After watching a recent video on Shoemoney and reading a rather excellent article on SEOmoz by Justin, I felt inspired to talk about a subject that everyone seems to dance around… Link Wheels, do they work? Don’t they? How can Google filter them.
Shoemoney interviewed one of the guys from Link Wheelers making some pretty bold claims about how effective link wheels are and Justin on SEOmoz gave an excellent break down of how the engines may filter out low quality links based on certain signals. Do links wheels get caught in these filters? Are they a valid link building model? Well, here’s what I think.
There is a little bit of stigma attached to link wheels, widely associated with spam and thin affiliate sites but the fact is, if done properly, link wheels or making use of your web properties can work really well.
If you are investing in link building then why not consider using that budget/resource to create your own ‘useful’ web properties and use these to link intelligently back to you main website? It makes perfect sense! Some smart affiliates have been doing this years.
Do you already have external sites? Are you using them to link intelligently back to your ‘money’ site?
At this point I think it would be a good idea to go over what link wheels are, how to use them and how not to use them.
What are link wheels?
Essentially they are web properties that interlink and point back to your main website or ‘money’ site, the technique has been around for years in the SEO industry but it still seems a lot of people aren’t familiar with them.
They are mainly used to create the illusion that your main site is the authority in it’s niche, building multiple web properties with relevant content and optimised links creates an external hub of info, if this hub of rich content cites your main website as the authority then of course Google is going to follow those optimised links and reward your main site.
Yes, this tactic can be used in a spammy way to manipulate rankings but if done with quality in mind the links you create will stand the test of time.
What not to do
Let’s be clear about one thing, this tactic works, however if you want to sleep easy knowing all your hard work is going to last, then it’s best to do it right. A lot of webmasters looking for the quick win will do the following:
- Create 10 – 15 Web 2.0 properties usually using free publishing websites like blogger, wordpress and squidoo
- Copy and paste content from an article directory or Google news
- Add the exact same anchor text on each site back to their money site
- Link all the properties together with one link 1 to 2, 2 to 3 etc……
- Never add content or build links into these new properties again
If you’re going to build an external hub of websites this is not the way to do it, don’t get me wrong, it will probably work but for how long? In my experience you’ll be lucky to get more than a month out of these links before they are devalued by one of Google’s many filters.
What to do…
Think about the traffic within your niche, what answers are they looking for that your site doesn’t provide for? For example, you may be running a beauty salon but a lot of the traffic within your niche is looking for teeth whitening or semi permanent makeup, it might not be appropriate to have content about this on your site but it doesn’t mean you can’t create one to cater for it.
What Kind of site should I register?
If I am honest, building a micro site on Blogger or on your own domain, it makes no difference, however you own your domain, you’ll always have control of it, plus you’ll have more flexibility in terms of design.
It has to be genuine
Make the content unique, add value and link out to some great resources on the web, invest some time in creating a decent design, have an about page and write at least 4 pages of content to get you started.
Yes! This is a lot of hard work, but the end result will be a link to your main site from a high relevancy, high quality resource that you own, run and control.
I have created 10 Micro sites, how do I link them together?
What ever you do don’t go and paste all the links in the footer to everyone of your web properties all anchor text rich!
Instead think more about quality, write a couple of articles on the topic thinking about how you could interlink with your main site, a micro site and another quality external resource.
Creating external sources this way will ensure the links you create continue to pass value in the long run.
DON’T interlink every micro site together!!
The idea is that Google need to believe these sites are all external properties, if you interlink them altogether it becomes easy to understand they are all controlled by the same person.
Linking between sites should look like something similar to the below:
Second level link building
So you have:
- 10 – 15 relevant micro sites
- 3 – 6 pages of quality, unique content on each site
- smart linking patterns to all micro sites and to the main site
Now all these sites should all ready have some link juice from each other but you’re going to need to boost it and I find the best way to do this is through article marketing.
Write an article for each site and point it back to each of your web properties, as well as linking it to a random quality resource on the topic (remember it has to be natural).
This will give each site the boost it needs to flow maximum link juice all the way back to your main website.
Many companies out there invest in link building and so they should, it works, however in my mind some investment should go into developing external hubs that focus on providing genuine content and assisting the main site in becoming an authority in it’s given niche.
Will it dodge the filters?
Early on in the post I made reference to a post by Justin Briggs, he details some filters your links can get picked up with, let’s quickly explore them and see if we’re vulnerable.
This filter is based on a site having a lot of links from sources that aren’t well linked to, throw up spam sites, low quality content sites would all fall under this and if all your links are coming from sites that have few incoming links then you could get caught in the filter.
Link wheels like the ones described above will be secondary links, they will be linked together and then boosted with article directories, this means the juice passing to the main site are less likely to be impacted.
If you have a network of sites, all registered by you and on the same IP, this is going to let Google know these are ‘accessible’ properties and the link value could be filtered out.
The micro sites we build should be on different IP’s and where possible registered under different names.
Pretty Safe again.
Relative Mass of Spam Links
Again, the more spammy sources you have linking to you the more likely you’re going to trip a filter.
All our microsites will be full of genuine content, provide real references and be of genuine use to a reader.
They aren’t going to hurt our main site.
Link Growth / Speeds to Nodes
Again a simple concept that has been around a while, how quickly is your link profile growing, natural sites will develop more rapidly as the site gains more authority, spam sites gain a lot of links quickly but die off over time.
This is one where the link wheels could get caught out, build your sites gradually, don’t rush through them and risk building too many links too quickly.
The closer you are to deemed spam sites the more likely you are to be spam???
In my opinion I’m not sure how important trust rank is, maybe it is a signal but one that only works with other ‘spam’ signals, otherwise it makes it far too easy to effect competitors just by spamming them.
Plus, you can unfortunately rank high on spam links alone. Either way our sites are genuine.
Nothing to worry about!
If you go using the same anchor text on every property you will get caught, use your brain mix up the anchor text and stay safe.
Link Growth Threshold
Justin describes how some links can be devalued if they come through too quickly, it’s not difficult for Google to understand what should be being linked to and what is manipulation. Social signals and search trends can confirm if a site is worthy of links.
Again we’re being slow and steady, win win.
Genuine sites don’t rely on one or two powerful links, will you site fall if you remove 1 or 2 strong links? If so you’re potentially susceptible to a filter.
However building your micro sites will provide genuine diversity, bullet dodged.
I published a post on this not so long ago:
- Sites with a link profile consisting of high PageRank sources looks unnatural and possibly paid
- Sites with nothing but low quality sources look spammy
You still need to be link building as well as developing these properties and building them will actually assist in the diversity of your link profile.
This backs up the idea of domain diversity, no longer will site wide links be massively powerful but instead the more links you have from one domain the less powerful the links will be.
This tells us there is a threshold on the amount of link juice we can get from these micro sites, however that doesn’t mean their not worth developing.
The fact is there is nothing Google can do automatically to stop this type of link building, it works and as long as Google relies on links it will continue to work.
Do it intelligently and you will see massive returns!Line Break
Author: Tim (293 Articles)
Tim Grice is the owner and editor of SEO wizz and has been involved in the search engine marketing industry for over 7 years. He has worked with multiple businesses across many verticals, creating and implementing search marketing strategies for companies in the UK, US and across Europe. Tim is also the Head of Search at Branded3, an SEO agency in Leeds.