Recently, I was horrified to discover the extent of profiteering on the part of unscrupulous webmasters attempting to sell backlinks – a practice that is outlawed by Google. These shady operators leverage their overinflated PageRank to prey on inexperienced website owners desperate to boost SEO performance. To surmise, Google and its zoo of algorithms are yet to catch up with these black hat SEO operators.
Discovering the Extent of the Problem
My discovery emerged when I was working on a new project, during which I unearthed a list of backlinks utterly devoid of value and was emailing an unsavoury webmaster. But before I get into those issues, let me share the rigorous SEO research process I undertake for new clients. Here are the three key stages:
- The logical jumping off point is to evaluate the present content of their site and identify all of the keywords.
- Then comes the task of analysing their domain to check for any pre-existing backlinks (this can be performed using providers such as Ahrefs).
- The third stage entails running the same backlink check on competitors, and this is where the research will really start to intrigue you.
Something Doesn’t Add Up…
Right, so I had completed stage when I had compiled a huge list of nearly 700 backlinks for a website with PR2 rating. At this point, I felt compelled to go through the list and analyse the links in-depth. I knew that virtually all of the backlinks were either paid for or obtained through unethical means. And sure enough, a cursory sweep through the list exposed me to hundreds of backlinks attributed to websites in Russia and South America – for an English language website!
Reputable Businesses Selling Backlinks
Beyond the foreign language backlinks – which didn’t even lead anywhere or exist, for the most part – there were reputable businesses handing out backlinks for sites that held zero relevance. I came across one marketing consultancy, which shall remain nameless, that displayed 1,000 backlinks at the bottom of their blog articles. Honestly, it looked absurd to see such a small shadow in the scroll bar at the side of my browser. To me, this is brazen disregard of SEO guidelines and I hope Google discovers these websites.
The Unscrupulous Webmaster
Following my sweep of the 700 backlinks, I was left with roughly 15 reasonably respectable websites, though none higher than PR3. Out of interest, I went to an unnamed link exchange from the 15 and contacted the webmaster about obtaining backlinks from him. The webmaster was only too happy to provide me with a quote of close to $1,000 to list eight websites – and that would only cover a year, at which point you would need to pay again to continue.
A Highly Risky Investment
I find it unfathomable that some people would pay such an absurd amount of money to a webmaster with such downright shoddy link exchanges. His exchanges had nothing to offer aside from links to awful websites, so it’s entirely possible that your investment could become worthless in the next Google update. It’s greatly disappointing that Google still hasn’t subjected these websites to the same standards as the rest of us. We can only hope that one day this becomes a reality.
State of the Union
Google has crafted a landscape where PageRank and backlinks are now the ultimate determinants in SEO performance, no matter what anybody else might try to tell you. It is entirely possible to obtain valuable backlinks related to your site, but you will have to work for them – that means no shortcuts. Don’t risk your hard-earned capital only to let shady webmasters profit and your web presence to later suffer. Check out this introductory guide to PageRank and how it affects your website. (Photo credit to foilman)
By Mike Porter