SEO – The Reality is Staggering

WARNING:  Replicating what worked for someone else may still be hazardous to your SEO health

I always say, if you want to know how search engine rankings are really determined, you’ll have to take a look at the URLs that sit at the top of a competitive search phrase.

How do you determine what is a competitive phrase?  Well, check out the ones that try to intercept a customer at the point immediately preceding a sale.  These might not even be the keyword combinations with millions of pages in the results, just a hundred thousand can be competitive.

On this site, hosting coupons drive a significant number of sales, and anything I can do to rank higher for those related searches is going to increase my revenue.  So I spend a lot of time studying the pages that do rank at the top.

Are you ready for the harsh reality?

You need links.  Thousands of them.

It doesn’t seem to really matter if they’re sponsored or spammy, if they’re sitewide footers or in the page’s content. The only thing that really seems to trigger a Google penalty these days is excessive use of social bookmarking for SEO purposes.  How dare you bookmark your own URLs?

So instead of really trying to share your content with actual people in a social & democratic environment, the search results tell me I’d be better off building a network of nonsense blogs on different IP addresses – interlinking them with site-wide links – and spamming as many external links to them as possible.

At the top of a particular hosting coupon search that I estimate to be worth $3,000 – $5,000 per month (based on current conversion rates and estimates of Google traffic based on a #1 SERP position), the top URL has over 8,000 back links.  This is not 8,000 links for the home page, its 8,000 deep links to a pure sales page.

These are the kinds of links deliver this top result:

  • 10 interlinked domains posting gibberish content with site-wide sidebar links to the destination URL
  • 2 sponsored themes with site-wide footer links to the destination URL
  • 1,000+ blog comments using a deep link (many of which would not have passed my own Akismet standards)
  • About a hundred articles “spun” to count as unique content in various article directories
  • About a hundred blogs on third party sites that consist of a single keyword-stuffed title and 4 sentences of related word-salad.

The blog itself adds tons of new content each day.  Except that the content they’re adding is actually scraped from a popular web hosting forum and framed with 2-3 lines of unique word-salad.

Pretty much everything Google tells you not to do actually works

So what is the next step?  Out your competition for failing to adhere to quality guidelines?  If there are a mountain of URLs ahead of you, you’ll never be able to get to the top this way.  Pretty soon, even Google would get sick of your constant complaining.  In the meantime, you’ll have succeeded in devaluing link sources you could have also acquired.

All that’s left, I suppose, is to let the silly concepts of nobility and restraint live and die on sites who don’t get valuable search traffic.  Sure, high quality content can help you get the links you need, but the web is also full of great content that will never see the light of day.

If you want someone to actually see it, you need links. You need a lot of them, and you probably need to stop worrying about whether or not they are “good enough” for search engine standards.

So why is there still spam despite all of the “nofollows” and Akismets?  Its simple:  Google continues to reward you for it. Its where the money is.


  1. It seems like Google has really sped up the time between when a new link is discovered and when that has an effect on search position. But you’re right though, its still almost impossible to connect a specific action to a specific result. What seems clear though, is that you need a ridiculous amount of links – of any quality – to get to the top of a highly competitive phrase. Some phrases are less tolerant of heavy linking though, so this isn’t going to work for everything either.

  2. I wonder if all the people that spent countless hours worrying about all of the different variables just started putting some things on paper and went for it, just how those results might vary.

  3. I don’t really get Google, well I guess I never did. It TRULY and strangely enough appears that they are rewarding the exact CRAP they say not to ever do…spammy stuff that I personally try to avoid just based on what I feel is right. So why all of a sudden are they allowing these types of sites to finagle their way to the tops of the Google pages…not sure. Strange…and not fair.


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