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Ye Olde Blog of SEO
Oct 02
tale of a backlink that never mattered

A tale of a backlink that never mattered

Just wanted to preface this post by saying that this is basically me “thinking out loud” and should definitely not be taken as SEO advice or anything close to factual information.

I  don’t have droves of data to back up what I am saying (I do have some), but I do have a recent experience to share and I’ve been monitoring this for the past 2 months.

With all that said, I do have an interesting experience to share. For most people, this is nothing new but others might find this a tad curious.

Breakdown of the site / links / traffic

I have a hobby site of mine that I’ve been “working on” for about 3 years. For almost all of those 3 years the link portfolio looked like this:

  • about 20,000 total links (from about 10-20 referring domains)
  • 1 link (the one this post is about) was a PR7 DA75 PA70 which was site wide within the footer on about 19,980 pages. I’d classify this as a grey hat link. My friend owns the website and he linked to me because he knew me. The site was completely irrelevant to my topic.
  • the rest of the 8-9 links are from referring domains that were editorially placed from bloggers PR3-4. All relevant and clean as can be.
  • it also has a ton of social links from Facebook, Twitter, and more.

The traffic breakdown looks something like this:

  • Monday – Friday it normally gets about 100 visits from organic search and 20 from other
  • Saturday, Sunday and Holiday’s it gets about half of that

About 2 months ago I asked my friend to remove the link which he immediately did. I was considering scaling up the site and I didn’t feel great about the link. I also wanted to preemptively mitigate any sort of algorithmic action that might come down the pike.

sitewide link removal

As expected, my link portfolio went from 20,000 links to a few hundred, and lost one referring domain.

Weeks pass, nothing happens. A month later, still nothing. It is now 2 months later and traffic is strong as ever.

seo traffic analytics

Just thinking out loud here

I’m not going to make any kind of bold claims or draw any conclusions based on these very simple causation theories. But it did leave me thinking about links.

As SEO’s we forget sometimes that there are so many factors that determine what a good link is. Just because a link is “good on paper” does not mean it will help your site in the rankings.

Remember, the overall “weight” a backlink carries is not all about PageRank or inbound links to that page, there are droves of other factors that COULD play into the weight of a link:

A link with anchor text in red, 96 point font at the top of the most popular page on the site.

A link on a blog that has never linked externally, until the 500th post.

A site-wide link placed in the sidebar of a website at the bottom of a <ul> list of 100 other links.

One with the anchor text “SEO consultant” vs “An SEO consultant with an interesting take on semantic search.”

An Indian website, registered on an Indian domain, with Indian hosting, written in Indian but a link that points to an English blog with English anchor text.

An image link in the footer alongside 5 other image links.

A link coming from vs

An image link on the about us page of a corporate website that leads to a personal blog.

A link on a blog post that has 900 posts. Each post has about 500 words and 1-2 links pointing to an external domain.

My hypothesis

Google never valued that link to begin with.Even though on paper it had some powerful link juice, it did not help the site gain rankings and it did not hurt it when it was removed. The placement just did not make sense, and it topically had nothing to do with my website.

I know I got a bit off topic here, but I experienced a very important lesson recently that I’ve known for a long time but really “felt” with this link removal: it’s not black and white anymore.

SEO is a very abstract concept, and sometimes it takes a while for these concepts to sink in.  Over time as SEO’s we build out personal pet projects, client sites and “money sites.” These sites are all active case studies and testing platforms for us to learn from.

SEO cannot be learned. It is a process, not an event.


About The Author

Patrick is an SEO blogger and the founder of Elite Strategies, an SEO and internet marketing agency located in Delray Beach, FL.