Is The End In Sight For Guest Posting & Link Building Services?
I have just had a very interesting conversation with a major news platform which I was using to post content on, The Epoch Times to be particular. They are moving towards a policy of “nofollow” linking from their publication. I was told this is due to the new Google algorithm hitting sites who have a large amount of links HEADING OUT with exact match or branded links. We all know there are penalties for sites that have too many of these anchors coming INTO their site. This though, to me, is a real game changer for the future of SEO and online marketing, especially if sites decide that all links should be made no follow site wide. This is a lot easier to set through their website as opposed to looking at each post and the links on their own merit. It is easier for sites to just make all links no follow than to check each one and apply the re= no follow to each link you are challenging. Exact match helps readers to follow links as they are highlighted and exactly relevant, hence why they are used. Take them away and you are hurting the flow of traffic around the web. Site wide sweeps like the one I mentioned also harm generic link anchors anyway. Google’s main beef as far as I was concerned was advertorial content gaining links, not news or non promotional content linking to resources.
Why the big fuss?
We all know the delicate balance to online marketing. As well as the traffic and association value of a big site, we marketers are kept in check, happy to offer NON PROMOTIONAL materials, informative and useful content, in exchange for those golden links that help the overall search rankings of the pages being linked to as well as exposure from the sites that we post onto. This balance has, I believe, stopped years of online promotional content being splurged out, (to a greater extent than the spamming we see going on now), to all and sundry in an attempt to gain traffic. After all we gain the traffic in the long term through strong ranking performance. Blog owners and news sites have benefited from an open tap of strong and useful content, in most cases, to offer clients a kind of “back door advertising”. The writers of the posts get links back to pages on their business sites by offering authoritative advice and tips about something to do with their business. Any traffic that does get onto the site can be then steered towards the sales end of the site, whilst a ranking boost helps gain more traffic from the organic searches. Now take away that ranking boost. Is this really an effective way to market long term? NO!!! You would want to strain every little morsel of traffic from the site you would end up writing advertorial for to do this. And there you have it. Useful content would simply become advertorial, attractive fishing lures waiting for a bite….or bites. Of course sites would then charge to get access to their readers…who would no doubt leave in droves as they have to read 5 pages of adverts to one useful piece. These sites would then have to hire writers to write the content that readers want as opposed to getting it free now.
What other signs are there that lead to this apocalypse?
- I have seen a huge increase in sites that would once have offered guest posts charging for the right to link from the content to ANY page, resource or not. Are they trying to get every morsel of value from their blog before it collapses due to the fact they cannot allow too anchor texts that are non generic? How are they supposed to check every link to the many tens of posts per month? Easier to do a site wide no follow.
- Google talks about authority sites and brand authority without giving much info as what they are or what that is? Are they based on the SEO MOZ metric? If so why are they using a marketing agencies stats? Is Page Rank changing into a Domain Authority Imitation? After all if more and more links are no follow, from the sort of sites we are told are beacons of light and quality, there will be little to gain from the value of those links for a site from Google’s perspective.
- Back links themselves seem to be having less and less influence over how a site ranks anyway. If a new “authority” metric is now in play what is it based on? Social signals? very easy to fake. Traffic? Same as social signals. Pages indexed? So we are going to have a page spamming contest? The boat seems rudderless and the back link stalwart that has helped to rank sites properly, a majority of the time, is now heading into no follow land. Without Google’s PR, how are they going to value these necessary bargaining chips of the internet?
So what now?
We will see how the road lays ahead. The more no follow links on offer, the less value to sites looking to rank. Marketers will look to use more and more promotional material in order to gain traffic lost through the search rankings. What was once information created to enhance authority to rank, will now change to promotional splurge looking to fish customers. Like commercials in between your favourite show, they will fill the publications who will charge for the honour. A pain in the back side! Links will hit less and less resources and more and more sales pages as businesses look to maximise any traffic hitting their site. Businesses after all are not libraries. Other platforms like social media sites or Ebay may well begin to use their large stocks of data to become creative in channeling traffic to specific sites, advertising will become more targeted and fake accounts destroyed quicker in the process. Of course this is all very pessimistic, but the fine balance of link worth and content cost, (ROI needs to be there to invest in strong content writers), is very close to being damaged and maybe irreparable if the trend continues.
Blogs and news sites that rely on content will suffer as they will have nothing to offer except traffic from their sites. That traffic will be no use to businesses unless it hits sales pages quickly and easily.
Google will no doubt hope businesses increase their use of Pay Per Click adverts, however there is now a lot of competition for that market place, and media buying in general will only grow as more players enter the field offering advertising avenues. ROI on advertising like this is not always as good for clients as that of search engine traffic or direct advertising on specific sites like news platforms. Will we see it charging for search listings eventually to maintain its cash flow?
Google, I think, needs to clarify how authority is going to pass to sites through no follow links. How no follow is assisting in stopping spam etc is a mystery to me. My understanding is that high end content platforms have already vetted placed writing anyway to make sure it is up to scratch. No follow was great to make sure adverts or paid links were of no value to a site beyond their promotional worth. Is that what Google wants to equate content sharing to? Guest posting services and back link creation will obviously take a hit. In doing so, should the tide of no follow site wide introductions keep going, it is going to be incredibly difficult to explain to a client quite why they are paying someone to write a piece to link to a resource that they are funding, for a trickle of traffic that is not hitting anywhere near the money pages of their site. That is going to reduce the amount of quality content online as far as I can see. Let me know what you think and feel free to share and critique. I have very thick skin among other attributes.