It’s Still a Link Building Business
Search Engine Optimisation

It’s Still a Link Building Business

25th February 2014

You will have all probably watched Matt Cutts video about “Google without links” – In Summary they tried it internally – their SERP results were far worse – so for the foreseeable future they are staying.

Now that’s cleared up lets talk about link building – You may have read Matt Beswick’s post earlier this month about link building in 2014 (Old School tactics). He’s right with the only problem is that some clients are not willing to risk a guest editorial link despite what our industry thinks of the validity.

So how do people link?

There was a great post from October which was picked up this week from Deejan SEO on the art of link Earning, to summarise what Dan Petrovic was talking about was how people link naturally by:

  1. Attribution
  2. Citation
  3. Definition
  4. Expansion
  5. Identification
  6. Example
  7. Action
  8. Relationship

Is Google all cleaned up now?

Despite the fact that we have had the influx of Unnatural link messages and five penguin updates and refreshes, SERP results are still no cleaner – not to say that Google isn’t aware of temporary link schemes but still there is a lot missed links and some thing which simply can’t be picked up.

Data Knowledge

I’m a big fan of compelling data, but the current problems that I face with client are inter-related:

Clients are so scared of risk from links they are unhappy with even the best guest editorial

However they are of course unhappy with sites ranking above them. After being part of hundreds of re-inclusions and carrying out a lot of competitor research its easy to see where Google algorithms won’t get picked up and sites which are simply waiting to be penalised.

Three Sites – One Search Result

I’ve been hired to do a lot of link removal, disavow work – so I generally know, what should and shouldn’t get picked up but I recently carried out some competitor research for a SERP result when a client had ranked No.1 then fell and currently sits at No.4.

So who now ranks above them?

Well two of the results have come in from “Moneyweek” and the “Telegraph” so not competitors but both have gained natural links from companies in that niche who are sharing “News”, I can understand those search results.

Now bear in mind I took my client on in 2012 after they received a Link Warning, I’m aware their profile is very clean, but I’m going to show you information about three other results on the first page and their profile which are categorised as follows:

  1. A new site launched in November 2013
  2. A long standing competitor of my client
  3. A PLC listed on the London stock exchange and a constituent of the FTSE 250 Index

The New Site:

Below you’ll see the links for the new site categorised; (You can do this using tools such as Cognitiveseo, Link Detective amoung others.


As you can see from the above 88.7% of their links come from questionable sources – this is a time bomb waiting to hit them.

Long Standing Competitor

Now looking at the long standing competitor they have an inner page ranking with a small number of links but overall a far higher number of links than the new site.


It’s a similar affair 94% of the links come from questionable sources, they have been clever and advertisement links have not been site wide or are long standing.

The PLC – FTSE250 site

They have a huge number of links and an inner page ranking their link profile look as follows:


You can see a far larger range of link types that the FTSE site has received, including natural links from Citation of their content and research, their overall profile has only 14% of links from questionable sources

However they still have a lot of “Paid Links” – Not in the traditional sense, they have hundreds of links from relationships offline – which they have then either been clever to make sure their sponsorships have turned into links or they have been naturally linked from paying for sponsorship – Still technically a paid link?

Who’s the winner?

Site Referring Domains Links Rank Page
New Site 82 773 2 Domain
Similar Competitor 160 60,000 5 Inner Page
PLC – FTSE 250 1864 116,937 9 Inner Page

The current winner is the “New site” with the use of links such as forum links and other spam techniques, second is the similar competitor with the use advertising / paid links then last the strongest site with the most natural linking profile.

So whitest hat isn’t winning in this scenario, that’s not to say this isn’t the case for many SERPs but I hear reports of frustrated SEOs being outdone by tactics which still haven’t been caught by Google, yet you’ll be surprised what does.

There’s no moral to the story, direct links to money pages are just simply better than all the natural links you can harbour. In this case the FTSE250 website could make some quick wins from how they pass link juice internally.

What are your thoughts?


Written By
Neil Walker started working as an SEO in 2002 and rose to become Group CTO for Swedish Marketing Agency “Online Group” in 2010 he moved to consulting with agencies, in-house teams and PR companies. In 2014 he formalised this work and founded Made Notable Ltd a boutique digital consultancy based...
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