Block-Level Page Analysis, Sponsored Posts and Link Development

Link popularity as a search engine ranking factor is based on the notion that a link from one site to another is an editorial vote for the target site by the linker. Therefore, the idea goes, the more links from trusted websites a site or specific page has the better quality is can be assumed to be. It didn’t long after the introduction of link pop as a ranking factor for SEOs to begin gaming the search engines, by buying links, exchanging reciprocal links or setting up link networks. The key then for the search engines to combat link spam is to formulate intelligent algorithms to determine if a link is indeed an editorial vote. One of the easiest ways to do this is via block level page analysis (figuring out where the link is in the HTML on the page). Purchased and exchanged links are often found away from main page content, in sidebars or footers, so it can be assumed with a reasonable level of accuracy that links embedded in content blocks are not commercial or navigational, but real votes.

This is a key issue for modern link development, and nowhere is it more applicable or obvious that in blogs. Link ads and blogrolls (often large collection of run of site reciprocal links) appear in the sidebar while links to pages being discussed or recommended are found in the body of the page in posts.

Aside from the moral and ethical issues surrounding un-disclosed sponsored posts, these “pay for posts” models represent a great way to buy links nearly indistinguishable from purely editorial links.

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Competitor’s Brandnames as Keywords and User Intent

So there’s this trick some website play, most often (and easily) with PPC but it can be done with organic SEO too.

  • Find a direct competitor with more brand awareness than you
  • Get easy and cheap (non-competative) traffic from their brandname keywords
  • Wonder why the traffic doesn’t convert so well

For example, lets say I’m an SEM for Sprite and I’m working on my PPC keywords. I notice I can get 10 cent clicks by bidding on “7-up” keywords, awesome. I buy bucket loads of them, but my analytics tell me visitors spend very little time on my site, don’t few many pages, and rarely (if ever) actually buy anything from me. Why could this be? Clearly 7-up and sprite are almost identical and my product is cheaper or better or better marketed, obviously customers should be buying my soda.
Two words:
User Intent
Search traffic is a marketer’s dream. Users are using 1, 2 and 3 word phrases to tell me exactly what they want. Any SEM worth his salt should make it his first priority to take advantage of this and meet that user intent as closely as possible, otherwise you’re just burning money. So what did those searchers using 7-up keywords tell me about their intent? They said they want 7-up, not sprite. Offering them sprite is insulting and deceptive. I suppose there could be some positioning games the advertiser could play with competative keyword traffic, describing why our product is better or cheaper than theirs, but in a PPC environment you’re toeing legal copywrite lines, and I’m still not concerned its the best way to use ad dollars.

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