WARNING! This week’s video is pure evil! If you are faint of heart, easily disturbed, care for small children, terrified of slugs, curious about magnets, or fond of licorice, TURN BACK NOW!
This video provides actual evidence that the diabolical practice of buying links can actually work (and astoundingly well). It also says the practice can get you penalized back to the stone age, but hey, who needs to talk sense; there’s controversy to be courted! So, without further ado (or any more exclamation points), let the heresy commence…
Did you avoid the temptation? Did you refuse to watch? Is the curiosity killing you? Okay, okay, I’ll give you the lowdown, but you have to promise you’ll nevereverever use this information for evil. Keep that halo sparkly, champ!
Here’s the deal: Rand snuck out without telling any of us and bought some illicit paid links. They were anchor text optimized links from the same page on the same site to minimize the confounding factors. He got one link to each of three different sites…
Directed it at an SEOmoz blog post with the term in the body, but not in the title tag
Ranking before link purchase: #458
Ranking after link purchase: #30
Time elapsed: 8 days (all links were pulled as soon as changes were observed)
Bought a link for two word phrase with a Keyword Difficulty Score of 36%
Directed at page on an established, but low-authority domain with term at end of the title tag
Ranking before link purchase: #426
Ranking after link purchase: #58
Time elapsed: 4 days
Bought a link for a three word term with a Keyword Difficulty Score of 26%
Directed at a page on a brand new site with less than 10 total links
Ranking before link purchase: #198
Ranking after link purchase: #4
Time elapsed: 4 days
Holy crap, right?! That’s some serious movin’ and shakin’ out of one little link! Here are a few things to not before we discuss why you shouldn’t go smash open your piggy bank and spend your shiny coins on nefarious links: 1) As soon as the links were pulled, the rankings fell back down to where they were before the links, so if you’re renting, don’t get too comfy in that high position; 2) These were very short-term so there wasn’t much time allowed for Google to sniff these links out; 3) This is not a statistically significant sample size or a scientific test, take these results as anecdotal.
Okay then, why shouldn’t you buy links if they work such splendid voodoo on your rankings? Let’s fight anecdotal "proof" with an anecdotal warning. Some friends of SEOmoz who run a fairly well-established site recently ran into a snag–they vanished from Google. They had ranked in the top two for many moons, raking in the lucrative spoils of their hard-won rankings. Then they got greedy; they thought a couple of paid links (four to be exact) could secure them the number one spot for all eternity. They wanted to be like the lone Highlander atop his mountain. They bought their links, and it worked for a minute. Then Google beheaded them (to continue the Highlander theme) by abso-friggin-lutely burying their rite. Their links were discovered and now they can’t even rank for their business name or their full title tags. Suffice to say, this has made business a tad difficult.
Listen, my fellow marketers, to this cautionary tale of penalty and woe. Paid links may reap quick and easy reward, but the repercussions can be dreadful. Besides, everyone knows that the Krampus comes for SEOs who pay for links.
Big thanks to Avi Wilensky of PRO Media Corp for suggesting this study.
And now, a very special message…
This week’s episode of Whiteboard Friday is a bittersweet installment for me. After producing this blog feature for over three years, and more than 150 episodes, this is my last. As Rand mentioned in the video, I’ve decided to bid farewell to the magical world of SEOmoz and pursue my next great adventure. I’m still weighing opportunities and haven’t decided where I’ll be heading next, but you can rest assured I’ll still be playing in the online marketing sandbox, so bring your shovel and we can build a castle together. It’ll be sweet; we can have towers and a moat…maybe a dragon. If you’d like to keep in touch, I’m easy to find on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
I want to thank everyone in the community for contributing to the truly wonderful experience I’ve had here, and all of the amazing people I’ve had the pleasure to meet online and off. I hope you’ve all enjoyed watching these videos and reading my posts as much as I’ve enjoyed making them. Most sincere thanks and gratitude to you all for an awesome experience over the last several years. Have fun and I’ll see you around the interwebz!
Peer Marketing Group is a digital-forward creative agency. We craft identities. We tell stories. We stir up emotions. We connect the dots. And, well, we help you sell whatever you’re selling. Above all, we believe in making things greater than they are—through our diverse perspective and expertise (everything from letterpress to social strategy and from multi-touch installations to ambient advertising).