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Interview of Patrick Gavin

January 4, 2005

When I started SEO I noticed your Patrick Gavin site was heavily marketed as a PPC site. It seemed overnight you switched gears and started promoting SEO and later started a rather well known link ad company. What caused you to shift from one market to the next? What did / do you like and dislike about each market?

Yes Aaron we started as a ppc management company in early 2002. At that time ppc was still new to most companies and there were many bargain rates per click at that time making it an easy sell to prospective clients. As the market became more saturated, the costs per clicks soared and it became more difficult to charge clients for our service when their pay per click budget was soaring and ROI was sinking.

The natural progression was to offer our clients a search engine optimization package. We found SEO a more valuable business service for our clients so we switched our core business to search engine optimization. At that time we found the biggest factor in a successful search engine optimization program was a strong link popularity campaign.

Due to the difficulty of reciprocal linking and a decline in it’s effectiveness, the market was looking for a more efficient link popularity solution. That is when we launched Text Link Ads Inc. in the fall of 2003.

Our favorite market has been the text link ads market because we get to use our seo expertise and it is a seo service that delivers results. Link popularity is and will continue to be a major factor in top search engine rankings and our service satisfies this need.

When you buy ad placements what are your primary criteria to determine the value of a site?

The criteria for determining the value of a site is varied. The factors include: position on the page of the ad, characters (space) allowed for the ad, theme of the webpage, number of pages the ad will appear on, the link authority score of the page, and the way the site has built up it’s own link popularity as we are looking for true authority sites.

I imagine that a large amount of your demand comes from a few exceptionally focused verticals. How do you manage to find sufficient supply in these niche markets?

Yes, the demand is higher in the more competitive industries where there is the most money to be made. We recognize this and base our future buys on the demand from the market and feedback from our clients.

I have spoke with a good number of people in the link rental business. Some have told me that demand comes in big bunches and then is somewhat sporadic. How do you scale your business to grow with the demand? Where have your best leads come from?

Our business is scaleable and we are able to react to market demand very quickly. As demand increases and our inventory becomes full we expand our partners. We have a list of sites and networks that are always on our “next” list. Our leads for new sites and networks comes from research done inside our company and also from existing clients who are interested in being placed on specific sites that are too expensive to purchase single ads on for themselves.

Do you test your ad inventory to ensure that it is a solid investment for your consumers?

Yes, we test our ad inventory prior to purchase to ensure that the site is in good standing with the search engines and that it does not have a history of selling ads to less than reputable websites.

All of our network websites are set up on an exclusive contract. Among items in our contract is limiting the total number of advertising links that will be allowed on the website to ensure that our client’s are getting what they paid for and not drowned out by too many links on a page. We generally do not allow more than 15 advertising links on a page.

Some people believe that they only need to rent a single link to improve their business. Can one link make that big of a difference? What tips would you recommend to someone who was thinking of starting to rent links?

In general one single link will not give your site that big of a ranking advantage. That being said, one quality link can get your site indexed by the major search engines and get your site off the ground.

For someone thinking of starting to rent links I would recommend starting small and gauging the results month to month and then increase or decrease your link buying based on results. Results should be measured two ways: 1. Traffic delivered from the ads, which can be determined by checking your referral logs. 2. Measuring the change in search engine rankings for the keywords you are targeting with your campaign. Securing top natural search engine rankings for your top keywords is in our opinion the key to success on the Internet today.

It is important that your link renting campaign is supplemented by other link popularity building campaigns such as: directory submissions, reciprocal linking with related sites, and doing things like securing links through other business partnerships and friends in your industry.

An increasingly large number of directories offer links for a one time fee. People trade links. Community driven sites participating in Digital Point's cooperative ad program carry a ton of linking clout. When would you suggest using other link generation methods instead of or in conjuction with renting links?

We highly recommend using all possible quality link building methods. In today’s ultra-competitive environment finding every last edge you can over your competition is a must. Link popularity is such a huge factor in top natural search engine rankings that you must do everything possible, within your risk range, if you want to be #1.

This includes: renting links, directory submissions, trading with relevant partners, and researching other creative alternatives such as coop ad programs. There are of course different risk levels for different websites. Only the website owner can decide what that level is. Some linking solutions have more risk associated with them than others.

How does renting links compare with other link building techniques risk wise?

I think that proper link renting is less risky than most link building techniques. Risk should be measured in successful search engine rankings for the long term. It would be very easy for a search engine algorithm to wipe out or greatly reduce the value of reciprocal linking. Directory submission programs probably have the lowest risk as you are securing one way links back to your site at a low cost many times a one time fee. The issue is that as the market gets more and more competitive you will need an edge over your competition. If your competition is trading links and has submitted to all directories then you still need to overtake their efforts, that is where link renting can be a great option. There are many other link building techniques such as press releases, writing articles, etc. It is my belief that purchasing text link ads on relevant websites is one of the most efficient link building techniques available to marketers today.

What tips would you offer someone who wanted to rent links as far as finding the best value?

The best value in renting links is purchasing links on relevant sites that could deliver relevant traffic that can convert to sales from the ads. This way you are purchasing relevant links that the search engines may favor and also possibly converting sales from the traffic.

Receiving a deal for pre-payment of a text link ad for three months can be valuable as well. Today it seems it can take 30-90 days at times to see a positive effect from new links so getting a discount for keeping your link in place longer than 30 days is something to consider.

What tips would you offer someone who wanted to rent links as far as placing ads which will look natural to search algorithms?

I want to stress that I do not think the search engines are currently recognizing “natural links” versus advertising links. I do think this is something to consider in the future.

For the long term I recommend that the text link ad is placed in the “content area” of the web page. That is in the area that is generally used for the real text and content on the page. Text link ads that are placed in the footer area or on the “edges” of the page (top, bottom, left, or right) where ads are typically placed may be discounted.

Having the text link ad placed within content and not within a box of all links may be important in the future. Surrounding your link with other text is preferred.

Obviously renting links on related sites, preferably websites and web pages that contain your targeted keywords on the page would be a nice bonus.

How rare is it that a site renting links gets penalized? What do you do if / when one of your customers is penalized?

It is rare for a site that is renting links to be penalized, just like it is rare for any site to be penalized. The problem is sites can potentially be penalized for a number of factors. We have seen a very small percentage of our clients be penalized (less than .5%). We are not sure if this was from aggressive link buying or from other techniques that they employed to their on page seo efforts.

We do believe that you are putting your site at risk if you are doing the following:

-Buying links on completely unrelated websites.
-Buying too many site wide links (unless they are all relevant).
-Not varying your link text on your ad. (you need to vary your anchor text)
-Buying links that are selling over 15 text link ads on their website.
-Buying links on websites that are selling links to: adult, RX, or gambling websites. You want to buy links on sites that sell to quality sites only.

If a customer of ours is penalized we first meet with the customer to determine if other changes have been done to the website recently that could have caused a penalty. If it seems that the only answer is that an overly aggressive link renting campaign could be the cause then we recommend that client remove all links to their site that are unrelated that they may have. We also recommend cutting down on site wide ads if the client has many large run of site ads with us. If they client has not varied the link text much on their ads we will recommend that being changed as well.

Once these link edits are made we wait to see if the search engine spiders identify the changes that were made (automated penalty) and brings the site back, if this does not work we recommend the client send an email to the search engine and request re-inclusion into the index. Penalization is very rare with our clients and when it has happened it has been with clients with the most aggressive strategies including many large site wide links on unrelated websites.

How do link rentals affect the various search algorithms from the major search engines? What time delays (if any) occur between link rental and improved traffic and search engine placement?

Our link rentals due seem to have a faster affect at Yahoo/MSN results than at Google. In general, you will see faster results (within 30 days) on Yahoo/MSN while it can be 30-90 days at Google. We try to set the expectation levels towards the upper limits of the time delays. We recommend keeping a link in place for 60-90 days to see the full effect of new link placement.

Link popularity is the single most important factor in ranking for competitive keywords, period. Link popularity is more difficult to manipulate than on page seo factors so it will continue to be the top ranking factor in the top search engines for the foreseeable future.

The time period from adding links and seeing movements in search engine rankings does vary depending upon what cycle you catch the search engine in. We sometimes see positive movement in rankings in the first week after a link is placed and sometimes it can take a full three months. We recommend keeping a link in place for 60-90 days to see the full effect of a new link placement.

There are other traffic generation business models outside of link renting. How does renting links compare with ROI of pay per click ads (such as Google AdWords and Overture) or content generation sites (such as Article Insider)?

It is tough to compare link renting with pay per click models. Our business delivers a dramatic increase in traffic to our client’s websites but most of the traffic is a result of higher natural search engine rankings. Many of our clients measure ROI with our program by gauging total traffic to their website before they start a campaign with us versus after. We feel the ROI with our program is very good based on the extremely high month to month renewals we have on our ads.

Have you ever refused to sell links to a customer? What are some common mistakes you see new link advertisers make?

Yes, we have refused to sell links to customers that have websites that sell products that are not allowed on our partner websites. Some of these include: online gambling, online pharmacy, adult, etc.

One common mistake new link advertisers make is not supplementing a text link ad campaign with other quality link building techniques such as directory submissions. So in short, they are not going enough to overtake their competition. They are not being aggressive enough. It is important that website owners take a close look at their competition and evaluate if their plan will only land their site on page 3 for their top keywords which is the same as being on page 30 these days.

What challenges do you see facing the link brokering business going forward?

We feel strong that link popularity is here to stay as a major search engine ranking factor. The biggest challenge is adapting to changing search engine algorithms. We expect the search engines will someday weigh links differently based on the: text link ad position on the page and also will factor in the relevancy of the webpage content.

Is the link ad market saturated? If I were to start SEO Book link brokering services tomorrow what are the most important tips would you recommend?

The text link ad market is very competitive today. That is good for the consumer as prices have come down over the last year. I think one very important tip for someone entering this market space is to make sure you have good contracts in place with your partner sites so they do not end of selling direct to your clients or don’t raise the price on you in the near future.

If you were to get into the web today where would you start?

I would start with a product or service that I knew and loved. When I first started it was developing and marketing a website for my families reclaimed brick business. Once you have your idea it is important to analyze the competition and set up a game plan to get to the top. You need to be the best at your niche online.

I cannot stress enough how important a strong link popularity campaign is in securing top rankings. The days of living solely off pay per click traffic are long over. It does not necessarily have to take a lot of money to build quality link popularity but if you do not have the budget to spend it will cost you your time. The web is getting more and more competitive everyday.

To get on top takes a savvy game plan that duplicates your top competitors techniques and then "one ups" them.

If people wanted to learn more about placing Text Link Ads how can they contact you?

That is the best question of the interview. They can contact me by phone toll free (877) 480-9755 or I can be emailed directly at: pgavin@text-link-ads.com It is recommended to browse our website which can be found at: http://www.text-link-ads.com Thanks for the opportunity Aaron!

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