content, you have no audience. Without an audience you have no traffic. Without any traffic, you have no blog. Selling links will work, sure, for now. Until you are ousted by your industry and shunned. Think that won’t happen to you?
It happened to this paid link buyer this week. Seriously. Click it.
Now consider the following: How easy would it be for someone to pose as a company wanting to buy a link from you purely for the sake of ousting you as a worthless travel blog publishing phony content?
If anyone sends us a tip off about a travel blogger publishing phony paid-link content. That’s something we’d consider writing about on Travelllll.com – and if we don’t… someone else will. Let’s get this subject out in the open. This industry needs quality, it needs legitimacy, and it needs integrity. What it does not need, is any more link farms.
Run (transparent) sponsored posts, sell display media, talk about companies you’re working with. Don’t hide paid links in your content and claim that it was your own idea.
The travel blogging industry is young – SEO spammers always leverage young and impressionable website owners with promises of wads of cash. But look to other industries which have matured light-years ahead of this one. They have grown, they have evolved, but they all have on thing in common. They have legitimate, sustainable business models – and top quality content.
Write the travel blog you would want to read.
- 9 December, 2011 @ 10:21 [Current Revision] by John O'Nolan
- 31 October, 2011 @ 15:40 by John O'Nolan
- 28 October, 2011 @ 2:32 by John O'Nolan
- 28 October, 2011 @ 2:02 by John O'Nolan
- 28 October, 2011 @ 1:53 by John O'Nolan
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- 28 October, 2011 @ 0:35 by John O'Nolan