At Pubcon this week Matt Cutts said something pretty interesting about links and it’s a perfect topic for us to sit and think on here. A lot of people are doing different things when it comes to building links, and it is usually dependant on what they know or their industry. One thing’s for sure, a lot of folks are blasting thousands of links with spam tools because it’s TOO easy. One thing’s for sure, the way Google views links needs a shaking up and I’m a big believer that it’s a coming.
Q. Everyone says I need more links. How do links improve the quality of the site? I don’t want to play this game and I don’t want to do this.
A: What matters is bottom line. Links are a part of search – they represent online reputation. Although there are many tools that report links, none of the tools can tell you which links are trusted by Google (not even Google’s tools). While the link structure looks bad from the outside, the actual linkgraph that Google uses/trusts looks much better. When the New York Times complained about a site with 10,000 spammy links, Google investigated the site and not a single link had slipped through Google’s filter. Only the links Google trusts count.
Now a lot of webmasters and marketers are going to scratch their heads at that last thing mentioned by Mr Cutts. I certainly did because the SERPs do not reflect this statement at all and it doesn’t take long or much effort to disprove it either. I don’t know if toxic links + a sound website make a difference, but my first search query gave me the results I needed for this post.
A quick search for “bad credit loan quotes” from my end brought me the first ten results, and the first one’s link profile was just what I suspected. Not only that, but the page ranking has 0 unique content on it and it’s basically just a push into their affiliate program. While my query is looking for a “quote”, I’d still be more comfortable from a big brand or more reputable site.
The entire site has low quality content that’s only made for the search engines and it’s basically a thin affiliate site. I hate to use Alexa but since April the site has done nothing but grow, and with a site that should have been swept up in one of the Panda updates it should have been knocked down. So we of course have to suspect the links are artificially boosting this site for now? Ranking for all sorts of loan keywords is going to take a lot of links because it’s one of the most competitive niches online. As I suspected this is what their profile looks like;
No surprise there eh? The only way a low quality site can rank so well is anchor text abuse and this is Google’s biggest flaw in their algorithm. I should mention that this will most likely not keep them ranking high forever, but it’ll be long enough for them to make some serious bank. In some of the niches we work for clients in, we have seen these types of links holding up for years now so I’m not sure what to expect any more.
So what type of links are driving the great results for this site? Well, as suspected again, they’re a mix of junk directories, site-wide paid links, blog comment and forum profile spam. But I thought we’re supposed to build great content and the links and rankings will follow? For the most part, that’s been nothing but bullhooey and I see low quality links outdoing great sites at every turn.
You’d think Google would be better at filtering out links aimed at gaming their algorithm. The offending sites top links all come from sites with junk like this;
That’s all I really have to say. To see for yourself just do any semi competitive search query and you’ll find the top 10 results riddled with this problem.