Only The Links Google Trusts Count x Matt Cutts

November 13  |  Link Building  |   Ryan Clark

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.

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About Ryan Clark

I'm the CEO of Linkbuildr Marketing and the brains behind our branding and blog content. I specialize in effective marketing strategies for hotels, luxury brands and real estate. If your brand is in need of a boost then don't hesitate to contact me for a free proposal. Follow me on Google+: +Ryan Clark Twitter: @Linkbuildr on Twitter. You can also come ask me a question on our Facebook Page.  

13 Responses to Only The Links Google Trusts Count x Matt Cutts

  1. Not the first slant against anchor text I’ve heard lately – I’d be willing to bet that it’s one of the next big metrics to be addressed – sooner than direct match domains even.  The only trouble is that there’s a lot of legitimate companies that have been pursing it, and it’s been so strong for so long, that it’s almost too late in the game to punish anything except the most egregious cases. I’d sooner expect a few more big name crackdowns than I would expect a big algorithmic correction – set expectations rather than punish those who just dipped their toes in the water.

  2. Climax Media says:

    lol. Love how you anchored “too easy” to the Warrior classified ads section… tastefully done :)

    Maybe Google will one day set a max percentage that any single anchor text can hit, for example if 45 percent of links pointing to website “a” use anchor text “a” then the site is fine. Anything more than that and the site will be penalized and flagged as a link spammer for not diversifying their anchor text enough..

    Really just shooting off my mouth. Who knows where G is going next… Some great points made though.

  3. Gloyns says:

    Hi Ryan, I just moved in-house to a home loans comparison site in Australia and the industry is indeed riddled with anchor text abuse – our site included.

    I’m in the process of cleaning this up and it is sad to see some rankings falling, but it will definitely stand us in good stead going forward with more branded links. I’m going for a mixture of brand + keyword to minimise disruption where I am able to control the anchors though existing relationships/widgets etc.

    Climax Media – I think Google hit sites last year with too high % anchor text.

  4. Gloyns says:

    sorry Ryan, I should clarify that sentence. I’m going for ‘brand + keyword’ as the anchor text, E.g. ‘company x home loans’ or ‘compare home loans at company x’

  5. Linkbuildr says:

    Thanks for the comments and you’re on the right track. I always like to have my top 5 anchor text site/brand and the other few whatever weird random stuff. If you have a really natural looking profile then it’s time to play around with a mix of targeted anchor text. You can get away with a lot more when you have a more natural look and feel. I imagine your company has the budget to work this angle and they’ll stick around for the long run going this route! It’s hard for some of the small guys to do this since they need to make a quick buck and get those targeted links too quickly.

  6. HI Ryan, great post and I’d love to dissect this in Link Research Tools – have you actually run a BLP on this one? will do so now. Have you checked canonicals?

    Best, christoph

  7. Corey Eulas says:

    I would say this is more addressing the concern of people who are nervous of competitors building 10,000 spammy links to their site.

    This really doesn’t address the fact that kwd rich anchor text links still work.

  8. Linkbuildr says:

    Perhaps we should do another few examples in a new post with your tools Chris.

  9. Steve Palmer says:

    There’s a site in one of my niches that just got dropped into oblivion after it was ranking front page with 1000+ super spam links, it only lasted a month or 2… but, it made sick to my stomach that it ranked at all considering every site in the top 10 is 5-10 years old. I’m seeing lots of movement in the past couple weeks though, sites popping in and out.

  10. We are the puppets in Google’s hand. What I do is listen to my guts and to things ethically and that helped. Google was allowing all these link and anchor abuse for so long.

  11. Silom says:

    Its pretty frustrating as a small website owner .. Alot of misinformation, unrban myths , an wasted seo dollars for sure.

  12. Abc123 says:

    The only problem with that is if a company’s anchor text is their own name, will there be an algo to recognize a brand name? If not, a site, won’t even rank for it’s own name. (I say this because most Link Profiles I see are the opposite of this case study. A lot of branded, company name, anchor texts ,and less than 5% for the keyword they are trying to rank for. They will never rank well with that % for their anchors.)

    My point is, unfortunately, do what works now, with enough safe guards (good long-term link-building, on-page) for the future when changes will be made. Because honestly, it seems silly to me if you know how to rank a site and get the rankings sustained to not do that.

  13. We are the puppets in Google’s hand. What I do is listen to my guts and to things ethically and that helped.

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