Backlinks continue to add value even when removed? - Mini Case

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About 7 months ago I built a niche site on an aged domain and followed a typical build plan, letting the site age a month then slowly drip feeding links and adding content (up to 50,000 words now).

I had 3 main pages I wanted the most traffic to come from. Each page followed onsite SEO best practices and had 5 topical pages built and linked back to them.

Lets use the fake keywords Best mountain bike and Training wheels as the 2 page examples.

I built about 5 da 30 links a month to each page and since they were reasonably low competition by month 4 I had gotten both to #2 and #3 for their keywords.

For Best mountain bike I continued to build backlinks over the next few months.
For training wheels, all previously built backlinks were removed and link building was stopped

What I expected here was for site 1 to jump in rankings and site 2 to drop out, however something weird happened, the site that had all the links removed didn't budge in the rankings even months after link removal



I have seen similar results before where lots of backlinks provide a jump and once your in the top positions your site can naturally stay there even without the juice. Having a history in Amazon sales, this is familiar as usually a big boost in Amazon sales can get you to the top and if your product is good enough it will stay there. This could be CTR keeping me propped up.

Now its been months and the site is still at the top so I don't think its just the algo being slow but that is always an option, I have seen this type of thing before, could this be justification to buy backlinks then remove them after half a year when you're at the top of serps? Lots of interesting questions. Again I don't think its the algo being slow since its been such a long time but that is an option.
 

Ryuzaki

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I've noticed and posted about the same thing. I called them 'ghost links' at the time. I saw the same effect back when I was experimenting with PBNs. Google seems to have a memory about links. It makes sense too. If the best site on the planet thinks your post is valuable enough to link to for a while, even if that link gets removed for whatever reason, it's still a huge validation that your page is of high quality.

For me it's not a question of whether or not this is true. The questions for me is now "what percentage of the value remains? does the value shift based on the metrics of the linking sites? does the value shift based on how long the link was live?"
 

CCarter

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Thanks Ryu I agree I think the biggest question is long term value in the 1+ years

That moz breakdown covered essentially every question I had with a much larger case sample

breakdown for those too lazy to watch the video

Had 2 sites

site A - he sent 22 exact match anchor text links
site B - he sent 22 non exact anchor links

Site A + 30 positions to position #1
Site B + 6 positions to position #11

Then removed all the links and indexed -> even after pages indexed with no links sites basically stayed in their same positions, ranking stayed at #1 - 4 1/2 months later.

- This same effect happened in every link test they ran, 8 different tests, wasent one test where removing the links moved them back down

Explanations-
Maybe the page ranks well and stays up because of good CTR and it leaves it because of quality
could be other factors we dont know about
could be google has something in their algorithm that says if a link dissapears they shouldent take away the value of the link, for a long time they should leave a remnent or ghost of the links value in the ranking equation.

- This means for alot of us that worry about links getting removed, we may get more value than we think form a link
 
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As a link seller, I know this to be true. I gave up threatening to remove the links if they didnt pay because then it would be even more embarrassing when they find out they are still solidly ranking after months lol...

I have sites I'm still tracking after 2 years when I removed the links clients stopped paying for. The sites are still in their positions ans if they loose positions, it's a limited amount of positions lost, not crumbling down pages back where they were before.

I actually started giving links to my projects for a couple of months then removed them. From then on no competitor knew what was holding up these sites in the rankings and the linking domains where used for other projects on a rotation basis.

Rob
 
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I actually started giving links to my projects for a couple of months then removed them.
I've thought about doing this with PBNs in the past but it's hard to know how much historical data the algorithm takes into account when tossing out penalties. This method will definitely dodge manual penalties. But I'd hate to take this "one link too far" and end up with an algorithmic penalty because the algorithm was 6 months behind. Then I have to wait 6 months for it to clear up a penalty that didn't exist in the present anyways. Then again, YOLO.
 
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I personally have not being penalized since the first panda cleared my 300 bucks per day affiliate site. I am tracking PBN backed sites rankings for more than 4 years with no drops and continue to fly under the mom and pop radar.

I found out that there is a limit of links under which google doesnt consider you for penalties. I dubbed it the "don't destroy mom and pops small blog" filter.

So I rotate just a couple of exact match links using my domains with no problems. My domains have under 15 out bound links at any one time.
 

Ryuzaki

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I found out that there is a limit of links under which google doesnt consider you for penalties. I dubbed it the "don't destroy mom and pops small blog" filter.
Absolutely. I call it "coming in under the radar" or whatever. It's all about not destroying mom & pops while also not causing other civilian casualties. The thing is, a mom & pop might get hit by 2 PBN links they didn't build but were used as co-citations. But if they only have 10 incoming links, that's 20% spam ratio. But there's not enough statistical confidence there to conclude that they're the ones who built those links.

I've found tricks that can be done in the same fashion with anchor texts too to hammer your way up to the top of competitive rankings, that follow the same principle of "no confidence, move on." Without spilling the beans, it does involve extremely over optimizing yourself for the short tail in order to rank for the long tail. I don't use the trick because it requires spamming. I'm sure a clever thinker can figure out how it's done and go to town.

But yeah, nearly all of this is statistics based. The slightest understanding of that and you can do a lot of exploiting. Even more so as you age and get more and more legitimate links and become a more solidified brand.