All About Content

Quote of the Week: Hannibal Lecter’s Guide to Link Building

Posted by Melanie Phung on Wednesday, April 2, 2008 at 12:46 pm

Quote of the Week from Eric Ward’s article on so-called “best practices” in link building:

Hannibal Lecter followed a set of “best practices” when he ate a census taker’s liver, and those best practices included Fava beans and a nice Chianti, but having best practices didn’t make him any less insane.

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Category: Link Building,Quote of the Week,Spam

Over-optimization of a Wikipedia Article

Posted by Melanie Phung on Friday, February 29, 2008 at 10:39 am

Does an over-optimization penalty exist? And what counts as over-optimization? I came across this discussion on on the “950 penalty” on Webmaster World. They posit that too many internal links with optimized anchor text is what triggers an over-optimization penalty. And maybe they are onto something.

This week I was testing the effect of increased cross-linking on a Wikipedia page — by finding related articles and linking back to the target, by adding the target to more relevant categories — and I probably doubled the number of internal pages linking to the one I wanted to boost.

Instead of boosting the page in the SERPs, it appears this effort might have torpedoed the page. This morning it was nowhere to be found in the top 100 results anywhere. It’s not a competitive term, and none of the other results appear to have changed dramatically, so it seems reasonable to me to assume it was something about this page, not the results in general, and that there was a causal relationship between the links and the drop.

I’m not entirely surprised that “excessive” interlinking could hurt; I’m just surprised that (what I’d consider to be) a moderate amount of interlinking could get a Wikipedia page penalized so quickly. I truly believed pages on that domain were more robust and could stand up to that strategy. (After all, there is a ton of internal linking and all internal links on Wikipedia use optimized anchor text.)

Well, time to undo some of those links and see if it comes back.

Update: March 2
I removed most, but not all, the internal links and the listing came back rather quickly, though in a lower position than before.

On an upbeat note … I managed to get a Wikipedia page erased from Google, temporarily? Damn, how awesome is that?

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Category: Google,Link Building

Using the "link:" Operator on a 301′d Domain

Posted by Melanie Phung on Wednesday, December 19, 2007 at 10:58 pm

When you use the link: operator to search on a domain that is 301′d to a different domain, Google pulls up results for the target URL. For example, let’s say you own and you set it to redirect to If you try to do a quick search to see if there are any sites still linking to — let’s say you wanted to contact them to change the link to point directly to your new URL — Google shows you a list sites that link to both and

So you open up and view the source of page after page after page and there’s no mention of XYZ anywhere.

There’s no way to isolate who’s linking to the old site using the link: operator.

The reverse would make sense — include in the backlinks a list of all pages with links that somehow end up on that page — that makes sense because you could presumably see everything that is passing PageRank to the target page.

But for the query “” to show me a list of pages linking to ABC, just because XYZ happens to redirect there doesn’t really make sense to me. After all, it’s possible those two domains aren’t even controlled by the same people and neither the target page, nor anyone linking to it, has anything at all to do with the redirecting page (i.e.,

I’m trying to see who’s linking to a certain page using the link operator. None of the pages in the results point to that page. Am I missing something obvious?

This probably is a whole lot clearer with some diagrams or screenshots – I’ll see about posting an update over the holidays.

Oh yeah… and happy holidays!

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Category: Link Building

How to Buy Links That Aren’t Paid Links

Posted by Melanie Phung on Tuesday, December 11, 2007 at 1:13 pm

Funny link-building tip from our friends at SEO Black Hat: “Buying and selling links without the nofollow tag is now officially a black hat SEO practice that is against Googleā€™s Webmaster Guidelines… If you buy the entire site then youā€™re no longer violating Googleā€™s Webmaster Guidelines by changing where it links.”

That’s pretty damn funny. (But don’t get me started on the whole “buying a link is black hat” Ugh! This gets me mad! My opinion on that issue is much like PhilC’s and a big clap clap clap to brettbum for his excellent posts.)

I totally want to throw in a TLA affiliate link right here, but stupid Blogger won’t let me insert any scripts into the post. Let’s see if I can work around that…)

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Category: Link Building

Paid Links Lose Value (Or: Google Says, I Told You So)

Posted by Melanie Phung on Tuesday, November 20, 2007 at 3:39 pm

Google has been warning the SEO community it would put the smack down on paid links. The message started coming in loud and clear earlier this year with the Google guys and gals talking at conferences about how the GOOG don’t like no bought links, and that sparked a lot of debate on all the forums: Just how would search engines distinguish paid links from “natural” links?

Then, in case you weren’t listening, Google started a de-PageRankifying campaign that was sure to get the community talking: first it dropped the Toolbar PageRank of paid directories (presumably those that had been created for SEO purposes) and then, more dramatically, it stripped major general-interest sites like the of their precious green Toolbar pixels.

“You listen’ now, punks?” asked Google.

That, all the savvy SEOs knew, was just a shot across the bough bow, because does WaPo really care about how many green pixels it gets in the Toolbar? Does that change the economics of their business? No. But…with the holidays coming and Google having a reputation for making big, disruptive algo changes right before the big shopping season, I for one warned that sites utilizing paid linking as part of their link strategy would see the effects soon.

And in three… two … one:

Here’s are the Google rankings of one site for its top keywords and keyword phrases — check out what happened to that site’s rankings since Friday (I was out of the office on Monday, so it might have happened as recently as yesterday). [ed. I should note that none of the affected pages themselves lost any Toolbar PR, because the TBPR thing is only symbolic. It's the rankings (and therefore traffic) that actually matter.]

Just eyeballing this chart, it looks like paid links were stripped of their link juice, but not that the buyers of those links were heavily penalized. In the example above, most of the rankings dropped only a page — that’s significant, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not as bad as the dread Minus 30 penalty, or an outright ban. Unlike the Minus 30 penalty, there isn’t going to be an opportunity to beg forgiveness. The links that were devalued can be removed, but that won’t help get your rankings back up. In fact, it’s entirely possible that Google isn’t done with this update yet and that further drops in these sites’ positions will occur.

But not everyone loses out in this latest rankings shuffle, obviously. Some sites — those that didn’t participate in detectable paid linking — get to move up a couple of spots. (Well la-dee-da, lil’ Goody Two Shoes.)

But, you knew the “buy yourself top organic rankings” strategy wouldn’t last in the long run.

Or maybe I speak to soon… also possible that this was a one time index clean-up and not a permanent change to the algorithm, in which case you could continue to discreetly buy links on other sites that haven’t been outted yet. hmmm…. I’m not saying that paid links are the best value for your money right now, but people tend to overreact to changes in the search engine landscape. I really wouldn’t advise you to pull the plug on every paid link you have out there; knee-jerk reactions to an algo shift aren’t going to help. There’s no way that Google figured out every single link that’s been paid for on the entire Internet … point of the hyperbole: some of those paid links might still be worth quite a bit. The trick is knowing which ones.

I also want to know how this is going to effect business of the big text link brokers. Are people going to stop buying text links now? I for one still think there’s plenty of opportunity there, as long as sites selling links stop being so frickin obvious about it. Like the WashingtonPost – they put the same block of paid link on ALL of their tens of thousands of pages. Of course that was going to be detected!

How ’bout you? Are you changing your strategy? And how do you hope to make up for the lost rankings now that the paid links aren’t boosting your position (assuming you paid for links, that is)?

Updated December 7: May I Have This Google Dance?
Less than 2 weeks after I published the post above, a funny thing happened. All the rankings came back to what they were before and have been holding steady since. I think they listened to me when I said “good things come to those who don’t panic.” (Paid links are dead! Long live paid links?)

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Category: Google,Industry Buzz,Link Building,Monetizing