20 Nov 2008

InLinks Launches. Here We Go Again.

Yesterday the blogosphere began buzzing with the news that Text Link Ads had launched a new product called InLinks. It’s the latest in “undetectable, non-fingerprint-able” link buying networks and so far it’s been mentioned on TechCrunch, SEOmoz, SEOBook, Shoemoney, Search Engine Roundtable and at Michael Gray’s house of mayhem. Which means Google totally hasn’t heard about it and isn’t watching it like a hawk. There definitely aren’t flocks of Spam team members dissecting the thing as we speak. No way.

As Rand very smartly notes in his post, if the program is designed to be “under the radar”, perhaps being outed by TechCrunch isn’t such a swell idea.

TechCrunch shines a huge light on InLinks, describing it this way:

It’s fairly straightforward – advertisers who want their sites associated with specific keywords simply buy ads. Links to those sites are then added to publishers sites whenever those words pop up in content. These aren’t ghost links like Kontera and others include in content – they’re full blown links without any notation (like a nofollow) that they are advertisements meant primarily for SEO juice.

Here’s my favorite part of that definition: They’re selling “full blown links without any notation (like a nofollow) that they are advertisements meant primarily for link juice“.

First of all, if it’s meant for link juice it’s not an “advertisement”. If it was an advertisement, aka intended for branding and to drive traffic, you’d nofollow the link and be done with it. This is a link to manipulate rankings. No judging, but let’s call a spade a spade here. It does no one any good to paint unicorns and rainbows on it.

I think Google’s been pretty clear about how they feel about these types of programs. They don’t like them. They’re on a hunt to seek them out and annihilate them. In fact, Matt Cutts emailed Michael Arrington and said essentially that. He then brought up the whole “buying links goes against FTC recommendations” thing. Personally, I’m going to ignore that element because I think it’s somewhat irrelevant to the discussion. What is relevant is that as under the radar as InLinks wants to be, Google is going to find a way to break this network and then they’re going to penalize you for participating. And yes, they are going to penalize you.

Google is not the government. They can’t tell you how to run your site. They can’t guilt you or scare you into not buying links if that’s what you want to do. But they do own their search engine and they can very much not let you be part of that if you don’t follow their rules. End of story.

We Build Pages has changed its stance on buying links because we’ve seen the negative impacts that buying links can have on sites. As under the radar as you think you are, Google knows. And they may  not just discount the links, they could penalize your site. Either Pat, Jim or myself will be commenting on We Build Pages’ new stance on link building very soon, however, with the whole InLinks controversy, I did want to say that.

Products like Text Link Ads’ InLinks violate Google’s Terms of Service.  There is potentially a high level of risk associated with using them. Know that.