So I’ve been slowly picking away at a spot on Google’s top ten searches for a few profitable keywords. This time last year I was between #9 and 11 – until recently I had gotten my site up to #5 for the target search phrase.
All of a sudden though, I’m down at number six and some site I’ve never seen or heard of before has jumped solidly in to the second spot for a whole bunch of related searches.
Checking out Yahoo’s Site Explorer, it looks like these newcomer has some 119,000 backlinks already from other domains, but how? What can we learn from this and can it safely be replicated?
Unfortunately, the first clue is a few dozen obviously sponsored links. This isn’t much of a surprise yet because I already noticed the exact same thing with the site that has been sitting at the #1 spot for the last while.
Yet even as the sponsored links were keyword specific and posted on high pagerank blogs, it didn’t seem like that alone would be enough to explain their suddenly incredible ranking and the 100,000+ backlinks they had amassed in total. I’d have to dig a little deeper…
After a few pages of the sponsored links, I started having a harder time spotting the competitors back links. Eventually, by looking in the source, I was able to find them in the very last line of code before the /body:
Now you might think that a sudden proliferation of site-wide footer links might trigger some kind of flags at Google, but since these are distributed across various IP addresses and geographical regions, it is being interpreted as completely legit.
On a lot of sites, this out of the way location is being covered up by social media footers like Facebook & Twitter toolbars. By every definition, they are “hidden links” that the website’s owners and visitors probably never noticed. Either it got snuck in to the thesis themes he’s distributing or it is being inserted by a plugin that seems to also point back to his domain with even more “user-invisible” links.
So what have I learned this week? Build a website with five sales pages and nothing else. Buy links. Steal someone’s template and give yourself hidden footer links as credit. Unfortunately, I don’t think most of this advice is really solid for the long term success of a website, so I’ll be back to the research and the old grind of unique content again…