It usually takes about five minutes between the
time Matt Cutts or somebody from Google says
something, and the time a blog post pops up
somewhere on the web saying that a particular SEO
tactic is “dead.”
In this section of the post, I’m not interested in
what is risky or against Google’s terms of service:
I’m interested in tactics that are dead as a
By this I mean that in all but a few extreme and
short-lived cases, the tactic just doesn’t work in
any meaningful way.
This one is completely dead, folks.
For those too young to the industry to remember, article
spinning was the process of automatically generating
“rewritten” versions of an article and submitting them to as
many low quality article directories as possible.
It actually worked surprisingly well before Panda, and even
for a while after that when done “correctly.”
But as far as I can tell, this one just doesn’t work at all
After doing a Google image search for “article spinning” and
looking at results over the past year, I found exactly one site
(SubmitProWith.Us, not giving them a link) that posted any
evidence of improved rankings with article spinning. And all
of their proof was dated to 2012.
Once again, I failed to find a single site that
advocated building exact match anchor text
that posted any evidence of it working.
All I could find were examples of websites that
had been hit by Penguin or a manual penalty,
most likely because of the exact match anchor
text, at least in part.
Private Link Networks
The whole Interflora fiasco is both proof that
buying links can still inflate your rankings, and
proof that it isn’t worth if for brands to take
The fact of the matter is Google’s algorithms
just aren’t smart enough to identify link buying
in every single circumstance.
How could it be? Not even humans are that
The real reason this isn’t worth it for brands is
because it’s actually more costly to buy links than
to attract them naturally. There are a few reasons
◦ Link sellers are, understandably, very likely to sell links to
others who may not be as discrete as you are.
◦ The content has to be just as good as if you were doing it
completely above-board, or over time it will become
obvious that you are buying the links.
◦ It is more cost-effective to use the money to pay an
influencer to write something on your blog than to pay a
link dealer, likely with less influence, to host a link on
It’s sad that I have to put this in this category, but unfortunately it
is true that sites can still rank by hacking sites and placing links.
In July last year, Majestic shared a case study, examining a site that
managed to rank, even with zero content, simply by pumping up
its link velocity with hacked links.
Needless to say, brands shouldn’t get involved in things like this,
and not just because they’re, well, illegal. From this and other case
studies, it’s immediately obvious that the results don’t last very
Still, I think it’s important to point out studies like this to get a
sense for where Google’s algorithm really is in terms of spotting
It’s certainly gotten smarter about spotting low quality content and
links, but pages can slip through the cracks if some of their other
ranking factors are out of control.
A cleverly designed private link network, made up of several
sites you bought up to link to yourself, is more or less
invisible to Google at the moment. Black hats seem to love
Assuming the quality level of the sites is high enough, this is
likely to go unnoticed.
However, once again, it simply isn’t worth the effort for
The cost of either buying sites with high quality content or
creating high quality content to put on cheap sites simply
isn’t worth it.
This, of course, is why the black hats simply skip this part,
and expose themselves to risks that inevitably get them
Smart marketers can learn from private link
We went in depth on this at our site.
Put simply, a totally legitimate twist on this is to
buy up blogs, preferably hiring the bloggers who
operate them, and move the blog over to your site.
This allows you to capture not just the SEO value,
but the existing audience of the blogger.
This is completely justifiable as inbound
marketing, and an incredibly valuable SEO tactic.
Guest Posting Exclusively for SEO Reasons
Partial Match Anchor Text
It turns out that much of the fear surrounding
site-wide links was actually a little overblown.
They are just too common, and they are still
frequently given editorially.
The Open Penguin Data Project found that site-
wide links had surprisingly little to do with
That said, site-wide links often appear spammy to
other SEOs, and if anything else about them seems
less than editorial, almost anybody else will
consider them spammy as well.
My position on site-wide links is that if you earn
them naturally, that’s great.
Don’t cut value, reduce exposure, and potentially
reduce your rankings by asking these people to
stop linking to you.
At the same time, unless there are some serious
referral traffic opportunities, I wouldn’t
recommend seeking out site-wide links during
At best, there really isn’t any additional SEO
benefit over a single link within a blog post.
Rand Fishkin is predicting that Google will release
an update targeting low tier guest posting,
badges, and infographics as manipulative link
building tactics some time in 2014.
We won’t come down hard and say that it’s
definitely coming in 2014, but we’ve been warning
for quite some time that Google’s own policies on
link schemes are very broad:
“Any links intended to manipulate Page Rank or a
site’s ranking in Google search results may be
considered part of a link scheme and a violation of
Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.”
Our response has always been to
avoid building links that aren’t worth anything
without the direct SEO benefit.
(Imagine the link is no-follow, and ask yourself if
you would still build it.)
This allows you to draw a pretty clear line between
what kinds of guest posts are worth building, and
which ones aren’t.
If the guest post has legitimate benefits outside of
SEO, not only do you know it’s valuable even if the
search engines ignore it, you also know that the
search engines probably won’t ignore it.
The number of external domains linking with partial
match anchor text ties for the third highest correlated
ranking factor according to Moz.
At the same time, partial match anchor text was more
highly correlated with Penguin penalties than exact
match anchor text, according to the Open PenguinData
This does not mean that partial march anchor text is
more dangerous than exact match anchor text.
More likely, it’s a consequence of the fact that a large
number of SEOs have been told that if they only use
partial match anchor text, they will be fine.
By the same token, I wouldn’t go out of your way
to avoid building partial match anchor text links
Just focus on building links that will
pull referral traffic, and that let users know what
they’re going to find on the other side of the link.
These days, I typically just write a sentence, and
look for the logical place to put the link as a
Thinking beyond that doesn’t really add any SEO
value, and is more likely to work against you.
We’ve already pointed out that there are examples of sites
ranking with literally no content when certain factors, like link
velocity, are out of control.
We’ve also pointed out that Panda has pretty much obliterated
article spinning at this point. Panda’s actual ability to target
“mediocre” content isn’t quite as clear, and plenty of limited
value content still turns up for certain search queries.
At this point, it’s difficult to tell if this is because more valuable
content simply doesn’t exist, or if Google isn’t especially good
at finding it yet.
That said, Google is currently dead set on ranking pages based
on behavioral data, as well as machine learning algorithms that
have been trained on datasets of quality content.
With this in mind, investing in “decent” content is a risky
venture at this point.
Hummingbird is replacing extremely specific queries with more
general ones. The strategy of finding untapped keywords and
writing decent content about them is gradually losing value as a
Even if Google doesn’t get better at spotting mediocre content,
it won’t rank without the right link signals.
Since “decent” content is unlikely to earn those naturally, you
will almost certainly need to take part in risky link building
tactics to rank with it. This makes it an inherently risky
The top sites on the web like Facebook, Amazon, and YouTube
aren’t what we typically think of as content sites.
Yet sites like these completely dominate top-notch content
sites like Mashable or the New York Times.
The most successful sites on the web are built on a foundation
of applications, tools, and communities.
Most people can go without “content” as we currently define it.
Most of us can’t go without online tools and communities.
I suspect that content marketing and SEO agencies over the
next few years are going to start investing a great deal more in
web design and coding.
Part of this is because more people are spending time on
mobile devices, where they spend most of their time in apps.
At the same time, it’s also because nothing earns press,
attention, and precious user behavior metrics the way that an
online application does.
Certainly, we can expect more traditional forms of content like
blog posts, videos, infographics, eBooks, and whitepapers to
continue to play a huge role in content marketing.
In fact, these can only be expected to grow over the next
several years. Just be warned, it’s going to be harder to shine
Interactive experiences, on the other hand, attract attention like
While traditional outreach techniques like guest blogging still
have their place, marketers who focus on building business
relationships will have the most success.
Here are a few examples of what I’m talking about:
Paying influential writers and bloggers to guest post
on your blog. This is, for example, how Social Media
Examiner built its audience.
Working with YouTube “celebrities” to reach a different kind
Hiring influential designers, artists, and coders who can
help expand your reach.
Interviewing experts and influencers.
Taking interviews on podcasts.
“Link begging” has become so commonplace that even if you
offer value and try to start real conversations it’s easy to get
Influencers are increasingly deaf to anything without immediate
and clear financial benefits for them, and marketers will need
to find ways to satisfy this need while staying within Google’s
terms of service.
I suspect we will be seeing SEOs and content marketers pulling more
stunts like these in order to be newsworthy. In this case, it’s not
about things you say, it’s about things you do:
Abercrombie & Fitch offered to pay Mike Sorrentino, from The
Jersey Shore, not to wear their clothing, claiming (tongue in
cheek) in a press release to be “deeply concerned that [his]
association with [their] brand could cause significant damage to
To promote Anchorman 2, Will Ferrell co-anchored a local North
Dakota news broadcast, reading the actual news and staying in
the character of Ron Burgundy.
A Sydney coffee shop, the Metro St James Café, launched the “pay
with a kiss” campaign, where coffee drinkers could pay for their
drink by kissing their partner.
SEO and content marketing are still changing. Big surprise,
A look back over the years reveals that very few shortcut tactics
While it’s still fundamentally about earning links and exposure,
marketers need to be innovative and bold in order to stay
ahead of the competition.