Accidental SEO Experiment...

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  • SEO
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I just had to post this here for anyone who may be interested to know. I will change the information to protect the innocent ;-)

So, those of you who know me, know that I run a successful digital ad agency. One of the many things my team does is SEO. Here's the accidental experiment - take what you want out of this interesting discovery.

We submit our SEO clients' sites for backlinking every week. We have a lot of clients and submit as many as 10k backlinks at a time, spread across 50-100+ clients. Here's what a simple slip of the keyboard by one of my project managers taught me about the significance of backlinks...

First, let me introduce two of my clients: Client A (a dentist in Los Angeles) and Client B (a landscape architect in Houston).

Here's how the backlinks should have gone...

Client A
Link: Dentist Los Angeles [pointing to clientA.com]

Client B
Link: Landscape Architect Houston [pointing to clientB.com]

I'm sure you can guess - a mistake was made and we flip flopped them...

Client A
Link: Dentist Los Angeles [pointing to clientB.com]

Client B
Link: Landscape Architect Houston [pointing to clientA.com]

Here's What Happened...

A week later, after we realized the accident. We checked Google for "Dentist Los Angeles" and what did we find on page 1? Client B! Client B is a landscape architect in Houston. None of their pages were optimized for this key phrase at all, yet there they were!

Thinking this was a fluke, we checked Client B's site on Google with "Landscape Architect Houston." Low and behold, there was Client A (the Dentist in Houston) in the top 20 of Google. Again, there was zero on-page optimization for this keyword.

We have since corrected the mistake and our clients are happy to be up on top for their keywords, but I found this accidental experiment to be highly educational. Take what you want from this, but this makes it clearer to me; than ever, that off-page (i.e. link building) amounts to at least 70-80% of ranking. Mind you, our team builds links by hand, so this might not be the result for some of the automatic systems.

Again, this is just my conclusion from an unintended experiment. I probably wouldn't have given it much more than a single blink if it were just one occurrence, but the fact that the result replicated itself between both clients made me pause.

Anyway, I thought some of you may find that interesting.

All the Best!

--Ben
#accidental #backlinking #backlinks #experiment #seo
  • Profile picture of the author reynoldscorb
    Thats quite bizarre.

    Just goes to show you the power of backlinks.
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  • That is quite bizarre... particularly since Google LOVES content and makes certain people know that. SO, will your next accidental test include content? Yikes, that would be very hard to do...
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    • Profile picture of the author RockstarBen
      Originally Posted by ContentArticleWriter View Post

      That is quite bizarre... particularly since Google LOVES content and makes certain people know that. SO, will your next accidental test include content? Yikes, that would be very hard to do...
      That's why I thought it was so unusual, as there was ZERO content to support the targeting, none. Now, I do not want anyone to think this is a loophole. I certainly hope no one takes this as a chance to cut corners in their SEO. Even after this, our process, which is strict on on-page, and quality, relevant content remains (and will continue to remain). Please take this as an interesting find that proves nothing more than the power of quality backlinks... Content is still the foundation, backlinks are the gasoline. Overtime, Google will figure it out and "fix the glitch" from our accidental experiment...
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      • Profile picture of the author Just_Mel
        Originally Posted by SheriffBen View Post

        That's why I thought it was so unusual, as there was ZERO content to support the targeting, none. Now, I do not want anyone to think this is a loophole. I certainly hope no one takes this as a chance to cut corners in their SEO. Even after this, our process, which is strict on on-page, and quality, relevant content remains (and will continue to remain). Please take this as an interesting find that proves nothing more than the power of quality backlinks... Content is still the foundation, backlinks are the gasoline. Overtime, Google will figure it out and "fix the glitch" from our accidental experiment...
        Just a side note for anyone thinking they can shortcut in this manner - I've had a bit of a 'mishap' in the same manner. And yes, the sites will show up in the rankings for a bit right after crawling, but will fall quite quickly with no content to back it up...

        This definitely is an irrefutable argument for off-page factors though! Links DO matter - even the dreaded 'no-follow' links people tend to want to avoid! :p
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        • Profile picture of the author RockstarBen
          Originally Posted by Just_Mel View Post

          Just a side note for anyone thinking they can shortcut in this manner - I've had a bit of a 'mishap' in the same manner. And yes, the sites will show up in the rankings for a bit right after crawling, but will fall quite quickly with no content to back it up...

          This definitely is an irrefutable argument for off-page factors though! Links DO matter - even the dreaded 'no-follow' links people tend to want to avoid! :p
          Thanks for sharing your experience. In fact, I just checked my 2 sites and they are still in the top 50, but are slowly fading away into the sunset. Content matters.
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  • Profile picture of the author rapidscc
    Hi Ben,

    It's quite a good insight. This has lots of implications, since if this is true it means
    that there's no longer any need to focus on targeting keywords on our site and simply
    make sure that each link we build includes our targeted keyword phrase and it will be
    more effective that way.

    I just want to ask something. I hope it's alright.

    You mentioned that:

    Mind you, our team builds links by hand, so this might not be the result for some of the automatic systems.
    I was wondering if any of your team member noticed anything unusual when they were trying to build links for the keywords "Dentist Los Angeles" and pointing it to an architect's site and vice versa.

    All the best,
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    • Profile picture of the author RockstarBen
      First, I would still consider the importance of on-page as part of the process, but I would also take note that there is more weight to the value of your external optimization...

      As for my team - Great point! This is how we ended up catching it, about midway through the process, one of our project managers received an email from one of our "search engineers" asking if the order was correct, as they had wondered if we intended to link it that way. At which point we had corrected the problem; however, many links had already been built at that point. I hope that answers your question...

      --Ben

      Originally Posted by rapidscc View Post

      Hi Ben,

      It's quite a good insight. This has lots of implications, since if this is true it means
      that there's no longer any need to focus on targeting keywords on our site and simply
      make sure that each link we build includes our targeted keyword phrase and it will be
      more effective that way.

      I just want to ask something. I hope it's alright.

      You mentioned that:

      I was wondering if any of your team member noticed anything unusual when they were trying to build links for the keywords "Dentist Los Angeles" and pointing it to an architect's site and vice versa.

      All the best,
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  • Profile picture of the author yukon
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    • Profile picture of the author RockstarBen
      Originally Posted by yukon View Post

      Might be cool to setup two new sites for testing, swap the backlinks & see what happens with the Google SERPs.

      Would make an interesting case study.
      I just think of it like "crossing the streams" - it would be very bad ;-)

      I'm just glad I got away with it and no harm was done to my clients!
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  • Profile picture of the author Hirnhamster
    Well this isn't rellay news, is it?
    h ttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_bomb (sorry for the whitespace.. not allowed to post links yet 0o)

    I'm pretty sure Mr. Bush's CV didn't include "miserable failure"
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  • Profile picture of the author RockstarBen
    Thanks for the extra info, Hirn. I remember that - hilarious, well yet another case to point to as we all try to pretend we know even a shred about how Google works :-)
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  • Profile picture of the author PhilJenkins
    Yes SheriffBen, It is a well known fact that onpage optimization only accounts for 30% of your SERP. Backlinks account for 70%. This is most true for Goggle So why bother with on onpage optimization? Well it still works for some search engines.
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  • Profile picture of the author sacredhoops
    Thanks for sharing this interesting news! I just hope it did not cost you and your clients anything. I could see that one turning out really bad if it were not caught in time.
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    • Profile picture of the author RockstarBen
      Originally Posted by sacredhoops View Post

      Thanks for sharing this interesting news! I just hope it did not cost you and your clients anything. I could see that one turning out really bad if it were not caught in time.
      it all turned out great in the end-result (happy clients and all) and gave us the opportunity to implement a new over-site and review process to ensure it doesn't happen again. Like I said, I never would have set out to test this experiment on purpose, but am fascinated by the discovery...

      --Ben
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      • Profile picture of the author yesacpow
        That's a great discovery...

        I guess most good things were made by accident ehh. Some scientist start and experiment and things go wrong but for the better lol

        Anyways, it's the same thing with adobe. If you type "click here" they rank #1 on google even though their site is not optimized for that keyword.
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        • Profile picture of the author RockstarBen
          Wow, I just checked that out for adobe - very interesting! I suppose, if nothing else, I am building an interesting case to share with clients who are skeptical about backlinking...
          Originally Posted by yesacpow View Post

          That's a great discovery...

          I guess most good things were made by accident ehh. Some scientist start and experiment and things go wrong but for the better lol

          Anyways, it's the same thing with adobe. If you type "click here" they rank #1 on google even though their site is not optimized for that keyword.
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          • Profile picture of the author yesacpow
            Even though we can never know entirely what google uses to rank every site, we gotta admit that backlinks are super powerful.

            I have sites that ranks for keywords that only has backlinks pointing to them for those keywords. No onpage optimization!

            You or someone should do an experiment with two sites



            Originally Posted by SheriffBen View Post

            Wow, I just checked that out for adobe - very interesting! I suppose, if nothing else, I am building an interesting case to share with clients who are skeptical about backlinking...
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            • Profile picture of the author Shaunman
              Very interesting. I don't think it means you should forget about on page optimization though. Still good to do it to put all the odds in your favor.
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              • Profile picture of the author RockstarBen
                Originally Posted by Shaunman View Post

                Very interesting. I don't think it means you should forget about on page optimization though. Still good to do it to put all the odds in your favor.
                100% Agreed - there is no substitute for good, relevant content. Not just for Google's sake, but for the sake of keeping your customers happy as well!
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