Eightfold Logic has decided to empower those companies who are serious about their search rankings by creating 'a dating site' for businesses. It's called Linker.
In a bid to reduce the time wasted courting site owners who don't respond to link requests, the enlightened minds at Eightfold Logic identified parallels between the online dating scene and pioneers in quality link building.
You Gotta Be In It To Win It
In order for online dating to work, singles have to opt in to a dating network, be actively involved in their destiny and in return for their personal details, the online platform has to save time matching them up to relevant introductions. Thus a dating platform is able to create a 'market'
of singles looking to meet the right partner.
Currently, site owners seeking to improve their search rankings do not have the same luxury. In the name of 'link building,' site owners have to survey every potential website partner without any idea of who the right person to contact is, whether the site is active and without consideration of their actual business interest.
Consequently, the 'art' of link building (of which, recently, we have been covering extensively on SEW) has gone off the rails and become a 'numbers game' as low response rates cause site owners to adopt 'black hat' tactics such as paid links, link farming and email carpet bombing campaigns - sending what amounts to generic, untargeted email spam, in the hope that one webmaster might respond.
The Difference Between a Rock & a Hard Place
Increasingly, with every algorithm update, such tactics prove themselves to be unsustainable. Nonetheless, the relative simplicity of spamming tactics over properly cultivated engagements, mean the high road (of quality and
relevance) is too often the road less travelled.
"SEO and marketing professionals have struggled to choose between quantity and quality of relevant links for optimization," said Richard Zwicky, founder and president of Eightfold Logic. "But what if you could get both: increasing relevance for your site's visitors while at the same time adding value to the search engines themselves? That's what we're launching today."
All You Need Is Links
The preponderance of links on Google's ranking algorithm is such that focusing purely on on-page search engine ranking factors without running a link building campaign is like baking bread but forgetting to add the yeast. Your site is simply not going to rise in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
The mantra Google pushes is quality over quantity, meaning that the contextual value of a link is worth more than the number of links pointing to a site. A relevant link should enhance the user experience of the visitor on the originating site, by directing them to useful resources elsewhere. Put another way, a link should generate traffic to your website on the merits of its own placement, rather than for its collateral effects on search engines. In an ideal world, the SERPs would be the natural reflection of an effective content meritocracy.
"The value of relevant linking cannot be overemphasized. In a recent correlation study, we looked at dozens of ranking influencers and found that three of the five highest correlated factors with rankings in both Google and Bing are link-based," said Rand Fishkin, chief executive of SEOmoz. "Eightfold Logic is delivering a solution that helps marketers and businesses optimize for these key linking metrics."
How Does Linker Solve This?
Linker is a freemium-model based business, where users are free to join a network of committed link builders to generate contextually-relevant introductions to the their business. Payment for the service comes at the point that two users want to connect their business profiles and share their contact information.
Setting Up Your Link Profile
Much like an online dating website, Linker walks the user through a questionnaire about the business and the types of links they are hoping to generate. A user can define their target audience from a partner site, by selecting from a set of categories and by adding the keywords you aim to rank for, and the keywords your potential partner is ranking for.
Furthermore, a user can identify a target rank for inbound link partners, selecting Google PageRank, SEO MozRank and also Alexa ranking as matching criteria
A neat feature is that you can use this tool to select deep links from a wider spectrum of keywords. Another completely unique feature is that you can define the business markets that you would like to generate links from.
So, for instance, you could define a hyper local campaign by requesting links only from site owners in or about a certain region.
Matching Business Partners
Eightfold Logic uses this data to deploy a crawler to run a set of semantic queries against your business to verify the data provided and find the right matches. The stringency of your own partner matching criteria defines what introductions you will see.
Linker will then return a set of results 'scored' from 1 to 10 according to your matching criteria.
By way of a hypothetical example, imagine a family run business such as a bed & breakfast in the Scottish Highlands.
A score of 1 could be considered a relevant match, with relevant context - such as an introduction to a Hotels in Europe website.
A score of 4 could be a detailed match, with high relevancy factors - such as an introduction to a Hotels in Scotland website.
A score of 8 could be an authoritative match - such as an introduction to the Scottish Tourist Board.
The rest is relatively simple. You review the introductions and accept the matches you would like to be introduced to. If the other site owner also accepts you as a match, the introduction is made.
An introduction costs $12.95, after which all contact details are shared and both businesses are free to collaborate in any capacity thereon.
Some Initial Reviews
Linker has been in beta testing with a subset of agencies since March 2010 and has received acclaim from a number of experts, some of whom write for us at SEW:
"We place a lot of value on linking to other relevant content and companies - it's a principle at the heart of good search engine marketing. Yet it takes far more time than it should to research high-quality and relevant links that would improve user experience and our SEO efforts significantly," said Ryan DeShazer, global director of search marketing for GyroHSR. "Linker adds tremendous value by enabling us to spend less time on the tedious linking process through their easy matching system, and to instead focus on the work that has true business impact."
Linker's success as a service will ultimately depend on how many businesses set up a profile, however, early reports from beta testers say that the service is already growing simply by word of mouth. Given that resorting to some of the 'black hat' tactics can be a terrifying prospect for many authoritative and established businesses, it is highly likely that such a website 'dating service' will have broad appeal among small and large businesses alike.
It is also important to note that paying for 'introductions' rather than links does not breach the Google Webmaster quality guidelines in any way, so this product is firmly rooted on the 'right side' of the ethics debate.
Consequently, this service should bring some sanity back to how much money marketers set aside to their link building budgets as the task definition of the services involved will be much easier to define. In the long run, this service may also make ROI against link building activities easier to calculate and attribute to the right partners.