On December 6, Google’s Matt Cuts sent out this cheeky tweet: “’There are absolutely NO footprints linking the websites together.’ Oh, Anglo Rank.” This was effectively an announcement that Google had busted the paid link service; when Search Engine Land’s EIC Matt McGee theorized that the network was “torched,” Cutts confirmed that Anglo Rank had indeed been penalized and that Webmaster Tools would be sending out a lot of penalty notifications in the near future. He also told Barry Schwartz that Anglo Rank was far from the only network that was being targeted by the latest raid and update.
This isn’t the first link network that Google has gone after in the past year, but they’ve been taking them down with greater speed and frequency as their algorithms increasingly demand high-quality, honest link strategies from sites in order to get them anywhere near the top 10. In contrast to all of the quality, content-focused work that we SEOs have been doing in the wake of Hummingbird, Anglo Rank’s listing on Black Hat World appears almost delightfully quaint; it promises English-language links from high-PR sites on top-level domains, and boasts that the network builds enough anchor and link diversity to ensure that Google won’t flag the links as spam. Cutts quoted a piece of their sales pitch in his tweet; Anglo Rank promised that there was no way that Google would see that you were participating in a linked network of sites. Clearly, that’s no longer the case.
What I find personally fascinating is that the report of Google’s bust has done anything but shut Anglo Rank down; its thread on the Black Hat World forums has reported Cutts’ tweet, but the requests for sample links and packaging prices have only increased as a result. The sellers have actually reassured interested webmasters that the network has barely been touched, and any attempts to warn potential new customers away have been met with hostility and accusations of being a Google spy.
It’s actually a little amazing to see the black hat side of this story; while most of us would assume that having a link network busted would result in a mild scramble to rework strategy, it seems that Anglo Rank is still running under business as usual, and webmasters see Cutts’ announcement as more of a challenge than a threat.
For dedicated black-hatters, things like this are just dust in the wind; it’s all a part of the game, and there are plenty more churn-and-burn sites and underground link purchase networks to exploit. But it’s also a potent reminder to everyone with a good website that they can’t afford to lose; never trust someone who promises quick results and bulk link quantities; while the black-hatters may know exactly what they’re doing, if you are their client then you may end up bearing the brunt of the penalty. Good SEO requires patience, hard work, and a lot of give-and-take; Anglo Rank isn’t the first network to get busted by Google, and it won’t be the last, but we are in the final days of these Wild West tactics and they are not going to produce good long-term results.