• Tim Carter

    Hey Wil,

    I really hear you on this one. I’ve been helping a non-profit with this exact issue. I don’t have a budget for it, and I am up against dozens of sites that are intensely “black hat”. Some have even replicated my client’s content on their automated spam-link sites.

    I am very disappointed that Google doesn’t detect the low-quality, volume link approach. I could see if they accepted hundreds of “Geocities” links as legit when there were some quality inbound links too, but a web page with thousands of such links and NO quality ones? (Well, this US health issue website sure is popular with Thai gamers who also love online gambling, discount vacations and penis enlargement. It must be good, right?) Come on, you gotta be kidding me.

    People make a lot of Google’s algorithm, and I think that Google works hard to promote that perception. But I’ve seen it gamed by obvious spamming. I wonder sometimes if AdSense revenues are creating a conflict of interest; maybe they want traffic to these garbage sites. I don’t know enough to support that claim, but it’s all that I can think given how easy it is to pay your way to the top rank.

    - Tim

  • Joshua of Refuge Design

    It is sheer link numbers on low quality sites, there is no linkbaiting, no widget development, no press releases, no useful tools, no firefox plugins, no coupons! Just hundreds if not thousands of bought links on very low value, low quality domains.

    Hmm, I think your giving too much weight to quantity over quality of links. 5 links with great co-citation will beat 10k links from low quality sites.

    A link can be powerful but you gotta make them powerful. :)

  • Matt LeVeque

    I’d agree that you are doing what is best for the client when considering long term implications. At some point the black-hat link buying will catch up with the competitor and when that happens all the time you’ve spent doing things the right way will pay off. Your competitor will then have to play catch-up and you’ll already be that much further ahead.

  • andrew wee

    Besides the “a** kicking” experience, the client pays for results above “link density”, “link quality” etc.

    As a biz owner, I’d be looking at ROI above all else.

    The white hat/black hat debate comes about because the black hat is generally not a sustainable practise as you’ve alluded to.

    The issue is that any co. needs to justify their mktg spend vs sales (ie ROI), so there needs to be some medium between buying links and being rewarded about it.

    I do understand that big G and Cutts would like a superior user experience, but if they’re not acting in reaction to market forces, it’s be silly to sit on the wayside and watch the world pass you by.

    I won’t be able to make SES Chicago, but
    maybe we’ll hear something re: this at ASW?

  • Toni

    Wil you could have linked your first client to the #1 website. Create a links section or use a non important keyword anchor text or simply their url, put one or two alike keywords from their meta tag to yours and the bot will recognize that you are in the same field, BUT you are playing by the rules, by linking to relative sites with high ranking. This means that your SEO process is natural (White Hat) and you’ll gain valuable points, while the paid links that site #1 is using are getting banned. A month or so you’ll be, let’s say in the worst case with the same ranking as “site #1″.

    SEO is not only about numbers, rules, unique content, link-building, etc… Above all play by the rules and use your.

    C R E A T I V I T Y !

    Great posting though! I will definitely join you mailing list.

    Best Regards

  • wil

    @tim they eventually got caught, this will be part 2 of my post, but they did get to dominate the serps for 2 years. I am all for buying some links in the beginning, but I think an SEO REALLY needs to be building the quality where they can as soon as humanly possible.

    Your point on Adsense, in my opinion does create a conflict of interest, which I think they are working on rectifying. It takes time, but i think they’ll keep improving and working on catching these.

    @josh – I reverse engineered the site linking process, and I will tell you that there was a pattern that was easy to discern b/c of the number of links and types of links per page. 50% of the links were not on theme at all, and the other 50% was on links on geocities type sites. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out and if this site bounces back, but they were in the tank for the first time in 2 years. The hard part is also getting people on board that it is NOT sheer numbers but quality that will drive results.

    @matt – thanks for stopping by buddy – you are dead on, it will eventually catch up, but like andrew below says, everything is ROI, as long as you know what you are getting into.

    @andrew you bring up a great point that is often lost in the white hat black hat debate, which is ROI. In this case the client DEFINITELY made a substantial ROI, and I believe that they knew the links were pretty much garbage, but for them “as long as it works” and the ROI is there was the basic feeling. The problem is that as long as they knew what they were getting into then that is on them, if you would ask me I think they knew this run would end at some point, and they were ok with it.

  • Joshua of Refuge Design

    Keep us updated!! :)

    If the client has the budget, throw in a nice linkbait article and I doubt you’ll have any problem. :)

  • andrew wee


    IMO SEMs and SEOs have diff approach to doing things.

    With SEO and the lag/delay before you see results, it’s building a foundation for the long term.

    While paid linkbuilding is in the middle ground between an all-out PPC campaign where you arb as much as from the differential between lead acquisition vs the comm/profit from the sale.

    If Google were really in the “we want quality sites” space, you would see much more intense AdWords vetting, cos PPC search is the ultimate form of “link buying” isn’t it?

    It’s good to hear abt your perspective from the trenches. Look forward to more insights.

  • Donna McCarthy

    Wil, I always enjoy your insights and appreciate the fact that you always strive to maintain integrity and quality for your clients. In the end, that’s what will pay off!

  • Carolyn

    Will I feel the same way about many aspects of SEO. I go to the trouble of writing sensible page titles with about two relevant keywords in proper sentences – then my client gets whacked down the SERPS by some hideous site with a dozen duplicated keywords in its title.

    Why would Google give top positions to a site whose title reads something like this “NEW JERSEY ATTORNEYS, LAWYERS & NJ LAWYER, ATTORNEY, NJ LAW FIRM …”?

    Makes me wanna puke! It’s time Google rewarded us for following their advice – not punishing us.

  • wil

    @Donna Thanks for the kind words

    @Carolyn I think they are starting to, as is the case in the blog post above, this one company that was getting away with blatant spam links for years eventually had those links count for less. Leaving them to re-build with more high quality links. I think page titles have a ways to go as I would imagine that Google is spending most of its time on working on off page values not on-page as much.