Webmasters & web-savvy types: confirm or dispel my deepening suspicions...

I got an email yesterday from someone at linkbuilding.net, saying they had a client who wanted to place some text and a link on one of the more popular pages on my personal website.

I responded saying I might be interested, provided it could be achieved within the constraints of my advertising policy (linky) - in particular, the fact that I won’t place paid-for links inside my content, and I won’t entertain ads from just any and everyone.

I got a broken-English response from a different person, saying the policy was OK, and that they just wanted text to the effect “get your [supplies of some kind] from [the linked supplier]”. I checked out the linked site and it’s an online hardware supplier and all looks completely above board. Usually, it’s online gambling sites that these offers are about, and they want me to insert the ad text as a paragraph in my article, but this one looks legit.

Then I got another email today from someone else at the same domain, basically repeating the first offer (as if they knew nothing about yesterday’s conversation).

So…

There isn’t anything objectionable about what they’re asking me to do
They’re asking me to place a hard-coded link (not embed something that they could change at source)
They’re offering to pay me

But

Their operational methods seem a bit spammy and flaky
I don’t see any guarantee that I’ll get the money
I know Google sometimes demotes the rank of sites that are the target of farmed links, but do they take a similarly jaundiced view of the referring sites?

At the moment, I’ve got that George Lucas Really Bad Feeling About This - and I don’t need to be told to trust my gut - if nobody can convince me otherwise, I’ll just be avoiding any further dealings with this - so is there anyone out there that can offer a positive testimonial for linkbuilding.net?

For the record, here’s a copy of their latest email message:

It just reeks of scam, don’t you think?

*the example site and the actual site they later specified were different, but both quite benign online retailers.

If it feels dodgy, it probably is dodgy. A polite refusal is in order.

Sounds to me like they are just looking to place links with their affiliate account number … they’ll get a percentage of the sales made by people who click the link on your page and they’ll pay you some money to allow them to put the link on your page so they don’t have to have their own website … kind of farming out the link farm and flying under the Google radar by not showing up as hundreds or thousands of basically identical pages or many domains owned by the same person or company.

I have received this as well. My business website is very highly ranked for electronic repairs. I received an email asking me to place a link on my home page lol.

The anchor text was to read ‘Buy Plasma TVs’ and the link went to a legit website.

I declined but was offered $50.

Google uses an algorithm that rewards web sites with high placement if they have inbound links that match the search criteria. So if this agency is able to place 100 inbound links all anchored with ‘Buy Plasma TVs’ and all located on reasonable high ranking electronics websites, the web site being promoted will in turn rank higher.

Google will not penalize you at all for placing the link.

If it is legit then tell him, YOU WILL PLACE THE LINK. I bet he runs.

If you place a link then all it will do is move business to his site. Perhaps if his link is good it will help your visitiors.

But if he wants to place a link on your site with HIS CODE, then he is almost certainly trying to get one of those “make money by clicking links” on your website.

Unless you have 100% control over the link, skip it. You don’t want one visitor to your site to become mad 'cause his link opens pop-ups or redirects. Remember he can change that link at will. Perhaps the first 12 times it’ll go to his site than the 13th it goes to a porn site, then it goes back to the regular site.

It’s too “iffy” unless you make the link which should be a HTML (not javascript) link of “href”

I emailed back asking if it could be just an HTML link and how payment would work - they’ve responded saying that a plain HTML link is fine and that the first payment will be made as soon as the link is checked, then monthly afterwards.

I don’t really see what I’ve got to lose by trying - the site they want me to link to is http://www.uline.com/ - which seems perfectly OK. I guess we’ll see what happens next…

I can’t dispel any suspicions.

I’ve got a PR7 site, so I get such emails every few days. I trash them. Most offers are from India. Buying links is a white hat SEO technique, which certainly beats the forum spam India is known for, but I’d still be wary of paid links from such a source. Affiliate ads, odd Javascript - all things I’d be concerned of.

For third party ads, I only have Google Adsense banners, because it’s the only advertising partner I’ve been able to find that will display ads that are relevant, given the subject of the site. Otherwise, I’ll accept relevant advertising directly from an advertiser.

Linkbuilding.net registrar information:

Registrant:
Domains by Proxy, Inc.
DomainsByProxy.com
15111 N. Hayden Rd., Ste 160, PMB 353
Scottsdale, Arizona 85260
United States

Anonymous domain registration. Not good IMHO.

I guess about the only things that could go wrong now would be:

I don’t get paid. (maybe they just try to get people to put the links up in the hope they’ll forget and leave them there)

The target site suddenly gets replaced with something other than an online store

The payment itself turns out to be the opener for some kind of advance fee fraud

I wouldn’t say it based on the anonymous thing. I have and have built a lot of websites and I always recommend anonymous registration to my clients. If you use 1and1 to register it’s free so why not?

As long as Mangetout does not allow javascript on his site, and HE places link, using his own HTML (which is a simply HREF attribute) and he checks the link every so often he should be fine. What else, perhaps someone could follow the link to the online store, order something and get ripped off. Well that is always a possiblity. But he could simply put a feedback link on his webpage and he’ll find out about it soon enough and remove the link. You should always have a feedback link on your site anyway.

The worst is he won’t see any money. But in my opinion that should be second any way to placing a link. If he feels that the link could benefit his readers it should be placed there even if he doesn’t get paid. I am very appreciate of websites that have useful links on them.

I went ahead and looked at the address on Google maps, just to see if it looked like a real place.

I’d feel a bit more comfortable if it looked a little better and was beside other places, but hey.

The worst thing would be your site’s potential loss in Google page-ranking (if that means anything to you), combined with no payment.

I have some paid links on my site. It took a bit of negotiating before they accepted that I insisted that they be clearly visually marked as advertisements, but we worked it out and I got paid quite well. They never asked for more than simple text links and a sentence or two of copy. The point, as I understand it, is not to get clickthroughs, but to raise their site’s Google ranking. (My site has low traffic, but quite good ranking.)

BUT

A month or so ago I got an email quite similar to the one in the OP, inquiring on behalf of a client, but rather coy about who the client was. (In the other cases I had dealt directly with the owners of the linked sites.) I delayed a few days before replying, expressing tentative interest, and my reply was returned as having been sent to a non-existent account name on gmail.

Odd.

A week or two later I got two more emails almost identical to the first, but apparently signed by two different people (although one had the same surname as that on the first), and this time the return address was not at gmail but at the company that all 3 emails had claimed to represent. I replied to both, again expressing interest and stipulating my terms, and specifying how much payment I would require for one year. I got a reply from one, agreeing to my terms and suggesting some text for the link, but saying they could only pay me for one quarter at a time rather than a year in advance. I wrote back agreeing, and said I would put up their link as soon as they told me the URL to link to.

That was a couple of weeks ago, and I have not heard anything more.

It seems very weird, but if it is a scam, I do not get it. Nobody asked for, or recieived, any money from me.

Regarding paid links: Spam Policies for Google Web Search | Google Search Central  |  Documentation  |  Google for Developers

What do they mean by ‘pass pagerank’?

Uline is a well-respected, legit company. I have been to the warehouse that was in the Google Maps link above.

I do own a PR5 web site, and although I don’t accept advertising, if I did, I’d allow a simple static html link, and I’d just check it every so often.

I can see a scenario where Uline contracted with some SEO company, whose tactics is to pay for links with their anchor text. As posted above, I imagine the goal isn’t to have people click the link, but to have Google associate Uline with the anchor text mentioned, such that they rank higher in searches.

One slight downside, is that including the link will decrease the “link juice” of other links on that web page. Just as your web pages gets page rank by having other people link to you, you give page rank to others by linking to them. But, the more links you have on your page (both internal and external) the more they get diluted.

You could always put a nofollow tag on the link, but then the advertiser wouldn’t get the link juice benefit.

PageRank is an algorithm that made Google unique in search engines. It’s the idea that your site is more important if other sites link to it. Here’s an (overly complex) description

But, if Google thinks you are a spammy site, or use less than orthodox techniques, they can put you in the sandbox and artificially lower your search engine rankings. In my opinion, you really don’t have to worry here, if you really are just linking to Uline. Even if it was a spammy link, one link won’t make a big impact.

Thanks, but that still doesn’t explain the meaning of the specific phrase ‘pass PageRank’ - from context (in the page linked in post #14), it sounds like passing pagerank is what happens if you do nothing unusual and leave the link unadorned, but the way it’s written makes it sound as if passing pagerank is an explicit action - hence my confusion.

If you just place a link on your site it will pass PageRank - nothing explicit needs to be done. If someone pays you to put an advertising link on your site, you’re technically supposed to include the rel=“nofollow” tag so that it doesn’t pass PageRank, so that search results don’t get distorted.

When Google says, “Buying or selling links that pass PageRank is in violation of Google’s webmaster guidelines” they mean if someone pays for a link, and that link doesn’t include the rel=“nofollow” attribute, you are technically breaking the rules.

Curious - how did you get that information?