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Links are still the best way to achieve page one results, right?

 2:54 pm on Nov 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

For the first time in a while, I've been snooping on the backlinks my competitors have been buying: on blogs, in directories and on spammy and unrelated sites that clearly exist just to sell text links.

It's surely no coincidence that results #1 - #10 for a popular keyword search return sites with huge numbers of completely irrelevant backlinks.

I thought this practice has been frowned on by Google since at least 2008?

If so, why does link buying still work so well?



 9:13 pm on Nov 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

It's very hard to address this question directly because of assumptions. For example, just because there are irrelevant or paid links for the top ten results, that doesn't mean that those URLs are ranking because of those links.

At Pubcon Matt Cutts discussed the "10,000 bad links situation" that the NYT recently reported for a high ranking site. He said his team checked all those "bad" links - and found that their algorithm was already ignoring every one of them. Links can be ignored, rather than causing a penalty.


 2:47 pm on Nov 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

This makes me think of people asking about how to gain body builder muscles overnight. Some people think they can just take steroids and magic happens. Simply taking steroids does not magically turn a fat couch potato into Arnold Schwarzenegger. You need to combine steroids with good diet and alot of exercise to achieve great muscle results.

Top rankings are the same. Paid links by themselves typically will not do the trick. You need to combine them with quality content and a good user experience to achieve great rankings.

IMHO steroids are similar to paid links in another way. Quality matters. Injecting yourself with homemade steroids using dirty needles can land you in the emergency room. Buying massive quantities of off-topic paid links can send your website to the emergency room as well.


 3:13 pm on Nov 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

People are still making massive leaps quickly with paid links; I've seen it (and I've been shown some results by some of the people who do it) I think you can still rise to the top pretty quickly if you know what you're doing.

Staying at the top is a whole different matter. If you continue to acquire massive amounts of links quickly, you're going to eventually trip an alarm at Google, and if you don't, you'll likely sink like a stone.

By the time it's all said and done, you're probably spending as much time (and maybe more money) doing it the paid link way than not, with less of chance of a sustained return.

I'm exhausted just thinking about it.


 3:32 pm on Nov 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

Paid links work fabulously. Paid links are a viable strategy.

It just comes with increased risks. I beleive that the people selling links these days are well aware of the risks and have strategies to minimize (but not completely eliminate) the risk.

There's also a difference between a few paid links bought with precision, as part of a well rounded citation type backlink structure (no real risk that I see) vs. paid backlinks as the primary strategy.

I don't do paid backlinks as a primary strategy, no plans to do so (I believe results are better with the way I do it). but it's been shown repeatedly to be a solid link building strategy as long as you minimize the risks.

In fact, after the last pubcon, I really question how many people doing SEO aren't buying links. I'm pretty sure that the overwhelming majority of SEO being done out there right now involves some form of paid links. It just scales a bunch easier.

Example. SEO firm writes a crawler to scour the web to find sites that meet specific criteria. One of those criteria could be that they don't seem to have a lot of outbound links that look paid. A list is generated of those sites.

The list is then contacted with an offer of $NNN for a backlink with some content. A certain percentage respond, money changes hands, backlinks are built.

That seems pretty airtight to me. I believe many SEO firms are doing variations of that right now. And many others are reselling others paid links. It's an industry-wide practice and it's working.

Those systems are expensive, you're not getting access to that at the $1000/month SEO boutique. that's one drawback.

Second drawback is that the system won't ever get you true authority backlinks. I think it'll get you some decent close-to-authority backlinks and that works. But true authorities like govt's and the like, this methodology won't work.

So one tweak by Google that maximizes individual authority links rather than sum of lots of individual smaller authorities, and there goes the structure.

Though frankly Google doesn't seem to be making any moves towards that. Of course a year ago no one expected Google to pull Panda out either.


 4:37 pm on Nov 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

I'd guess that 85%+ of link building tactics are not wanted by Google anyway, so why not buy them links? Our team does for clients who don't mind the risk as we are insanely sneaky about it. No footer/blogroll links here, no junk sites and it always involves content of sorts.


 5:56 pm on Nov 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

Great analogy goodroi. I agree with you 100%.

I don't like to cut corners, but I'm seeing 5 page sites with no links on page one these days. The Google engine may not be broken, but it certainly needs a service.

Also, whilst I agree with 95% of what you guys have written above, the adult business is very different from any mainstream business and opportunities are far more limited for exposure, advertising and promotion.


 5:35 am on Nov 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

Quick answer - yes.


 9:21 pm on Nov 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

Tedster, what do you think he was going to say, how about

"my team checked all the links and the algorithm was fully counting them"

:- "At Pubcon Matt Cutts discussed the "10,000 bad links situation" that the NYT recently reported for a high ranking site. He said his team checked all those "bad" links - and found that their algorithm was already ignoring every one of them. Links can be ignored, rather than causing a penalty."


 10:17 pm on Nov 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

@ tedster:

"Links can be ignored, rather than causing a penalty."

I don't understand what Matt is implying here. Basically it sounds to me like he is saying:

If you buy links and our algo doesn't count them, then you won't be penalized. But if you buy links and (for wahtever reason) the algo DOES count them toward page rank (a la JC Penny), then you WILL be penalized.


One other thing that I think is important to remember is that much as success breeds success, links also breed links.

When a site is at the top of the SERPs, they are MUCH more likely to get natural, unsolicited links than if they were on page 2 or 3 of the SERPs, regardless of how they originally got tot he top of the SERPs.

Having been a journalist for about four years, I can tell you that the best sources are the ones that are easiest to come by. Having a convenient source allows you to spend your time on more important things than sourcing (such as drinking beer with your buddies - a very important part of every decent journalist's life).

So you just know that online journalists are going to skim the top few google results and reference (with a natural link ) those sites, just because they can't simply be bothered to scroll down the results page.

Thus, sites that vault to the top of the SERPs temporarily via paid links end up getting the lion's share of natural links.


 11:28 pm on Nov 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

Links went the same way as America. At first it was pure democracy and now it's about private Benjamins.


 2:29 am on Nov 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

Hello guys,I am just a newbie in optimizing a new website,i am now in the middle of learning about SEO,just want to ask some advise out there on how to get inbound and outbound links? Will you please tell me what is the best way to do in getting links without buying it?..=)


 5:08 am on Nov 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

@ Bhoniemae

Will you please tell me what is the best way to do in getting links without buying it?..=)

The best place to look for ideas is in this Link Development forum:


You will find many suggestions on how to get links.

Be forewarned that GOOD links are NOT easy to get.


 7:50 am on Nov 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

Thank you for giving me some ideas..=)


 5:25 pm on Nov 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

"Links are still the best way to achieve page one results, right?"

I'm more in more getting into this camp... Sure, on-site factors are very important for non-competitive links and are somewhat a factor (as long as you have the basics covered) for competitive links but I would suspect it is like 90% link power, 10% on-site factors.


The emphasis google puts on curtailing fake links indicates IMO what they're trying to protect. Also, the core page rank algorithm I think is too ingrained into google's system architecture. Sure, google probably ignores/sandboxes/penalizes a large number of links, but as long as your links look organic, have natural accumulation rates and are diverse, I think this is the key.

Is google not happy about the emphasis they put on links? Yeah...Page has indicated so, but says he doesn't see a great alternative. I think to this end google is working on PR alternatives like manual reviews and behavioral data (probably the real reason they are so obsessed with hoarding user data).

In 2009 (which wasn't too long ago) there was a big deal raised about a leaked google memo talking about why a site dropped...and basically the reason was it was mostly about the links (interesting as this engineer didn't know what he was stating would go public):

The main issue is the dramatic decline of backlinks (which is likely causing the PageRank issue). The duplicate content issue isnít that there are lots of pages that are exactly the same, but that each page isnít unique enough (too much boilerplate that is the same from page to page and not enough content that is different). But fixing that is not going to help too much. Itís mostly the backlink problem.

If the issue on backlinks is that other sites are linking to 404 pages and not actual pages, putting in 301 redirects for every incorrect link (which they can get a list of in webmaster tools crawl errors) will help.

Iíll see if I can find out if the # of backlinks actually did drop or if we just changed our algorithms to discount many of them. Iím not sure what, if anything, weíll be able to tell him about what I find out though.

Supplemental results arenít results that donít change much, they are results that donít have enough PageRank to make it into our main index (we canít tell him that, of course).



 6:28 pm on Nov 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

but guys, content is king, i think Matt said so at the pub conference.


 6:31 pm on Nov 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

I'm still wondering if Google ignores links from certain areas of templates, or perhaps any links that are in any sort of duplicate area on a site.

I get the impression that links in the middle of unique on-topic articles, with the target keywords as anchor text, are far more valuable than links in a sidebar or other block of links. It used to be that there was some cumulative effect from many links from the same site with the right anchor text but now I'm not sure that these are counted either at all or as much, not sure. I discovered the power of multiple links from the same site when I left a genuine comment on a site that was built on WP and had "recent comments" on every page.




 8:25 pm on Nov 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

A combination of :-

Paid links on root pages
Video marketing links
My own network spam links
Links from spammy fiver gigs
Likes from spammy fiver gigs
Links from spammy fiver gigs
EDU links from spammy fiver gigs

Has me in the number 1 spot all over the show - beating off all the big brand sites.

I wanted to add - that really - far too much emphasis is placed on the google algo in terms of its massive complexity and how hard it is to game.

So-called "gurus" try and boozlewhip us into thinking there is all sorts of trickery and magic going on - but really - we need not look too deeply into it. My sites are HTML - not validated - no complex language - virtually no user interaction apart from buy now buttons which link to paypal directly - no inbound link anchor density analysis required - no offsite linking relevance done (random offsite context is fine) - no HTTPS - nothing. Just plain old HTML and a load of spam links.

Just ignore the Gurus who seem to make a name for themselves peddling lies - and test test test.


 8:39 pm on Nov 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

Just one question Mr Fewkes, because your post rings all the beLls for me, what are spam links?


 9:20 pm on Nov 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

The spam links from my network are totally and utterly placed on my sites for the sole purpose of increasing my SERP ranking. They are text links placed within paragraphs of text on static HTML pages which sit there for years and years. I never bother to check any relevance of the text on the linking page to the page the link goes.

Spam because they exist ONLY for SEO.

Hope this helps :)


 9:29 pm on Nov 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

@ MrFewkes:

Good to hear you are holding strong at #1

What do you mean by Video marketing links? Are they just youtube videos you made and link to your site?

Thanks in advance.


 9:36 pm on Nov 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

Planet - there are places on the net you can upload vids to and put links to sites alongside them...........

Think "upscale" aswell.



 10:43 pm on Nov 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

If Google ignores junk links, or links it deems paid, then it seems to me that a site that doesn't gather the same would have a higher link quality, i.e., what used to be called "trust rank".


 11:41 pm on Nov 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

In the "Internet Marketing" world - what you guys consider as those 'gurus' and 'quick & dirty marketers', most of us know how to get top Page 1 rankings for all but the very most competitive keywords.

It's just as MrFewkes is doing. Virtually all "Internet Marketers" in this segment use a combination of paid links - which include purchased 'packages' of 100-10000 profile links, blog comments, forum sig links, etc. - plus automated link building using tools such as Scrapebox, SENuke, etc., possibly supplemented with article networks like BuildMyRank and Unique Article Wizard.

In essence, these are 100% 'unnatural' links. We know how to optimize on-page to an extreme degree of optimization. Between the two, this market bangs out sites intended solely for monetization (Adsense, affiliate sales, etc.), and shoots them to Page 1 rankings.

Though Panda has significantly changed the 'game', and this market is about to thin out significantly, this has been extremely effective.

Panda's wider view, including site metrics, is perhaps the only functional way for Google to effectively curtail this sort of gaming.



 11:58 pm on Nov 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

With panda and the previewed notion that ads shouldn't be above the fold because that is Gs next target, it's safe to say that good quality content, ads below the fold and tons o paid links will get you to the top.

I have also noticed that sites that have PDFs built into the page are ranking higher now. I'm guessing it has to do with time on page/bounce rate timing.


 7:14 am on Nov 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

I may be way out there here... but, the advice for gaining spammy links (in my opinion) is absolutely crazy and surely short sighted. If anything you should know about Google if it "works" today it won't work tomorrow. And anybody who has been a webmaster for more than a minute, will tell you it is NOT worth the short term ride...

I do agree however with carefully tailored, highly targeted specific key terms on specific sites as being helpful in your quest for better SERPS. I personally don't do it... anymore (because the spammy techniques I used before to build pretty good links, don't work anymore and it takes too much time and energy to build them the right way).

The problem with SEO is that people try and take short-cuts and then you NEED to take short-cuts to stay competitive... and then instead of focusing on your business/site/customers whatever, you are focusing on the next shortcut.

All that aside, my answer is to listen to Wheel... he seems to know what he's talking about.


 10:00 am on Nov 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

the advice for gaining spammy links (in my opinion) is absolutely crazy and surely short sighted

I would agree, but the financial gain that can be made with a popular #1 position, no matter how short lived is worth it.

I have had my foot in both sides of the fence at one time or another. One sure thing I could say is if you have no links you have no results.

A competitor started in business this year with a rented domain. The domain had been sitting with a 'Rent Me' holding page for 8 years, before this person rented it. It is a partial keyworded domain. For 6 months+ this domain has now sat prominently at #1 for a their main keyword and now a host of other keywords.

Their backlink profile looks like this:
India Style link Farms
Comment Links
Directory Links
Footer Links
Sidebar Links
Partner Links
Blogroll Links

So yes Lenny2 crazy and surely short sighted and if it "works" today it won't work tomorrow agreed, but the 7 figure gross sales that will have been generated in 6 months in his position, has difinately been worth his short sighted approach.


 10:31 am on Nov 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

On the "what works today wont work tomorrow" note - this is important for this reason.

If you do something google "allows" and credits you for today - they may take that away tomorrow.

Just as easily as

If you do something google "hates" today - and you get away with it for a while - they may still take it away.

Eric Schmidt says the internet is a "cesspool" - thats what you are seen as. Remember that on your journey in free search.


 11:56 am on Nov 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

but the penalty is a 30 day ban?


 2:03 pm on Nov 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

but, the advice for gaining spammy links (in my opinion) is absolutely crazy and surely short sighted. If anything you should know about Google if it "works" today it won't work tomorrow. And anybody who has been a webmaster for more than a minute, will tell you it is NOT worth the short term ride...

I disagree. It is short sighted, but not necessarily crazy, and may be worth the short term ride.

There's spammy. Then there's less spammy but purchased and automated. And then there's one up authority citation links.

I lean towards the last. But it's pretty clear that almost everyone is much more in the middle of those three, and perhaps leaning towards the bottom end.

The only crazy part is that many people don't recognize the risks of either approach. They either won't do anything unnatural for fear of being banned, or do the low end stuff with no regard for being banned. It should be about risk/reward appraisal. That's it.

This 38 message thread spans 2 pages: 38 ( [1] 2 > >
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