I would like to start out by saying this is my first ever post/article I have written regarding SEO. I have been SEOing for the past 4 years and computers have been my whole life, especially since the Internet kicked in. I am a CompSci Major that dabbled in Web mastering for a very short time, and that short time made me realize that I don’t want to code all day long.
Then I found SEO. I found a puzzle that always needs to be put together and that's what intrigued me.
Don't worry it won't be that technical.
I haven’t really made up my mind if this is going to be a “to-do” or a “not- to-do” guide. Maybe I should call this post “Hey G, B and Y! I know you have a lot on your mind but wake the F*** up”. Either way what I have written in this post is happening, and it’s happening right now, hopefully with your help in getting the word out it will stop very soon.
The way I am doing my part in eliminating this very sneaky SEO black hat strategy is to get this post to reach everyone and eventually it will reach G, B and Y so they realize that black hatters are doing this and hopefully changes will be made.
If you haven’t guessed what I’m talking about already that’s okay, you probably aren't a Black Hatter, which is a good thing and is also a reason why you should continue reading. Maybe you can explain to your confused clients why you aren't number one after a lot of very hard white hat work.
Even with the latest Penguin roll outs, I still see this happening and unfortunately it's working.
So... are you ready for it?
Link Echoes AKA Ghost Links.
I hope after all that build up I didn't underwhelm you, this is a very serious threat to all white hatters. For some reason I haven’t seen a lot about this written on the interwebs. (Before you start G-ing, keep reading, at the end of this post I have screen shots of search results for both Ghost links and Link Echoes.
There are a total of 6 relevant pages for both terms as I'm writing this) I don’t know if this is because the big guns in the industry are trying to keep it on the DL or because nobody believes it works, whatever the reason, nobody is really talking about it. To my surprise Rand Fishkin did a WBF on August 2014 about Link Echoes.
Once I saw the Vloginar, (yes that is what I am calling a video blog that is also in webinary format) I immediately sent him an e-mail and I got the privilege to have a brief exchange about Link Echoes. I was just happy that I wasn't the only one noticing this.
For those who don’t know what a link Echo is, here is an explanation:
Link Echoes are actually links that were once a link just like any other, 99% of the time they are created in a link farm that get deleted after a short period immediately after being crawled. Also there is never just 1 link there are always thousand or tens of thousands, depending on the keyword that you want to compete with.
So why is it deleted? Well that is simple, because if you leave the link then God Google would think that you haven’t learned your lesson or that you aren't sorry that you have committed such a horrible sin!
But seriously, and this is my opinion from experience, what I believe happens is search engines give the links the benefit of the doubt that these might actually be quality links before they get banned. Kind of like an innocent until proven guilty logic, but before they get banned, whoever put those “quality” links up, delete them.
The crazy part here is that the link juice is still there and the site stays on top…FOREVER!!! Okay well, not really forever…
Usually three different scenarios will pan out (Again this is from my experience so don’t just take my word for it, do it yourself and see if I’m talking out of my ass… or not.)
1. After the first huge link dump and deletion the black hatter doesn't do anything. In this case the site stays very high up in the rankings and doesn't really move until a big algorithm change comes along. It starts crawling the crap out of everything and realizes that that this site isn't really relevant or is less relevant than others and pushes the site in question down. How far down? Usually to the 3rd or 4th page. I haven’t seen any sites banned from any search engines. Then again I am just one man. I’m sure there are worse and better outcomes.
2. The Black Hatter repeats the process after about a month or two. Yeah that’s right, he or she actually repeats the process with a brand new link farm and brand new low quality links. Usually Big G is the first to catch on, and punishes the site in various levels of severity like in scenario number 1. This sometimes can take a while though, usually whenever a big algorithm comes along and/or the Black Hatter makes a mistake with the link farm that he chooses.
3. The Black Hatter does this echo link strategy once and then quickly moves on to white hat practices and guess what… they get away with it. Did you just get the chills?? I know this is hard to read. If you, evil black hatter, can get your timing right then you can actually get away with this. Think of this as the Mafia move. Getting your initial capital by doing a bunch illegal stuff but then going legit, becoming a pillar of the community after breaking a couple of kneecaps…
This Screenshot from ahrefs.com shows an example of what the link dump and quick deletion looks like. The site that implements this strategy are currently ranked 3rd and 4th for a competitive keyword.
I can’t tell you how many times I have placed my clients in the 1, 2 spot and then the wrath of a black hatter swoops in with his or her Link Echo strategy black horse. Imagine explaining to your client that has absolutely no idea what is happening that some guy half way around the world is doing something that is illegal in Google’s eyes and it’s working. And why the heck aren't we doing it?!?
Don’t get me wrong this doesn't always work and most of the time sites fade away because of an algorithm change or because the black hatter wasn't a step ahead and used a banned link farm. Maybe after a long period of time a black hatter that practices the third scenario doesn't do white hat as well as you.
Whatever the reason, just like the rest of life, things can go either way or every which way. Remember G, B and Y aren't perfect and probably never will be.
So there you have it. I know this sounds crazy, a conspiracy if you may, maybe that is why very few people are writing about Link Echoes. Maybe they are doing it themselves and want to keep doing it. Me personally, I always believe in the long run. I stay as white hat as possible and I’m usually the last one laughing. If a client doesn't understand, well, that is their loss.
In closing, (ha… that made me sound like a lawyer) I know you haven’t seen enough screenshots (screenshots can be photoshopped anyway) the truth is, I want you to be suspicious! I want you to try this for yourself, do your own research, (would love to see what you come up with) for experimental purposes ONLY... of course!
Personally I have encountered many sites that have used this to their advantage but obviously I can’t call anybody out. I’m not a snitch and this isn't really the reason why I am writing this.
All I can do is tell you how Link Echoes work, and hope that by then almighty G, B and Y will find a way to stop this from happening in the future.
And now like I promised here are the screenshots but then again I don’t want you to believe me so G it anyway. ;)
So have you encountered this phenomenon? Have you fallen to Black Hatters? Am I talking out of my ass? Would love to read your comments below!