Soliciting links is wrong. Unfortunately, exceptionally smart, creative and well-funded companies still participate in this kind of activity that manipulates SERP’s (Search Engine Result Pages), such as Artsy. Last week, Theo from Artsy reached out to me regarding a blog post I had written a year ago after having participated in JR’s InsideOut Project in Shanghai:
JR is one of the most well-known artists in the world, having gained fame after winning the TED Prize in 2011 for his portrait photography and public art installations. Meanwhile, Artsy is a talented and well-established startup that has successfully brought the art world online. Artsy’s business depends on capturing the attention of as many art galleries, dealers and collectors as possible.
Artsy recognized that they could gain the enormous amount of organic search traffic that well-known artists generate by building out great content resources. Simply put, ranking on the first page of Google for terms such as “JR” would likely bring Artsy much of the attention that they seek to capture, and thus act as a source of lead generation for their other services to the art world.
Currently Artsy sits on page 5 of the results for the term “JR”:
With much room for improvement in their rankings, Artsy chose to solicit unnatural links in order to boost their rankings towards the first page results, which is in clear violation of Google’s guidelines.
The page that Theo from Artsy refers to is the URL “http://jmarbach.com/2014/06“, which is an archive of the posts that I had written last June, and this only provides further evidence to speculation that his “finding” was likely the result of a scrape for “JR” or similar terms.
Not to mention, if Theo had simply read a little into my blog, he would learn that I am probably not the best person to contact when soliciting links:
Back in December 2013, I wrote about one of New York City’s other big tech startups, Rap Genius, who also attempted a link scheme in bad faith, and they paid a heavy price: Rap Genius’ rankings on Google were pushed down to the sixth page for results, including search terms as simple as their own company name at the time, Rap Genius.
Rap Genius experienced a penalty that Google calls a “manual webspam action“, which are “…actions taken by the manual webspam team that directly affect that site’s ranking in Google’s web search results”(Matt Cutts). Again, it continues to surprise me that companies such as Artsy, who have $50 million in the bank, participate in deceiving link building activities. And again, we’ll see what Google decides for their efforts.