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Dell.com is Buying Paid Links

dell-buying-linksPhilipp Lenssen points out that Dell may be buying text links from many high Page Rank Websites. Buying text links to artificially manipulate search ranking and also to increase Pagerank is openly known as a ‘sin’ in the SEO industry and it is also against Google’s Official Webmaster guideline.

OpenSourceTemplates.org, which has a Page Rank of 6 has a list of “Sponsorship Friends” at the bottom of their page. The links doesn’t contain any sort of ‘no-follow’ tags and it points to different sites with different anchor text. Dell has a link there with the anchor text “Business servers” and it points to the dedicated landing page of dell’s business servers – http://www.dell.com/business/servers. Some other links that are found on the page are: “Raymond Rail watches” – http://www.jurawatches.co.uk , “Web Hosting” – http://www.webhostingmadness.com etc. So as you can see these are all irrelevant links for the OpenSourceTemplates.org, so they are likely to be “paid/sponsored” links.

dell-buying-text-links

And this is not the only site which links to dell’s landing page for server. After going through their link profile in Yahoo Site Explorer I have found tons of home page links from High PR sites, all linking to dell’s server page for keywords like “servers”, “business servers” etc. Below is a small list of sites that I checked:

Page URL

Page Rank

Link Anchor Text

Link Destination

http://www.askapache.com

5

“servers”

http://www.dell.com/business/servers

http://www.pictogame.com

5

“servers”

http://www.dell.com/business/servers

http://www.pdxtc.com

4

“servers”

http://www.dell.com/business/servers

http://ajaxblog.com

5

“servers”

http://www.dell.com/business/servers

http://www.joomlaratings.com

6

“servers”

http://www.dell.com/business/servers

http://drawlogic.com/

5

“business servers”

http://www.dell.com/business/servers

http://www.opengl.org

7

“servers”

http://www.dell.com/business/servers

http://oggix.com/

6

“servers”

http://www.dell.com/business/servers

http://www.internet101.org

6

“servers”

http://www.dell.com/business/servers

http://movablestyle.com/

6

“servers”

http://www.dell.com/business/servers

http://ilovetypography.com

6

“servers”

http://www.dell.com/business/servers

http://www.bibtex.org/

6

“servers”

http://www.dell.com/business/servers

http://www.feedmarker.com/

5

“servers”

http://www.dell.com/business/servers

http://opensource2.usrbinruby.net/

7

“servers”

http://www.dell.com/business/servers

http://www.webfilebrowser.com/

6

“servers”

http://www.dell.com/business/servers

http://www.phpalbum.net/

6

“dell servers”

http://www.dell.com/business/servers

http://www.devkitpro.org/

6

“dell servers”

http://www.dell.com/business/servers

http://www.impresscms.org

6

“servers”

http://www.dell.com/business/servers

http://www.mywebcards.net/

5

“servers”

http://www.dell.com/business/servers

http://www.alphaplug.com/

6

“servers”

http://www.dell.com/business/servers

The list doesn’t end here. I just got board looking at the links, as they are so many! So you can check it urself using BacklinkWatch or Yahoo Site Explorer.

Why Do I think these are Paid Links?

  • All these links come directly from high PR home page with a anchor text that dell would love to rank for! Unfortunately they still don’t rank for the term “servers” in the top 10 but most of their competitors do!
  • Since they are yet to rank for that term in the SERP they have are spending money on Paid Search.
  • dell-buying-paidlinks

    But I’m sure they would love to take that cost off if they can get ranking for that term. (Even if that costs them a bit to acquire those nice juice High PR paidlinks).

  • Links that are surrounding those Dell.com links are ‘not related’ to the site’s theme. Often they are – “cheap video games”, “cheap cellphone”, “web hosting”, “Alcohol Rehab Programs”, “search engine optimization” etc. By looking at it one can easily say that all those are paid links
  • The placement of those links makes it obvious that they are ‘paidlinks’. Most of the links that I found are either on the sidebar or on the footer (with small text). And most of the sites called their link section – “sponsored links” which itself refers to links that has been paid for.
  • None of the links that I have seen actually points to Dell.com Home page. All of them Points to their dedicated landing page for dell’s business servers. If this was done by a link spammer, who is probably trying to hide his ‘other’ paid links by listing some of the ‘good quality’ sites – He would have never linked to a ‘sub page’ of the domain with a perfect anchor text.
  • I don’t believe that Dell’s competitors will try to harm their link profile by getting all these paidlinks on their behalf. Because Google is still not perfect at detecting paidlinks, so I’m sure dell’s competitors won’t spend any money to give dell a chance of an unfair advantage.
  • None of these sites are low quality or spammy in any nature. All of them have tons of incoming links and high Pagerank. But I guess, they just decided to sell links (Eh, who doesn’t love cash?).

My Advice to Dell

  • Don’t Buy links. There are many other ways of getting ‘legit’ links that can help you with your ranking
  • Do more keyword research! “Servers” is very generic and a single term keyword. Even if it may have a lot of searches it may not have the highest conversion for Dell. I don’t think that customers who are interested to buy servers, would simply search for ‘servers’ in Google. When acquiring links (natural/paid) try to vary your Anchor text. Keyword like – “network server”, “Small Business server”, “home server”, “database server” etc are more targeted keywords and are likely to bring you customers that are truely interested in buying your server. Google’s Keyword tool is an excellent tool that can help you to find good relevant Long-tail keywords.
  • Don’t send everyone to one single landing page. Dell should create separate landing pages for each of the different types of server with relevant information about the servers, benchmark results etc. All those landing pages should also be optimized for its respective keywords. (e.g. Keywords in Title Tags, Body, Headers etc). For instance, you have acquired a lot of links with anchor text “business servers” to this page – http://www.dell.com/business/servers. But the phrase itself doesn’t appear on your site’s title or body. (*Well it appears only once in the lower bottom body).
  • If you are really into buying links, do it more discreetly so that it doesn’t become obvious that dell is buying links. (*check out some of the resources listed below)

Resources Related to Paid Links / Buying Links

8 Ways to Buy Links Without “Buying Links” – Rand Fishkin, SEOmoz.org

Thinking about buying links? 30 tips to save you from failure – Brian Chappell

Buying links under the radar so Matt can’t find them – Jim Boykin

How to: Buy Links Without Being Called a Spammer – Aaron Wall, SEObook.com

Jim Boykin: Paid Links Aren’t Worth It To Me – We Build Pages

The Art of Buying Links Under the Radar – Rand Fishkin, SEOmoz.org

John Scott on Link Building – V7 Network Blog

Buying Links is Hard Work – Search Engine Watch

Here comes a Bonus (~lol):

How to report paid links – Matt Cutts

So whats your view on Paid Links? Share in comments!


9 Comments

  • Reply Joe Hall |

    So, if google gets wind of this post, they aren’t going to come after dell’s rankings, because dell has enough offline credibility that there rankings are safe. But all of the sites that you listed in this post are now at risk of page rank loss and possible penalty. So think next time about who you write about, because one day someone might be writing about you.

  • Reply Shirley |

    Wow. This is surprising. Yes, that does seem like Dell is indeed buying links. Especially with that anchor text and specific page linking…

    And yes, they should probably fire their SEO expert if he/she is building these kinds of links, and with generic anchor text. lol.

  • Reply Saad |

    @Joe Hall – Hi Joe. Thanks for dropping by. Well Dell’s organic ranking isn’t really ‘great’ for some of their keywords, compared to their competitors like HP/Compaq, IBM etc. So I think Google may have already devalued their rankings.

    And about pointing to the sites that sell links — well it depends on whats your view about “paid links”.

    I personally don’t support paid links and i consider it ‘pure black hat’. There are many ways one can acquire links that are ‘white-hat’.

    Dell could hold a contest and ask the bloggers to write about “dell servers” — They could give away their latest server to the winner. This would have naturally got them a lot of links — none of which they would have to pay for. Also the volume of the links would have been substantial and it would have given them more benefit than just the Ranking advantage.

    If they could manage 5000 bloggers to write about them, it means atleast 5000 links — Traffic from the followers of those 5000 blogs + securing 5000 pages in the search index that talks about “Dell Servers”.

  • Reply Jeremy |

    Do you realize the can of worms you just opened up on yourself? Not a very smart move on your part. Outing people is not a safe business to be in unless you work for Google and your name is Matt.

    • Reply Saad |

      @Jeremy I haven’t outed anyone. I write about anything & everything related to search. And since this is a legit story, It has been reported (Google Blogoscoped has also done a writeup on this).

      I’m not against those sites. Like I said, this is not even the full list. If someone really digs deep in the Y!Site Explorer, he will find a tons more.

      I just don’t want Dell to get away with paid links (simply because of their reputation) where small webmasters gets penalized for buying links…

  • Reply MrContradiction |

    “I personally don’t support paid links and i consider it ‘pure black hat’. There are many ways one can acquire links that are ‘white-hat’.”

    So what about those sponsor links on the top right of this site, do you give them out of the kindness of your heart? Because if you generate any money in any way from them, then they are paid links with a banner.

    • Reply Saad |

      @MrContradiction — You need to go over the SEO 101 and the definition of “paid links”. Let me jog your memory — http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=66736

      Those are called affiliate links. Some, if not all of them has “No-follow” tag. They also don’t have any anchor text in them. They are placed for advertising purpose.

      Next time you write a comment, use your real name and web address. You don’t need to stay anonymous to support paid links. I have a lot of friends who supports paid links and they aren’t afraid to show it off.

      And don’t worry – I don’t think Matt Cutts reads my blog :)

  • Reply Web Design |

    The Buy links is Bad Thing. It not Improve the SERP Ranking. I think it has to be doing the Proper Link Building. It’s Benificial For the Dell.

So, what do you think ?