OK so the whole sitewide links debate may not ever reach the ‘epic’ proportions on forum threads, blogs and websites that the absolute links versus relative links ’saga’ did but it still deserves its 15 minutes of fame. I wanted to raise the issue because I’ve recently come across a couple of threads in which the original poster and most subseqent posters came out heavily against the idea, some claiming that it can actually be damaging - as opposed to just not beneficial.
To agree or disagree with this outright would be unwise because as with many facets of search engine optimisation this really isn’t something that be divided into black and white or right and wrong because it all depends on how its done. Personally though I have found sitewide links to be of great benefit for some of the keywords I have targeted in the past if done correctly. Further down I have given two examples of websites ranking well for keywords which are used as anchor text in sitewide links.
Sitewide links should if you choose to make use of them be part of a much bigger offpage optimisation campaign, it’s a bad idea to rely predominately on sidewide links as this stinks of someone buying links (which Google hates). This is particularly dangerous if a website is relatively new. Imagine for a moment Google suddenly finds 25,000 keyword rich links pointing to www.newsite.com which has been in the index only a few weeks and has only 3 other links pointing to it that Google is aware off, you can bet your bottom dollar that alarm bells will go off in the GooglePlex. Now whether or not www.newsite.com will be penilised for the particular keyword used in the anchor text, penilised across the board for all its keywords or indeed have nothing positive or negative come from it is something I’m not yet willing to bet my house on. I do know however that this is the wrong way to use them, so if one likes to play with fire and has a new site then give sitewides a go.
I feel the real benefits of sitewide links are seen when they are obtained for established websites which have an already decent amount of indexed existing backlinks. This way the links don’t appear out of the blue (like links which have been bought) to Google, Yahoo and MSN because existing links indicate quality content and thus a couple of thousand new sitewides isn’t the strange anomaly it otherwise might have been as there is seemingly something of value at the receiving website. Existing links instil a sense of credibility onto a website and if some of the anchor text used for these links matches or is similiar to the anchor text used for the sitewide links well then this further serves to ‘decriminalise’ the sitewide links thus allowing them to provide you with at least some SEO benefit.
As mentioned further above I will share some of the anchor text rankings of two sites which I link to from my all my forum pages. When I do an inurl query for my forums 22,100 pages seem to be indexed. Now admittedly these links are not on every single page of my site, but they are on 22,100 pages which is a massive amount of pages and thus these links might as well be considered sitewide.
>> Rankings for http://www.redflystudios.com/ for the key phrase ‘web design ireland’ are:
>> GOOGLE.COM - 1st ||| YAHOO.COM - 1st ||| MSN.COM - 3rd
PR 7 with lots of varied links thus sitewide links wouldn’t have raised any eyebrows. Other keyword rich links are coming into this site but I definitely feel that sitewide links from the akamarketing.com forum have had a big positive on its rankings as it seemed to shoot up the rankings for this phrase fairly quickly. This phrase is one I have monitored for the last number of years. Of course I could remove the link and see what happens to the rankings or would that be considered cruel… you tell me Mr. Davis?
>> Rankings for http://www.netricks.com/ for the key phrase ‘fresno web design’ are:
>> GOOGLE.COM - 2nd ||| YAHOO.COM - 1st ||| MSN.COM - 9th
Again a varied about of links coming into this site so sitewide links from akamarketing.com fitted in well I think. Backlinks from akamarketing.com make up the majority of results on a link: search on Google so I definitely think sitewides played a big role here too. This link is actually very likely to be taken down soon so I may post an update back here in a couple of months. [UPDATE - this link was taken down on the 18th of March - on that day www.netricks.com was 3rd on Google.ie for the phrase 'fresno web design' - let's see what happens]
I personally feel the above examples shine a positive light on the use of sitewide links for the purposes of SEO - not a penalty in sight and real perceived rankings boost. I say perceived as without actually removing the links and then confirming a significant drop in rankings 3 or 4 months down the road one cannot be 100% certain of anything and even then all other things such as the algorithm, the other backlinks, the competition and the pages themsevles would have to remain exactly as they are now.
I guess sitewide links are just another one of those topics which search engine professionals can offer conjecture, guesstimations and argument on and thus there is always going to be opposing views on the issue. I certainly won’t be ruling them out just yet, you?