I’m a firm believer that the most cutting edge SEO methods aren’t found in the most popular blogger’s posts. The best edges you’ll find are from looking closely at the trails that the most competitive niche websites leave.
What are some of the most competitive and profitable niches online? Sex, drugs, and gambling. Top rankings for porn, poker, and pharmacy keywords can bring revenues of $1,000’s daily.
I understand that this isn’t the popular opinion as I read all of the 100% White Hat SEO blogs that dominate the majority of the SEO blogosphere. But the fringe, spam-happy SEOs are are worthy of at least a portion of your study time.
While I would never advocate spam or risk losing your money site over super-shady methods, there are a handful of techniques that are low-key, safe, and can be picked up by the average white/grey hat. You just have to take out your magnifying glass and look a little closer.
After reading a good Wickedfire thread posted by Guerilla from Drip Feed Blasts titled Analyzing a Number One Result I had the motivation to spend the day analyzing some of these kinds of websites and backwards-engineering their link profiles to see exactly what they do to rank. Guerilla pointed out a cool technique a top ranked site is using which I cover at the end, and decided to share it in hopes that some of us can learn a thing or two (and boy did I, thanks dude).
I also did a little bit of digging myself and found something cool which I’ll share with you now.
PLEASE NOTE: What you find below isn’t my attempt to call out anyone for bad link behavior, not at all (and I ask you don’t use the data below to go all link snitch on anyone, either). Merely reporting on some of my findings so that you can learn from it.
1. How Much Would You Pay For A Link on Huffington Post?
Bloggers like Harmon Leon from Huffington Post will sell you some link placements for the right price. Her articles about Viagra commercials and write-ups about her irritation about pharm spam contain carefully anchored links to a certain top-ranking pharm site.
This is an interesting technique, not very blackhat-ish, and is very powerful. All it needs is just a little bit of social engineering and a paypal payment and you’ve got one of the most valuable links on the web.
The funny thing about these particular articles is the response and reception from readers. One of the articles gets double digit tweets, the other has people commenting about their favorite drug/pharm videos (wtf?). Yes, it’s really that stupid… but hey, it works.
I think this quote sums up the method perfectly:
“Knowing how to use automated/paid links properly is still a very powerful weapon in your arsenal. However, without getting those few precious authority links that the other, inferior SEOs cannot access, it’s going to be a long and unexciting ride trying to make a buck, if you’re playing in anything remotely competitive.” Offwhitehat – Social Engineering for SEO
Questions to ask yourself: How can this be replicated? What other powerful news/media sites contain their own private stable of bloggers that can be used to build these kinds of powerhouse links?
2. Building an SEO Foundation with Expired Domains: One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Treasure
This is the method that inspired me to write this post and it is also probably the most controversial of the two.
It’s also a method that got SEO blogger Michael Martinez a bit angry in the past. This particular site I dug into had registered an old blog he wrote on and reposted all of the content. Of course he was not too happy, considering all of his hard work was now sitting beside sidebar links to cubans, pills, and poker links.
However, this method may be the single reason that this pharm site is ranking #2 for the term “Viagra Online”.
While I’m not going to get into the ethics of this method, I just want to report on the some of the findings behind this and a jist on how it works.
I have built some mini nets with expiring domains before, never to the scale that this site is using them and never to just slap a couple links up and expect an ROI.
Today I have officially emptied my cup so that I can re-learn this technique all over again:
A couple things should strike you when you investigate the SiteExplorer Link to the site above:
1. The vast majority of their links are all from homepage links on sites that they (most likely) own themselves. How can you tell? You’ll also find the sites linking to the same sites over and over. Some cuban, gambling, and other pharm sites.
2. The sites are using old, archived content from when the dropped site was active. Look at this site for instance: A bunch of sidebar links that don’t work. When you’re digging through the webarchive for old content most of the times it won’t be there, but you’ll get tidbits of it, usually the homepage. In this case the homepage and its content was recovered but not the sub pages, hence the reason the sidebar links are not active. The content on the site as it is now is actually from 2005 according to the webarchive.
3. There is little to no anchor text diversity. Put the URL into Backlinkwatch.com and you’ll find just how tight the anchor text is. The sage advice I’ve always followed is to always diversify your anchor text to look more natural to the SE’s.
Could link diversity really not matter or could you even be hindering yourself in ranking for a particular keyword by diversifying your anchor text? These are questions I don’t have answers for.
4. There are a crap load of homepage links. From the looks of it, their network could reach into the 1,000’s since it is a large percentage of their overall link profile (I share some of this data in the graphs below).
So How Are They Doing It?
In my opinion, using the old content is something that is necessary in the early stages of a newly-regged expiring domains life. It’s important to tell Google that you’re just the old site revived, and all the links, PR, and authority that the old site has should stay the same. While this is just a theory of mine, I have never done it any other way.
Registering expiring domains is something I won’t go over now, a simple google search will tell you what you need to know. I might write up something more extensive on this later.
The Pioneer of Building SEO Networks
This technique is not new, in fact one of the people I considered that pioneered this style of link building is Eli @ Bluehatseo. You can find a super-extensive post on building an SEO Empire which is a must-read for anyone that wants to dive head first into this. While his strategy is a bit different without the expired domain element, overall it holds the same idea:
The importance of building a strong SEO foundation.
This is actually the first time I’ve ever seen evidence of this strategy working at this kind scale, with a keyword of this caliber and competition, and with these kinds of results.
I spent a lot of the day re-thinking and re-learning about a strategy which I thought I knew all about. These kinds of days really get me motivated to retry something old and see where it takes me.