Big brands are dominating the SERPS for the most important keywords. But does that mean they do SEO better than anyone else? Do they know a secret to rank higher in Google or are these companies tricking the algorithm?
Few days ago, while doing some competition research for domain registration and hosting related terms, I noticed that Godaddy, Authorize.net and Register.com were ranking on the first page for most keywords. As any SEO would do, I had a look at the type of backlinks they have, and also at their anchor text distribution.
Just as I expected, most of their backlinks were build using widgets. Needless to say, this method is against Google Webmaster’s guidelines. It’s interesting to see how in 2015 after Penguin was updated so many times, site-wide and footer backlinks can still rank websites.
In this post, I’ll show you how three well-known companies are ranking high in Google using unnatural backlinks.
Spammy Link Building
Back in 2011, Godaddy had hundreds of thousands dofollow backlinks using overly optimized anchor texts like SSL certificates, web hosting, website builder, etc. All these backlinks were added automatically in the footers of websites hosted by them. Basically, Godaddy took advantage of their non-technical users and forced them to link back to them, with a dofollow backlink. This spammy link building method helped Godaddy rank high for extremely competitive keywords.
Eventually, Google penalized Godaddy, forcing them to clean up their backlinks profile to recover their rankings. Since then, they have removed some of their backlinks and nofollowed a few others.
Surprisingly, even if now it’s 2015, Godaddy still uses the same method to build backlinks. The only difference is that now they don’t use exact match anchor texts. Their new strategy is to build backlinks to increase their domain authority, with generic anchor texts or images.
The first thing I’ve noticed at Godaddy, is the backlinks ratio. Almost 50 million backlinks, and only 600k domains from 21.2k different hosting IPs. Just 10% of their backlinks are nofollow. This is a clear sign Godaddy has a lot of site-wide dofollow backlinks.
Using the links checker from Monitor Backlinks I started analyzing the backlinks.
The first site I’ve found was spyassociates.com. After scrolling down to the footer section, I saw a dofollow backlink using the anchor text “extended validation certificate”. The link points to Godaddy, and because it’s dofollow it means it passes PageRank.
On the same screenshot, if you look closely on the left, you’ll see a similar widget from a different well known company, Authorize.net. Using the same method, they build a dofollow backlink with the anchor text “online credit card processing”. This keyword is very competitive and has a decent search volume, with more than 1300 monthly searches.
Do you want to guess who ranks first for “online credit card processing”?
Yes, you are right, it’s Authoritze.net.
I started suspecting Godaddy is building spammy backlinks, and ended up finding that other big brands are doing the same.
I kept analyzing Godaddy’s backlinks, and I found another website linking to them from the footer. It’s the website FlyLink.com.
Again a dofollow backlink.
Do you want more examples because I can bore you with them? After all, remember that Godaddy has almost 50 million backlinks.
I’ll show you another one though.
90dayadvancecashloans.com, a one-page website linking back to Godaddy from the footer. This time the anchor text is very generic. Here’s a screenshot (looks like the website including the link was removed recently):
But how many backlinks can Godaddy build using this method? If you want to know the exact number, it’s 246.519 backlinks with the anchor text “want one”. All of these backlinks are dofollow and are violating Google’s guidelines.
Here’s how Godaddy’s anchor text distribution looks like:
More than 3 million sitewide backlinks using images and many other ones using generic anchor texts. After being penalized for over optimizing the keyword “website builder”, Godaddy has nofollowed most of those.
At the beginning of this post, I told you that Godaddy is not the only big brand using spammy link building strategies. Unfortunately, this is a common practice among large companies. Besides Godaddy and Authorize.net, I also want to show you how Register.com is ranking high in Google.
Looking at the anchor text distribution, the keyword “powered by register.com” looks suspicious. With 125.602 backlinks from 6352, it screams site-wide backlinks.
Getting down to backlinks analysis, here’s what I’ve found.
Dofollow link from Tortoise.com.
Another example from book-warehouse.com.
And the list can go on forever but there’s not point to show you thousands of spammy backlinks because you got the idea.
Most big brands are ranking high in Google by abusing the search algorithm. But it’s not only the case of Godaddy, Register.com or Authorize.net. There are numerous other examples that are following the same spammy methods.
What do you think about this? Should Google penalize big brands for building spammy backlinks?