In Episode #347, Eric and Neil discuss why big brands get away with spammy link building. Tune in to learn how Google has changed their algorithms, making businesses think twice about using shady link tactics. And even if these tactics work, find out why it’s still not recommended for you to use them.
Time Stamped Show Notes:
- 00:27 – Today’s topic: Why Do Big Brands Get Away With Spammy Link Building?
- 00:44 – Big companies like Google and Amazon make hundreds of millions of links
- 00:50 – The over-optimization cup
- 01:01 – Once it overflows, you’ll get hit with penalties and adjustments
- 01:08 – A new site or brand has a smaller margin of error
- 02:06 – One of hardest indicators to manipulate is brand craze
- 02:10 – This is when more and more people are searching for your brand
- 02:30 – When Google knows that you’re a big brand, it’s harder for them to remove you
- 02:38 – Google just penalizes a big brand for shady link building
- 03:05 – Google notices that people will turn to other search engines when they don’t see the big brands from the search result
- 03:08 – Google now does not penalize big brands as easily
- 03:23 – A lot of industries are using shady link tactics
- 03:58 – Google has adapted different algorithms to determine if a brand should be penalized
- 04:30 – Google now tries to showcase the best sites first
- 04:27 – Viper Chill’s How 16 Companies Are Dominating the World’s Google Search Result
- 05:08 – Hearst Media started BestProducts
- 05:24 – The total number of visits skyrocketed in just a few months
- 06:05 – SEO out-playing still happens
- 06:29 – If you’re creating too much possibility by doing something wrong, it will look bad
- 06:46 – Shady tactics still work but is NOT recommended
- 07:00 – Top keywords from SEMrush
- 07:31 – That’s it for today’s episode!
3 Key Points:
- People tend to use a different search engines when they don’t see the brands that they want from the search results.
- Shady tactics are still being used today and while they work, they aren’t recommended.
- Google now shows the best sites first.
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Full Transcript of The Episode
Eric Siu: Welcome to another episode of Marketing School. I'm Eric Siu.
Neil Patel: I'm Neil Patel.
Eric Siu: Today we're going to talk about why big brands seem to get away with spammy link building. I'm just going to open it up with a simple concept and I'm going to let Neil cap it off. If you think of an Amazon for example or if you think of a Google for example, we're talking billions, hundreds of millions or billions of links. Right? Who knows what it is? Just think of it as this simple concept right here. You have a cup, right? Let's call this the over-optimization cup. In this cup, you can just fill it up. You can fill it up with dirt here and there. You just keep filling it up. Once it starts overflowing with too much dirty stuff, that's when you start to get hit with penalties and things like that. These adjustments start to come in.
Think of it this way, if you're a new site, you're brand new, you're just starting up, your margin for error is a lot smaller and people are ... Your cup is a lot smaller, right? Just think of it, you're starting in the world too. You're a baby. You have no credibility. Nobody knows who you are. You've done nothing. You're a baby. As you get bigger, your over-optimization cup, the level of trust that Google has for you gets bigger and bigger and bigger, so you have room for more dirt. It's understandable because at your scale, like Amazon for example, you have so many links coming. You probably have a lot of spam coming in. You probably have some Viagra links and things like that that just don't make any sense that are coming in.
Neil Patel: They probably actually even sell Viagra on their site.
Eric Siu: Maybe, but just look at it that way, right? Simple concept, the over-optimization cup. That's why these sites get away with it. That's spammy link building, that probably isn't really them doing it. Go ahead, Neil.
Neil Patel: There's a few things that I ended up learning over the years with these big brands and Eric has seen this as well. From Google's perspective, one of the hardest indicators to manipulate is brand queries. The more people that type in your brand name, they know that you're someone that people love, they keep coming back and you're actually a real business. It's hard to manipulate that. Sure, you can get a ton of people to search, but to try to get people to do this consistently each and every single day for a whole year is really hard. What they want to do on their end is if they know you're a big brand, it's harder for them to remove you and the reason being is let's say you're BMW and you do some shady link building.
Before what they would do is they would just penalize you. Over the years Google's learned that an average searcher who's looking for a BMW car and let's say there's a ton of them, there's probably millions a month, they don't care if BMW built shady back links. As a user, I'm looking for a BMW car and I google BMW and Google doesn't show me BMW.com, I'm going to be pissed off. Right? So much so where it's going to decrease the chance of me using Google in the future and Google's noticed this trend. They're not stupid. For that reason, they don't penalize big brands as easily because they know if they remove a big brand all together, it can hurt their perception of how users perceive Google and they'll cause them to use them less.
The second thing to note when it comes to shady link building is a lot of industries, let's say like auto insurance, so many people are using these tactics that Google isn't looking at, "Hey, let's just ban them all," because then there's going to be no one left like auto insurance, credit cards, [inaudible 00:03:34] et cetera. What they're looking at is who's the best of the worst. Everyone's building links and everyone's doing spammy stuff like even in the casino space or the adult space. They look at all right, everyone's bad, but which one's the best out of the worst one or which one's the best out of all the people that are spammy. Then they rank those sites.
If you look at over history with SEO, Google's adopted things like brand queries and user metrics, Panda algorithm, looks at things like bounce rate, time on site, et cetera, to see if a content quality is high or low. This all helps Google determine if a website should be ranked or not. Now even if a website is doing terrible link building, but they have a lot of brand queries and really high user queries compared to everyone else, it tells Google that, "Hey, it doesn't matter how these guys got to the top. Users prefer this website over all the others." That's all Google's trying to do in which they're trying to showcase the best sties first.
Eric Siu: One final thing, I mean I'm going to go to the other side. I actually just got reminded of a post that Glen Allsopp or otherwise known as ViperChill. He wrote this about a year ago. The title of the post is "How 16 Companies Are Dominating the World's Google Search Results." Just search Dominating the World ViperChill. That's V-I-P-E-R-C-H-I-L-L. Dominating the World ViperChill and you can see this case study. Basically there's this company called Hurst Media. This is like the magazines Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Woman's Day, and things like that. Basically Hurst Media started a new site called BestProducts.com and then they used the link equity from these other sites in the footer. They just wrote, "Best Beauty Products or BestProducts.com or Product Reviews."
They just basically put into this new site. If you look at the total number of visits from Google per month, it shot up for best products. In a span of about six months or so, they gained more than 600,000 visitors a month, which is a huge number. Right? This type of gaming is still working nowadays. I recommend checking out this case study just so you can understand how this works. Clearly it's working for a brand new site. I just talked about the over-optimization cup, but who knows? Even by this point maybe they have been penalized. You might want to take a look and see if they have been hurt at all because this is basically like an SEO outing.
In the SEO world, people don't really like to out each other, but this basically kind of is an outing. Neil, you have any thoughts on this?
Neil Patel: Yeah. This stuff happens all the time and you know what? The big players are going to get away with it more than other. Then when people out them, then what it ends up happening is sometimes they have no choice, but to show that they're going to stand high and like do something about it. Keep in mind, this brand new website probably didn't have the brand queries and it wasn't as well known and eventually Google ended up doing something. The point is is if you create too much publicity that you're doing something wrong, they're going to look bad if they don't make an example out of a site because then it's just going to tell everyone that, "Hey, you can also do the same and get away with it."
Sometimes that's a safe space and do whatever it takes to show Webmasters that, "Hey, you can't just spam us," but yeah, a lot of these shady tactics still work. I don't recommend them if you're a small or even a big business because they're not long-term, but if you want to do them, hey, it's your own call.
Eric Siu: One final thing here I'll mention here is really interesting, top keywords. Their top keywords according to SEMrush as of one year ago for this post, I'm just looking at this right now, Best Makeup Brushes, number one, Lighted Makeup Mirror, number one, Best Running Shoes for Women, number one, Best Wireless Earbuds, number one. Take a look at this.
Neil Patel: These are all highly monetizable terms, right, as Eric's pointing out. These are amazing terms because they have buyer intent.
Eric Siu: Great. Take a look at this stuff. At the end of the day, both Neil and I like playing the long game and that's what we suggest. We've tried this other stuff in the past, but you're better off playing the long game. That's it for today and we'll see you tomorrow.
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