Home » Search Engine Optimization

Death to the Link Brokers

5 July 2008 64,107 views 65 Comments
Poppy Field

Photo by Fishmonk.

In addition to the recent commotion on jobs that wont exist in the future, I would like to add Link Brokers to that list. From a professional search engine optimizer stand-point, these guys are worthless and offer nothing valuable to my clients. There are many reasons as to why you should stand clear of these guys, but I will cover three:

  1. Obvious
  2. Quality
  3. Over Priced

But before I jump right in and discuss these reasons, lets look at the history of the link brokerage industry.

The link brokerage industry was built on the fact that building incoming links to your website will help boost its position within search engines. With the increasing popularity and understanding of SEO, many companies have sprang up to help those that are searching for incoming links (these could be SEO companies, an in-house SEO specialist, or just someone trying to do it themselves).

For example, Text Link Ads was founded in 2003 by Patrick Gavin and Bill Fish later to be acquired by MediaWhiz in late 2006. Among others, Text Link Ads is by far the most popular. As an advertiser, you submit your contact details, budget, and a brief description of what you are looking for. A link broker is then assigned to your account, and which he/she will try to match you up with related websites that fit your overall strategy and budget. You even have access to their inventory for custom control. Sounds great right? Not really – its actually garbage. Here’s why…

Reason 1: Obvious

First reason, Obvious!

Screenshot taken from Blogtrepreneur.com

Google has stated numerous times that purchasing links to affect search rankings is against their Webmaster Guidelines and they will take action. They even provide an easy way for competitors to rat you out. But how is it obvious? Lets work with an example, please visit www.blogtrepreneur.com and view the screenshot to the right. From my review, the following stands out from an obvious point-of-view:

  1. Each line has two to four words
  2. All words are linked
  3. Its in a list element
  4. There is no capitalization consistency
  5. No No-Follow tags (while this is necessary for improving ranks, it is surely a factor Google looks for when above factors are positive)
  6. Links are generally low quality

I am sure there are many others you yourself could come up with too. So to put it simply, when you purchase from these large link brokers – you are thrown into a list just list this. This is not hard at all to spot by either a competitor or a search engine, such as Google! Again, garbage.

Also, in some cases, the direct name of the website or even the URL is given. A quick search of the name, or type-in gives you direct access to the website. While this can be great for reviewing the overall quality of the website you want to purchase ADs from, Google can do this as well!

Reason 2: Quality

In general, the overal quality of a link broker’s inventory is garbage. They are littered with crappy blogs that really offer no quality content, poorly managed and designed websites, and listings that offer no real substance to your SEO campaign. What makes it even more difficult for the advertiser is that, in most cases, the website addresses of these publishing websites are not even given. This is due to the nature of the industry, because if the URL of the publisher is given – there outgoing links will surely be discounted by search engines that rely on this ranking analytic. In its place, Text Link Ads, offers Link Pop. (which I could not find defined anywhere), # of Pages (provided by Yahoo), # of Ads Sold (including total number of AD positions), and Language. How am I supose to improve my link neighborhood with these indicators? It is simply garbage.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some great sites that list AD inventory with link brokers. However, to get anything of quality, you better be ready to pay high prices. Which leads me to the next reason…

Reason 3: Over Priced

Blogtrepreneur 2

Screenshot taken from Blogtrepreneur.com

Here is the worst garbage, these listings are simply over priced. You got two people trying to make a buck: the publisher and the broker. From my understanding, a broker can charge anywhere from 35% to 50% of the listing fee. So in order not to scare the publisher off from filling their AD space, a publisher has to set the price higher than normal in order to provide the publisher a decent payout. This is a lose/lose, for both the publisher and advertiser. The publisher is losing out on money, and the advertiser is paying too much.

You could even argue that these link brokers are driving up inflation in the overall price of a link.

Coming back to our example, www.blogtrepreneur.com, please take a look at the screenshot to the right. Here you will see the ADs filled by Text Link Ads, as mentioned above. However, when you expand the picture, you will also see much more AD space – including both text link ADs and banner positions. So in total we have 21 confirmed AD positions (10 Text Link Ad positions, featured links, and banners). And I guarantee you those featured links will expand, as these are filled in-house. Now, how much do you think advertisers on Text Link Ads are paying? 10? 25? a month… NO, $48 a month.

While you might argue and say, “Well, he has some decent links, lots of organic content, has some traffic, etc, etc.” However, from my experience, it is over priced!

So in conclusion…

Death to the link broker! No not really. These guys are still useful, but if you are running a highly effective SEO campaign – you need to steer clear of these guys. If you are hiring an SEO company for link building and overal web strategy management, poll them on how they actually plan on building incoming links. Make sure they sound confident in what they are saying and ask followup questions. If they start sounding shakey, then move on.

From a publisher’s stand-point, these guys are really only useful for the little guys – websites without much tenure or traffic. While I see tons of bigs sites in their inventories, I just think how dumb they are for not being able to fill their own AD position inventory. If they are quality and have good traffic, advertisers flock to you. Even our buddy over at Blogtrepreneur.com understands how to fill AD inventory.

This a touchy subject in the SEO community, so I encourage your feedback below!

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

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  • David Berghouse said:

    Interesting article, as I am planning to add some advertising to my Blog.
    Most reviews I’ve read are all positive – probably written by Affiliates of the firms.
    However, this begs the question: how can a smaller site make some money from running advertising ?
    I would be interested in your comments on this.

  • Eric Sopp (author) said:

    @David: Well, for small trafficked blog – Google Adwords is your savior. It is a fast, easy, and very clear advertising platform. You can also try listing space on non-seo oriented AD networks, for example: http://buysellads.com/

    Good luck :)

  • Tom Lindstrom said:

    Good points! I was a member of Text Link Ads in the past and had their links on my blog.Google didn´t like it and I lost my PR.So, a better option would be to sell the links your self or monetize your blog with adsense.I don´t know much about adwords or PPC advertising, so I would probably lose my money getting into that.

    Tom Lindstroms last blog post..7 Ways To Get People To Link To Your Web Site

  • Geraldo said:

    I just read this post and while it’s not new, it is more relevant than ever. After the Google “Panda” updates, link brokers will be under more scrutiny than ever. You were ahead of your time :) .

  • Reinaldo said:

    A loyal fan is born. well that’s what i really feel after reading your post.

  • Keith Anders said:

    I’ve actually been impressed with link brokers. Perhaps because I have a site that generates a welcome income from a paid link via them!

    Snoring Appliances

  • website broker said:

    Google has done a lot in bringing transparency in promoting the site or providing the rank to the site as mentioned in this blog…. nice info!

  • Steve said:

    Couldn’t agree more with point #3 that link brokers started to drive up their own prices. Who is to say how much a link is worth based on the sites PR at the moment. Especially once it became more popular to essentially manufacture PR via expired domains. The brokers were on to a good thing, but mainly for themselves. They shot themselves in the foot by making the links so obvious to spot. Of course, today people still do buy them. Like you said, mainly the smaller guys.

  • Peni Gardner said:

    “Google has done a lot in bringing transparency in promoting the site or providing the rank to the site as mentioned in this blog”

    And with Google Panda they are making SEO more transparent by awarding websites with useful content than those spamsites.

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