Selected answers from the Dumb SEO Questions G+ community.
Michael Martinez: All paid guest posting carries the same risks regardless of any SEO metrics or whatever industry a site is in:
1. The links could be ignored by the search engines
2. The sites selling the links could be penalized by the search engines.
3. The sites buying the links could be penalized by the search engines.
As for free guest posting, the same risks might be incurred if the posts are published on sites that sell links.
If the free posts are published on relatively exclusive sites, and there is no discernible pattern of manipulation (like manipulative anchor text), then it`s usually safe to assume the risks are much lower than for paid guest posts.
Of course, if the links use the "nofollow" or "sponsored" attributes, then all is good with the search engines.
Mark Seah: Michael Martinez then why are ppl, including agencies, still engaged in selling / buying backlinks, directory listings etc for themselves and clients? seems that strategy still works, even though google make so many changes all the time...i mean, google cant possibly know if you really paid for a link or listing etc isnt it?
Amy Brad: Mark Seah I think those sites generally accept low quality guest posts...
Michael Martinez: Mark Seah "then why are ppl, including agencies, still engaged in selling / buying backlinks"
1. Some of them don`t know any better. They see many people naively talking about buying and selling backlinks (because people buy and sell backlinks) and assume that means it`s okay.
2. Some of them believe "Google is a liar" - which isn`t true but some people are convinced Google lies about everything and therefore they have convinced themselves Google is lying about continuing to penalize sites for buying and selling links.
For the record, Google has no reason to lie about this and certainly has nothing to gain from lying about it. I don`t want to get into a detailed list of accusations against Google.
3. Some people believe they can just charge for links and not live with the consequences. That is, agencies may buy or sell links knowing it`s spam and they don`t care because they`re not risking their own sites (or so they think - but Google has historically gone after agencies that do this).
4. Some people are so new to search engine optimization they use Google to learn about it and find all the ridiculous SEO blogs that spew nonsense. And so they fall for these link scheme strategies with no idea they are taking on huge risks.
Some people ask, "Well, why don`t you `white hat guys` dominate those keywords if you`re so much better at SEO than these spammy bloggers?`"
To which one can only say: A - it`s not my job to prevent the world from falling prey to idiotic SEO spam strategies; B - people use THOUSANDS of queries to find these spammy blogs; C - they also find lots of blogs that warn against this practice and they ignore the warnings anyway.
On top of all that, the SEO industry stubbornly refused to adopt professional standards and as long as there are no industry standards no one really has an idea of what to believe until they find themselves fixing all the penalties that Websites which buy and sell links suffer from.
The short answer: Everyone has to learn this lesson the hard way because people want to believe in fairy tales.
Sorry if that is insulting, I don`t want to be insulting, but I`ve watched people insist that buying links is the only way to do SEO for 20+ years - and they`ve racked up penalty after penalty, whined and complained about how Google done them wrong every year, and yet - I DON`T.
So take that for what it`s worth.
Roy Cohen: It doesn`t matter what Google says when I can show you 1000s of sites running off paid links and bringing in millions of search traffic a month. The fact of the matter is, there is paid linkbuilding up to the highest level of sites. It`s up to you if you want to look at the proof, otherwise you`re blindly believing that Google understands how their algorithm works. (guest posting is dead, remember?)
Mark Seah: Michael Martinez wow! thx. i asked this coz buying / selling backlinks, PBNs, directory listings + content, etc seems to still work, seen sites ranked after that, and backlink profile look natural coz they do it gradually instead of drastic increases!
and even 1st page rankings can be guaranteed within 6 mths to a year!? i really dunno how those agencies do it, without blackhat tactics.
Every spam strategy is a ticking time bomb. Some people are okay with that. They understand the risks and have backup plans.
But people who are just learning about SEO have no way of knowing that.
As for guaranteeing 1st page rankings in 6 months to a year, no legitimate agency would do that. We don`t own rankings. They change all the time. No one is entitled by virtue of their Web marketing strategies to any specific rankings.
You can always find people in online SEO groups who say they followed all this black hat advice and it`s not working.
In every gold rush, the people who make the most money are the merchants selling the picks, pans, and shovels. They can promise anything. They don`t have to dig up the gold or defend the claims against interlopers.
Travis Bailey: You generally want to avoid `free for all` blog farms. There are some instances where a paid post may not equate to a textbook paid link. Generally speaking, you can pay for editorial oversight - without paying for a post or link per se.