Have you ever wondered where famous SEO bloggers get their inbound links from? I mean there are lots of backlink checkers out there that give you a glimpse over them but now you can do a whole advanced backlink analysis with a new SEO tool.
The cognitiveSEO tools are a full fledged web based software suite. Sometimes too many options may overwhelm users. Thus we like to highlight some of the common use cases of our tool-set. One of the main features of cognitiveSEO is the ability to compare a number of sites.
For example you can take the top 5 ranking sites for a query and try to find out why they're ranking on top in the particular order.
Searching for [seo blog] on Google.com these were the top 5 results for quite a long a time:
By now the results are a bit different, as my blog (SEO 2.0) has been a bit silent since I started writing for cognitiveSEO. Nonetheless I will use five URLs you can see above to showcase the analysis we can perform. So let's see how they managed to rank up there. Using some of the metrics offered by cognitiveSEO I will show common aspects and differences of their link profiles.
Do SEO bloggers practice what they preach or do they sneakily buy links?
Do they employ link farms or comment spamming or legit link building techniques? Do they need any link building at all?
- We can take a look at the number of nofollow links.
- We can also check out how many of the incoming links are inside of content areas.
- We can even see whether the inbound links do have a target (as in _blank) or not and which one.
- We can see whether many image links aka banners appear or text links only.
- We can also find out from what kind of sites the famous SEO bloggers get their links, blogs, forums, web directories e.g?
Are there any intriguing outcomes or irregularities?
SEOmoz and Comment Spam
Let's start with SEOmoz, today the number SEO blog and far more than that. The guys have started small like everybody else, doing blog commenting for example. They even got "dofollow" backlinks from sites like Mashable on this post here for example, all it took was an one liner:
This is so much better than zooming in on unsuspecting beach-goers in Sydney.
May 31, 2007
I didn't even know that Mashable comment links are not nofollow. The comment author links are but not the Gravatar links.
This was a perfectly legitimate comment. In 2011 someone else is comment spamming on their behalf though like on this blog. The spammer impersonates SEOmoz adding their URL in the website address input just to push his own black hat SEO software in the comment itself. A quick search on Google for "I am an SEO Consultant, advicing people" [sic!]which is part of the spam comment results in more than 50k published spam comments using the seomoz.org as author URL.
I can see 13 blogs where the spammer used the same name (James) in the anchor text checking with the cognitiveSEO tools:
Btw. do not click on the shortened links in these comments, it seems they lead to malware sites according to bit.ly Other notable link budding practices are directories. SEOmoz shows on both Business.com and Aviva. The difference is though that they don't have a common directory entry but instead in editorial post. In German there is a saying for such cases: "they also only cook with water".
Of course I notified the SEOmoz about this issue and they were thankful to get the notification:
SEO Book and Hidden Links
OK, what other dirty laundry can we find in on a-list SEO blogs? Let's take a look at SEO Book one of my all time favorites. As we already know all SEO practicioners are evil to some extent so I'm pretty sure we can out Aaron Wall as well.
We've seen that some of the links SEOmoz has are in no way outstanding. You can get them as well. This is the same case with SEO Book. You'll find the site gets linked from many reputable web directories as well: Directory Journal, V7N Directory, Business.com and DMOZ are among them. As was the case with SEOmoz Business.com also features SEO Book within an article. You can find many other web directory links on less known sites.
Of course there are also links you don't get as easily. Links from major media or search conferences for example. Speaking at a conference might not always be enough. On the other hand most media mentions do not even involve a direct contact. SEO Book was already known as a resource and was thus added as a recommended link. See the ones on Entrepreneur.com, CNN Money or USA Today.
OK, I've found some sneaky hidden links as well! Let's take a look at this Rollyo layer:
Just kidding, technically its hidden but the person who has created this custom search engine does not even seem to be affiliated with Aaron Wall. Also Rollyo hides the links to make the interface less cluttered.
Wolf Howl and Hundreds of Directories
Wow, so here we have two famous SEO bloggers and already we have found out at two intriguing issues plus some links you can get as well. Let's scrutinize Wolf Howl. Can a one man show blog compete these days without some dirty little secrets?
While perusing the backlinks of Wolf Howl I instantly noticed a lot of directories.
A few of the major ones used by the other famous SEO blogs but also a plethora of low quality subdomain based directories that basically look more or less all the same and use the same descriptions but with entries in randomized order. It seems thy are all run by the Ientry network, which owns some legitimate sites like WebPro News or Twellow the Twitter user directory.
While cognitiveSEO shows me more than 1260 directories in Wolf Howl's backlink profile Google finds only about 126 (about one tenths) in their index when searching for the description and "directory" in the URL.
I doubt that Michael Graywolf wanted to get included in these low quality directories. Also Graywolf is not alone there, the list contains most old school SEO blogs. SEO.com and SEO 2.0 are seemingly too young to have been included. The data set seems to stem from 2007 or earlier. Some of the URLs are already broken.
SEO.com and Scraper Sites
SEO.com is by now one of the highest ranking SEO companies on Google. Of course their short exact match domain helped a lot but it's not the only reason they got there. Some of the success it is due to good old link building techniques.
When you take a look at their link profile you'll find some classic sites like PRWeb or Squidoo in it where many lower profile SEO practitioners do get their links as well. There's nothing wrong with these links with the exception that these days they do not count as much any more as they did a few years back. Still you can go after them if you like.
Some of SEO.com's authority stems from taking part in the SEO industry chatter and spreading the word about SEO practices. Their blog is a big help. They did earn links from other major search marketing blogs like this one. This is how cognitiveSEo visualizes the anchor text from blog links to SEO.com:
Aren't the SEO.com guys even a tiny bit evil?
Let's try to find some questionable links! I searched using cognitiveSEO for links containing the term "directory" in them to find out whether they also have low quality directory links like the famous blogs above. I've found 534 results. Surprise, surprise they are also on some of the Inetry directories. Besides that they appear on a lot of at least a bit more legit looking directories some of those mentioned above already among them: V7N for example.
There's one thing you'll notice a lot in the SEO.com backlink profile more than in the other cases: Scraper sites.
So called parasitical search engines that produce static pages for their search results often link to SEO.com for the sheer fact that they rank high for the query [seo]. I see "770 entries" categorized as "search engine" in cognitiveSEO.
Is this an advantage or disadvantage? Neither of them I guess. These scraped pages mostly do not show up at all in the Google index. In my opinion thy get filtered before they can do any harm or good for that matter.
So as you see most even the best of the best have some serious link profile issues. Also they use techniques everybody can use and you can start using today.
SEO 2.0 and Only Clean Links!
Now let's compare the above to my own blog, SEO 2.0 - as far as I can see only wonderful links Google engineers dream of! So why do I rank below the other guys, why am I just "almost famous" while they are on top? Hey Matt Cutts, please upgrade me! Or do I really have to go after these directory links?
The main reason why the top 4 rank above me appears the be the sheer number of backlinks.
The top 4 have many more links of all kinds than I have. It's not only about the looks, it's also still about the numbers it seems. Of course you are welcome to use cognitiveSEO or other tools to out me as well!
Why did I focus so much on the negative aspects of the link profiles? I wanted to show that even bright stars in the spotlight who are very keen to follow the Google guidelines as they get watched more closely have some issues with their backlinks. You don't have to responsible for them. Your competitors or even spammers can.
While obviously all these low quality links do not seem to matter much for these authority blogs they might cost the average website owner quite a lot.
We can also see that many of the links discovered in the link profiles can be attained as well. You just have to see where the links are to go after them in many cases. I've already written a post that shows how you can use these advanced link building tools and it's manifold options on my personal blog.
*CC image by Luca Argalia.
3 thoughts on “Backlink Analysis: Where do Famous SEO Bloggers Get Their Links From?”
Very insightful post. Its an ongoing battle link building is. Glad to see this is a Canadian blog 🙂
Percentage-wise, how much would you say one should allocate building links on blog comments vs directories vs forums va writing articles? What’s th best way to allocate your time to each medium or is it simply based on the value of each link and running down your list?
You may notice, that most of these `spam’ backlinks are from low-level sites (Alexa and PR). I doubt they will make a big impact.
Good stuff, Alan. I don’t agree 100% with all of your assertions (ex: don’t see anchor text going away as a fundamental ranking factor anytime soon. You’ll know when that’s happened when all of a sudden paid links are ok again) but your overall conclusions are spot on.
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