Qassia: Intelligent Link Building?

Everyone talks about building links in the SEO Chat forums, so when I saw someone asking about Qassia and its link building potential, I knew I had to take a look. The self-described intelligence engine is in closed beta at the time of writing, but invitations seem easy to obtain. What is Qassia all about? And is it worth your while? In this first part of a two-part article, we’ll explore these and other questions.

Qassia describes itself as “a credit-driven intelligence engine coupled to a cascading tag-based directory.” You sign up with Qassia and add knowledge, what the site refers to as “intel.” Kimsolutions, the SEO Chat user who first brought Qassia to my attention, explained that the intel can be your own or something you are legally distributing. I want to emphasize the word “legally,” by the way; the company is pretty strict in their terms of service about that.

They’re also very strict in their ToS about each user having only one account, ever, in their lifetime. If you ever make more than one account you will be barred from their site. And if you don’t understand their terms of service, they tell you not to use Qassia. I can understand the strictness; this is intellectual property we’re dealing with after all.

Anyway, for every piece of intel you add to Qassia, you get a link back to your site. These are dofollow links, not nofollow links – so you can see how this might help you in the link juice department. Every time you create an intel, read and rate an intel, and/or invite a new user you gain Qassia dollars. This is “funny money” that can’t be turned into any other currency – but “The more Qassia dollars you have, the better your websites will rank,” according to Qassia’s FAQ. You never have to spend real money to use Qassia; the company plans to keep that totally free, and make its money from advertising (Google ads pop up in lots of places throughout the site, and of course next to many pieces of intel).

“Eventually we will introduce auctions for front-page advertising, site-wide links, and other novel ways for you to burn through your hard-earned Qassia dollars,” the company notes. And there are ways to earn real dollars with Qassia, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s see what it takes to set up an account, and what it’s like to use Qassia.

{mospagebreak title=Getting Started with Qassia}

This part was very easy. All I had to do was click through the link left by Kimsolutions in the SEO Chat forum, which took me to Kim’s profile page on Qassia. At the upper left was a big button that said “Sign up today!” I clicked that and came to a standard-looking sign-up page:

What got cut off in this screen shot were the three items that I was required to check: that I was over 16, that I have never had any other Qassia accounts, and that I had carefully read and understood their Terms of Service. I’m quite certain that the rule about no multiple accounts, ever, is intended as a spam control mechanism, and it probably isn’t the only spam control feature the site has in place. I don’t know how they police that, however.

After I registered, Qassia served up a dashboard. I’m almost hesitant to do a screen shot, because it’s so full of information that a single image won’t do it justice. It’s clear that Qassia intended the dashboard to be your starting point and a place for you to get many of your questions answered. It’s laid out in the familiar three-column format, with the center column being the largest.

Down the left side were several boxes that seemed especially of interest to newcomers. The first one told me that I was eligible for a bonus – that for the next 12 hours, if I got someone to sign up for Qassia, I’d get $500 Qassia dollars instead of the usual $100. The second box led to a link that explained how to earn Qassia dollars. The third box explained a special promotion. The fourth box contained a list of intel for screening, and the final box gave links to the latest updates (the most recently approved intel, from the looks of it).

{mospagebreak title=More on the Dashboard}

Now that I’ve described the left side, I don’t feel guilty about cropping it out in the following screen shots of the dashboard:

 As you can see from this top part of the dashboard, Qassia subscribes to the sensible idea of giving a user several ways to do things. I can add intel from either the center column of my dashboard or that box on the upper right. There’s also a user’s manual right at the top, which I’ll probably be discussing later. Oh, and as you can see, they’re making money – or trying to – from Google ads. Here’s the bottom half of the dashboard, sans ads:

Okay, right away we see at least one similarity to a social networking site: you get a user profile. You don’t have to put anything in your profile at all. If you do choose to edit it, you can tell it to display a number of things:

  • A particular name. Your user name will be displayed here if you don’t pick one.
  • An image, such as your photo, which will be resized to 500 x 500 pixels.
  • An introduction, into which you can embed links. Double check your formatting; when I tried to embed a link, I got an error that said “Thou shalt close thine [url] embedded link [/url] formatting” with the second bracketed item in red. Okay, so they have a sense of humor – and I need to be more on the ball for tagged formatting! At least I didn’t have to re-enter the whole page, just fix the problem.
  • Your location; it’s an open text box, so you can enter a city or country (or possibly even an imaginary location, though I didn’t go that far).
  • Your email address; this is controlled by a radio button that lets you choose whether or not to publish it in your profile. By default, your email address is NOT published, so kudos to Qassia for having a clue about privacy.
  • Your contact information through various messaging services, including Skype, Yahoo, MSN, ICQ, and AIM.

{mospagebreak title=So Who Are These People?}

After signing up and looking at a few things, I found myself wondering who is behind Qassia. Unfortunately, I was in for a little frustration. Under Qassia’s FAQ, all it says is this: “We are an international web development outfit you’ve probably never heard of. Chances are, though, that you’ve come across our sites while browsing the net, because we’ve been putting out good, useful and sometimes crazy sites since 1996. Qassia is, needless to say, our far most ambitious project yet.”

Okay, this is going to drive me crazy not knowing who they are! And the only press release on the site itself, at this time of writing, is one announcing that Acreon, Inc., has taken a five percent stake in the company. There is no mention of how much that comes to in money, since Qassia is still privately owned.

So what other information can we glean from the site itself? Qassia was launched in January of this year. At the time of writing, it has accumulated more than 19,000 members, who are trying to promote a like number of sites. Users have submitted nearly 30,000 items of intel, with nearly 11,000 of these items being “original” (I couldn’t immediately find any explanation of the difference between plain intel and original intel). They have banned 97 users, which is not a bad record. It will be interesting to see if they will scale well once they come out of private beta.

That’s all I have time and room for now. In the second part of this article, I plan to explain how to find intel, submit and screen intel, and cover other interesting topics about Qassia. I might even have some useful quotes about the site. See you then!

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