Unnatural Links Case Study – “Links outside of your control”

So it turns out some legend has been building me some free links…Unfortunately however, those links turn out to be a sack of shit.

Check out this cheeky little snippet from ahrefs:

ahrefs unnatural links graph

Not bad, huh?

And since I don’t do any link building for the blog, you can imagine I was more than a little bit surprised when I saw this bad boy a while back.

So, I thought I’d probably best do a little bit of digging and find out what’s going on.

And I quickly saw that something wasn’t quite right:

ahrefs anchor text breakdown screenshot negative seo

63% on “green coffee bean”?! Auch! And I’ll be honest, the 7% referring domains on “pure green coffee bean extract” doesn’t exactly get my SEO semi on either.

I’m not sure what someone was hoping to achieve here, perhaps the blog was lucky enough to be chosen for a little experiment of some kind? Or maybe it was subject to some really shoddy attempt at negative SEO? Joking aside though, my experimental streak really wants to know more about it, so if the above screenshots look familiar to someone, drop me a line and let’s have a chat!

In the mean time, I’m going to run a little experiment of my own.

I actually noticed this a while back, but I’ve been sitting on the info to see what happens. Let me explain…

It’s something we’ve been hearing more and more from Google recently.

“If you don’t control the links pointing to your site, no action is required on your part. From Google’s perspective, the links already won’t count in ranking.”

Source – https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/2604772?hl=en

It’s becoming Google’s standard answer to the negative SEO argument.

So I decided to use this as an opportunity to put Cuttsy boy to the test.

According to all of the official word from big G, since I clearly didn’t build these links and they are indeed outside of my control, they can’t possibly harm me. Hmmm.

Personally, I’m sceptical. But hey, there’s only one way to find out, right?

So rather than running around like a headless chicken, firing off desperate link removal emails to everyone I can find, I have taken literally no preventative action what so ever. Sorted.

So far so good though. The site appears to be holding up well with organic traffic:

matts backpack traffic graph google analytics

The lack of growth is a little embarrassing, sure (probably not helped by the fact that I’m averaging 1 post every 2 months), but there’s certainly no drop off. There’s also no drop off in rankings – or at least not in the keywords I track anyways.

So it seems that, for now at least, Cuttsy might be onto something.


The Real Test

I suppose the real testing point will be when the next Penguin refresh comes around.

That’s the point where I’m kinda expecting the shit to hit the fan.

I can quite easily see how a human being could act in accordance with Google’s seemingly quite lenient stance on links that are “outside of your control”, but what I can’t quite get my head around is how an algorithm can be designed to do the same. And from my understanding at least, Penguin is very much just a percentages game. If you smash one anchor text too hard and it makes up too much of your profile…bye bye rankings.

I also don’t think that the sources of those links will do me many favours come Penguin day either. For the most part they seem like junk auto-generated stuff. Typical tier 2/3 kinda links. Not really the kind of thing Penguin likes to see pointed straight at your blog.

Of course, I might just be talking complete crap here. Truth is, I have no idea what’s going to happen come Penguin refresh time. But I guess we’ll find out soon enough!

I’m going to leave the experiment running and see how it turns out. I’ll update this post on P-day and let you know what happens.

Want to know what happens with the experiment?

Signup to the mailing list and I’ll keep you posted…


  1. By funke


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