Are WordPress Sidebar Links – Blogroll Links Good for SEO?
Are WordPress Sidebar links (blogroll links) good for SEO?
Or Will They Destroy all Your Hard Work!
The problem of sitewide links being good for SEO or not is one of the questions I have often thought about since I got started trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t with regards to link building. All of the questions or statements I have read about, or been told about that have dealt with the usage of sidebar or blogroll links have revolved around the following ‘rumours’ (facts?) and how they will effect the traffic that comes to your site via Google…
- Large sites linking to new sites from a blogroll might have a negative SEO effect.
- Large sites deep linking to new sites from a blogroll is even worse!
- Sidebar links are a sure fire way to ‘over optimize’ the anchor text of your incoming links.
- High PR sites linking to new sites from a blogroll might have a negative SEO effect.
- High PR sites deep linking to new sites from a blogroll is worse again.
Now, I’m sure there are going to be times when webmasters want to seek out and destroy backlinks that they do not want on rare occasions, I’m not 100% familiar with the reasoning behind this as I originally assumed that Google would give you the benefit of the doubt with regards to your backlink profile and simply disregard anything that looked ‘unnatural’.
There is further reading on the subject of unnatural links at MajesticSEO.com HERE if you think this type of backlink may be harming you, but I suggest you read this post through before you jump to conclusions on any problems you may be seeing with your link profile.
The Goal and the Why of This Post
The object of this post is not really to prove or disprove any theory by anybody, it is simply to relate information on an experiment that myself and Andy Bailey (creator of the CommentLuv plugin) recently put together. Kudos to Andy for supplying the PR6 site and leaving our test link there long enough for me to get some half arsed (more on that later!) results.
The experiment started after Andy and I exchanged a few emails on the subject, I had come a cross a blog post from a concerned webmaster who had seen his keyword ranking “bouncing around all over the place” after getting sidebar links in excess of 2000 for an exact match search term that appeared in both the ‘top commentluvvers’ widget and the recent comments widget.
In my own prior experience I have seen similar “bouncing around” just from sending multiple in content links to a site to try to rank it for a search term, this is often called the ‘Google dance’ by experienced SEO’s and it is usually nothing to worry about. In private forums I have come across threads commenting on how old sites that have been ranking well for a long time while not being linked to suddenly lose rankings (and income) after a new linking campaign is started, but the person also stated that rankings will usually return in an even better position than they were previously once the Google dance settles down again.
Even more confusing is the fact that if you get a link from a good site that features your post/backlink on the front page you can see an improvement in rankings that will then drop once the post linking to you drops off of the front page. Expect a period between this drop while Google ‘deletes’ this home page link from its database. Apparently search engines are better at finding new links than removing credit for old ones that have disappeared or been removed, especially so with regards to Bing. (Not completely related I know but worth a mention while we are on the subject of backlinks from sites affecting rankings.)
In all fairness to the webmaster concerned, he did say that once other commenter’s have pushed his comment links out of the widgets the # of backlinks will drop off and hopefully things will correct themselves but it was also stated that…
- It may be an down to the link being on a directory site.
- It could help to use the upcoming option to discount incoming links via Google Webmasters Tools.
I personally disagree with both of these statements.
No1: If Google had a problem a particular directory site linking to your site, there would be no Google dance. You would be penalized, period!
No2: I’m actually torn in 2 directions on this one, see why in the ‘my advice’ bit at the bottom and feel free to comment with your thoughts…
While discussing the blogpost I talked about above, Andy and I had a small disagreement during our correspondence about whether or not blogroll links could have a negative effect on a site or not, nothing serious as Andy did not pay me a personal visit to kick my face in, (at least not yet) but it should outline the concerns webmasters have about whether or not WordPress sidebar links are good for SEO or not.
I pretty much hate arguments but I had to make it clear that if Any wanted a fight I was more than prepared to throw the head in… Get it head… tail, longtail… head keyword… sidebar links? *Sigh, crap joke I know.
Andys View (in a Nutshell)
I will see if there is any information about recent comments on sidebars hurting sites but until I see an email from google saying ‘you’re penalized because of the excessive amount of links on xyz site’ then I will take it with a pinch of salt.
I can imagine 1000 links on 1000 different domains being a problem but not 1000 pages on the same site. Google’s algorithm has got to be intelligent enough to know that links on the same site are from the same site. if they didn’t then the link to your homepage or other links that appear sitewide would completely destroy your own reputation.
What you had to say about 1000 pages on 1000 different domains vs 1000 pages on one domain kinda conflicts with my own personal thought/beliefs. What would be the easiest to produce for an established SEO with an old and large site? Would it be correct in G’s eyes for them to rank well simply because they hold that old site and link to their new property from thousands of pages on a sidebar link? (granted, it may not rank them at all. It also may penalise in the case of young sites…?)
Not something I’ve tested directly to be honest Andy, maybe we could try it out on a fairly young site I have, (mp3456player.com) it ranks on page 2 for ‘mp6 player’ but brings in no revenue believe it or not so it wouldn’t be a problem if its rankings were ‘destroyed’(?) by thousands of links from a sidebar link on thousands of pages on 1 site.
Nothing to lose… Nothing to gain except intel if you know of a site that could provide this type of link.
Andy… (Red text from here on in is added by me)
we may be able to test the 1000 links thing if you’re up for it? I can put a link on comluv.com for ‘mp6 player’ right where the top commentators link is and on the homepage and we can monitor the sites position on google. There’s currently 15000 results on google for the comluv.com site. You’d have to do the monitoring though! (Lazy bastard!*) I imagine there is a good post out of this and it’d be really nice to know for sure (at least in this limited way) that it is not 1000 links, it is 1000 links on 1000 domains using the keyword that hurts you.
you up for it? do you have a way to measure search engine rankings for a term? if you do, we can update it each week and really see what happens.
I was actually thinking about the ’1000 link test’ this morning when I woke up and thought we might have to change up the idea slightly but there is no real need. To explain…
When I’ve run across this complaint of many links from a single site hitting a new site, if I remember correctly the problem was caused when they were ‘deep links’. (To an actual post rather than the front page) I thought it was the front page that ranked for ‘mp6 player’ but it turns out it’s actually a post which is good news. We can dispel(?) the idea that deep linking hurts also from a blogroll type link.
My suggestion would be to try the link as a nofollow for a period, see what happens and then change it to a dofollow and see if that makes any difference. What kind of time frame do you think we should try? Obviously you don’t want that bloody link stuck on your site for ages but it has to be a reasonable amount of time if we are going to prove/disprove anything.
ok then let’s do the great link experiment that they’ll be singing songs about for years to come.. (OK readers, Time for you to sing… SING I SAID!!!)
send the link to the page and the exact anchor text and I’ll get it up on comluv.com as a nofollow link. We’ll keep it there for a month to start with and if you can monitor its position in the search engines and take screen shots of it regularly and keep them in a folder for publishing when the nofollow experiment is finished we can change it to dofollow and see if that makes a difference.
Let the Games Begin!
First of all, let me state that no links were pointed at this site since January 2012, it was not a site I believed I could work with long term so it’s just kinda sat dormant. Prior links were pretty minimal. No links were sent to the site on my part during or since the experiment outlined here either.
We started out by adding the link at comluv.com on the sidebar as ‘nofollow’ for a full month and then changed it up to a ‘dofollow’ link thereafter. Here’s what we found during that time…
Nofollow link was added on June 19th 2012, here is the tracking of placement for the SERP placement for both Google and Bing according to Market Samurai.
As you can see from the above line graph and the chart below, the ranking improves from position 21 in Google to position 6 during the period when the nofollow link was in place.
The 3 columns in the chart below show first the rankings for Google, then for Bing followed by Yahoo. (No rankings recorded at all during this time). The final column shows the amount of backlinks found during the nofollow link period.
Link was changed to dofollow on July 22nd 2012, here is the SERP placement from that date up until 20th September 2012.
- Get the exact same link to your site HERE!
As you can see by the graph above, during the period we had the dofollow WordPress sidebar links in place things only improved ever so slightly in Google but Bing saw a huge jump up to position 1 at one point! Yahoo finally decided that we were worth taking notice of on July 24th and even shot us up to position 2 on August 16th before settling in the 40′s.
Now I know this is a little off topic but I have to apologize for the rankings only being updated on a weekly basis from the 24th of July! This is what I was talking about when I said “Half arsed results” earlier.
It seems Market Samurai decided to change up the program which I had paid for (along with thousands of others of users) so that you cannot keep tabs on rankings on a daily basis any more. On top of this, you can’t track as many keywords as you want to any more without paying what I think is an extortionate amount of money.
They recently re-launched Market Samurai on the Warrior Forum in it’s new guise and I went right over there and told them exactly what I thought of what they had done to existing customers…
The forum post was deleted for some reason shortly after I made it. Anyone know why freedom of speech has died on the Warrior forum? (Answers on a postcard.)
Never let it be said that I Won’t shout out BS products or what I believe is bad customer service/relations/treatment!
My advice, check out the free trial on this Market Samurai alternative that will keep track of an infinite amount of keywords on your site for a lot less money while doing a lot of other stuff that Market Samurai cannot.
My Thoughts and Observations
I have seen it said that Google may penalize corrective action (self incrimination) on posts such as this one the Google SEO trap and this one on the Google rank-modifying spammers patent. While neither of these point directly to using Google’s upcoming(?) disavow link feature there may be a reason why this tool is being made available that many may not have thought of: To catch sudden mass link removal when an SEO goes too far in his link building efforts.
My advice is not to panic too early on if you see your site drop completely out of the SERP’s, you can see in the above tables that for the term ‘MP6 player’ there was no sign of my site in the Google SERP’s on several days during the initial nofollow link period.
Exact Keyword Phrase on a Blogroll Link?
In this case I went for the exact keyword phrase which worked out pretty darn well. It also brought in traffic for the long tails targeted on the page as well as many other long tails which I would never have even dreamed of such as:
Now if you know Andy Bailey, you know he owns a Chinese Takeout. Was this you buddy? lol
Jokes aside, if what the rumours say is true about over optimizing with sidebar links then in theory you should be able to correct this by hitting a few smaller sites with sidebar links saying things like ‘http://yoursite.com/your-post/’ or ‘here’ or ‘more information here’ etc. This is of course ass|u|m(e)|ing that you have not had a manual penalty.
If it is the case that sidebar links do hurt your site then perhaps it is due to the site that you are linking from being spammy, this leaves the definition of ‘spammy’ wide open I know but you can only do so much in one experiment. In our test we were linking from an aged and trusted site and it seems to have done us nothing but good. Would this continue after another G update? I don’t know is the only honest answer.
Are Sidebar Links a Quick Way to Get Indexed in Bing and Yahoo Search Engines?
This observation may be pure coincidence but I’ll let you make up your own mind on that one…
As you may remember from the graph/chart of the nofollow link period, the link was initially put in place on June 19th 2012. The following image should outline what I find interesting…
Yep, both Bing and Yahoo started indexing the site exactly 2 months later and after 10,000 backlinks were accumulated.
Was it the 10,000 backlinks that made the indexing kick in or the 2 month mark? It could also be sheer coincidence so right now, it’s open for discussion…
Can Recent Comment Sidebar Links Hurt Your Site?
You can never say yes or no to a question like this but I have to sway toward saying ‘no’ myself. I sincerely believe that a lot of the fuss we see around this subject is down to the Google dance taking effect when a sidebar link is given on a comment. Even if it was hurting your site, surely once it fades into the background of a sites comments and moves off of the sidebar you would recover right?
A Challenge to WP Plugin Makers!
I like to think of myself as a little bit of a trailblazer when it comes to new ideas, others think of me as ‘full of shit’ which is likely more accurate. Andy will certainly tell you that I hit him up with WP plugin ideas when the brain kicks in… Here’s a goody!
Remember I said that some search engines (apparently) don’t find out that links that have disappeared or been removed as fast as they find new existing links?
Well this plugin would give you 3/4/5/6/7 times as much bang for your buck on a sidebar link while also allowing you to add a percentage to how often a certain anchor text would be shown per page load.
My new WordPress plugin that I have no idea how to build will be called…
WP Spin Text Sidebar Comment Links!
Or just plain Commentluv with spin text enabled anchor text sidebars? :-s
Could it work?
Competition with Freebies!
Challenge No2: Can You Destroy This Sites Rankings Simply by Linking to it? (mp3456player.com)
I’m actually dead curious as to how exactly somebody could totally destroy the rankings of somebody else’s website. Are you curious also? If so I would be sure to subscribe to this post!
If you would like to take a crack at completely humping mp3456player.com’s rankings with dodgy backlinks then drop me a line, we can do this with your name being public or private. Obviously we can only do this one person at a time but if you succeed in destroying all rankings for this site you will get a choice of any one of Andy Baileys internet marketing tools…
- IM Graphics Package
- WP Dealpon
- WP Auto Links
- WP Mail Ads (with PLR)
- Azon Theme (as seen on MP3456player.com)
- Commentluv Premium (Multi Site Licence)
On top of this, if the information results in a great post detailing just how you managed to do the dirty deed, Andy will throw in a sidebar link at comluv.com for a month free of charge. You saw what it did above for a 2 phrase keyword so imagine what it could do for you in some other area. This link will of course be subject to Andy’s approval, I don’t need to tell you that no affiliate links or filthy type sites featuring naughty women will be allowed. Neither will links to sites selling little blue diamonds that help you please said women.
I will of course link out to you giving you credit for totally f**king up my site also within the post that follows. Same rules as above apply.
P.S. Interested in buying MP3456player.com? It certainly has good potential for somebody in the niche! Make me an offer and if nobody has taken up the challenge so far, I’ll consider selling if the price is right.
Challenge No3: If Somebody Can Destroy the Rankings, Can You Make Good and Get them Back?
Now this is the ultimate challenge that everybody would love to see achieved. If challenge 2 is completed, watch this space for an even bigger prize!
*Andy and I agreed that I would make the post on this subject due to the fact that I was doing the research, thanks to Andy for putting up with my twisted sense of humor on this post when I called him a lazy bastard.
More related reading plus an interesting video can be found at SEOmoz.org on their whiteboard Friday post about sitewide, reciprocal and directory links.
You can now get the exact same backlink I used to rank the keyword ‘mp6 player’ on page 1 by going HERE.