Beating Your Links Down?

We review commerce sites all the time for shop owners, and I am really very surprised that so many of the stores we review have no idea about Google’s guidelines regarding links. I really HATE the fact that shop owners can make use of a links directory in Zen Cart! Is this your business or a directory? Today we will take a few minutes to go over the pitfalls of such link pages and the guidelines Google has in place to keep us on the straight and narrow.

Google says this very clearly…

Don’t participate in link schemes designed to increase your site’s ranking or PageRank. In particular, avoid links to web spammers or “bad neighborhoods” on the web, as your own ranking may be affected adversely by those links.

So what parts of this affect these stores with their link directories?

  1. Links intended to manipulate PageRank
  2. Excessive reciprocal links or excessive link exchanging (“Link to me and I’ll link to you.”)
  3. Buying or selling links that pass PageRank

Lets cover #1 “Links intended to manipulate PageRank”. This can be very hard to understand for many shop owners as they have no intention of trying to game Google’s PageRank system. Mostly these shop owners are trying to build relevant links in and out, as many “gurus” from various forums have instructed them. Honestly speaking, most are making the actions completely innocently and just lack the understanding of proper linking. For example…

  • Linking out to 500 sites, related or not, will not help you if they are too many and do not provide usefulness to the shoppers on your site.
  • If shoppers do find and browse you link directory, they are likely to leave for another site. Is the “value” of this link worth the loss of a potential sale?
  • Additionally, these links in MOST cases would be perceived as advertising and need to be “nofollowed”

So in a nutshell to make this Google Guideline regarding the manipulation of PageRank perfectly clear…

Any link that you do not personally endorse (vote for) or is advertising in any way, must not be allowed to pass PageRank. Simple, add a “nofollow” tag to the individual links or link directory pages.

#2 “Excessive reciprocal links or excessive link exchanging (“Link to me and I’ll link to you.”)”. This one is the one I see most. People with the link building bug swapping links. The pitfalls here are mostly hidden from the shop owner and they don’t even realize they are creating an issue for their store’s link profile.

  • When a link is exchanged and neither is “nofollowed”, the link(s) are devalued. This very simply means Google knows you swapped links and considers them less valuable or accountable than organic/natural links.
  • Nothing stirs my fire like a shop owner with a link directory who is flagrantly begging for reciprocal links. First of all, why don’t you just send and email to Google and beg them to devalue your links? Secondly, how do you think this looks to your shoppers? Yep, you look like a scammer.
  • Lastly, and perhaps most importantly… If you get to the point that your link swapping or reciprocal links outnumber your organic links, then you have screwed up your entire link profile and cast a big Google storm cloud over your site. You have just devalued all of your links.

#3 “Buying or selling links that pass PageRank“. You would think with the buzz around that everyone knows this one… But not so. I suggest you do not practice the buying and selling of links on your store’s cart… Remember this is your business! None the less as many will buy and sell links anyhow, here are some tips.

  • Do NOT label these links as “sponsored”, “partners” etc. Once again, just login in to Google’s webmasters tools and report yourself… Its a bit quicker.
  • ALL links that have been bought or sold ARE advertising and cannot be allowed to pass PageRank.
  • I would strongly advise you do not advertise your link bidding/selling campaign on your website. Not only does this look awful to your shoppers, but again just tell Google yourself.

Essentially, your store is a place of business… Not a link directory. This is just plain unproductive, and well dumb.

Seriously, from a consumers vantage they expect very much the same ethical business standards from your online store as any “brick and mortar” business. There is little doubt that link building is a daunting task, but if you loss your ability to impress your customers in the process… What the point?

Don’t tell me how you have 5000 visitors a day… Tell me how many you are converting and how many just bounce. That is where you will find the answers to build a successful online store.

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