Blog Archive Links Are Worse Than Paid Links

by on September 30, 2010 | posted in SEO Theory

I’m sure you’re wondering, what the $)*#@*) heck are blog archive links?

Well, let’s talk. I have answers.

Blog archive links occur when two business friends, cohorts, start talking about how they can offer one another links to boost the organic traffic to their websites. Unfortunately, one or the other decides that they really can’t offer their friend a link on their website, because it’s really not topically relevant and it really wouldn’t fit and they’re sorry, but it’s just not good enough to be listed.

But hey, said person still likes having drinks or being connected to the other person’s network, so they say hey, man, woman — maybe we can work something out. Maybe I can find some deep linked archived blog post on my website – I’ll just throw in your link where I can find a match with your anchor text and WALAH – everyone wins. Nobody will know about the link besides maybe the five or so people who will stumble upon it in an organic search, and the likelihood that they notice and/or care is so infinitesimally small that it means that, wow, we all win.

You get the traffic, I keep the fans, and we both get to manipulate the heck out of the search engines. And afterwards, we’ll all sit back and drink and laugh about this while Joe Schmo over at paydaypoker gets penalized for having to buy a link in the sidebar of a sports website.

And damn, this Jack and Coke is good.

So wait, what makes this worse than paid links? Well, let’s cut the narrative and hit the bullet points:

  • It’s the worst editorially-cited link on the internet: Although a person approves it without monetary compensation, it’s less viable than even a paid link placed in plain view on the website. These links are so shady and/or embarrassing that they need to be buried off the homepage, deep in the confines of the blog archives. This makes them worse than 99% of paid links.
  • They almost never happen in paid transactions. This kind of exchange is almost exclusive to business relationships – because it has the kind of detail that’s hard to resolve in most surface-level paid link transactions. In paid link transactions, it’s normally a yes or a no – or an “I want a link on this page or that one”. Once that hits a blocking point, it almost always fizzles away. The blog archive link requires some back and forth to reach this point – it’s kinda like negotiating incentives in a sports contract – this kind of detail would never be reached if you were at 7-11 buying a Snickers bar.  If I was your business contact, though, and I got you bought by AOL, I’d probably find a way to get you a link on Techcrunch.
  • It’s virtually undetectable to the user – but very detectable to the search engines. Blogs often have no reason to be investigated (generally) for buying paid links, so nobody will ever suspect or be suspicious of these kinds of actions. They’ll show up in the linking website, but when someone eventually looks at the blog post, it’ll be impossible to tell that the editor originally wanted this link buried away – and as such, it’ll be extremely difficult to determine that this page added one of the most manipulative links imaginable months after the original posting.

I thought of coining the term “blog archive links” and writing this post because I’m increasingly noticing these kinds of links – and on some of the biggest blogs on the internet. And really, I can’t blame the people. Because it’s basically LEGAL – like texting in your car. Although it hurts everyone, it’s pretty much impossible to get caught.

And really, we should ALL BE DOING IT. Because there is NO PENALTY, for them or our blogs – in blog reputation OR organic search results – as long as you maintain some minimum standard of relevance (hey – I mentioned the trips I’ve taken on my marketing dollars – let’s link to Orbitz with some targeted anchors!).

But, the clear synopsis here is obvious – there’s something very wrong with this end product. The fact that people can do this and run every anchor text available on their old, unpopular posts and get away with it and also pass value to their friends in non authentic ways really probably has to make you question that really, are paid links the real issue that’s manipulating the search engines — or is there more to it?

Maybe we should again, stop thinking about whether or not a link acquired involved a cash transaction and instead, think about whether or not it disrupts user experience on the web. And maybe we should look to resolve those tendencies – tendencies like time stamped blog posts suddenly getting changed months later and adding one of the 10k most monetizable phrases – instead of just imagining black and white hat SEO as a drug-deal monetary transaction where everything is a clear dichotomy – paid and unpaid, editorial and not — bad and good.

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