Last week, I reported on Google’s takedown of AngloRank, a supposedly solid link network used by black hats to boost their sites. It was amusing to follow AngloRank’s sales thread on BlackHatWorld, because Matt Cutts’ proud Tweet announcing the torch was actually seen as free publicity and the network saw an increased interest in their packages.
Well, it seems that Google is making network-hunting into a bit of a sport; last Friday Cutts reported the takedown of another link network, Backlinks.com. This service was yet another “undetectable” link buying program; they offer “2 types of text links: Standard text links which display a simple text link of up to 30 characters and Content Links which display a text link and additional surrounding text of up to 120 characters.” You can also sign up to sell text links from your website, for which you will receive 50% of the revenue generated. Like AngloRank, if you work with white hat SEO tactics it’s a little bit of a shock to realize that these sorts of networks are still around—it’s sort of like seeing someone walking out of the Apple store using a first-generation brick-sized cell phone.
Backlinks.com has a far more professional-looking website than AngloRank, which seemed to do most of its advertising on the BlackHatWorld forums, where SEOs largely knew exactly what they were getting into. The network hasn’t commented on the penalty, and Search Engine Watch reports that, in fact, they started a promotion on the same day as Cutts’ tweet which offered 3x the number of links for the same price. Whether they’re desperately bailing out as much cash as possible or simply puffing out their chest in the face of a challenge is unknown.
I headed over to the BHW forums to see what they thought of this latest takedown, and again the response surprised me; while I didn’t expect them to be mourning the loss of their links, they were quite critical of Matt Cutts for announcing the Backlinks.com takedown with such pride; one user compared it to “a top cop reporting about petty theft. Just sad and disgraceful.” It’s quite the difference in impact between Google and the black hats; while the white hats celebrate another bad guy biting the dust, the black hats roll their eyes and complain—not that their link networks have disappeared, but that Google shouldn’t even be going after them in the first place because they should have bigger fish to fry. To them, Google is ruining a person’s business, and trying to win an endless game of cat-and-mouse. It’s not unlike the dog character in the classic NES game Duck Hunt, who pops up to giggle at you when you’ve missed a shot.
So, to reiterate, again: do not buy links from a network. Just don’t do it. AngloRank proudly reported a spike in sales after Google announced they’d caught them, and its owner claimed that a scant handful of sites had been penalized and that customers would not feel the impact; this week, the service has ceased taking orders from new clients, and many current users have reported getting penalty warnings from Google. The network’s claim that they were untraceable has been pretty well debunked by this point. Matt Cutts, cheeky as always, won’t confirm that Google is specifically going after link networks one by one, but now that two major services have been taken down in as many weeks it definitely seems like a pattern is emerging. But the question now remains: out of Google and the link networks, who represents the target shooter, and who is the dog who pops up to laugh in the face of a loaded gun?