Q and A: Is this black hat SEO / link farming?

QuestionHello Kalena

In doing my research for Assignment 4 for your Advanced SEO course, I came across something I think is pretty spammy and crosses the line into black hat SEO.

A supposedly respectable design firm has done a number of websites and lists all their client’s website URLs on their site.  They appear to try to have all their clients link back to them.  That much I can understand from a business point of view although the latter is not the best practice.  But – they appear to have set it up so all their clients link to all the other clients of this design firm, even though they are unrelated businesses and not relevant.  The links are presented as this design firm’s clients and not the site owner’s.

So links from the design firm to clients, most clients to design firm, many clients linking to all the others.  Their list is about 187 or so sites.  Does this count as as link farming if the scale is fairly small?  Would Google or Bing notice?

Dolores

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Hi Dolores

Without being able to see the sites in question, I can’t confirm (feel free to message me with a couple of URLs if you’d like me to verify), but it sounds exactly like a 3 way link scheme.

This tactic is definitely dodgy but something that web design firms and ad agencies persist in thinking is a good idea. It’s also something that Google has warned against time and time again. You can see the very scenario you describe listed in Google’s definition of link schemes in their Webmaster Guidelines as follows:

“…links that weren’t editorially placed or vouched for by the site’s owner on a page, otherwise known as unnatural links, can be considered a violation of our guidelines. Here are a few common examples of unnatural links that may violate our guidelines: …Widely distributed links in the footers or templates of various sites”

So you can bet your bottom dollar that Google will notice this and devalue those links, if they haven’t done so already. Bing has a similar stance on 3 way link schemes, so the sites won’t fare well in Bing either:

“Abusive tactics that aim to inflate the number and nature of inbound links such as links buying, participating in link schemes (link farms, link spamming and excessive link manipulation) can lead to your site being de-listed from the Bing index.”

The fact that you’ve spotted this link scheme signals that the SEO lessons are sinking in, so well done 🙂

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30 Days as Geek For Hire – Day 1: Registration Frustration

elance-logoFollowing on from my lack of cash revelation, I’ve decided to try my hand at being a freelance geek-for-hire for 30 days to see if I can earn enough income to compensate for a full time job.

I’ve decided to start my search for work on Elance. Setting up a profile with Elance was mostly painless. The one positive aspect of registering with Elance is that they’ve partnered with LinkedIn, so you can simply import your entire CV and employment history if you connect your Elance profile with your LinkedIn profile.

However, the one aspect of Elance registration that was not straight-forward was the identity verification process. After fleshing out my profile, it was suggested that I verify my identity by completing an online form and registering for an identity verification interview via Skype. The only problem was, there seemed to be a bug with the Skype interview section of the verification request form.

elance-Screenshot1When I chose my time-zone (Wellington, New Zealand), no available interview times were shown and when I clicked *view more*, nothing came up and then the *view more* option disappeared entirely. No matter how many times I refreshed the form, there were no available interview time slots available. If I tried to submit my verification request, even if all other fields were completed, it wouldn’t let me submit because it said I have to choose an interview time slot. Le sigh. Different browsers triggered the same bug. I even tried at different times within a 24 hour period, with no luck. It was like a mini Ground Hog Day.

How was I supposed to verify my identity if I couldn’t select an interview time slot? In desperation, I lodged a support ticket and was informed that identity verification for Elance was performed by a third party, Aristotle, and that their technical support team was working to solve the error.

True to their word, the problem was solved within a few hours and I was able to set up my Skype interview and pass the identity verification hurdle at last.

Day 1 down. My next goal is to flesh out my profile completion to 100 percent. Catch you on Day 2.

Previous posts in this series:

 

30 Days as a Freelance Geek for Hire

geek-for-hireI came to a dramatic conclusion today. I need more income. As you all know, I’m a digital marketing consultant and trainer.

My contractual consulting work has dried up for the year and the exciting new IT start-up that had offered me 3 months work has been dismantled by their board and abandoned. Bye, bye guaranteed income.

So here I am, a self-employed geek, in need of consulting work in order to pay off a very large tax debt and keep me in coffee and French doughnuts for the foreseeable future. What’s a girl to do?

I had heard that marketing and IT specialists could make a nice little income on the side of their *real* job by using sites such as Elance, oDesk, Freelancer and Guru.com. I immediately thought “I can do that”. I’ll just have to take on enough freelance projects to provide a full-time income.  How hard can it be?

So I’ve decided to spend the next 30 days totally immersing myself in the seedy online job market and pimping my services as a freelance geek-for-hire. I thought my experience might make for entertaining reading, or at the very least provide an example of what not to do for future freelancers. So I’m going to blog about my experiences right here. Watch me as I fly or fail. Or quite possibly both.

If you’ve got any burning questions about freelancing in the digital / IT space, please post them in the comments and I’ll make sure I cover those off during the month. Any words of advice (warning?) for me would also be welcomed.

Wish me luck!