The Result Of Shady Backlinks Over 5 Years

Last Update: March 04, 2019

The long term results of your online business are inescapable. Whether you're doing "best practices" or trying to cheat the rules, long term you will reap what you sow. There are many examples of this, but I recently stumbled upon three great charts to demonstrate what I mean.

The first example is near and dear to my heart. This is a website in the MMO niche. The owner of the website has commented on several of my blog posts mocking me for outranking me, and telling me that Wealthy Affiliate teaches "useless" SEO tactics.

These comments were several years back when I wrote a negative review of the company he was promoting.

For about four years, this person experienced growth! Whatever secret SEO sauce they used was working for that time.

Building A House Of Sticks (VS Bricks)

Fast forward to 2019, and let's look at what happened to their website.

This is exactly what I mean by "long term results".

Maybe this person was making $200,000 per year from his website, we'll never know. But even then, what's he going to do now? Unless he wisely invested his income and paid cash for a house, he's still going to have to pay rent or mortage, health insurance, and gas for his car!

Gaming search engine algorithms may work for a bit, but in the end, they'll figure out what's going on (Google gets smarter every day!).

When you're building an affiliate business in Wealthy Affiliate, you're building one that will last 10, 20, 30 years or more...unless you sell your website at some point!

Watch Out When Buying Websites

Speaking of selling, here's another great graph to check out. This website was part of a "niche site case study" by a semi-famous online guru.

Part of the training this guru was preaching was to purchase backlinks from a PBN or build your own PBN. A PBN is a "private blog network", and it's basically a bunch of blogs you build out to in order to spoof authority in Google.

The PBN backlinks would get you results faster! Yes, they worked for a short time!

Backlinks can help you rank better, but they are tough to get naturally. That's why people fake this process by building hundreds of other blogs, then linking back to themselves.

Once the website is getting gobs of traffic and making good sales, they flip the site and sell it to a new owner.

Though this particular website wasn't actually sold, the arrow below represents right around the time a seller will typically offload the website, leaving you holding the bags on the way down!

So what was all that work for? He probably make 10's of thousands of dollars with the website, but now it's basically useless. Was it worth the time?

What Happens When You Go Legit Long Term

Lastly, I want to show you one of my favorite traffic charts of all time. This particular website got in trouble for backlinking practices, but the owner realized his mistake and kept posting high quality content for years while seeing very few results.

Relatively recently, The site recoverd fully and is now doing even better than before

There's a period of about 4 years where traffic languished, but the site is doing great now! Of course, this could have been avoided by following the WA training more closely, but we all make mistakes. I, myself, have a number of websites that got punished with algorithm changes due to my own crappy backlinking schemes back in the day.

Avoid PBNs, But That's Not All

These particular examples are all due to problems with bad backlinking practices. However, that's not the only thing that can damage your online business long term. Article spinning, content curation, selling guest post links, and many other shortcut tactics are popular for churning out quick rankings and earnings.

Long term, they don't work though. Whatever 3 months shortcut you take now could cause you problems in 3 years.

If you are building a true business asset - something that you can feed your family with every month, the Wealthy Affiliate training is where it's at. Be suspicious of anything that will "supercharge" your traffic and earnings. Keep your website visitors in mind!

PS. Don't Stress: As a newbie, you're going to make mistakes. Everything is fixable, recoverable, and do-over-able. The catastropoic charts you see here are specifically from people trying to manipulate search engine algorithms. As long as you do your best and folow WA's training, you'll be fine!

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Brenda63 Premium
Wow, for a newbie, this post is a bit overwhelming. I learned something new from this post. I got a lot of reading and following the training to do. I didn't even know what PBNs meant and learn its danger. Thanks for posting. I appreciate the education and learning. Thanks. My goal is not to fear but fear I do. I am reminded of this motto the,"only thing we have to fear is fear itself," by Frankin D. Roosevelt, our 32nd US President (was taught to me by my Deaf Dad, who was so obsessed with FDR, he even drew a huge art photograph of him). I intend to follow through with the trainings.
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mikelNZ Premium
Thanks Nathaniel good advice. I'm about 3 months in and starting to show some growth and hits but like everyone get a bit impatient for success. My limited growth so far shows me that the system does work so I guess I'll get back to writing some decent, content rich posts and let the search engines figure it out for themselves !!
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Jasone36 Premium
This has honestly come just in time for me I was so so tempted today to paid a gig on fiverr with back linking and they say there all white hat and safe but I just did not sit right with me and I put off doing it till later. Thank god this post caught my eye.
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nathaniell Premium
Fiverr is bad news for almost everything. I just use it for logos, but even those are often a ripoff from other people.
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JosephWA Premium
Just asking a sincere question, if backlinks are bad, what about when you get organic backlinks (honest sharing) from visitors of your site that love your site so much that they tell other people about them and recommend your platform to other places on the internet? Will that hurt my website? Or do I understand backlinks wrong? After reading this article it makes me NOT want visitors to share my site for fear of repercussion. Thanks.
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JosephWA Premium
For example, I have helped people on Quora with answering questions and I have linked to other websites (non-affiliate link) so the source could further help them beyond my comment. Am I hurting other websites by doing that?
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sgregcrx Premium
Absolutely not!

Bad Backlinks are from JUNK sources. Google eventually works out that the Backlinks are coming from useless sources.

Originally these were backlink farms. But Google cottoned onto them

Then they moved to the PBN's that the OP mentioned. These were harder to track down as the PBN we individual to the Blogger that was promoting the blog. This provided what appears to google to be a credible source. Not sure how but Google is onto this too.

When your links are from real credible sources google still loves it. I recently posted about one of my blogs being shared on TripAdvisor. and held up as an authoritative source. This only has good implications. They key is to not chase these links in a fake way. As once google finds out it's fake it will add a penalty.

As seen above.

Credible Backlinks are still and always will be great for your site, but farmed or forced sources will eventually piss the Google Algorithm off!

Imagine huge sites like News sites, Amazon or Tripadvisor these get millions of organic backlinks it doesn't do them any harm!
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SteveMand Premium
The message isn't backlinks are bad Nathaniell has never said that - the message is in the title "shady backlinks" are bad.
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JosephWA Premium
Ok thank you. I am glad google is still allowing personal links like that.

But, wow that is crazy about the PBN (I just googled and read what they are). It's kind of disheartening. After my first successful site I planned on branching out into other subjects and linking the websites together. That would be a PBN right?

For example I have a blog all about basketball. But then I would have a side page that asks the reader if they would like to know more about other sports such as football, and then link to my website that was all about football.

I want to help people but I don't want to have a site that is about a million different things or all the sports in one congregated area because the information isn't focused on what the reader is there for, so I would just have a small page letting them know that there is another website for another sport that they can view if they choose to.

I also had the idea to reach out to other bloggers that didn't cover my particular topic but was very close to the subject (same as example above) and asking them if we could partner together and help each other out by linking our websites.

So google would consider all of that junk sources?

I feel like as long as my website is good, respectable, and with great content, that my site shouldn't be judged by the external sources that the traffic comes from but judged from the website itself.

It seems like huge corporations like amazon and others are the only ones not affected, and all the little bloggers and regular people suffer. It doesn't seem like it is a good idea for google to decide what is junk.... because now I just found out that my idea of linking websites together would be in danger of being labeled as some bad scheme and now I suffer even though it was genuine.

Shouldn't google just allow for free flow of information? I never clicked on a link or article that I did not want to visit or was at least curious in. So nothing actually gets forced in my opinion.

I'll say, that if I found Wealthy Affiliate through a PBN or a backlink, I would be happy that I did and grateful to them. I don't think google should decide for me if it was junk. But I will play the game they set and do the best I can within their rules.

Thank you for clearing that up for me. I may have dodged a bullet.
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JosephWA Premium
Right. But, I have clicked on a link about free investing in the stock market (robinhood investing app) that was a mass message and could be considered "shady" because it was spammed everywhere. I ended up getting a free $10 stock out of the link and I also learned how easy it was to invest in the stock market. (I found out that they got a free stock from me too because of the sharing program) Ever since then, I have been investing and earning a 10% return on my money. But it is true the link was spammed, but it opened up a whole new world for me and I am making good money from it. That link was probably bought or considered shady from someone's point of view, but it isn't shady to me because it helped me.

So that was the point, is that really backlinks are interchangeable. What is considered shady to one is not to another because it really does help them.

It is just a form of advertisement. When a company buys a superbowl ad, the message is spammed to millions upon millions of people. It IS spammed, and on TV you have the same commercial for multiple commercial breaks. Same commercial over and over again.

Shouldn't these "shady" backlinks be judged upon the content of what is being offered instead of how it was advertised?

I guess I just disagree with google showing me what it wants to show me instead of letting me choose if I want it or not. I want information from ALL sources for my own opinion.

I just fear that google can shut me down in an instant just because I would link to my other content when I got more websites up.

Sorry for veering off the article, and I agree with the article's message about honesty and doing things the right way.
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LKick Premium
I really appreciate your insight and graphs. Dishonesty is never the way to go at anything. Eventually you will get to the point where Karma will hit you.
Best to do it the way WA promotes and build that sound foundation. Patience is never an easy trait to master, but as you have pointed out, the slow and steady is your best bet.
Thanks for this article! Linda
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nathaniell Premium
Karma is a great way to put it. Google's Karma is always ready to dole out justice :)
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LKick Premium
LOL
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StunningBell Premium
Excellent post-Nathaniel. Very true. There are also tons of new products coming up today as well, some of them promising you unique daily content to your websites, but the source of this content is unknown. Currently, those case studies are ranking on Google's first page, but the Google algorithms will definitely catch up with these sites. Many many examples out there, Millions of shortcuts are coming up today, and they sell like crazy.
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nathaniell Premium
Yup. Lots of examples of how breaking the rules can get you to page 1, but the question is how long will you stay there!

A quick influx of big money is great, but I'd rather have long term, reliable income, even if it's not going to make me crazy rich.
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sgregcrx Premium
Good Post,

Life is hard in the SLOW lane as you build up gradually, the right way.

It is always tempting to try and find a way to get on a bit faster. But as you show very clearly it's likely to lead to a blown engine.

My Growth is slow, but steady maybe 5-10% growth on average per month. But all through simple basic SEO, quality content, and lots of it.

I am starting to pick up a few backlinks but it's all organic.


I am always terrified at some point google will pull the plug, like with the health Niches update. but at least I know I am doing it the correct way.
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nathaniell Premium
The temptation is real, and there's nothing wrong with experimenting. You never know what's gonna work.

However, when it comes to your main money site, I try not to take big risks.

One thing I do instead of "asking" for backlinks, is to create content which is "link worthy". Brainstorm some ideas related to your niche which could easily get picked up by pay-per-article-writers that want to create outbound links for SEO?

Lists are great for that.
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sgregcrx Premium
Yeah, I have a friend at work who knows I blog and he is pestering me about a certain blog backlinking site. He keeps saying it's the best thing he's seen and how it's helping his site.

But he also tells me of the golden days where he made $100,000s from his sites, funny he's doing the same job as me now wonder what happened to these sites?

Google Slapped them for one thing or another, so I am dubious to take his advice on this. Certainly not with my main site and my other blogs are not far enough along to bother.

This post just confirms to me to keep on. Content Content Content.
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ownonlboss Premium
There are unfortunately even people here on the platform that are still into PBN. I don't get it. It is just not worth it. I won't bother my time with them, instead I will build my links myself and use perhaps the social media and sites like Quora to build links, for as far as link building goes.

Thanks for a great post on the reality of things!

Steven
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nathaniell Premium
PBNs do work, and are not always caught! So some people have "proof" that they work.

Unfortunately, some people get into low-quality PBNs, or build their own and cut corners, or Google just outsmarts them.

All the time, money, and work into creating a deceptive link scheme could be spent creating awesome content and rocking social media for legit links from real people across the web.
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TDomena Premium
Yikes! I can't imagine getting my hopes up after seeing my website earning $200,000 or more per year, then all of it collapsing like that. That's catastrophic, and how do you explain that to your family or a bill collector? That's just embarrassing!

It's also horrible how people will sell a buyer (that must be unknowledgeable about their antics) a site that's on it's way to crash. There's so much to watch out for!

Many of the people in the industry sell these blackhat SEO tactics and make it sound like a good thing. They can sell it so good that sometimes, you'll have to convince yourself you're not stupid for avoiding their methods. Thanks for posting this so we can be reminded to focus!
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nathaniell Premium
Buying a used website is definitely a big risk if you don't know what you're looking for. Some places disclose if a PBN was used, but they don't say how a PBN is detected, or if a seller is just assumed to be truthful!
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TDomena Premium
Wow! That's definitely a good word of caution for people considering that strategy. Have you heard of people trying to damage good sites by sending bad links to them? Like for example, a product developer whose angry sending bad links towards a bootcamp site? That seems like a strategy people could use to damage something good.
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StefanC Premium
WA is best not only for what is has but also for what it doesn't have! LOL

Yesteday, I posted a success post about my travel blog, which has only 2 articles!!!

I posted these 2 very thorough articles in October 2018, with lots of pictures of my travel to Slovenia. But then, forgot about the site and didn't post more articles because I decided to focus on my MMO one.

I didn't expect any rankings considering there are many competitors that are active for more than one decade.

However, yesterday I discovered one article ranked #3 on the first page of Google for the main keyword.

Here is my post with poof: Now, I decided to post at least once a week and grow this site as well. The high ranking I experienced show the site has immense potential.

So, you are right Nathaniel! What we have here in WA is the best approach to internet marketing, which is more profitable and safe in the long term.
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nathaniell Premium
That's pretty surprising since you haven't worked on the site for such a long time, but I guess unsurprising since it sounds like you chose a great keyword and wrote a great article to match.

Now it seems like you have great sites in the Travel and MMO niche. That's pretty powerful!
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TBallister Premium
Great post! I had recently downloaded some info from Backlinko about how to find articles that are already ranking for similar terms as you and reaching out to them to see if they'd be willing to include a backlink to your article on the similar topic. Where do you think that advice would fall in your list of shady backlink techniques?
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nathaniell Premium
Backlinko is legit. Replacing backlinks is not a bad strategy. It takes a lot of work, and whether it's worth your time or not is debatable. However, since you'd be manually requesting links and hopefully providing some value to the person, I think it's fine.

Most of the issues these people faced is that their link building strategies were mechanical, automated, and zero-value (by linking to themselves via PBNs).
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TBallister Premium
Gotcha! I actually did a 7-day trial with Ahrefs to find websites using similar keywords that I'm trying to rank better for and then compiled a list to send emails to. Once I got some templates in place, it didn't take much time to sit down and send 10-20 backlink email requests per day. I think if one can build it into the natural flow of their workflow routine, it could prove worthwhile. I just haven't stuck with it in a routine manner enough yet to see if it would bear fruit!
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CoachGom Premium
I remember, being involved in online MLM in the past, I met gurus who laughed at WA coaches labeling us "poor affiliates". But where are they now? (Those who advocated PBNs)

The last time I checked on them, their affiliation with online attraction marketing systems cut off, blog dropped down in traffic and of course in popularity, and only proved what we advocate here in WA is better.

Thanks, Nathaniell, for reminding us of these lessons.

We're vindicated! :)
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nathaniell Premium
I've met the same kind of people, laughing at Wealthy Affiliate strategies, but here are the results! It took five years to play out, but finally did.

The same guy whose traffic tanked above was probably feeling pretty cocky a few months ago!
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SondraM Premium
Thanks for sharing these charts and the results. In doing so, you may have helped me figure out why one of my friends that had a successful online business' traffic seems to have plummeted this year.

He took some sort of training that taught creating tons of cheap websites with spun content in his niche & then linking back to his primary website. Ironically, his site was created around same time as your example.

(I actually discovered WA when I was trying to figure out if the training he took was a scam.)

Anyway, I would have hoped that his legit activities over last couple of years would have given his site true authority. But, maybe not.... He's hurting financially now.
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nathaniell Premium
That exact process you describe is what I'm talking about above - creating Private Blog Networks. The second example is above is exactly from a PBN penalty!

I've seen some folks that have to start a brand new site and are not able to recover from some penalties, while others have. It's hard to say why some recover and some not.

Sorry to hear that your friend is still hurting from the search engine problems. Maybe have them build a website according to WA training and see how it goes!
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SondraM Premium
I know that Wealthy Affiliate's training will work on a new website.

Unfortunately, he has to get over his being "mad at the world" phase before he can move forward.
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TeamIceCream Premium
Hi Nathaniell

Those graphs really speak louder than words! Thank you!

When one's websites doesn't get the traffic we desire, it is so easy to start looking and listening around to what others have to say on the internet, but it is not always easy to distinguish whether their advise is good or bad. Or like you said so well here, whether their advise will stand the test of time!

Wishing you an awesome day!
Sharlee (Chocolate IceCream)
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nathaniell Premium
Yup. I've fallen into that trap many times before. When something isn't working, it's easy to get distracted with shiny objects!
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TeamIceCream Premium
Ah, thank you for confirming that we are not the only ones to fall in that trap, Nathaniell, you've just made the rest of us feel (more?) normal again! ;-) LOL!
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Wdcope Premium
Good advice. Fast moving objects wear out sometime. It's the consistent growth with good service that will last. I have seen it work many times, while the overproducer sometimes is using tricks to look fantastic in the beginning, yet it never lasts. they have to move on again and again.
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nathaniell Premium
Consistency really is key in the long term. Keeps steady growth and keeps you from getting burnout!
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Cami2 Premium
Thanks for the great article. As a newbie to WA I am learning so much from all of you. It is so nice to have a place to learn and ask questions without being made to feel dumb. The graphs really made me think and showed what can happen when you do it right & stay in for the long haul. I finally feel like I will be able to succeed!
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nathaniell Premium
It's easy to want to shortcut and "see" results sooner rather than later, but long term, you'll thank yourself for being patient!
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cookins25 Premium
Great article!

Like you said it just proves that Wealthy Affiliate teaches people how to build LONG lasting business, and not something that will come and go like the wind.

Also I love how this graph shows how much patience one needs to build a profitable website.

I mean imagine if that guy quit after 1 or 2 years after he got punished?

He would of never seen even greater results with his website down the road then :)

So thank you again for this motivational post showing not only is WA an amazing place to be -- but with enough consistent work and patience ANYONE can become successful in this industry. :)
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nathaniell Premium
Yeah, I wonder each of those "depressing" graph owners will do. Time will tell!

Keep up the consistency man. It will pay off!
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JeannineC Premium
Legit is always the way to go. Sad but true with folks who use shady backlinks and other strategies like this - they know their sites will be destroyed one day, so they are constantly building more. I can't stand them for sure. But they do just keep popping up.
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nathaniell Premium
The cycle of boom and bust would drive me crazy! I'd rather focus on one asset long term.
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JeannineC Premium
Me too! Then instead of using new sites to replace, you can use new sites to grow.
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Stella2 Premium
Great info and examples, Nathaniell!

Thanks so much for sharing from your knowledge. People find it hard to resist temptations, but I hope this keeps some from going over to the dark side. Lol

Best to you,
Stella :-)
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nathaniell Premium
I'm not immune to the attraction of short-term gains. They are hard to resist, and I always pay for them eventually.
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neilc Premium
Sounds like you had the last laugh lol.

When you say content curation, do you mean sharing blog posts on social bookmark sites like Reddit, Digg, Mix, and Flipboard etc?

Asking for a friend :P
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nathaniell Premium
No, that's totally fine. I mean there are plugins which scrape content from other websites, then post it to your own website. Even if you have attribution links, it's a waste of time and could damage your authority.

Sharing on social media is totally fine (and encouraged) for building your brand!
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neilc Premium
Ah, I get ya.

Yeah, I can see how using snippets is a no-go area.
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1VibrantLife Premium
Very interesting, I'll have to check all my links. Thanks
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nathaniell Premium
If you aren't building backlinks with PBNs, you're fine.
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CandP Premium
Interesting story!
We learn so much from you and appreciate your sharing this information.
We shall continue to do things the WA way, as per your suggestion to achieve long term results.
C & P
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nathaniell Premium
Hope to see you around in 10 years C & P!
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CandP Premium
We hope so too, brother! We are in our 60's and holding...still going strong!:D
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JonLake Premium
Great post, thanks for sharing. Reminds me of way back when we stupidly followed the training of a guru who I believe is doing time now ironically!! We bought up about 60 exact match domains for niche sites before Google decided that EMD's were taboo!!

Yes, steady bonafide backlinks is the way to go
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nathaniell Premium
I have been down that EMD route as well unfortunately. EMDs still do surprisingly well in SERPs, but they are not a guarantee of success!
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kpercival55 Premium
Thanks Nathaniell!
Your wisdom and experience are always great to learn from.

KyleAnn
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nathaniell Premium
Thanks for reading Kyleann! Have a great week.
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Jules65 Premium
Thanks for the insight very interesting. I will keep all of to a this in mind. Blessings have a great day.
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nathaniell Premium
You too Billie. Thanks for reading!
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EddySalomon Premium
You know what's funny about this article. I guarantee there are going to be a lot of people that are going to say: "Shit even if its 2-3 years of good traffic and fast money, its worth doing it."

And then you have folks like us that want long term success that won't even touch tactics like this with a ten foot pole. Granted I'm less inclined to do anything like this anymore because I was slapped by Google. So it left a life changing bad taste in my mouth. lol

But if you want to be build long term wealth and freedom, there are no short cuts. Thanks for the reminder.
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nathaniell Premium
Yup. A couple hundred grand seems life changing now, and for most people it would be a welcome bump in income. Bye bye debt!

However, long term, if you're going to rely on this asset, you really need to be thinking a decade in the future.

Hope you have a productive week Eddy!
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EddySalomon Premium
Agreed Nathaniel. But delayed gratification and long term thinking is usually a foreign concept to most people. And in some situations people may not have the luxury to wait.
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PotPieGirl Premium
Aw, but c'mon, Eddy - back THEN, those kind of links were 'normal' and worked SO well... and THEN they became "shady".

After 12+ years around here, I've seen some crazy stuff (and I've tried it all - well, ALMOST all - gotta try it to know what's beating you).

These days, strong internal linking and earning backlinks is the safest way to go.... BUT, Google will probably clamp down on that eventually, too lol!

I remember writing a post on my http://PotPieGirl.com blog back in 2012 or so titled something like "Please Do NOT Link To Me!"

That wasn't too long after I totally upset the SEO world (and really upset Matt Cutts - for those who remember who he is) - by revealing a secret document for Google Raters.

Ahhhh, those were the days! =)

Bottom line, if you do ANYTHING with intent to improve your ranking in Google, it will probably become an issue down the road.

You just need to learn to 'bob and weave' and avoid the slap =)

Great post, @nathaniell !

Jennifer
~PotPieGirl
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EddySalomon Premium
You make a good point. Because back then all of us were doing it and it did work. But even then I don't think it was sanctioned by Google. But they didn't seem to really enforce it until April 25, 2012. Yes it's imprinted in my memory because that's when I pretty much lost everything. Lol

I think the point Nathaniel is making is it's not worth bobing and weaving if eventually Google connects an upper cut or a "slap". Giving Google what they want is pretty straightforward. And they tend to reward it. Will they change the rules on us again? They have and will continue to do so. But WA tends to teach tactics that have stood the test of time and are in line with what Google wants.

The bigger issue as I see it is how Google is pushing organic listings down below the fold because of ads. Or their stealing of our content for featured snippets (aka Position 0) and taking clicks away from us. A lot of their changes to their SERPS is touted for user experience but seems to be at the cost or publishers sometimes. Google is becoming more play to pay in certain niches and industries and that's annoying. But that's Google. they giveth and taketh.
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MikaelM Premium
Really great info and examples. Thanks for sharing
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nathaniell Premium
Thanks for reading Mikael! The longer I'm around, the cooler it is to see how everything changes (or stays the same) year after year.

Although, I am turning into one of those "back in my day" type of people LOL
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MikaelM Premium
lol - is there is learning in it there is nothing wrong with being one of those kind of people:-)
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oh.. so danger on sky black them people take care
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nathaniell Premium
When you pay for PBN links, danger is on the horizon!
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