(update: I’ve added a video version of this post at the bottom)
The phrase falling “down the rabbit hole” comes from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. Going down the rabbit hole is how Alice gets to Wonderland.
Much like Alice, if you jump into something without looking you can end up in a lot of trouble.
In this post I want to look at how much harder it has become to trick your way to top search engine rankings. As you’ll see, it’s a long way to the bottom of the SEO rabbit hole in 2014!
Introduction: Why We Love Short-Cuts
Throughout human history we’ve had a love for taking short-cuts. If a short-cut succeeds, it saves time and effort and quickly becomes the new way of doing the original process.
As humans competed initally with other animals for food, and, later, with each other for resources, it was important that if there were a short-cut to a laborious process, it was found. Hence, we’re always looking for short-cuts and ways to save time and energy. The best anecdote I remember on the subject was the boss of a factory saying to an employee that he always gave the most difficult job in the factory to the laziest employee because he’d either find a short-cut or quit. Either way, the boss won.
Short-Cuts As A Part Of SEO
In the race to the top of the search engine results, short-cuts were taken. Way back in time, it was easy to fool Infoseek, Altavista and Hotbot by a few well-placed keywords. Time passed and Google saw the end of the old short-cuts, and the arrival of a new one… backlinks. With a few well-placed backlinks, you could get traffic aplenty from Google, for a while. Eventually, Google got tired of the manipulation and fought back with Panda to weed out low-quality content and Penguin to see off those with poor backlink profiles.
As the SEO short-cuts of the past disappeared into the mist, we have to ask ourselves whether there’s anything to be gained searching for new ones. According to the rule of “opportunity cost”, by doing something you risk the gains that could’ve been made doing something else. Time is finite and if every short-cut you take leads to a dead end, you’ll make no gains.
Do These SEO Short-Cuts Work In 2014?
Of course, there are always people promising short-cuts. Invariably they are also trying to sell you something. So, let’s follow the logic of people still trying to beat the search engines. Now that simple keyword stuffing and cheesy backlinking doesn’t work, what do people say does work? Well, firstly, there’s the “I can rank on page one of Google within 48 hours” concept. It’s barely worth mentioning, but for those of you who don’t know, people who claim that they can quickly rank on page one of Google are almost always referring to grabbing a spot on Google’s search engine results pages for a brand new video submitted to Youtube or an article picked up as “news” and which features in the “news” section of the results page. While the claim that they can get on to the results page is true, the problem is that the results don’t stick and your ranking will disappear as quickly as it appeared.
OK, so you want a page that sticks on the first page of the search results for your chosen keyword. Right. The first concept people will sell you on, if they’re old school, is to use “Web 2.0 properties” to backlink your “money site”. The reason they do this is that they consider Web 2.0 properties such as Squidoo, WordPress.com, Wikipedia, Hubpages etc to be immune to the bad backlink profiles that will get your “Mom and Pop” website slapped by Penguin. So now you need content for all your Web 2.0 properties. No problem, I’m sure “spinning software” will help. Then you’ll most likely want to make your Web 2.0 properties “more powerful” by backlinking them, right?
Again, no problem, there’s also software to help you build backlinks. Hooray.
So now, everything works and you get rich, right? Wrong. What happened, when people used Web 2.0 properties to backlink their money sites was that Google got suspicious and from 2008 to 2013 almost all the big Web 2.0 properties decided to make the outgoing links from their websites all “no-follow“, meaning that no benefit from those webpages you built on Web 2.0 properties flowed to your money site. Of course, that meant all the backlinks you built were worthless too.
Controlling The System: The Bottom Of The Hole
So, what to do? Well, if you want to continue down the rabbit hole, you decide you need to bring those Web 2.0 pages under your control. While you can’t control what Squidoo or Hubpages do, you can go one better and build your own network.
So, you buy a lot of domains, host them on different webhosts because different “C-Class IP addresses” are best and use whois privacy to avoid a footprint. You then need content. Lots of content. I guess you could pay for a ghost-writer, but that’s expensive, so perhaps you could spin “PLR articles”? You also need to build backlinks, a lot of them, to your multiple sites.
If you need to register at places such as forums to get a link on a forum profile page, or comment on a blog, you’ll need software to do all the registering and email validation and captcha breaking because that can slow a guy down. Of course, we’re not talking a low-cost enterprise anymore, what with the domain costs, multiple hosting fees and money for all the software. Hopefully there’s a bottom to this rabbit hole, and you’ll make some money. It does seem like a huge organisational effort though, keeping track of posting content, creating links and making sure you don’t leave a footprint, especially if you do a link wheel or pyramid to super-boost your links.
You know, getting Google to recognise and index some of those forum profile links and blog comments can be tricky. You may also want to backlink them so that they get indexed and count as backlinks to your network sites which then promote your money site. So now you’re backlinking the backlinks to your backlinks, right?
Oh, and one final thing… are you doing all that for just ONE money site? That seems a bit risky, carrying all your eggs in one basket. Why not have several private networks, working in isolation, to promote several money sites?
All this pre-supposes that Google would consider any link you can create in such enormous volume as worthy of any notice at all. And if they don’t count those huge volume third-tier backlinks, you won’t get your second-tier backlinks indexed, which is a problem because they won’t then be able to power your first-tier network of sites and they, in turn, won’t power your money site. So, is it really all just a house of cards?
Of course, while you’re doing all that, you’ll be wondering if the opportunity cost isn’t greater than that of just writing quality content and doing the kind of low-key self-promotion that real businesses do online.
What do you think? Is “Black Hat and linkbuilding” the way to go in 2014? What about White Hat SEO, or buying traffic? Are you struggling to decide where to place your efforts for the best return on investment? Please leave a comment, below, and share the post if you liked it. Thanks.