In my world of link building, compensation is often offered. That is because I see nothing wrong with paying someone to put up a link for a client, and because I work with clients in exceptionally competitive fields where we’ll be the ones losing out if we try to do things the 100% white hat way. I only make those claims to avoid having this post get turned into a paid link debate…because this post isn’t about the ethics of paid links. It’s about link noise, and how that factors into a paid link campaign.
The key here is that when you’re buying links, you have a lot more control. You can set your desired anchor text, tell a webmaster which page to point to, where to put the link, that you’ll hunt him down and kill him if he slaps a no follow on it 3 weeks from now, etc. Thus, the concept of intentionally going after a bit of link noise may seem somewhat strange. You see link noise in most sites’ backlinks of course but you don’t always think about the role that it serves in a profile.
Before I go any further, I will define link noise as being the type of link that you’d exclude if you were picking out your best backlinks. The anchor text won’t be optimal, the sites may not be relevant, the links will just somehow not be optimal in any way. Now, the idea of approaching a webmaster and requesting a noisy backlink and offering decent money for it still makes me a bit queasy, because I’d prefer to pay for something…good.
You know how all link builders talk about a natural link profile? Link noise is part of that. My number one point with this post is that it is a critical part of paid link building campaigns, because you don’t typically think about offering cash to get a shit link. However, it’s those shit links that can sometimes save you.
So what IS a noisy link? It’s probably a link that, as a professional link builder spending money, you’d never ever want…and considering my feelings on outing people and/or pointing out actual stupidity on someone’s site, I’m not giving any examples to go along with this. Well, there IS the beaver down below…hahahaha.
The Acceptable Noise Links
These are the links that most link builders can agree make a profile look more natural. They’re the ones least likely to annoy and frustrate people who think that buying a link means you’re shaking the hand of Satan. These are the links with anchor text such as “Click Here”, “visit”, your URL, your site name, your company name, “more”, “here”, etc. Not that it can be argued that some of these are not, in fact, link noise. However, remember that I’m talking about the active, paid pursuit of links.
These are links that are misspelled, go to the wrong page for the anchor text, have incorrect URL but go to the right place (like “seochicks.com” which does go to our site properly but, um, we have a dash…a dash of sass! ) have a space where one should not be, etc. These are links that you might expect a newbie link builder to set up with an inexperienced webmaster.
Missing Anchor Text
These are the links with no anchor text. Need I say any more?
These links go to a non-existent page on your site. Again…not much explanation is needed here. However, the very IDEA of getting someone to put up a link to a non-existent page on your site is just so counterintuitive that it makes my head spin. The other way, of course, but it still spins.
The Pesky Second Link
These are the links that aren’t supposed to count, provided that the landing page for both links is the exact same. Some people try to be cool and get in two anchor text combinations, thinking both will count. Some webmasters think that they’re doing us a favor (thanks assholes) by giving us a free second link. In any case, these are excellent for link noise.
Just Plain Stupid Links
These are links that contain a paragraph in their anchor text. They are the links that you’d expect someone who’s a bit of a moron to give you, not knowing any better. I’d put hidden links in this category too, actually, as those really are just plain stupid. However, I do draw the line at specifically requesting hidden links.
Now, with this in mind I spent a bit of time analyzing the backlinks of this lovely site. I know, without any doubt whatsoever, that the SEO Chicks backlink profile is completely 100% organic. We’ve seriously done, well, fuck all to build links. To do this, I used Raven SEO’s backlink tool, which is my current favorite, and I exported, sorted, and did everything but produce a pretty graph that makes it look like I’ve done some work when I haven’t. I didn’t look for the second links or 404 links, mainly because I just wanted a quick and dirty analysis and didn’t feel like digging. Cheese dip awaited.
Here’s what I found:
64% of our backlinks are what I would consider link noise. Out of this 64%, 1.4% have missing anchor text, .6% are incorrect, but only 1 link (0.2%) was just plain stupid. Yes guys, I found the beaver link, and thanks for that. The most interesting thing is that a full 61% of our links are of the acceptable link noise variety. A good bit of these are site names and URL mentions, which, as I have said, could arguably NOT be link noise but hey, we’ve never tried to optimize for our own name so I feel ok putting them into the link noise camp. Before any of you mathletes gets testy about the math, note that I’ve rounded. Sometimes up, sometimes down. It just depends on my mood, really.
Therefore, 46% of our backlinks are something for which, as a link builder, I’d be trying to optimize, rank, and get traffic. Now, if I were paying for links, I might not think that spending money on noise was a good thing of course, but as you can see…noise is 64% of this organic profile. I am certainly not proposing that you invest in 64% link noise, of course, but I don’t think that there’s any way your link profile will appear natural if you ignore those kinds of links.