Link Generating Programs: Good or Bad for Search Engines?

Eric Ward's SearchDay article, "Automated Link Generators - Not Worth The Trouble" generated a lot of interesting feedback, some positive and some negative. Since these programs -- in theory -- can have some influence on search results, SearchDay readers will likely find interesting these comments from David Notestine, creator of the Zeus Internet Marketing Robot, with a response from Eric Ward.

David Notestine: "I would like a moment to clear up possible misunderstandings that could possibly arise about my Zeus Reciprocal Link software.

"A common misconception about Zeus is that he sends email automatically, without supervision, as he travels throughout the Internet. This is not true. Zeus shows you each website he finds, allowing you to explore it and make a decision whether you wish to include it's listing into your Link Directory. He then allows you to personalize the reciprocal link request that he will send to the email address you select. The email MailMerge feature also allows Zeus to automatically include each website's unique information, from his database, into the body of your email to further personalize your message.

"Zeus is, no more or no less, a combination of web crawling robot that never queries the search engines, a directory builder, an email program allowing one to send personalized email messages, contact manager to help keep track of your efforts and Auditor to make sure your links stay reciprocal. All phases of reciprocal link generation requires user approval, customizing email requests, maintaining the directory, organizing it and etc. The advantage of Zeus is he makes it easy to find proper web sites for the user to explore and approve, then integrates the entire job of contact management and auditing.

"Zeus users do not create free-for-all link farms or un-organized link pages. The directories created by users of Zeus are usually tightly-themed web resources or vertical-themed link directories. We do not condone dis-organization or link chaos. We consider it a cancer within the web, to be stopped at all costs.

"A few users may mis-use Zeus, but overall there are those 99% of our users who don't. Those who use Zeus correctly are rewarded with plenty of consistent traffic. Any robot that is being mis-used is immediately turned off remotely. The mis-use of our product, by a few who would probably mis-use any product, will not be tolerated or allowed to continue in the Zeus family. I have designed Zeus to make it hard to automate any feature that could be considered spamming or link-dis-organization. The entire concept of Zeus is to organize the web properly," says Notestine.

Eric Ward responds: "The single largest criticism I have of link building software is not specific just to Zeus. Link building software is no more than the tool. Just like email merge programs, you can use them to spam or use them properly.

"People take the easy way out, gathering target sites and email addresses without studying the target sites for the five crucial factors of link seeking. Thus link building software will only be as effective as the person running it.

"I receive link requests every day from people using the Zeus tool. I can tell because of I see the word Zeus name in the email or body copy. All have been terrible link request letters sent by people whom it is so blatantly obvious have never been to my site. Why do I get the same request 7 times? Why do I get the same request at every address on my site? I can honestly say I have NEVER receive a link request through Zeus that was crafted properly.

"Your tool could possibly be useful if used correctly, but you and I both know people short cut the process and have no intention of taking the time to visit every target site from the search results. You talk the no-spam talk on your site, and that's admirable, yet the bottom line is your tool isn't used that way.

"I also know this is so because Zeus users who are my clients TELL me that's how they use it.

"Zeus could be used properly, but 99% don't. That's not your fault, but it's reality," says Ward.

The bottom line? Link building programs like Zeus aren't a magic bullet. Like all forms of search engine marketing, from web page optimization to buying paid links, link building is only as effective as the person using the technique.

Zeus Link Building Software

Information on a popular automated link building program, including several pages of guidelines on the proper use of such software.

Articles on Link Building Strategies and Tactics

Eric Ward's collection of articles describing the right and wrong ways of building reciprocal links to improve your site's search engine visibility.

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About the author

Chris Sherman is a frequent contributor to several information industry journals. He's written several books, including The McGraw-Hill CD ROM Handbook and The Invisible Web: Uncovering Information Sources Search Engines Can't See, co-authored with Gary Price. Chris has written about search and search engines since 1994, when he developed online searching tutorials for several clients. From 1998 to 2001, he was's Web Search Guide.