PR Hoarding | Linkocrisy

Some well-known SEOs are advocating using rel=”no-follow” on all outbound links. Aaron Wall has unearthed this gem in Dan Thies’s updated SEO Fast Start (free content flypaper for StomperNet membership which is $800/month):

Add nofollow on all of the links that point to other sites, unless you have agreed to a direct link for some reason.

This is the most narrow-minded tripe I’ve ever heard. Google will rank websites higher who don’t link to anyone else? Such a strategy makes a mockery of the whole essence of hypertext and the WWW (world wide web).

This school of thought has its origins with Leslie Rohde from his Optilink/Optispider cult days (circa 2002-2003). The clunky and overpriced Optilink has since been superceded by Brad Callen’s Link Proctor, later renamed SEO Elite. Aaron Wall has some free tools (alas some of them broken now – SEO Elite is more reliably updated) and there are lots of other pay tools out there now which track your backlinks.

What is valuable advice is not hoarding PR, but channeling Page Rank. I mean really – you don’t increase your wealth by putting your money under your mattress. You increase your wealth by reinvesting your money wisely. And the same thing applies to Page Rank on the internet.

What is channeling PR? Channeling would be not linking internally to one’s own privacy policy or TOS. Unless you are running a weblog about privacy issues – those page are off-topic and are only likely to confuse Google about the nature of your own site. If you have other off-topic/irrelevant pages it might be wise to do as much as possible to reduce their part of your site’s footprint in Google.

But overall I disagree strongly with these Page Rank hoarders. The more (quality) outbound links on a site the better. It shows the site is serious, is participating in the web and that it knows what sites are worth linking to. In short, a hub.

PR hoarding is a very short sighted strategy. Strange that Leslie Rohde is still pumping these five year old ideas (pre rel=”no-follow” he was advocating putting all of the links on your website in javascript except those which you wanted to highlight – he used to call it Dynamic Linking). Both of these guys (Dan Thies and Leslie Rohde) have joined StomperNet faculty so whatever disinterested credibility they might have had as experts is out the window. This kind of occultish trick is so WMW doorway page 2001 (think javascript redirects as well). Much of it is obstructionist technobabble to hinder people from making worthwhile websites while making the vendors rich peddling black magic software. Ultimately, websites live and thrive by their content and your social networking – and not by these kinds of cheap tricks.

Aaron is also against PR hoarding but for different reasons:

  • If something is worth mentioning then I think it is worth mentioning to both people and search bots.
  • I think excessive use of nofollow carves up the web, leaving scars in it and making it more wounded for those who use it.
  • What was once white hat became gray then black. There is nothing saying that search engines won’t eventually penalize sites for excessive or manipulative use of no follow. Just how nofollow magically made paid links evil one day, so might excessive use of nofollow the day Google realizes how damaging it is to the web.

All valid arguments. Many people like to pollute, except in their own home. Just drive down any highway and look at the rubbish at the side of the road which people have thrown out of their car windows (Austria is a very pleasant exception to this rule, America is the worst offender I’ve seen). So I’ll advance my argument again – I think link hoarding damages your own website, right here right now. It’s in your own interest to link widely and link wisely.

There is a certain irony to Aaron’s post. He has disabled both trackbacks and links to commenters’ own websites on his own weblog. Ostensibly this is to protect himself from “noisy off topic comments to get a link to a spammy site”. Aaron, I tell you, if you don’t have the time yourself, hire yourself someone to edit incoming comments. Train that person to throw out noisy off topic comments. Otherwise you are putting yourself at risk of hypocrisy – at this point you are almost the pot calling the kettle black.

I think we need a name for this new kind of person who wants links but doesn’t want to give them. To me they are all linkocrites. I strongly disagree with all kinds of Linkocrisy.

The accent goes on on the o.

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19 Responses to PR Hoarding | Linkocrisy

  1. Dan Thies

    LOL… I didn’t know that being in business would be so damaging to my credibility. Good thing my students don’t think like you.

    You might want to read the full context of the quote Aaron pulled, BTW, as well as my comments on his blog.

    I do sort of agree with you on the irony of someone preaching about an open web and all the links being followed, then doing what seems to be the opposite. But I am not in this to make noise, so I’ll ask Aaron about that without accusing him of anything.

  2. Hello Dan,

    From what I understand, after you joined StomperNet, you shut down most of your own own business.

    From the outside, it looks like your function in StomperNet is to be the streetcred SEO in the hype market. No doubt StomperNet is more profitable than running a real business, with each member paying in $800/month every month. What else could one do with those stiff fees after buying and reading Aaron’s book?

    That’s a lot of marketing and search value. And that’s just one month’s StomperNet fees spent. For those interested in learning about marketing, one can do even better on Amazon.com.

    StomperNet looks a lot like online MLM from here.

    Anyway returning to the subject at hand – links – link hoarding and linkocrisy are short-sighted strategies. Here’s some much simpler rules:

    • Don’t link to bad sites/neighbourhoods.
    • Don’t link to your competitors (unless you have a very good reason to do so) in the middle of your sales letter.
    • Do choose the anchor text of internal links carefully to reflect targeted keyphrases (but not at the expense of sounding stilted).
    • Do make internal privacy policy, etc. links no-follow or better yet, javascript.
    • Otherwise link liberally and link often.

    Following these rules guarantees that link strategy will not be an obstacle to the success of your business or of your website.

  3. Alec,

    When I joined Stompernet, I stopped accepting new students in my 1:1 coaching program, and I stopped offering live classes. The keyword research team is still doing what they do.

    Stompernet is a whole lot more than SEO. $800 a month would be ludicrous for a little SEO training. But you seem to have developed an opinion without knowing what it is, which when we’re on the subject of credibility, sort of diminishes yours.

    I pay for Sherpa and SEOMoz myself, and they’re worth the money. But they only go so far in terms of content, and I can’t go ask a question and get focused expert assistance at either one. Neither one has hundreds of hours of video and audio content, dedicated faculty, etc. You’re comparing a few apples and oranges to orchards.

    Javascript is better than nofollow? Are you kidding? Think about usability for a moment – why require Javascript?

    Other than that, I don’t think we’re that far apart on outbound linking. You can see my comments on Aaron’s blog, and you could actually read my stuff if you wanted to.

    In the real world, we have a search engine dominating the space that uses PageRank to help them decide which pages to crawl and index. In the real world, getting more of your site’s important content indexed is a real advantage.

  4. Leslie Rohde

    As the supposed “has-been” that in fact invented what is now two-thirds of modern SEO….

    Truth is what I can measure, not what I can believe, what I think should be, nor what I think is “right”.

    Should Google rank pages higher if they link out to other pages? That’s not my decision. Instead of arguing about what ought to be, maybe you should spend some quality time with some outdated, clunky occult programs … a couple come to mind … and just go measure what actually works.

    That’s what those still valid outdated programs are there for.

  5. “Looks like an MLM from Here” is a pretty irresponsible statement because from where you’re looking, you CAN’T see anything.

    StomperNet is a private membership, not a public spectacle. And unless you have the kind of x-ray vision that allows you to penetrate 128 bit security, I’m pretty sure that what you’re looking at bares no resemblance to what you wrote, or in fact, reality.

    Wallow and roll around in the juicy rationalization of your absolutely uneducated opinion about what is taught in StomperNet – make snide remarks about it’s faculty members and snake oil comparisons to it and completely different business models.

    After all, it’s your blog, right?

    But what you don’t get to do is misrepresent what was said, or “Guess” what the organization is – and since I don’t see you on the membership rolls, where exactly are you getting your information?

    Trotting out the membership costs with no context is equally irresponsible and disingenuous. Sour Grapes likes to take shots at easy targets, and as your dig is void of any real examination of value proposition, it will remain what it is:

    An uneducated opinion neither reasoned or reviewed.

    I wonder if my link in this comment will be nofollowed. That’s okay, you’re welcome to hoard your page rank.

  6. @ Dan

    No I don’t think we were ever all that far apart. You were part of the original Threadwatch crowd, a light grey fedora type. Same as myself. Still a mystery to me what took you into StomperNet.

    @ Leslie Rohde

    Thanks for stopping by. You were the guy who started all the don’t link out and hoarding tactics. It’s an original notion. I’m still not convinced that the most popular and successful websites do much to hoard Page Rank. I’d be interested to see a (recent) study. Generally, after throwing on some good page titles and decent anchor text in on-site navigation, the real success comes from content and scattered linking.

    All the rest is just tarting up a sow’s ear with makeup.

    And my concrete real world experience is that my pages rank better with generous outbound linking than without.

    But I tilt my hat to you for having prompted people to wakeup to the anchor text in their internal navigation structure, as well as providing the first tool to measure the value and anchor text of inbound links on competitors sites.

    @ Andy Jenkins

    It’s a mountain of a hype machine, you are running there Andy. I’ve read comments from a number of people who were inside and didn’t like it much. I suppose StomperNet might be useful to people who feel that they absolutely must make their income online but are more or less incapable of reading (as you provide so much content in video).

    That begs the question – why are you trying to encourage the illiterate to become internet marketers?

    If you could put forward four or five paying members with difficult college degrees (I’m thinking Ivy League here quite frankly) and a history of success in past endeavours who feel that they could stand up and say StomperNet is what they need, I’d be more convinced.

    From what I can see StomperNet advocates are all:

    1. Faculty.
    2. Affiliates.
    3. Dopey people who love the rah-rah pump-me-up MLM/cult-like atmosphere.

    StomperNet is not about helping people. If it were, the price would be $800/year not $800/month. There is not a single drop of altruism in the whole escapade.

    Sorry to rain on the parade, but I hate to see people fleeced. And that’s what I see. One or two heroes out of hundreds won’t justifying taking most of the rest to the cleaners.

    Your members are paying out $10,000 year and working overtime on their sites (costing them another $20K to $100K of family and friend and health time) – each one of them would need to be pulling down $100K/year off the internet to justify turning their lives upside down like this.

    Are they?

  7. Leslie Rohde

    “If you could put forward four or five paying members with difficult college degrees…”

    Oh yeah, that’s rich. Go lookup the return on investment of ANY college education…worse still a private school.

    Wake up and smell the new age: highly educated is the new stupid — at least, economically speaking.

    You’re welcome to your opinion, as socialist as your reasoning might be, but members get to vote with their feet month after month (the majority stay) and our own internal surveys establish beyond all argument that they are not “dopey” — a word I will thank you not to use to describe the people us fleecers all sweat blood to support.

    Which reminds me….I really don’t have time for this flame war, polite though it is…some of us have work to do.

    You see, the actual doing of “making the web work for you” — that is what we do you know — takes a lot more time, effort and infrastructure than just writing a blog with a catchy tagline. But good luck with that anyway.

  8. Well, Alec… what took me into Stompernet was what I told everyone at the time. You continue to question my integrity without knowing me at all, so I’m pretty well done with you at this point.

    $800 a year wouldn’t even be enough to cover the cost of the faculty we have – do you know how many people are working on this thing?

    It also wouldn’t pay for the 4 live seminars we’re doing in the first year (3 have already been held), which are included in the price of membership. It wouldn’t pay the salaries of the dedicated full time customer service staff, the full time developers who continue to work on improving the portal and e-learning systems, etc.

    Stompernet isn’t for everyone. It’s for people who execute, who take what they learn and put it into practice in their business. Our members can vote with their dollars, and the #1 reason why people leave isn’t because the value isn’t there, it’s because they can’t find the time to use what we’re offering.

    For the sake of what exactly, a little link bait, you’ve insulted a lot of people… Not just the faculty, all of whom know a lot more about this stuff than you do.

    You’ve insulted our members – over a thousand “dopey people” who are all smart enough to spot snake oil, and successful enough to pay what it costs for excellent instruction and support.

    Rah, rah.

  9. Woah, guys.

    I think I suggested I would like to see the testimonials of 4 or 5 smart, well-educated paying (not honorary) members who were making good money off of their websites.

    Saying something is so, does not make it so.

    I do wonder about the value of immortalising so much of this know-how in video. I know exactly how expensive good video is as I used to produce and direct television commercials. But technology/internet is changing so quickly, I’m not sure more than a quarter of this video has a shelf life of more than a year.

    In any case, I do want to be very clear, I have no interest in any kind of a flame war. These are honest questions I am posing myself. These are my frank impressions at this point. If I’m wrong, please show me how and why.

  10. Alec, they’ve already published a lot more testimonials than that, case studies, etc. You can check them all out, along with quite a bit of other stuff, at stomperblog.com

    I don’t think that blog does justice to the evolution of this thing from an “internet marketing” product to what it’s become, but we’re not super focused on external communication right now. (Secretly, I welcome distractions like your post…)

    The most recent case study probably won’t be up to your elitist educational standards, since she didn’t finish college, but I can assure you she’s quite educated and far more intelligent than at least one Yale grad I could mention…

    For the rest of them, I couldn’t tell you where they went to school, because I just don’t care. When someone asks me to help them, I don’t ask where they went to school, I ask them what their goals are, and try to assess their current level of knowledge and experience.

    As far as using video for instruction, that’s certainly not all we use. However, when you’re talking about web-related stuff it’s kind of helpful to be able to see it on screen. If you do it right, video is actually quite flexible.

    You have to design your courses well, so that it’s a sequence of short sessions, where we can replace one piece or several if it’s necessary, to keep things up to date. If we have to chuck a 16-hour course and start from scratch because there’s been some major change, we’ll do that, but so far we’ve only had to change individual modules.

    One of the major challenges the faculty took on when we joined Stompernet was figuring out how to organize the content, which is growing faster than most members can consume it. A bunch of information, no matter how good it is, can be somewhat overwhelming even for experienced marketers.

    So developing a modular e-learning system that can give it sufficient structure has been the highest priority for us. The scope of Stompernet’s content is much more than Brad and Andy planned for when they launched, but the members need what they need so we try to deliver it.

    We’re building something that has never existed before. It’s fun, but as Leslie said, we also “sweat blood” with a lot of long hours… and sometimes we have to put up with people who have done nothing, sniping at us because we’re doing something new.

    One more thing… SEO Fast Start is my best effort at creating a free beginner’s guide to SEO after 10 years of doing SEO, writing about it, and teaching it. It is not “flypaper.”

    I’m happy to discuss the pros and cons of different aspects with anyone who has actually read it. There is always room for improvement, for greater clarity, etc. especially since I decided early on (1st edition in 2001) to limit the length to 100 pages.

    That’s why I have a support site and newsletter, so if I didn’t make something clear, or got something wrong, I can communicate with my readers.

    In fact, an update on “linking out” is coming this weekend, because if Aaron felt the way he did, others may have interpreted it the same way – especially since so many seem to have read nothing but Aaron’s post.

  11. Hello Dan,

    The education stipulation for the testimonials is a bit of a red herring – as I wrote it I knew that some people would jump all over it. Good point about Yale bending academic standards for the son of the director of the CIA to graduate.

    The reason I included an education requirement is not because I think everything is learned in university – as far as I know Bill Gates did not graduate. On the other hand, in a good university with good professors one is taught critical thinking, how to learn independently and how to express oneself coherently.

    The kind of testimonial that I am very tired of reading dates back from the late Corey Rudl’s big campaigns. He’d get some guy sitting up on the back of a pickup truck and here would be his story:

    Hey y’all Jim Bob from Alabama and I don’t know nothin’ ’bout dem ‘puters. Been in the truck tarp business seven years but tarp busiiness is tough. Barely enough to run electricity for ours trailer. But since I went online the first time and just bought myself this really great big course from that boy Rudl up in Canada I sell more tarps than any other body in Christendom. I sellin’ 500 tarps a day and rankin’ number two for tarps in that Google and number one in that old Yahoo. We been bought ourselves a luxury trailer now. Still don’t know how the internet works, but from here it looks like just a giant ATM in the sky. If you just buy Corey Rudl’s course, in a few months maybe you’ll be living in a brand spanking new Beaver Contessa just like me. See y’all.

    And at the end of the day, it would turn out that Jim Bob was a test case and that his whole enterprise had been set up by the IMC for him. Who had been spamming left-side, right-side, upside-down on Jim Bob’s behalf. And that at the present time, Jim Bob’s website had been banned from the search engines and he’d had to sell the Contessa for chicken feed, and was working overtime shoveling cattle dung to pay off consulting debts on his Mastercard for the Internet Marketing Centre advisors who’d set him up in the whole sham. I think it is interesting to note that the poster site for StomperNet (MyWeddingFavors.com) has also been banned in Google (PR 0). I’m sure the site is clean now but at one point it must not have been. [Update: MyWeddingFavors.com is showing up in the top ten for Wedding Favors albeit near the bottom.]

    The other kind of testimonial which is worthless is anything from somebody like Joe Vitale or Mike Filsaime (I’m just naming these two as a couple of the most promiscuous and prominent offenders – there’s lots more names where these guys came from). Those guys have given testimonials to more trash (although they also have their name on a few quality offerings) than the garbagemen in Mexico City. Whores have a great deal more discretion about who they sleep with than these guys do in what they will do for an affiliate cut. A lot of their own products are rubbish for that matter – mainly incestuous internet marketing materials to sell to internet marketers.

    The endorsements that I have seen for StomperNet are generally in one or the other of these categories. If you could point out to me some specific testimonials that don’t fit into either of these categories – I don’t have time to go through dozen of gushy videos, I’d rather read something coherent – I’d be delighted to take a look and post a revised opinion.

    I’d also love to see numbers on income. StomperNet members income pre-StomperNet and StomperNet members income post-StomperNet. I know such numbers would be difficult to gather but would be very persuasive. Not just the top end, but across the whole membership.


    About SEO Fast Start, I have downloaded it and had a quick look at it on the screen (before Aaron made his post. I’ll be printing it out and reading it carefully. I am on your mailing list and have always enjoyed your newsletter. I will review SEO Fast Start in detail next week.

    SEO is going through a huge transformation right now so it’s kind of your to release your latest findings. Have a good weekend.

  12. Hi Alec, hope you’re doing well… just wanted to let you know, I’ll be responding in more detail this Friday, via the SEOFS portal, on questions about site structure and linking.

    I’m afraid I can’t tell you the details of how Brad Fallon’s site was hacked out of the Google index, because Google still hasn’t fixed the bug yet, a full year after I discovered it.

    It wasn’t a penalty, it was a hack, and it could happen to anyone, in fact, it happens a lot. If you can control enough links, you can do the same to anyone.

    If you’re super curious, look at the source code for MyWeddingFavors and read the robots meta tag – that’s only removed when we have a validated spider visit. If we didn’t do that, they’d be right back out in a week.

  13. Vince

    Alec-

    $800/month is a lot of money, to be sure. That’s why I joined the program with intentions of cancelling inside the refund period. What happened? I grew my business from $12k/revenues/month to over $65k and I haven’t even turned on PPC yet. I went to *gasp* a state university! Not that I’m the next Wal-mart, but $800/mos is a nobrainer at this point.

    Personally, I could care less where/when/if the faculty members graduted from college. As long as what they teach makes me money and builds my business bigger/faster/more profitable. Maybe I should start READING the SEO Ivy League Elitists who talk down on ‘putting condoms on links’ because it’s not what the web is about. All the sudden they get very Mother Theresa-ish when talking about nofollow, but they have no problem spamming the crap out of every other spot on the web if it works to their advantage. It’ll be a good story to tell their buddies at the next conference.

    So it’s either being cynical/criticizing/compaining about SEO practices with the SEO Elitists. Or it’s watching video, learning from people that actually make money building real businesses, and then putting those plans into action. Hmmmm.

  14. Hello Vince,

    Thanks for stopping by with your story. An interesting perspective.

    On the other hand, if you had read my post more carefully I didn’t say that I cared about what college the faculty graduated from – I could care less – I said I would like to read a testimonial from someone who’s had success before joining Stompernet and has good academic credentials.

    Why? Because such a person would have good critical faculties, an eye for bunk, an ability to learn from written material on his or her own and would be able to express his or her viewpoint articulately.

    I am also somewhat sceptical about your comments for two reasons:
    a. tone (aggressive, sarcastic chest beating)
    b. no last name, no website, no mention of the business (i.e. anonymous)
    c. guru style language (nobrainer, spamming the crap, plans into action)

    Please see this post for more information on anonymous testimonial.

    Not that I’m saying that this is your case, but it would make it easier to credit your testimonial if you would step out of the shadows.

    In case, I do appreciate your contribution.

  15. Hello Dan,

    I had a look at MyWeddingFavors.com source code and I see that you have robots=”noindex” there. Strong medecine.

    I do have to say that I am somewhat concerned that such a profitable site, with the resources that Brad, Andy and you can bring to bear – cannot be reindexed properly. This suggest to me that Google at least tacitly approves the MyWeddingFavors.com bounce – otherwise they would at least do you a favor with a manual reinclude.

    Isn’t the issue here is that there has probably been so much horseplay with MyWeddingFavors.com promotion (Brad and Andy are a lot more grey hat than you are) that it’s difficult to insist on a reinclusion with rank?

    If not, why wouldn’t most of the big website be bounced (they aren’t as they’d be complaining vocally if they weren’t properly indexed in Google)?

    In any case, it all goes to demonstrate your own point in SEO Fast Start that it just doesn’t make any sense with a long term business site to get involved in any shady optimisation or promotion – sooner or later it will come back to bite you.

  16. Alec, Google has manually reincluded the site (actually, it was just the home page that was hacked out) at least twice, and rankings did indeed return, but until Google fixes the bug, or you figure out how to protect yourself, reinclusion is only temporary.

    MWF isn’t the only site affected. I’ve seen hundreds of examples. I couldn’t tell you whether “horseplay” has anything to do with whether a site is more likely to fall victim. I hope this never happens to you, but if it does you have to play defense.

    All spider visits (UAs like Googlebot, MSNBot, etc) you get should be validated. Lookup the IP to get hosthame/domain, check the domain against the valid domains for that search engine, then lookup hostname/domain to make sure the IP matches. Any visitor other than a validated search engine spider gets noindex.

  17. Nice linkbait, Alec.

    I’ve been a Stomper since January 2007, and even read Dan Theis’s recent guide as well, because I do a lot of coaching myself, and don’t recall seeing ANYONE suggest no folowing all of their outbound links.

    In fact, you even speak of the wisdom of nofollow yourself on your own post –
    http://foliovision.com/2007/06/20/bookmarking-plugins/

    where you say…
    “The PR drain would be terrible but Denis de Bernardy very sensibly allows us to automatically put no-follow tags on all bookmarking services with a single checkbox.”

    But you did get Dan Theis, Andy Jenkins and Leslie Rohde all to comment on your blog, and I guess that’s what you set out to do.

    For the record, I’m a staunch advocate of nofollow, and it makes perfect sense to “no follow your no money pages” (to quote Leslie) as well links to any other site that you simply don’t want to bleed off your link juice to for any reason. It’s too valuable to just give away to everyone.

    What you call “channeling” your PR is really all that Dan and Leslie and the rest of the faculty have ever advocated, and believe me, I’ve read most, if not all, of what they’ve ever written, (right down to their forum posts) at Stomper.

    Again, “hoarding” your PR all for yourself, and “No follow all of your outbound links” is advice I’ve NEVER seen given anywhere.

    As far as Stomper being a value or not, until you’re a member, I can’t see how you can criticize, and the personal attacks on some of the biggest names in internet marketing seem pretty unnecessary, but that’s part of what link baiting is all about.

  18. Hey Scott,

    The Stompnernet reference was just a throwaway. I thought I might see Dan here – as he’s the subject of the post – but that’s about it.

    I totally disagree with you about putting no-follow on editorial links. The web and search is not a zero-sum game. Share and you are both richer.

    The bookmarking services are on every page of one’s weblog and are not editorial content, but administrative. But I can see why you think there is some small contradiction here. The distinction is clear to me.

    For the record, I have done the trial edition of Stompernet. My full thoughts on that will have to wait for another day, but it is an awful lot of money every month for video tutorials and pep talks. I could see it working if someone had a single corporate account and was training a clueless IT and marketing department on search.

    Interesting to hear your perspective as a six month member of StomperNet. I’d be interested to hear in your own words what you find most valuable about Stompernet and what makes you feel that it’s worth $800/month to you.

    I wish you a very pleasant Sunday afternoon. Thanks for stopping by.

  19. I know this is a pretty old article but I’d like to thank you anyway, doing some resarch on hoarding to write an article about it.

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