21 Nov 2008

Jim Boykin: Paid Links Aren’t Worth It To Me

Two days ago Matt Cutts said, “The reality is that accepting money to link to/promote/market for a product without disclosing that fact is a very high-risk behavior, in my opinion.”

And I believe him€¦.big time€¦.I can tell you from first hand experience that buying links can be a “high-risk behavior”, and it can have very strong consequences.

In the past I always felt I was one step ahead of Google….for years I’ve tried to “be one” with my vision of the Google Gods, thinking that I was always one step ahead of Matt because my links were “under the radar”.

Years ago I used to worry about Google finding my links through connections in their algorithms… today, I’d worry more about my competitors “turning me in” to Google.  Even a Ninja-obfuscated paid link had better pass the review of all your competitors, otherwise, you could be put above the radar and possibly penalized by Google…. one wrong move today, or a technique used today and caught in the future, could spell your downfall tomorrow. I remember once Matt asking at a conference if anyone in the audience was working with sites that they could afford to burn….not many hands went up…and I can’t think of any of my clients handing us a site that they can afford to burn either.

So, the best thing for my company to do, if we want to stay out of the fire, is to make sure that We Build Pages adheres to the Google Guidelines, and that means we won’t be getting any more paid links for manipulating search engines.

On top of that, we’re also doing a major audit of our clients’ paid links (some we got, some the client/others got [done to client specifications, but any we feel could be construed as paid...now or later, we're suggesting be nofollowed or removed]), and we’re sending emails out to lots of places that are linking to our clients based on the data we’ve collected from our own audits, and from the clients data, seeking to have these links either nofollowed or removed.

It actually feels great to be following Google’s Guidelines. Any fears I once may have felt for Google, are now gone with my outlook on the future.  I can now bring We Build Pages to the level where I don’t have to worry about Google looking into anything I’m doing, and being upset…because I’m playing by Google’s rules now.

Oh, we’re still building links…that’s still the cornerstone of our business right now….we’re just not paying for any of them and are working on several techniques for getting links without even having to ask (create great content and they will link), as well as putting great resources in place to help people find out about this content.

The We Build Pages team has embraced this change and I have been lucky to have the right people, in the right positions, at the right time for this adjustment in our link building strategies. This can be evidenced by how many ninjas put in grueling hours over the past couple of weeks. It’s midnight on a Friday and four of us are still here getting the job done and done well!

We’re more than links though…oh, so much more. Why do you think I hired Patrick Sexton, the Google guideline guru and best Google gadget developer that I knew of? And Rhea Drysdale,  the person who I felt had the perfect balance between SEO and SEM skills? Or Lisa Barone, my favorite SEO blogger who can also assist our clients with community building? Or QualityGal, who brings the quality rater eyes to everything we publish….not to mention a team filled with all-stars in my eyes.

A few weeks ago we announced that we’re going through major changes at We Build Pages with our services, and today I’m happy to announce that We Build Pages has stopped buying links that are not within the Google Guidelines and are doing an audit, as well.

I plan to make We Build Pages the ultimate Internet Marketing company, and I don’t want to risk my business’ future by buying links…and if you’re worried about your site’s future, and you’re buying links, you might want to think twice. Buying links passed the tipping point long ago… you must get over it, and evolve, or be ready to face what might be coming your way.

I’m Feeling Lucky,
Jim Boykin

Comments

  1. Zane DeFazio November 21, 2008 at 10:47 PM

    I thought you were gonna tell everyone about the We Build Pages jet, that’s cool too though!

  2. Refuge Design - Joshua Sciarrino November 21, 2008 at 10:53 PM

    Wow. Very strong and firm change to WBP.

    Buying links passed the tipping point long ago…

    Yea. Hearing too many reports of big sites getting hit, isn’t good for our clients nor anyone’s websites/webpages.

    It’s great to see you strategically brought in a holistic approach to SEO with Patrick for Widgets, Rhea with SEO/SEM and Lisa for blogging. :) You guys are going to be the ultimate Internet Marketing company with wise and smart choices like this. Keep being the great resource that you’ve always been.

  3. brent d payne November 21, 2008 at 10:55 PM

    and remember if any tribune property has mentioned your company in a news article and we didn’t link to you, let me know. I’ll fix that.

  4. Patrick Sexton November 21, 2008 at 10:58 PM

    I heart the guidelines :)

  5. Lyndon Antcliff November 21, 2008 at 10:59 PM

    I think this is a very good move, I still there is room for paid links, but it’s becoming more difficult. Although sucking natural links of people has its own difficulties, it can be a lot of fun.

  6. Mike | PlanetChiro November 21, 2008 at 11:00 PM

    I’ll say this Jim, evrytime I visit this site and see Patrick, Rhea, and Lisa are on your time I think “holy moly” as to the awesomeness that must be going on there. They’ve reminded me that there is a much bigger team as well. Rock on Troy, NY!

  7. Jim Boykin November 21, 2008 at 11:02 PM

    I feel a weight being lifted off my shoulders. I’ll sleep good tonight. I’m Feeling Lucky.

  8. Lisa Barone November 21, 2008 at 11:12 PM

    Jim, I know we’ve talked about this internally and there was that giant hug train earlier (an excellent idea by Emily!), but we’re all so incredibly proud of the stance that you’re taking and the direction you’re moving this company. This is the moment Pat, Rhea and myself have been waiting for since we got here and I know how excited the other team members are, as well. We are behind you 100 percent!

  9. Zane DeFazio November 21, 2008 at 11:18 PM

    Lisa, the design team missed the hug train cause we are chopped liver and everyone forgets about us in the front room that over looks the wonderful Hudson River!

  10. Rhea Drysdale November 21, 2008 at 11:19 PM

    Mike, great point about the bigger team. We have an incredible group here, almost fifty extremely motivated and intelligent marketers. We work non-stop because we love it. Everyone, not just a couple of us… the ninjas are machines!

  11. Saad Kamal November 21, 2008 at 11:22 PM

    Hi Jim :)

    I must say that this is a great move and I am really happy that
    you now think this way too :)

    The changes that I’m already seeing in WBP is just awesome (e.g. hiring qualified staffs, starting a blog etc.)

    I’m looking forward to see more from you and We Build Pages.

    Best of Luck!

  12. Link Building this Week (47.2008) | Wiep.net November 22, 2008 at 4:24 AM

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  13. Doug Heil November 22, 2008 at 6:06 AM

    Jim wrote:
    “It actually feels great to be following Google’s Guidelines. Any fears I once may have felt for Google, are now gone with my outlook on the future. I can now bring We Build Pages to the level where I don’t have to worry about Google looking into anything I’m doing, and being upset…because I’m playing by Google’s rules now.”

    I was wondering what the heck was going on with some of the good people you were hiring, and knowing their stances on certain things. Now I know. The feelings of never looking over your shoulder is indeed a good feeling. Kudos to you Jim.

  14. Shawn November 22, 2008 at 7:39 AM

    I knew this post was coming, just didn’t know exactly when. The future will be bright for us Jim and as others have said above, we are all on board 100% and I for one am extremely excited about the future of WBP.

  15. NinjaTodd November 22, 2008 at 7:43 AM

    Can someone give Jim the soaring eagle? I believe NinjaChris Has it now…

  16. Shawn November 22, 2008 at 8:05 AM

    Yes, Chris does have it but I do agree, Jim deserves the Soaring Eagle for this!

  17. Jim Boykin changes WeBuildPages stance on Paid Links | Refuge Design November 22, 2008 at 8:34 AM

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  18. NinjaJen November 22, 2008 at 8:37 AM

    Great post boss, this is an exciting time for all of us, every day is a new adventure and WBP is on it’s way to total web domination. We <3 you!

  19. Jaan Kanellis November 22, 2008 at 3:21 PM

    The funniest part of all of this is the act of “buying” a link. So can I get people to link to me by giving them free products, services, bartering and not get in “trouble”? Is that OK Google. Where does it stop and start. With the act of trading actual cash for links? Why is taking the same cash and buynig someone something so different for a link. It isnt…so arbitrary, LOL.

  20. NinjaKyle November 22, 2008 at 7:16 PM

    Straight from the Sensei himself – “White” belt is the new “black” belt…

  21. Chris November 23, 2008 at 8:33 AM

    I’ll have the eagle on his desk first thing Monday morning… with the container of Hot Fudge sauce.

  22. Dave November 23, 2008 at 11:58 AM

    I feel there is still a case for buying links in certain circumstances -if only to give Google a nudge in the right direction. This could be for an event or special occasion but it is difficult because of older established sites for whatever reason rank for a keyword or phrase.

    Also paying the odd blogger (some who need the money) to point a link at your site when it is worthy of inclusion higher up in the serps is ok -especially hen it’s a case of the blogger would have pointed a link to your site…if they knew it existed.

    (Long-time link ninja – very much under the radar!)

  23. Eric Ward November 23, 2008 at 1:07 PM

    Welcome and what the hell took you so long?

    LinkMoses

  24. Steve November 23, 2008 at 10:08 PM

    Why is it that providing great content is Now a new thing?
    Jimbo from day one I have always said quality content will get links.
    You earn links you can not buy them (even though I traveled down that dark path myself for a few weeks)

    So perhaps now you have Content Ninjas?

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  26. Drew November 24, 2008 at 8:07 AM

    Google PR machine strategy pays off, by scaring webmasters into submission – awesome.

  27. QualityGal November 24, 2008 at 8:30 AM

    Why is it that providing great content is Now a new thing?
    Jimbo from day one I have always said quality content will get links.
    You earn links you can not buy them (even though I traveled down that dark path myself for a few weeks)

    So perhaps now you have Content Ninjas?

    I’ve been managing a team of elite content ninjas since I started here. They’re just going to be much, much busier now. :)

  28. Paid Links: The Battle Ain’t Over Yet | Unstuck Digital November 24, 2008 at 10:00 AM

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  30. YeahRight November 24, 2008 at 11:44 AM

    WOW, let me get my boots so I don’t get anything on my shoes. ;)

    Great content is not enough when most of the top SERPS are dominate by paid links from wordpress themes, directories, blog networks and all the other shady links. Maybe WBP got burned but let me tell you buying links still works all too well.

    So Jimbo if I have a ecommerce store that sells gadgets you really think you can get me quality traffic without buying a link? How about my ecommerce store that sells rugs? I’m sure people are dying to link to a rug store.

  31. Patrick Sexton November 24, 2008 at 11:48 AM

    @yeahright you are right. It is still very effective to buy links for ranking. There is also risk. We have balanced these two facts for awhile now and we believe the tipping point has occurred.

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  39. SEO Guro November 26, 2008 at 5:24 PM

    Come on Jim. Who are you trying kid?? You must of got zapped and trying to make good with Matt. You know buying links kicks ass. I would know I have one of the top 10 kick ass real estate sites http://www.futureofrealestatemarketing.com/10-kick-ass-real-estate-search-sites and it works like a charm.

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  42. Andy Beard November 27, 2008 at 7:49 PM

    Fun times Jim

    The best I can liken it to is playing a game of “piggy in the middle” with 4 players, 3 in a tight triangle, with Google the 600lb gorillia in the middle.

    You might be able to pass the ball a few times, but with his arms swinging around trying to catch the ball, the gorilla is just as likely to knock someone’s head off.

  43. Gabe Gayhart December 1, 2008 at 3:33 PM

    Jim,

    Sounds great and all. Can you provide a vague cost benefit analysis of making this change. Youre a business man before anything, so how to figure the cost impacts of such a switch? Or is this a PR move in which you still buy some (just less) links?

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  45. Eric Enge December 7, 2008 at 8:57 AM

    Congrats on making the move Jim. Good for you, and good for WBP.

  46. BJ Wright December 8, 2008 at 3:56 PM

    I started working with a company that was purchasing links when I first began. Within the first few months I started to cut back our paid link approach as I saw where it was headed. Unfortunately it was too late.

    My concern with paid links wasn’t if Google was going to be upset or find them and discount them or even give us a penatly. I strictly didn’t see how it was a good financial business decision to begin. Think of it this way, if we commit to spend $3,000-$5,000/month on paid links just for maintenance we’ll be spending that money for life even if we stop building new links. Who wants to be committed to something that you could eventually build up naturally over time and you wouldn’t have to spit out the monthly bill.

    My only regret is that I should have taken a stronger stance on this sooner, then we wouldn’t be paying the price now!

  47. Bill Hartzer December 9, 2008 at 4:16 PM

    Hey Jim,

    I bet that you never thought there would be a day where you actually wrote a blog post like that. Glad to see that you finally have come around. ;)

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  49. Article Marketing Man December 18, 2008 at 2:50 AM

    “we’re sending emails out to lots of places that are linking to our clients based on the data we’ve collected from our own audits, and from the clients data, seeking to have these links either nofollowed or removed”

    And what are your plans for when your clients call up asking why they’ve fallen behind the competition in the SERPs?

  50. Lisa Barone December 18, 2008 at 7:05 AM

    Our clients understand the path we’re taking is for them. It’s possibly they’ll see a a dip in their rankings as links get removed, but we’re counteracting that from all angles — with content, by building free links, by giving them the type of Internet marketing campaign we weren’t able to before we had other things in place. Our clients are here for the long-term and they understand the actions we’re taking now are being put in place to protect them, not harm them.

    It would have been very easy for Jim to stick with his old model. Clients would continue to dominate the SERPs and We Build Pages would continue to bring in more and more money each week. Because we made the decision to act on our own, I think our clients are a lot more willing to stick it out with us and trust that we’re fighting for them.

  51. Article Marketing Man December 18, 2008 at 8:24 AM

    Thanks for your response Lisa. I have to say though, I just don’t see it… yes, links generated from people linking to great content on a site that they enjoyed are generally the best links, but these take time to generate, especially for more corporate and / or conservative (read: boring) clients, and there is no way of knowing how many or how few links will be generated. Free links typically give but a fraction of the benefit that you’d get from a decent paid link (unless you have some VERY good connections, in which case you probably paid pro-bono in some other way).

    I suppose it could be down to the type of clients WBP is prepared to work with. Some businesses are sufficiently well known offline that they generate links online naturally, as it’s the first place that other webmasters think to go to. Other sites are in sufficiently non-competitive niches that paid links are not necessary. But in areas such as finance and travel, which are rife with link buying, how can clients afford to drop behind the competition while Google goes through the (seemingly very slow) process of removing sites that have paid for their links?

  52. Lisa Barone December 18, 2008 at 9:23 AM

    AMM: Your concerns are definitely legitimate, but I’m really confident in our ability to take care of our clients. Our link ninjas are very skilled in getting clients natural backlinks, we have new reports to shed light on areas we weren’t watching before, and we’re employing a full range of Internet marketing tactics that go way beyond just link building. Is it possible our clients are going to take ad dip while the bumps are ironed out? Yes. But we’re confident they’re going to go right back up to the rankings they deserve. We’re very lucky to be working with some awesome clients, people that deserve top rankings and didn’t just “luck” into them because of paid links.

    Also, when the choice is take a small dip now while we prepare for what Google has planned OR get wiped out when Google puts the ultimate choke hold on paid links…we’ve seen most prefer Column A. Like I mentioned, we’re looking long term and so are our clients.

  53. Article Marketing Man December 18, 2008 at 10:05 AM

    Cool, well, thanks again for your response. I am certainly surprised, especially given Jim previous comments on the subject (which, as you might have guessed, I still agree with even if he doesn’t!). Don’t get me wrong, I am certainly a big proponent of free links gained through various methods (as you might gather from my site), but it’s from my experience with them that I know they do not tend to bring in anywhere near the same sort of juice that paid links do. Of course there are a few exceptions to this rule, so if you guys really can pull this off while causing only small dips in your clients rankings and keeping them happy at the same time then you deserve all the kudos you will no doubt get.

    Of course you don’t want to give away all your tricks, but any case studies or examples you could provide in how you go about replacing quality paid links with quality natural links would be amazing.

  54. Lisa Barone December 18, 2008 at 11:26 AM

    That’s a great idea for a blog post. I’ll see if I can get one of the link ninjas to tackle it in the future.

    Thanks for the great comments and discussion. :)

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  56. John Lessnau December 22, 2008 at 9:38 AM

    I don’t understand, are you just saying publicly your not buying links or are you really not buying links? ;-)

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  58. Skip Montross December 23, 2008 at 3:03 PM

    That’s almost funny. I remember saying that last year. I don’t think anyone liked it when I said it. But I’m not surprised. Good luck in the future.

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  60. Ante December 27, 2008 at 6:43 PM

    Bah, bullshit … If that is all true what Jim said I am gonna spend some $100 and buy some really crap, obvious paid links. Of course they’ll point to my competitor. Then I am gonna report him to Google. Am I a genius or what ? Crap, crap, crap ….

  61. Singapore SEO Consultant December 30, 2008 at 10:58 PM

    Many links are more expensive than domain name. I’d rather spend my money on buying domains than buying links.

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  63. Article Marketing Man January 6, 2009 at 7:11 AM

    Still waiting on that blog post about how you’re going to tackle the rankings that will drop as a result of losing your paid links Lisa! Looking forward to hearing more about your “full range of Internet marketing tactics that go way beyond just link building”… I’m intrigued to find out what those tactics are!

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  67. Owen Soeder May 6, 2012 at 1:50 AM

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