“Tell me about your backlinks”

Maybe it’s a good thing that I didn’t go to SES Chicago; I’m trying to fight off a bit of a cold. On the other hand, it sounds like Charles Martin did a great job on the Q&A on links panel. One small tweak in that write-up: Charles doesn’t work for me and would probably laugh loudly at the suggestion. 🙂 He’s in a completely different part of Google’s quality group.

Since I can’t be in Chicago, I’ll talk about the site clinic panel from the last conference I was at. I’ll be touching on a few things from this panel, also covered here. The first thing I noticed was that the only space left up at the speakers’ table was all the way on the end; I got to sit next to Bruce Clay. The next thing I noticed was that although the conference’s free wireless wasn’t working in that room, the $25/day (!!!) wireless was working. I bit the bullet and paid for some wireless time. Just to be a little crazy, I tried to get on the super-duper secret mondo-encrypted Google private network: Success! I guess when you’re paying usurious rates to get wireless, they let you access whatever weird encrypted ports you want. I tilted the screen a little toward me so that no one could see what I’m doing. Bruce noticed all this. He leaned over and whispered: “it’s okay, I won’t peek.” A smile spreads across my face.

So: I’m sitting in a room with a bunch of webmasters who want to throw out urls for me to analyze. I have full access to all my spam detective and debugging tools that I know and love. I’ve got my pimped out Firefox ready to go, and no one can see my screen. It’s like some wonderful, wonderful daydream has come true. 🙂

The main point I want to get across is that in 1-2 minutes, it was easy to tell whether a site was (over)doing reciprocal links or trying to buy links. One site said: “we used to be doing okay last year, but for some reason we’re just not doing as well this year.” And I was able to tell them why: they had no spam penalties, but Google is getting better at handling paid links, and the paid links that might have helped them last year just weren’t doing them any good now.

My favorite overall moment was when a totally legit company (micromatic.com) stood up and asked for advice. Overall, their site was great: good architecture and very crawlable. They had lots of really good backlinks, including industry-specific links. But I could also tell that they’d been buying some backlinks. And they were buying backlinks from the exact same place as one of the earlier sites! At the point when in a minute of typing, I can say: you guys are both trying to buy backlinks, and I can tell that you’re buying them from the same network, and here’s an example page from ketv.com where both of you are even on the same page, and it’s not doing you any good at all: that just made my day. Having a concrete demonstration is so much better than just making a claim, especially when one of the sites says beforehand that they’re not doing as well as they used to be. I told micromatic.com that they had a great site, so they should stop trying to buy backlinks and spend more money to reward their inhouse SEO who had done a great job on the crawlability and architecture of the site.

119 Responses to “Tell me about your backlinks” (Leave a comment)

  1. I was hoping that you would post something more about this. Just when I think I am getting to quench my curiosity you throw out this bit

    I tried to get on the super-duper secret mondo-encrypted Google private network: Success!

    . GRRR!

    After reading the post over at seroundtable I was left a little puzzled as to what exactly you were doing, not clarified, thanks.

  2. HTML works in here? (Let me try)

    Here is a post I made in Google groups back in 2003 when I had just made my first website and was having issues with a 301 redirect which nobody seemed to think was an issue and Godaddy would only offer a 302. LOL…boy was I angry and a bit clueless but was highly motivated to figure out what was going AND to keep on Google and dmoz like a crazed dung beetle! 😀

    It’s funny you post this Matt, I am spending the day studying my backlinks, posts in forums and the rest, to see where I went wrong and right.

    Thank for the heads up on this one…

  3. Sounds great Matt (I just love livebookmarks… makes it easier to find your posts fast).

    When you said (over)doing reciprocal links, does that mean that we can still do reciprocal linking without penalties, or does that mean any at all is a no-no. Also, if it is a no-no, what is a good way to start out a new site? Directories, submitting articles, but what else? Those are only limited and we all know how hard it is to get into DMOZ noadays (although I was able to get a site in not too long ago).

    I would never do paid links and have stayed away from reciprocal links, however, it seems to backfire. Many sites that started out with recips earlier this year/last year are at the top of the SERPS (which may be due to high rankings from that period because of the recips which allow them to stay there because of one-ways generated during that period), so it’s hard for a new site to start up.

    Adwords may be great for some which have e-commerce sites, but what about the new guys who have information sites? What is the best way to go about getting links/better rankings? Links will come with great content sure, but how do the potential one-way-linkers find the site to link to it without being high in the SERPS first?

    (Lots of redundant questions I know…)

    Anyways, I suppose the main thing I am asking for is, are quality recips still counted and mean something? Say if a clean site A were to link to another clean site B which has links only to sites related to it and B did the same to A. Would A benifet from it in Google’s point of view?

    And, what are some other ways than the above stated to gain SERP rankings.


  4. The secret of good interview preparation is also done by studying backlinks, forums and websites.

    You will be inteviewed Mr. Cutts, let me know when you a ready…the above email address forwards to gmail. 😉

    Mr. Pratt

  5. Matt, did you say website owners asked you what they were doing wrong and you critiqued their site?

    …I guess we all have to fly to Vegas to get the same 🙁

  6. You know I just gotta say, since I was tuned into this Blog I’m really impressed. There aren’t too many engine bloggers out there who talk as plainly as you Matt. I’ve been in calls with other Googlers and they all seem to say the same thing, but you don’t. Thanks for that!

  7. omg. I gave the lead to the buyer of that entire networks text ad inventory… thanks Matt. hehe.

  8. Nowdays it is so hard to get in DMOZ, the editors are sleeping there. I find impossible to get good quality backlinks unless you pay them. I mean who would actually give a link spot to a competitor?

  9. Matt, you know you’re making someone cry by pointing that out. Especially outing the poor Omaha TV station. That’s just cruel to ruin someone’s perfectly good business model like that.

    I’m not too worried, though. The link selling crew at TLA is a very smart bunch and I’m sure they’ll have something valuable soon.

  10. Thank you, Matt.

    You have no idea what your post has actually done as far as clarifying what I’ve long suspected: that paid backlinks and low-content reciprocal linking doesn’t do anyone any good.

    But that leads to another question: what happens to sites that participate in “network” or “cluster linking”? They may not necessarily be reciprocal links, but there are usually one or two sites linked at the center and then a series of small, low-content sites linking to them and to other sites in the series.

    They don’t all necessarily have to link to each other, but usually there are groups of 4 or 5 linked to each other, with all of them linked to the “center links” and at least one linked to the next cluster of 4 or 5.

    I’d prefer not to post the sites in question publicly, but if you email me, I’d be more than happy to show you what I’m talking about (it’s also my MSN screen name if you have Messenger and want to add me.)

    Also, what about a forum? I was thinking there are some situations where the blog tends to get lit up with off-topic posts (usually about “why does my site not rank”?) which would be better served in a forum with a few mods who can deal with that kinda stuff so you don’t have to.

    I’d help you set it up, but I’m not really good at installing forum software. I’d help you mod it but…well, I’ll help you mod it. Okay. You talked me into it.

  11. What exactly is considered a paid link? Do paid directory links count as paid links? What about links from sites such as business.com?

  12. If you only seek out links from sites that you believe could send you targeted traffic, whether those links are reciprocal or not, I don’t think you have anything to worry about. They’re not going to shoot you up into the top ten from nowhere, but they’ll help (and they might just send you some traffic).

    I can’t believe a search engine would discount links based solely on the fact that they’re reciprocal, but even if they did, I’d still be working on getting them from the right sites.

  13. As always, thanks for the post Matt,

    It’s awesome that you were able to go in and analyze some sites like that. It would be more awesome (awesomer?) if we all had access to some of the same kinds of information.

    I would think that the error section on the sitemaps page could be added to in order to show the types of penalties that Google is attributing to a site. It would be a natural extension to the information already provided, and that kind of transparency would only help us all make better pages.

    Thanks very much for all of the great info you always give us. You shine a match in the pitchblack room we all feel like we walk through trying to make great sites.

    PS. Hope your cat is doing better

  14. Sorry, Guess, I should have gone back and read the comments through on your earlier post.

    My Condolences on Frank

  15. randfish, I think most people in the audience got the picture loud and clear from listening to the questions I was asking, and I mentioned the site during the session. It seemed like people who couldn’t attend the session should realize that we have some pretty good tools (and algorithms, of course) at Google too.

    BTW, I just read your whitehat/blackhat face-off. Great stuff! Maybe I’ll take a couple minutes and found out more about Michael, sorry Mick, sorry Earl Grey the blackhat spammer you debated with. 🙂

  16. P.S. If anyone wants to tell me about Sam, the link spammer who interviewed with the Register way back when, my ears are open.. 🙂

  17. To make sure we all understand you’re saying, those purchased advertising links are being devalued and not helping the sites in question, they are not having a negative effect on them. To clarify why I’m asking there are number of rumors circulating that you can sabotage your competition if you purchase a large enough quantity of text link advertisements and point them at them.

  18. Matt,
    Do you think Google will allow reciprocal links to be counted in the future?

  19. Michael, that would be hilarious if link networks like the ones Matt called out turned around and became sources with which to punish your foes in the SERPs. Probably more money in that, actually!

    Matt – Glad you enjoyed the debate. I’m personally fascinated by the search spam stuff. Earl, in particular, because he’s got such neat tricks up his sleeve. If you want to read more, pick up next week’s copy of Newsweek 🙂 I think you already talked to the reporter about us.

  20. I don’t know how I missed this one but here’s the link if people want to know what Matt, Rand and Graywolf are talking about.

    Good stuff, I’ll link that!

  21. RE: “If you only seek out links from sites that you believe could send you targeted traffic, whether those links are reciprocal or not, I don’t think you have anything to worry about.”

    Very likely true! Funny how some allow common sense and logic to prevail, while others avoid both and wish hard 🙂

  22. Ah Matt, I’ve got lots of legit links to my site and I can’t even get in the index, much less in Google SERP!

  23. Matt thank you for all the information your blog has helped us all. I would like to ask, how is Google dealing with the issue of linking schemes and spam as it relates to the real estate industry which is a huge money maker?

    I am not a webmaster but a Realtor, I do try to keep up with the latest information on what is being suggested by the search engines as to what is proper. I must say however I do see a lot of linking schemes ie; link farms ( All Real Estate Related ), interlinking several domains owned by the same person, 3 way linking, purchased links, outside forums created for the purpose of creating backlinks and the creation of directories just for the sole purpose of creating sitewide links to those within a link farm group, that seems to have gone unnoticed by Google since all the sites I refer to are ranked in top 3 for their primary search phrases.

    The only thing I can find in common with most of these sites that I believe are violating Googles policies is age. Most of these sites are from 1 to 5 years in age. I have also found these site to be dominate in California, Florida, Texas and Nevada, which are all very busy real estate markets.

    I may not really know what I am talking about but it seems to me that most of these markets have become as bad as the porn industry for spam / BlackHat tactics and linking schemes, but I havent noticed any action being taken against these sites. Is it because of the age of the sites or has Google really not decided yet to take a hard look at the real estate industry?

  24. I bought a link from a site that is supposed to get tons of traffic and guess what? I get more traffic from a link someone linked to a page on my site from wiki.com. I would really like to know if anyone get’s any real traffic from paid links. Looks like another dead end to me.

  25. It is a Dead End, I can tell you that I never did. Before I knew anything about anything on the internet, I had a webmaster who told me if I purchased links it would get me ranked. I did what he said and it cost me 2k per month ( over 40k in backlinks ). It did what he said and after writing a ton of content over 2k pages and paying that amount of money per month, within 6 or 7 weeks I was ranked # 3 on google for my primary search phrase.

    About 3 months after that my site fell like a rock, I sent Google an email to ask why the site had been penalized and was told that purchasing links was against googles policies, I then fired that webmaster and never purchased links again.

  26. This is such a subjective issue. If Google just wanted sites with unsolicited links, then an awful lot of decent, consumer friendly, worthwhile sites would never see the light of day in Google.

  27. It’s funny that google would discount a link from a relevant website if it’s paid or recriprocated. It’s almost like you guys take things to an extreme? Sure. Fine. Great. Target those who are non relevant or spammy, but why target those who are relevant? Well I can tell you why. Because google is greedy and doesn’t want any smaller companies to profit off of online marketing. Next thing you know, those who show MSN or Yahoo paid listings (if they offer this service) will be dropped of the map in google listings and those who show adsense will be listed well. Come on… play, but play fair! Just reading this post shows how it’s a game to these google geeks to delist anyone that tries to help their online business.

  28. Aaron Pratt,

    I did for a while way back in 2002 from a site I can no longer remember the name of (I think it was 1234-webmasters.com or something like that.)

    Cost me $11 USD for the year, but it generated quite a bit of traffic. If I ever need it again, I’ll subscribe.

  29. Good morning Matt

    Those buy/sell backlinks networks should be considered as a kind of spam. As such, you may wish to include in your call for reporting spam, also reporting such networks.

    He re where it could be done:

    I mean those people are trying to manipulate in daylight the PR system and accordingly ranking on Google serps. It isn’t fair at all that a site should rank better than mine just because the owner of that site can afford to pay for example $50/month for 5 of buy/sell backlinks networks.

    You don’t need to go “soft” on such attempts, Inigo 🙂

    Wish you a great weekend.

  30. Harith – is it also not fair that they can afford banner ads that bring traffic? Not fair that they can afford to buy AdWords? Not fair that they can afford ads in newspapers and magazines?

    I think it’s important to think logically about the arguments being made. Just because something is paid for does not mean it carries no editorial weight or intrinsic value. Google recommends buying a link from Yahoo!’s directory – that’s $299. They recommend getting links from “relevant industry directories” – these, too, are frequently only available to those willing to buy membership or listings.

    The arena of paid links is not black and white, and neither is the world of link networks (i.e. the “blogosphere”, webrings, sites like C|Net, DowJones, etc.). Removing the “paid” link data of the web would make for a very different set of SERPs – and one that doesn’t fit well with the ideas of capitalism.

  31. Good day to you randfish

    Its cold where I’m. but I shall try to get my brain’s cells to function though.

    Maybe I should have made my argument moere clear. Blame it on the cold weather 🙂

    I guess the main argument against buy/sell backlink networks is that it shouldn’t be considered as part of ethical online marketing arsenal. Its system manipulation. Banners, AdWords and in general on- and off-line advertising are ethical “marketing tools”. Its fair competition in a fair raise.

    By purchasing backlinks from those buy/sell backlinks networks we are directly participating in an unethical marketing conduct and supporting manipulation of PR.

    Its just like Pharmacological cheating in any sport discipline. Is it fair that you win a raise just because you can afford to buy expensive anabolic steroids?

  32. Hey Matt,

    may i ask u something about duplicate content?
    On my side i sell widgets. Some of them differ only in length and/or color. But they are differnet widgets.Are the different sides recognized as duplicate content because the sides are about 90% same content for 10 widgets.

    If so is it ok to have the meta-tag=robots to noindex ? So that googlebot will not index te side and i don´t trap into the duplicate content filter?

    Thanx in advance

  33. Nice write up Matt,

    Always good to read about this stuff.

    I have a site that fell out of bed on the 7th of December (can’t rank for jack, not even page titles other sites out rank it for its “domain name.com” , no supps, site:command returns lots etc) and appears to be following a pattern that happened back in May.Wrote to the guys and girls at google and was assured there were no penalties. Shortly after my mail It reappeared (during Jagger 1) .

    To compound my stresses, (waaah waah waah – oh misery, misery what’s gonna become of..me-yee) Ive had some hosting issues lately, and was just wondering how much of a factor (if any) a sites uptime had on deciding whether a page is returned or not. Routing issues, local server issues, hardware issues etc can all contribute to a sites performance. I just wondered whether there was a point in time whereby the SE would say, “great page dude, but you are hardly ever there when we call..”

    Im just thinking aloud here and hoping that my recent downtime issues have contributed to my cant-rank-for-diddly problem 🙂

    When you guys gonna release that google hosting platform? 😉

  34. Quote: “The main point I want to get across is that in 1-2 minutes, it was easy to tell whether a site was (over)doing reciprocal links or trying to buy links. One site said: “we used to be doing okay last year, but for some reason we’re just not doing as well this year.” And I was able to tell them why: they had no spam penalties, but Google is getting better at handling paid links, and the paid links that might have helped them last year just weren’t doing them any good now.”

    I like this a lot. You´re basically saying that reciprocal links aren’t bad as long as it isn’t the main source of backlinks.

    One question Matt: How does Google handle link exchanges where 3 sites are involved but only 2 links exist? (so A links to B, B links to C, but C does not link to A) Of course I have to add to this that we´re talking only related links here.

    I started a simple blog myself where I want to discuss white hat link building examples. Mostly focusing on the really interesting examples. If you Matt, could post in there a simple example of great white hat link building? Please do so here: Post Your White Hat Link Building Examples. Others are also very welcome to share examples of very successful white hat link building examples.

  35. Matt,

    Don’t you think that if these sites were removing all the links that are exchanged, on topic, off topic, maybe helping, maybe hurting it would hurt the sites in the end more than it actually helped them. Wouldn’t it attracts a penalty making things worse. Some of the echanged links are actually helping.
    They give here and now some traffic, provided the site is well choosen.

  36. Matt’s a bright guy. I have to believe when he asked “why” it was because it didnt make sense from a marketing perspective. In other words, with PR out of the equation, there would be no real marketing reason to advertise on that particular site.

    Matt mentioned algos. It isnt rocket science to weigh links based on relevance and spam value (like the Stanford paper suggested), paid for or not.

    Matt, the “display of force” was impressive.

  37. Matt,

    I don’t want to sound suspect…I know Google makes every effort not to favor AdSense partners, but I keep finding examples where backlinks from Google AdSense spam sites seem to count for something.

    Take for example the search “cosmetic surgery Denver”. The top three sites for the last few days (www-dot-squiresclinic-dot-com, www-dot-broadwayplasticsurgery-dot-com, and www-dot-serotamd-dot-com) each have more than 100 paid backlinks in common on sites that offer spammy directory listings and Google’s AdSense Ads.

    While thsoe sites are otherwise well optimized and have a few relevant links, it sure looks on the outside like they are getting more than a little credit for bad linking behavior.

  38. Matt, I would appreciate it if you would comment on the following.

    From what we have been hearing from Google, your competitors can’t harm you.

    From your post, the two sites in question, “are not doing as well as they used to be” and one also assumes from the above that this is caused by buying links. While it is probably not true in these instances, their competitors could have purchased these links for them in hopes of hurting them in Google.

    In summary, it appears these sites have been penalized or hurt by purchased links which someone else could have purchased. Is this not contradictory to “your competitors can’t harm you.”

    An answer to this would clear things up for me and probably others too.


  39. Matt,

    If the ref no-follow tag had been used in the ketv link, would that be seen as an attempt to purchase traffic rather than an act of off-page optimization?

    More to the point, would G treat that same BL differently?

  40. >>>Matt Said,
    P.S. If anyone wants to tell me about Sam, the link spammer who interviewed with the Register way back when, my ears are open.

    Matt, Matt, Matt… No one likes a snitch.

    Make you a deal though Matt, you let me spend an hour or three with those ‘spam detective and debugging tools’ of yours and I’ll tell you what I know about ‘Sam the Spam’… 😉

  41. >>Matt, the “display of force” was impressive.

    C’mon let’s get all silly now. No doubt Matt does have some special tools we don’t have access to, but I was able to go back to my hotel room that afternoon do a link command in Yahoo and find those same advertising links in 30 seconds.

    What we really want to know is what’s the criteria that caused them to be devauled.

  42. Hi Matt

    As someone who deleted the entire reciprocal links section and ceased the service of the link builder to get back into google only to loose all the rankings (not excluded) again with Jagger1 we got hammered twice for having a standard recip link campaign? It seems that your manual review cleared the site one week but the automated recip link counter penalised again? Which review process has priority?


  43. Matt I dont’ quite understand Google strategy.
    As far as I know, many sites take a great advantage from reciprocal links. Many of them don’t get penalized.

    I am starting a new e-commerce site now and I would like to increase site traffic. I would like to do this without “cheating”. I’ll get my site indexed in DMOZ and so on. I’ll do my best with the site code. But what else? I can make a partner program for webmasters who will take an advantage in having link to my site in their site. But how can I be sure that their sites are not on the Google “black list”? What if my site get penalized because they put link to my site on their “low quality” site?

    Isn’t that a closed circle?

    PS. Can you tell me what programs should I have to check is my site good crawlable?

  44. graywolf, I think Tim Mayer thought the same thing. I think he thought that I was using Yahoo’s Site Explorer (which is a fine tool, but wasn’t what I was using).

    Gotta take the other cat to the vet.. be back later..

  45. Hi Matt

    “Gotta take the other cat to the vet.. be back later..”

    That must me Frank’s sister. Hope everything is well with her and keep you and your busy X-Mas eve 🙂

  46. Yup. She’s healthy, according to the vet. Even gained a pound!

  47. ..all your backlinks are belong to us..

  48. OK…so did all those high powered spam fighting tools help you find the million and two scraper sites flying AdSense?

    sorry…had to ask 😉

  49. It seems that almost all the spam I come across these days when searching are AdSense scraper sites.

    Why doesn’t google be a little more selective on who they let run AdSense?… I personally will only use AdWords because I don’t trust the majority of the sites that I see AdSense on, nor do I want to be associated with them, and don’t really believe that those type of sites can actually bring good traffic.Which is to bad, becuase I also know there are alot of quality sites that run AdSense, but I think the number of spam scraper sites is far greater.

    Is google working on this?

  50. Having thought about this further, and talked this over with a client of mine, I thought that perhaps the idea Matt had at the conference of using a concrete example of the devaluation of reciprocal and paid links could be taken a step further.

    This particular client is the only one that I had that was negatively impacted by Jagger, so as a case study both the client and others can learn from, I’m going to post their links page here.


    Although this site uses no paid backlinks, it does use quite a few reciprocal links.

    Would the devaluation of a trackable paid backlink be the same as that of a reciprocal link?

  51. Graywolf, regardless, of how easy or hard it was for Matt to prove a point, it was entertaining to watch him scare the bejeebers out of a ton of webmasters. I am amazed at the requests Im now getting to remove links “because Google no longer likes reciprocal links” and they cite Barry’s blog (jeez, talk about viral marketing). Of course I respond that I will remove their link ASAP, but they would be smart to leave mine because linking to an authoruty will help them. Several actually thanked me.

    So I’ll stand by my “show of force” comment because he did have an impact on webmaster behavior.

  52. Matt,

    Does it matter how relevant will be the sites, which are linking to you, or just the way of getting the links (paid, unpaid, reciprocals…) matters?

  53. Hiya Matt,

    Dont suppose you’d like to let us know if the data on the testing servers will ever see the light of day fully. I have read many reports of the data being seen on the default google.com over the last few days.

    I must admit that to me the the results look better (speaking both from a selfish view point – i.e. many of my pages are reindexed – and also that a lot of quality sites that have disappeared over the last few months are also there).

    I also remember that sometime ago google guy said on wmw that the supp index would be crawled in the summer … to my knowledge this never happened.

    We have done everything to try and get the pages back into the index. The new data center reflects this.

    I dont think the data will be released tho



  54. Hey Matt,

    What’s in it for the spammer that outs Sam (of Register infamy) cos I could well be tempted?

    One thing though, as you once told me – TINSFAAFL ! 🙂

  55. Hi Matt,
    you talk about having a ‘pimped out’ browser. What plug ins do you use for the browser? We all use mozilla here, as we all love the plug ins, to try and find out as much information about sites before linking our articles to them or even taking on clients these days! We have found the developers toolbar useful esp. for locating problems with header responses and groowe saves us loads of time for multi search engine queries with netcraft to help determine geographical site location. Are there any others that we should be using to get as much background info on sites to help us make decisions upon site quality?

    Cheers for the blog and the info


  56. Michael, see http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/my-firefox-extensions/ for most of the extensions that I use. I’ve added a few (e.g. Chromedit) since then..

    Jason, you could blog about it. 😉

    Broker Boy, I do expect that data center to eventually go live, but it will take a few months, in all likelihood. That data center ( recently moved into regular rotation recently, and I wouldn’t be surprised if one more data center joined it in the next week or so. After that, I’d expect those two data centers to stay in the rotation (but not spread) until after the holidays. Not sure about that, but that’s my best guess.

    wholland, I know that several people are paying more attention to this at the plex. If you want to report a spammy site with AdSense on it, you can click on that site’s “Ads by Google” link and put “spamreport” in the comments field.

  57. Matt, Jeez … gave me a heart attack of sorts. I’m used to scrolling to the bottom of page 1 and then clicking over to page 2 to see where I rank for one of my favorite terms. Not to be found… I cursed out for a good minute, until I went back and looked at the first result.

    And I’d promised myself a few months ago that I was not going to engage in any DC spotting.

  58. Matt, How about having a drawing each month or quarter and the winner would get a critique on their web site, for those who come and participate in your blog?
    🙂 Just an idea since we were not at Vegas. 🙂

  59. Sometimes other websites will only link to you, if you do a reciprocal. Priorites in getting/placing links have to be considered. Firstly, if another website is going to be of interest your customers, why on earth not place a link, thus providing added content for your customers, even if it means having to reciprocate. Secondly, if the link helps on search engine rankings, that is a secondary effect.

    As for buying links, it isn’t of great financial benefit, generally, but if you want to be placed in a high profile directory, for example, to get traffic to the website, then even though the link value may be ignored by search engines, it could provide valuable traffic to a site.

    Getting links solely for search engine ratings is what is frowned upon, and correctly so, as it is an attempt to place a website higher up the rankings than it perhaps merits.

    However, a word of caution, as search engines themselves are not entirely blameless in this aspect, as they suggest that obtaining relevant high PR links to a site, can help. What needs to be made clearer is that these links should be both relevant to your content, and obtained by natural means [i.e the site links to you by choice, with no incentive offered to them].

    Many website owners are relatively new to the business, and perhaps at times naive about how to get their site ranked. Is this an excuse for bad practice on their website, or should they learn the right steps to take, prior to developing the site?

  60. Hi Matt

    I work for one of the UK’s largest hosting brands. Last year our site vanished from the free listings (we spend over $1,500,000 on adwords) and we have been unable to find out the reason.

    We have completely redesigned the site since this and have checked for anything that could be deemed spam. We dont take part in any suspect promotional tactics at all.

    We have tried contacting Google but never got a reply and we dont know what else to try. Is there anywhere that we can go to get an answer or perhaps some tools that can suggest what the problem is.

    I didnt post the URL because I dont suppose you want to personally act as an agony aunt for the whole world but perhaps some general tips would be useful for the many avid readers of your blog like me.

    Please please please etc etc 🙂

  61. Hi Matt,

    Does this mean if someone buys advertising space (full description and link to their site) on a home page, sub-page (regardless of position, header,footer,left,right, etc) – that they link has no meaning to Google SE results?

    Or are we talking about something I am not familiar with, since you seemed to mention some specific company that sells links (love to know who!).

  62. Is the test DC an algorithm-only test DC? Because I’m seeing some stale results in it.

  63. Adam Senour, I am seeing stale results too.

    One of my pages cache was dated October 24, 2005.

    I also saw these results last night on google.com, this morning they were gone.

  64. Hi Matt

    Is google algos give importance to backlinks? What is ethical way to do get links from your opinion.

    Your lovingly

  65. Hy Matt,

    Maybe you could check my backlinks, I have a nice PR on my website and a lots of BLs:


  66. So basically I need to go buy some backlinks for my competitors – I thought we weren’t suppose to be able to impact the competition this way? Please explain!

  67. RE: So basically I need to go buy some backlinks for my competitors – I thought we weren’t suppose to be able to impact the competition this way? Please explain!

    I doubt you can do that! Paid links are simply a waste of money when/if you are expecting a rankl boost.

  68. I think Google is making a big mistake by making PageRank data public.

    An average internet user has no benefit or interest in the PR of a page .

    Most SEO forums today are full of offers to buy and sell links based on PR.

    If PR of different pages werent known all link trading based on PR would stop and webmaster would look for more relevant pages for link building.

  69. Matt,

    came here from Site Reference. you talked about being able to detect paid links. Obviously you’re using a piece of software. Is this software now built into the Googlebot?

  70. We tried buying links for one client and gave it three months. We saw no increase in traffic from higher rankings and only a small increase in visitors who actually clicked on the link itself. We removed the links and within a month they began ranking for terms that had been non-existant. I can back this whole-heartedly, buying links does not work.

  71. Hi Matt,
    Scary but most helpful.

  72. We’ve tried buying links but have yet to see any advantage. What are the alternatives??

  73. Hmm… I think I’ve found Matt’s super-duper secret analysis toolbox — and I can see why he’s keeping it a secret:



  74. Lovely stuff! I don’t really know nor do any SEO at all. However, I do buy text link advertising with prominent placement on targeted sites to drive traffic to my sites. Its hilarious how the SEO/PR fanatics don’t understand when I tell them I’m not interested in their PR5/6/7 links due to poor link placement (footer link farms).

    I hope the big G agrees with me when I say that the real secret to success is still creating quality content/services that appeal to people. No amount of SEO tactics can beat that! Atleast, I hope! 🙂

  75. Hi Matt,

    Google have an issue about buying back links but what about all the corruption and problems at DMOZ with multi listing and back links being given by corrupt editors? Lets face it a link in dmoz and its thousands of duplicate clone directory sites can do a lot more damage to the Google natural search positions than sites buying a handfull of paid for back links.

    See thread on the subject at webmaster world and a DMOZ editors own post on the subject:-

    Message 106 from poster Railman

    Can google risk continuing to be associated with a company that has even a slight change of being involved in corrupt activities in order to favour sites the editors are connected with.

    Interested in your thoughts on this

  76. As far as I can see, this whole search engine thing has become a scam. Google (and to a lesser extent Yahoo) now has way too much power. If a website isn’t listed on Google, it might as well not exist. Google has a monopoly on the web that would not be allowed in any other business sector.
    Online businesses rely on traffic to their website. Without traffic, they are out of business. So how do they get traffic? Well, in the past they could get traffic by reciprocal-linking, FFAs, banner exchanges, or, as a last resort, purchasing links on high-ranking websites. Not any more. The search engines have systematically outlawed these methods and narrowed webmasters’ options down to the point where the only way to get traffic is to pay for listings or sponsored links on Google and Yahoo. And while the SE’s are making obscene profits from companies that have no choice but to pay for listings, small to medium-sized websites are being forced out of existence because they don’t have the financial wherewithal to compete with the big boys who are gradually taking over the web.
    Google “penalizes” companies who pay for links; but it sure doesn’t penalize them for buying links on Google!

  77. I found that buying links can be helpful however, we have always had great success with using gateway pages, now some may disagree with this but we have never had a problem and you wont have if they are done right, and follow certain rules, in most cases we can increase traffic to a site and get a non Page Ranked web page ranked at least a Pr 3 within 60 days.
    i have been doing this since 1996 and goggle along with the others have changed and continue to make changes, the biggest thing i would say to new people to this is read and study what you want to know take what others may say with a grain of salt and figure it out over time yourself.
    One thing and this may not be true for all a lot of these search engines say one thing however either don’t follow through with what they are saying or say it hoping you will believe it.

  78. If indeed the benefits of reciprocal links has been lowered or taken away entirely then I think this is a mistake and penalizes the sites that put in the hard work and effort for what they believe helps their site. The easy way to get links is to buy them but I have never even considered it and 99% of the “mom & pop” sites haven’t either.
    If site A links to site B and back again why in the world would this be considered as negative or a bad thing? We can’t count on traffic from Google, MSN, or Yahoo but we can count on a few hits a week or month from a decent link trade between like sites.This is the nature of the web and for Google to take away the benefits of links pointing to ones site, what they said was a good thing for so long is just plain wrong.
    99% of site owners are novices and don’t write articles, do marketing or email campaigns but they can trade a link with a like subject site. They think this helps and now I am hearing this is worthless??
    Do you realize how much time goes into doing a one at a time link trade?
    Sites should be REWARDED for this because the large majority of folks that spend the time and effort to trade these links aren’t looking for the shortcut or looking to cut corners and cheat – they are getting web traffic the old fashioned way – They are working hard for it! Can I say that again? They are working hard for it and for Google to just discount that because it somehow makes for less relevant results is an awful example of the big corporation imposing its will without carefully considering who their actions hurt the most. If anything this would make for more relevant results- not less.

    You show us spam examples and how the SEO plants their link on a doorway page on a mom and pop site on another blog page here but what is Google doing to the mom and pop sites that trade links thinking it will help their site as they have been told. Who hurts the “mom and pop” sites the most? One shady SEO who works on 40 or 50 sites or Google who affects a million Moms and Pops.
    So what if a couple arts and crafts sites trade links, so what if a couple insurance sites trade links – they should be rewarded not penalized.
    I for one will trade links until the cows come home, I want the 2 or 3 hits per month per link, I want to trade links with 2000 sites in my niche and will continue to honestly work towards that goal because if there is one thing Google has proven over the past couple years is that they or at least their search algorithm is skizophrenic and can not be counted on for consistent traffic, especially after the jagger fiasco.
    Have a nice day and Merry Christmas to everybody!

  79. Whoww!!!
    A great thank’s to Katja and Joe to tell the truth about Big Google Brother.
    All others guys on this thread are so much afraid that Big G will treat them that they don’t dare to tell what they think. It’s a shame!
    I am relatively new to all this, but I just spent the last four months to build a good content site on a small niche, a good one with a good design, thirty well documented pages, well writen, I have one hundred related reciprocal links on a well structured directory, and I am nowhere in the Google SERP. Yahoo and MSN ranked me and send me a few traffic and Google nothing.
    I studied all this stuff and choose not to be a spammer. I choose to be a White Hat, because it’s my way of life anyway, but I see that Google isn’t fair. They hold the rules and don’t want us to know.
    What are they saying?: we will see all actions that you will take to gain any position in the SERP and we will penalize you!
    But what am I doing wrong?
    It’s an evidence that the sites in the first page have thousand reciprocal back links. They have good content too, it’s OK. They have too a bunch of non reciprocal links because they have years of existence. So what? new sites can’t compete? It’s not fair.
    I have no job, no much money and I can’t buy links, I can’t engage in significant Adword campaign, so am I dead broke in the water?
    Google says: build a good site, I built.
    But if they decide that it’s isn’t good for them, they will penalize me.
    And they won’t tell me what it is wrong. It’s an abuse of dominant position.
    Everybody knows that to obtain hundred of non sollicited backlinks will take years and I haven’t this kind of time.
    Everybody knows that spammers clubs made a bunch of money today, and reading all that made me thinking that they are right.
    If Google is the enemy of small marketers, then we must leave in war.

  80. Seems to me that Google has been jumping from one extreme to the next lately. I believe that the “no-follow” will actually lower the overall quality of the search results.

  81. Well, I doubt too many read this entire thread, but for those who do I suggest stepping back and viewing the “big picture”. You are in business, and thus COMPETING. Once you acknoweldge that, thereis no “black” or “white” or “scam” or “cheating”. There is simply RISK and REWARD. God businesses practice RISK MANAGEMENT. That risk may be as small as getting highlighted by Matt Cutts at a search conference, or as big as getting a permanent ban at Google.

    Once you step into “SEO world” you had better start estimating risk and reward, so you can make decisions. It is really not that hard… if your SEO can’t help you in a way that makes you comfortable authorizing SEO tactics, (including so-called black hat tactics) get another SEO.

    I repeat… success is not about technology or tools or backlinks or black-hat-tactics. Success is about risk management. If there is one thing that Matt Cutts is doing above all other helpful things, he is adding (slowly 🙂 to the list of factors we can use for risk management, which helps us help our clients succeed.

    IMHO there is much non-truth expressed in this long thread, including suggestions that Google is the only productive SE, and that Matt/Google has proprietary tools that threaten SEO tactics. Why waste time on all that? Focus on the success metrics and manage the risks… if you want to succeed.

  82. november we had our best month ever! december we were dropped flat by google.. after speaking to someone they said we were link/google bombed! now we have no page rank (it was never above a 4 but at least we were ranked) and are not coming up in any of the google searches. we have never paid for links, we did searches for similar sites to link to & didn’t have a ton of them! suddenly we have 14,000 links! now down to 4,000 but most are things we’ve never heard about. this is our livlihood, not coming up in google can pretty much put us out of business so the question is… how do you convey to google (and get them to listen) when someone link bombs your site? how do we get reinstated? we were coming up on the first of second page for all of our major/base products until googles last spider. we need help and we need it fast!
    it’s a bit frustrating to be dropped, to send multiple emails and never get an answer as to what we may have done wrong. the link bombing is the only answer we’ve gotten from anyone (not from google).
    any help would be greatly appreciated.

  83. i also notice that many of our “new” links are from sites that are putting up the sponsored ads from google. we have no control over those. are you penalized for those as well?

  84. I want to create a web site and article directory for the health and fitness industry, but am not sure how to separate myself from all of the link farm directories out there. One idea I had was to just S-P-E-L-L it out for everyone by including the warning text that you see on the top of this page:


    Other than that, and paying close attention to the sites I list, I do not know what else to do. Right now the site isn’t pretty, but it is functional and will look better over time.

    Do you have any advice? Also, what should I do about possible duplicate content on the article directory – http://www.first-page-fitness.com ? I want to have a good resource of content of my visitors, but it might turn out to be too time-consuming to actually check to see if the content is already published somewhere. Besides that, even if it IS published elsewhere that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good resource for my visitors. How do I provide as much meaningful content as possible without being penalized for having content that has been published on a bunch of other article directories?

    My ultimate goal is to provide a large library of health and fitness-related web sites and articles. Despite these good intentions, I have to worry about things like this. What can I do?

  85. I agree that a site that can not afford $100 links should not be penalized. But those who can should not be penalized either. Purchasing text link advertising has proved time and time again to produce more visitors to my site than standard banner advertising. So because I am smart enough to buy valuable text links, google looks at me as a spammer? I’m not a spammer, I am a smart business man that knows text links produce great targetted traffic. (I am not talking about footer links)

    Also a yahoo directory listing is $300 per year, do we get panalized for paying for that link?

  86. I would never paid for backlinks. Those are not quality backlinks for sure.

  87. I think its just to avoid the site to share same IP address or CBlock of IP address otherwise the link to the document can be devalued. Global link popularity is more important from different good source to obtain high ranking.

  88. Matt you never answered graywolf’s question on this. If you are able to determine that a link has been paid for as versus earned and if that site loses rank because of this, then, to his point, what is to stop someone for going on a link buying campaign to delist their competition?

  89. Matt ,..Link Buying is very much expensive but very fast rather than building & searching the good sites. It’s to close the PRanking competition in a search engine. The clock is running , to provide more backlinks to increase and to compete in the industry. Globalization links can cause popularity and solutions.

  90. I never buy non adserved links purely for PR/SEO value. If I was to do so I’d point them to a site other than my main revenue producer to be sure I wasn’t penalized. I’d link from the sites where I pointed the links inorder to pass PR from them to the site I’m really focused on.

    When evaluating paid link performance I use the following formula:

    (average revenue per click – average cost per click) / average revenue per click = gross margin

    if gross margin > minimum ROI then buy more volume
    if gross margin

  91. Paying for backlinks is good…when the time comes. First building good backlinks with articles, directories and posting is best at first…and more natural. Once you are well established, paying for links is more affordable, more natural to the search engines and more than likely not going to get you into trouble

  92. Right,Matthew paying for High PR backlink is good . . More traffic and more revenue ..

  93. I just found your blog and I am soooooo excited to read through all of your posts. Thank you for taking the time to educate those of us who quest for knowledge.

    I’m just a simple girl in a country town trying to make a living raising two kids and of course, two cats and two dogs and three fish. 🙂

    I have been trying to get my site ranked (ecommerce site) – I have no ranking on any keywords on Google. I am doing AdWords (Optimizer and Standard Edition) and I have Google Analytics (urchintracker) and I have built a site map on my site (which I’ve submitted to Google but it came back with an error code) and I have submitted my URL 2x’s in the last 6 months to Google.

    Also, I tried to read and reread and understand how to download the template for building a site map from Google Webmaster Tools- is there an easier way because I really didn’t understand what you guys wanted me to do.

    My report from Microsoft BCentral tells me that my site does not exist on Google.

    I read a post earlier from someone about all the mom and pop sites out there – a lot of us are just trying to make a living – the honest way. We want to do everything correctly and ethically.

    What on earth am I doing wrong? I have been reading everything I put my hands on. I know that you don’t have time to answer me, but a general post on the above reference would make me smile – it would make a lot of people smile.

    I have one keyword ranking in Yahoo and MSN, but not any of the others. The site was submitted in October 2006. Domain purchased in June 2006.

  94. I think that it should be fine buying PR backlinks but they should also been seen as lower ranking than a natural link, whether that is created by yourself like this one is or whether others create one for you. In the first instance I am physically spending time (not money) on creating backlinks, and beicoming more enlightened in the process and in the second instance you gain even more respect by others choosing to create a link to you. You got to forget the money side of your projects and work on the user experience -that is how Google want it and I believe this is the way! – get busy….

  95. thanks matt for such great comments. its good that you have a blog. we rely so much on you. i have seen and heard you speak. u are always great.

  96. Buying links are better than google adsense, because there is no guarantee of increasing Google PR also it could be fraud click too.

  97. Yvonne Garcia

    You know I have always tried to play fair and follow the rules in my SEO work. Recently I have a new client and their competitors are spamming like crazy. I did report them twice just out of general principle and not because they are competitors. I happened to have found them because of anaylzing my client’s competitors. These guys have probably 100’s of sites with almost the same content…why are they still up and getting high rankings? I could report them again through my google account–wish I had known to do that before. But I am not sure.

    I also have some concern about what types of backlinks the former SEO did for the client. They found out he was a bit blackhat ergo he ain’t no longer their SEO.

    If there is a group of people that belong to a club and these folks have blogs where we are invited to post what we like and we can backlink to our sites, is this ok? If part of the membership is training so we pay for membership, how would you view the links from those blogs? Some of the blogs are owned by the members themselves.

    I have posted on some of these before I read your blog, and I want to keep it clean. Please advise me.


  98. Microsoft BCentral tells me that my site does not exist on Google.
    Google makes every effort not to favor AdSense partners

  99. I think that buying back links really doesn’t work – in fact, every time I’ve seen a company do it (or heard about it) it seems to do more damage than good. Rather, as you say, get a guy in with good SEO abilities (or pay the one you’ve got well if he’s doing a good job.) Lastly, get some sort of a blog going so you can register on bookmark sites. But buying backlinks only makes those you’re buying from richer (and they always seem to be a strange bunch…)

  100. Matt, I think it’s great that you communicate so much with webmasters. I am concerned about a site regarding what a previous SEO person might have done. I also don’t want to upset google. I think that webmasters that give google a hardtime could just spend that energy in doing things the way you ask. Not that I agree,but it is your search engine. Back to my point, how can I be can I find out if the previous SEO didn’t do something really stupid? Besides spending weeks analyzing everything? I know you don’t take on a per case situation, but is there someone for hire that does?

    Thanks for your time and response!

  101. backlink :S

  102. The irony of Rugs’ comment in this thread just cracks me up.

    “I think that buying back links really doesn’t work – in fact, every time I’ve seen a company do it (or heard about it) it seems to do more damage than good. Rather, as you say, get a guy in with good SEO abilities (or pay the one you’ve got well if he’s doing a good job.) Lastly, get some sort of a blog going so you can register on bookmark sites. But buying backlinks only makes those you’re buying from richer (and they always seem to be a strange bunch)”

  103. You don’t need paid links according to the ‘online shopping’ serp in Google.com.au. All you need to do is comment spam by hand and register small votes it seems like. I noticed one site buying links too and another guy that just comments in popular threads on authourity domains. Cool serps dude 😛

  104. I personally don’t think buying links will work at all. Finding a related links for our site and buying the link will automatically do us more damage than good results. It’s interesting to read this whole story, really it is. Thank you for a clear explanation of all these things.

  105. I agree – backlinks can have problems expecially if Google does treat them as paid manipulate.


  106. You know I have always tried to play fair and follow the rules in my SEO work. Recently I have a new client and their competitors are spamming like crazy. I did report them twice just out of general principle and not because they are competitors. I happened to have found them because of anaylzing my client’s competitors. These guys have probably 100’s of sites with almost the same content…why are they still up and getting high rankings? I could report them again through my google account–wish I had known to do that before. But I am not sure.

  107. I was actually very much intrigued with your spam detectives. We have been experiencing a lot of spam and have been troubled with frauds coming from China and India. I was tasked to police our campaigns but it seems that unlike you I don’t have access to the world’s greatest spam detectors.

  108. @ pot artist,I agree with that as well..I had to champion a team of link analyst to detect spam but never got around to it.

  109. I absolutely hate to see some of the Gorillas in Google be at the top of the search engines. Who monitors their paid links. What can you do when that webmaster is doing everything he can to try and sabotage your sites through erronious emails to Google and yet his site keeps climbing?

  110. Hey is it true that the site which gives out back link options and which is high on PR, eventually Google would disregard it? is it worth going for backlink from such site?

  111. Could someone please help end this ongoing debate I have going with people on one of my membership sites….?

    Some say you are wasting your time trying to get backlinks by submitting articles to directories because the backlinks are all surrounded by the exact same content though the content (your article) resides on many possible different sites.

    Should content surrounding the backlink be always unique..?
    Are these links weighed differently or is a link simply a link…?

    thanks for helping me sleep again! =)


  112. Don’t really engage in paid backlinking although of course technicaly I’m doing so right now. I work for my boss…he pays by the hour. He’s paying for the link from this comment to the voodoo site. He’s paying without knowing wheter itsd good…or bad… So am I in fact!!

    The question is? why do google have an issue with money changing hands for a link but they have no issue with me sitting here for 2 hours and delibrately forming links from assorted sites?

    Is it the link method? or is it the money? I don’t get it.

    If google enforeced the webmaster guidelines verbatim then even google wouldn’t be listed in Google!

    So lets say my site has 100 PR 6 pages. How come I’m not punished if I agressively SELL links for money…on my commercial site, After all what is the point in NOT making money. Google do this very well why can’t I without feeling their wrath?. It seems only the buyers here that face the music. Many links are sold by proactive sales folk who ring or mail periodically.

    Lastly what about offering other incentives to link. Does Google have a distinction between someone linking to me because they think my site is valuable from an aesthetic point of view, copy pointt of view or commercial standpoint. What if it a mixture of these…. I just can’t see where the paid links objection stands up.

    The obvious one is ‘Do what we say or we will damage your business’ which is basically what the search engines say to backlink happy SEO’s.
    ‘Do No Evil’ my foot!

  113. I found the tools available online for backlinks to be valuable information we can all use. More and more webmasters are discovering that rather than use fly-by-the-night techniques, simple backing helps link popularity and ultimate can improve traffic and revenue. Kudos on the post.

  114. One thing I’ve noticed about article directories is when I submit an article, I ALWAYS change at some of the content. I usually alter headlines as well to avoid any duplication penalty. It’s a bit of a pain but I can see my two or more of my “same” article with the same keywords. I little extra effort can yield worthwhile results.

  115. Are you still using firefox or you’ve switched over to Chrome? 🙂

  116. Doing a few different things with my backlinks. Doing some manualy and im paying for some its a long process and i hope its all worth it at the end of the day.

  117. Why does google collect money from peple who sell backlinks and then punish the people who buy them.

    “That’s like a drug dealer getting a permit to sell drugs on time square and then arresting the people who buys it” Just saying

    Google makes a lot of ad money from people selling links

    Do you penalize the people selling the ads- nope you seem to incourage it.
    if you really wanted to stop it just GOOGLE banklinks and remove everybody

    Google is like the gov. they tell you not to speed and wear your seat belt- But if everybody followed the law – and no tickets were every wrote the police force and city offices would go belly up.

    I’m just saying

  118. This is eye opening. Thanks

  119. Matt

    Interesting on your views of purchasing backlinks. I’ve been viewing and comparing link building sites over the last month — there are several out there. However, I’m not certain of the “real value” and/or longevity of purchasing backlinks. So I’ve simply decided to take the time and build them on my own rather than pay someone for backlinks that seem to drop off quickly.