Some Sunday reflections on SEO and Link-building from the early years of my SEO career in 2005. I worked heavily in affiliate marketing from 2006-2010 with my own Black, Blue or Greyhat projects. There is not an affiliate niche I haven’t been active in: payday loans, travel, forex trading, gambling, supplements.
Back in 2006 it was possible to rank a dropped domain with good links to a #1 position in Google within hours. I remember registering dropped governmental domain names and then getting them to rank for things like “payday loan”, “poker bonus” etc.
My first job in the SEO industry was with a small agency in Sweden. We had a little network of sites where we automatically pushed out links. I started with getting pages to rank on Swedish Google (google.se). Back then it didn’t take much to rank a site. Niche/Content/Trust was really no issue. Just link. The more links – the better.
We had several phpLD (those of you who remember link directories), phpBB (bulletin boards) and could get #1 rankings very easy with basic On-Page SEO and a bunch of links with exact anchor text. If a site didn’t get to the ranking we wanted, we just added links until it did! There could be up to hundreds of exact match anchor texts from one domain to the client site.
Google’s algorithm was easy to trick and value in a domain really came down to: age of domain, number of links to the domain, authoritative links (Some of the best links you could get was the $295/year Yahoo directory or DMOZ.org)
I moonlighted on many side projects to test how far I could take things before one received a Google penalty. It wasn’t easy to get penalized but I succeeded quite a few times!
I started to work more and more on .com for highly competitive keywords. The tolerance that Google had regarding link placement was still a bit blurry but since .com was a more competitive marketplace you had to go for more sites.
The SEO community wasn’t that big in 2006. Everyone was listening to Matt Cutts’ (Google Spam team God) latest blog entry on the official Google blog, what he had said or not said during a keynote session. I met Matt Cutts for the first time at SES London 2007 (Search Engine Strategies conference) and it was like meeting a rock-star!
Matt Cutts, dictator, chaperone and opponent in one person. We all (or some of us) thought of the smartest ways to outsmart Google with spammy techniques. I did a lot of “Blackhat SEO”. SEO that went against Google’s guidelines. Matt ran a blog (unofficial Google blog).
Google’s guidelines were nothing I would comply with. I remember Matt saying things like “content is king” and in many ways dictating how to build websites to the SEO community. This was probably to ease work for Google, and get everyone in line so that sites were easier to categorize and rank.
I went on to join a company in 2007 that worked in very competitive niches. I will share the next part of my view on link building through the years in my next blog post.