Free Link Exchange Programs That Don’t Work – Voltrank

For the past several months, since May to be precise, I have been experimenting with a link exchange system called Voltrank. Voltrank promise “quality one-way links” on a system that’s been “built by SEOs for SEOs” and best of all it’s completely free. The set up procedure is simple, you sign up for Voltrank, install a widget on your WordPress blog or a piece of code on any site capable of running PHP scripts, check your installation is working and then set up the links to the pages you want to promote. Voltrank then puts your link on other sites and gets different sites to link to your site. The widget displays up to 6 one-way text links from the Voltrank network and each link is different on each page of your site and each link is permanent so there’s very little link churn. The links only change if the link’s site leaves the network or changes the advert text. Your site earns “Volts” per page on your site. The more Volts you have, the more sites on the network your ads will appear on. Naturally this system benefits larger sites and sites that add a lot of new content like blogs. It all seems like the perfect link exchange system, one-way links, automated, nice and simple to use but… it doesn’t make any difference to search engine rankings.

As I said in the opening paragraph, I’ve been using Voltrank for 5 months now on an affiliate blog and had 2 ads running, one for a “bra measuring guide” and another for “lingerie guide“. Voltrank’s dashboard features some very comprehensive reports including a breakdown of every page your link appears on. The first link appeared on 71 sites and the second on 37. However out of the 71 sites that Voltrank reported my first link to be active on, 22 of the sites had no link on them. For the second link, 9 out of 37 sites had no active link and 2 were infected with malware. The rest of the linking sites low quality sites, foreign sites (even though you specify your language during the set up phase), 404 blog pages and all were of absolutely no relevance at all to my site’s niche (fashion / lingerie). Many of the sites were advertising illegal downloads of TV shows or were so blatently spam domains and made for adsense sites that you wonder how they ever get through Voltrank’s review process in the first place. After 5 months the “bra measuring guide” page has a whopping 3 inbound links from Voltrank sites according to Yahoo! Site Explorer and 4 according to Google Webmaster tools and the “lingerie guide” page has none, zero, zilch. The first page doesn’t even show up in Google searches for it’s target term according to Google Webmaster Tools and is not in the top 200 results whereas the second shows up in Google Webmaster Tools but not in the top 200 results. Both pages are indexed and cached in Google.

I will admit that my test pages were not optimized beyond adding a heading tag and a title tag but this was an experiment to see if Voltrank could power my pages to the top on link juice alone. Unfortunately it seems that in this case Voltrank’s batteries are flat.

I did try to add another WordPress blog to the Voltrank system to double check my findings but even though the blog was on the same server with the same set up and same plug-ins the Voltrank script would not validate the set up.

Bye bye Yahoo! UK

Well it’s finally happened, Yahoo UK search is no more. Yahoo UK (and European properties) are now powered by Bing. Just over 2 years after Microsoft bought Yahoo for (apparently $0!) and about a year after the US and Canadian Yahoo portals, the once great search giant has finally abandoned the fight against the mighty Google and going the same way as Altavista, Inktomi and AllTheWeb (all bought by Yahoo! ironically in an attempt to use their search engine know how to bolster Yahoo’s search algorithms). Officially Bing will power Yahoo! search for 10 years but the deal also gives Bing access to Yahoo’s search technology and the right to integrate it within Bing search. Yahoo is rumoured to have laid off as much as 20% of it’s workforce so I can see no going back from this. I predict Yahoo! will be wholly owned by Bing in the next few years. Yahoo’s much loved site explorer tool will close at the end of the year and Bing are working on a replacement within the Bing Webmaster Toolbox. With Google properties now accounting for a massive 92% share of the UK market and Yahoo and Bing combined on 5.84% the future seems bleak for any competing search engines against the behemoth that is Google.

The browser wars look to be going the same way as well with Google’s Chrome browser now the second most used browser in the UK with a 22.1% market share and Firefox at 22%. Internet Explorer dropped a massive 15% to 41% in July.

So where did Yahoo go wrong and why hasn’t Bing made any in roads against Google in the UK? Personally I think the answer lies in Google’s focus on search as it’s main product. Yahoo’s CEO Carol Bartz (the head honcho, the big cheese) said in a 2009 interview:

“The priority was to get the fog away from the company. Yahoo got pegged as a search company and we’re not a search company. Search is only one aspect of what our customers do.”

Yet Yahoo! Search was where the majority of their visitors came from and losing focus on their main source of traffic (and therefore money) shows how little respect and knowledge the company’s top brass had of their own business. If you can’t draw visitors to your “portal” with the promise that they’ll find what they want then you won’t have any visitors to sign up for Yahoo mail or a small business listing or Yahoo shopping listings (the latter 2 are powered by a third party). Basically Yahoo just aggregates stuff that you can find quicker and easier in other places (e.g: Google). When was the last time you saw an advert for Yahoo in the uk? Yep it was probably this truly forgettable and overly long ad from 2009:

Doesn’t exactly get the pulse racing does it?

How about this one:

Better isn’t it? That advert was for the launch of Bing (formerly MSN Live Search) and does everything the Yahoo ad doesn’t, it tells you how to solve a problem.

Finally a Google advert from 2010 showcasing (almost) everything Google can do in one simple, effective advert:

Simple and effective, just like Google really.

Links, links and more links…

Recently I’ve been overly obsessed with getting ultra-focused, one-way, followed links to my client’s sites. And after a while of course it starts to get harder and harder to find these links. Then I noticed that some link exchanges I’d set up on a test site were really starting to bear fruit. The sites with the links back to my test site were barely related (think “shopping” rather than “wine”) and the test site was climbing the rankings for all the specified anchor texts I’d set up in the link exchange. Now this is early days and the effect may wear off as quickly as it began but I’ll keep you posted.

I also noticed that reciprocal links were starting to bear fruit as well. Higher rankings every time a link was added to the linking domains report in Google Webmaster Tools across the board for all keywords. Now these links are all from related sites (travel oriented) but the difference is quite marked. For years we’ve been told that link exchanges are dead or harmful to your site’s rankings but since the Panda update I’ve noticed that reciprocal links definitely help… at the moment.

So what about those ultra-targetted, one way, followed links… they’ve not really had an impact on rankings. Strangely I’ve had more results from adding a few nofollowed links from related blog posts with no real targetted anchor text. The site-wide boost these links have given has helped. Maybe my link model was too unnatural as it contained no nofollowed links at all and now that it does Google thinks more highly of the site, maybe it is just the pure number of links that matter. I’ll keep you updated with what’s working!

One Schema to rule them all…

The official Google, Yahoo! and Bing blogs have all published news of a new joint schema that these search engines have developed to enable content publishers and webmasters to mark up their content in a way that is readable to all these search engines without adding 3, 4 or 5 different types of markup or just choosing the one that Google wants. This joint markup, called Schema.org, uses microdata to allow webmasters to markup specific types of content such as reviews, movie information, tv series, people profiles and more that can be easily extracted from the page and displayed in the search engine results page. Google have already been experimenting with this type of thing with “rich snippets” for places, recipes, reviews, events and products. The problem was Bing and Yahoo weren’t using this data and it was hard to get Google to correctly display the data so it was often seen as an extravagance and an unneccessary use of a programmer or web designer’s time to implement it. With the introduction of Schema.org this all changes and sites with any of the content that the schema can handle should implement it as soon as possible. Early adopters will benefit from the increased exposure in the search engine results as their content is indexed quicker and correctly and the search engines promote their new shiny features. Contact Denial Design today to find out how we can help your site get the benefits of this new search engine friendly code!

Google Panda Update Hits The UK

It’s been very quiet on this blog for far too long so it’s time to rectify that. I can’t promise regular updates but I’ll try and post something at least monthly! The big news of the last month or so is the latest Google algorithm update nicknamed “Panda” officially by Google after an engineer on their team or “Farmer” as the algorithm attempts to weed out so-called “content farms” that scrape content from the web and wrap it in adsense adverts.

There have been hundreds of posts on various SEO forums and news sites describing the “pandapocalypse” as sites in the US were hit by Panda and tumbled down the Google rankings and lost traffic and income as a result. On Monday 11th April the update was rolled out to Google’s other English properties such as Google UK and UK-based SEOs were braced for a similar drop. I’m pleased to say that absolutely none of the sites I perform search engine optimization on have been affected by Panda in an adverse way and have even benefitted from some of the lower quality sites have dropped. So forgive me for blowing my own trumpet but it speaks volumes about the quality of content that our clients have produced and the work I have done on my clients’ sites to help them up the rankings.