Link building in the gambling industry

After the Penguin update, the SEO community talked a lot about unnatural links. Most of the times, the links that look unnatural are also purchased links.

This is true because SEOs focused so much on the anchor text of the links they could get from other websites they forgot one of the great rules of SEO: if you are making something unnatural, make it look natural.

The panic is at such levels that many SEOs started contacting the link vendors to ask them to shut down the links.

Ah, if only all those SEOs didn’t spend time forcing things that much… But ok, not everybody is meant to be a great SEO…

So, penalization after penalization, people is learning the importance of getting links with the most stupid anchor texts… Better late than never!

But is Google really penalizing every website buying links? Clearly no! First of all, it would be absolutely impossible for Google to know, for every link, which link is purchased and which link is spontaneous. They can just guess.

I work in a weird industry: gambling. Gambling is usually considered a very competitive niche. Yes, it is, but SEO in this industry is also really primitive. So, i wouldn’t say it’s that competitive! In the short term, sure it is… But basically every website is violating Google’s guidelines, so it’s reasonable to expect that one day they will be just wiped out.

If someone today wants to work purely in white hat mode, they won’t rank in short term, but they might be one of the best websites in the long term.

It’s funny, however, one aspect of the story: many of the online casinos buy unnecessary links. They just have a big budget and they buy all they can get.

SEO in the gambling is hard? Well, most of the times, a SEO in this industry just contact/is contacted, ask for a price, get quotes for every website (quote that varies depending on Pagerank! In 2012!), and choose a anchor text and a destination page to link to. Hard work!

This is the very competitive SEO in the gambling industry!

LOL

Even those companies that say “we don’t do that, come on” work this way. An example? This is just a little piece taken from a job description from one of the biggest betting companies when it was looking for a SEO Manager more than a year ago:

Would you expect to receive an offer of 10€ for a post with two backlinks from the same company? Well, what can i say… they don’t buy links. They beg for them!

But… is there any other way to acquire links, for a gambling website? I mean, apart from buying or exchanging links, what else a SEO working in this industry can do? It’s not all our fault. After all, who would naturally link a gaming website?

50% of webmasters wouldn’t do it at any cost; the other 50% would do it only for money. So, there’s no room for free links in this industry.

Unless you are creative. Unless you do something worth a link. Unless you deserve it.

But even doing so, you are still fighting against competitors that spend many thousands of dollars in links. If Google decided (and actually could) to ban all the websites buying links, today we’d likely have this SERP when searching for online casino:

SERP for the keyword "online casino" if Google banned websites that buy links

(click on the pic)

 

WordPress, Feedburner and sitemaps

UPDATE (19/03/2011): it seems the last version of the plugin already takes care of Googlebot, so this post has to be considered outdated.

If you use Feedburner for your wordpress feed, you probably use the FD Feedburner plugin for WordPress . The plugin is cool because it redirects your users to your Feedburner while letting Feedburner itself accessing your wordpress feed; and it’s really simple to configure.

But if you want to submit your feed to Google Webmaster Tools, Google will be redirected to your Feedburner too. While you may expect it to work, in some case it won’t. If you track clicks on Feedburner in fact, your feed will have changed links in it. Feedburner changes the <link>URL</link> to an internal URL that will redirect to your own URL after tracking stuff.

As a consequence, if you submit your feed as a sitemap on Google Webmaster Tools, Google will show you errors like this:

Feedburner and Google sitemap

This happens because the URLs in the Feedburner feed are not into your own domain but on http://feedproxy.google.com/

To fix this behaviour, easiest solution is having Google accessing your original feed (http://yourblog.tld/feed/) instead of being redirect to Feedburner. This can be easily done with a little change in the plugin.

Edit your plugin (with a text editor accessing the file via ftp, or just from the dashboard -> Plugins -> Editor, and select the FD Feedburner plugin) and look for this piece of code:

function feedburner_redirect() {
global $feed, $withcomments, $wp, $wpdb, $wp_version, $wp_db_version;

// Do nothing if not a feed
if (!is_feed()) return;

// Do nothing if feedburner is the user-agent
if (preg_match(‘/feedburner/i’, $_SERVER[‘HTTP_USER_AGENT’])) return;

// Do nothing if not configured
$options = get_option(‘fd_feedburner’);
if (!isset($options[‘feedburner_url’])) $options[‘feedburner_url’] = null;

Just change the line

if (preg_match(‘/feedburner/i’, $_SERVER[‘HTTP_USER_AGENT’])) return;

with:

if (preg_match(‘/(feedburner|google)/i’, $_SERVER[‘HTTP_USER_AGENT’])) return;

and you are done. Google won’t be redirected to your Feedburner feed, and it will use your original feed as sitemap.

Does YouTube sell links?

YouTube has PageRank 3: maybe YouTube is selling links. But if this is the case, i can see, right now, just one potential buyer

Doubts

Should we report this as paid link or just sphinn it?

Google Universal Search

What’s that? A bug or a feature?

Paid links already have less (if no) value

The point about paid links and spam report is that Google is already able to understand which links are paid and which not. And Google is already devaluating paid links.

Asking users to be a spy on paid links won’t work too much. Yes, ok, someone in the world knows for sure about a website who’s buying/selling links, but most of them can know about links only if they are involved. They should admit “I buy links” or “I sell links”. It won’t happen, of course. And most of spam reports about paid links will be just undemonstrable.

Google won’t be able to know about tons of paid links. As long as you don’t use Google Checkout to pay/cash or Gmail to negotiate…

But they are pushing SEOs to most sophisticated paid links. For example, no links on footer anymore, but instead put a link with the right anchor in a paragraph that speaks about the right topic. They already work better today. And tomorrow we’ll see much more about this phenomenon.

Experts

If they say that, it must be true.

Evil’s motto

Don’t be Google.

Fearless

Friday the 13th: a good day to spend $3.1 Billion. Fearless.