If you're anything like me then you love to keep your finger on the pulse of the affiliate marketing and SEO world. Just like you probably watch the 6pm news broadcast on TV, you should keep up to date with SEO current events. The biggest headline story this week has to be the deindexing of blog networks by Google.
Thousands have been affected by Google either partially or completely removing entire blog networks. When Google removes a website from its index, any outgoing links automatically become null and void. Also, it doesn't look very good if a big portion of your links come from services that Google dislikes.
What is a blog network?
In case you aren't aware what a blog network is, allow me to quickly explain. Basically, blog networks allow you to publish blog posts (read "articles") on different websites that are linked into some form of automatic content distribution system. For example, if I wrote an article called "5 Killer Guitar Solo Secrets", I could then submit to a blog networks and in theory this article will then be published to sites in the network related to "guitars", "music", "hobbies", and things like that.
Blog networks come in many different flavors and varieties, with the only real underlying similarities being they are a system for generating backlinks by submitting content, and there is usually a price for membership (I'll come back to why this is important soon) "Public" blog networks consist of blog owners putting their sites in the network to receive free content. "Private" blog networks are slightly different, because the administrators of the network actually own the sites to which writers publish their content.
The biggest casualty so far of Google's push against blog networks is the Build My Rank service. This was a private blog network, and the sites which made up the network have all been deindexed by Google. Any links generated through Build My Rank are now worthless, and the service has been closed down to new members. You can read BMR's statement about the closure of their network here - kudos to them for coming clean straight away about what happened too.
Other notable networks that have been punished include SEO Link Monster, Authority Link Network, and Linkvana.
If you want more evidence of this latest algorithm update in action, just search "blog networks deindexed" and see how many discussion results there are. Some of them are truly frightening - SEO companies relying entirely on blog networks like BMR to build links for their clients' websites, entire websites disappearing from Google's index; it's like Nightmare on SEO Street (I'm keeping the horror related quips going here!)
Why are blog networks being targeted by Google?
I see three principal reasons why Google has started to crackdown on blog networks, so let me run you through them:
- Blog networks are a form of paid link building. Google's policy on paid link building is crystal clear, especially the fact that "buying or selling links that pass PageRank is in violation of Google's Webmaster Guidelines and can negatively impact a site's ranking in search results." The purpose blog networks is to facilitate link building, and these links are most definitely paid for in a slightly less obvious manner. Google penalized the website of their own Chrome software when it was revealed that a marketing company they used had employed paid backlinks; Google were hardly going to think twice about penalizing other paid link users were they?
- Blog networks are a form of "link scheme". Just like paid linking, Google's opinion on link schemes leaves no room for confusion. They are not a natural form of link building, especially once blog networks developed the technology to allow you submit a spin-ready article to hundreds of different blogs in a short space of time. Nobody submitted to blog networks just for the sake of getting content published - it is and always was about generating links. Blog networks sold themselves on this basis of being a way to get unnaturally large amounts of links quickly, and it was only a matter of time until Google caught on.
- Articles posted to blog networks tend to be low quality. The vast majority of articles posted to blog networks were low quality "filler" content that was only written to get backlinks. That might sound harsh, but the unfortunately the truth hurts. If the Panda update of 2011 wasn't a big enough wake up call, then hopefully the newest of Google's changes is. Google wants quality, unique content to populate its search index. Google wants you to create and distribute content for the purpose of providing value to readers, not just to build links. If you want high search engine rankings then you need to focus on providing value first, and link building/SEO second. I simply cannot stress this point enough!
Are any blog networks still safe?
It's still early days with Google's latest rollout. Some blog networks, such as Article Marketing Automation appear not to have been hit yet. In fact, blog networks that publish content on member submitted blogs (as opposed to admin-owned blogs) appear to have fared better than other networks. However, that's not to say that more blog networks wont be penalized going forward, so proceed with caution.
Don't put all your eggs in one basket and rely on a single blog network as your main source of links. In fact, you shouldn't even rely on multiple blog networks for the bulk of your links. If you are going to use any of the remaining networks, it should be as the cherry on your SEO cake. The ball is in Google's court here, so you should be playing by their rules of natural link building and quality content.
However, there is one new blog network that looks quite promising - it's called The Content Facilitator. In fact, it isn't really a blog network at all because the articles you submit aren't automatically passed to sites in the network. There isn't really a network to speak of at all. Instead, I like to think of The Content Facilitator as a guest blogging marketplace. Bloggers looking for quality, unique (and non-spun) articles for their blogs can come and browse for content written for those who want to reach a larger audience and get some backlinks in the process.
The Content Facilitator also runs on a credit system, which means membership is free for both writers and those looking for content. Every time one of your articles is picked up by a blog owner, credits are deducted from your balance (this means you don't wind up with hundreds of articles being published at once, and an unnatural link profile) You can earn credits by referring new members to The Content Facilitator, and by publishing others' content.
My favorite feature of The Content Facilitator is the ability to set your article as "unique", meaning it can only be published by one member in the marketplace. Writing "unique" articles for The Content Facilitator therefore provides a strong incentive to other members to pick up your content and publish it before it's gone.
Mark has managed to organize a pretty sweet deal with the owners of The Content Facilitator, where you can get 100 free publishing credits by signing up here (you will need to use the coupon code TrafficTravis inside the members' area to get these credits) The Content Facilitator is in its infancy at the moment, and I predict it will get much bigger and more popular in the coming months; just remember that the early bird catches the worm!
One issue a lot of people are raising with the deindexing of blog networks is the theory that a competitor could simply submit hundreds of spun articles to networks, featuring links back to YOUR website. Think of it as a kind of "SEO sabotage". However, there is no need to worry about this - if a blog network is deindexed, the outgoing links in the network count for nothing, and therefore won't be able to affect your website. This is just disinformation at best, and scaremongering at worst.
If you've been affected by the closure and deindexing of blog networks, I'd love to hear from you. Just leave a comment below!