Natural Links Are Best For Google SEO – Bollocks

I was in the forums recently and a thread contained a lot of posters chiming in with ‘organic links are best’ and ‘get natural links’ for best results. Even though I am a content creator first, linkbuilder second, I think this is quite misleading.

While I appreciate the value of organic links, and encourage clients to get them, freely given links just aren’t best for getting a page to rank for particular keyword phrases and never have been.

While organic, natural, editorial (whatever you call links that are given freely by a website owner) are the most covetted links (and the links Google encourage you to build), in competitive niches, while these links increase the authority of a domain overall, organic links rarely are enough to get a targetted page to the top of Google search results for a desired keyphrase – I certainly wouldn’t leave it to organic links anyway :)

The links just aren’t focused enough to compete against a multitude of crap linking methods or indeed weighty enough to take on an authoratitive domain that’s being worked silly with new content and is engineered properly in terms of internal link structure.

So what is the best links? I don’t think it’s fair to publicly publish where you can physically get links that affect Google rankings – I think it’s a bit irresponsible for fellow site owners and Google, and self defeating these days, but;

9 Links Which Are Better Than Organic Links

  1. Links You Make Yourself on sites that show signs of trust (not spammy, high pr, etc) and have not already been pounded by linkspammers – the cheek ;)
  2. Credit links in things you create (websites, plugins etc – as long as they don’t go super popular and to be honest I think this is a legacy thing for old links that might not float in todays Google soup)
  3. Buy links from sites Google would think twice before banning (think open source, pillars of the web etc etc sites Google needs to have in it’s index or it would be a crap search engine)
  4. Organic Links You Ask to be changed to a desired keyphrase
  5. Buying links from sites that don’t sell links (not a long term strategy, as soon as you give themsome cash, they will probably sell more to others)
  6. Buying a lot of links from crappy hosting companies sites in faraway lands (works a treat with exact match domains but you’re left with a very obvious link profile waiting for a competitor to grass on you)
  7. Organic links from people who know how to link out and are up for throwing you a bone (would be a lot higher but face it, this sort of thing is short on the ground)
  8. Links You ask others to make via social networking
  9. Links with your URL (like you have dropped yourself on sites that allow it and are not nofollowed (depends of course if it is an exact match domain of course, or this would be higher)

Now do we do all of the above? No. To be honest we don’t advocate buying links at all for the vast majority of our seo clients. Also, I much prefer single, or multiple links from the same site with different anchor text, than sitewide links or any links you suddenly pick up en-masse from one domain. In the end I think it definately comes down to the ‘quality’ of the linking site. Does Google like it and rank it often? The outbound links are probably good.

Some link profiles created via a spammy(?) link building campaign are a bit embarrassing when you examine them and just asking to be outed sometimes, though I don’t. The last year I’ve certainly concentrated on creating linkable content, and building the authority of a domain, so I can add new targetted and relevant content to a site focused on a user search query.

The fact is you can take a 5 page site with an exact match domain ( and linkbuild to it like crazy, get a very few keyword phrases at number 1 and hope for the best with your 20 visitors a day, or you can add tons of content to your site and law of averages you will get leads from 99% of keyphrases you never even thought you were targetting your 40,000 visitors a month with (and actually create a useful site and possibly a brand).

Either way it’s hard work / or expensive. One way is ultra risky if Google ever decides to actually take crap linking networks out, the other, not as risky.

One point to remember. All the above works best if you have content on your site that people are linking to. At least your link aquisition profile looks more natural because of those sporadic natural links. As the start of any seo project I always recommend some some of content programme for the site.

Natural links are invaluable for building trust and authority, that’s for sure, but domain authority needs to be ‘unloacked’ with fresh new content targetted to a visitor’s needs and at specific times to target specific trends.

Organic links are the best kind of links because your site is getting talked about by real people, not because they boost your targetted keyphrases in SERPS.

I still think you’ve got much more chance of getting to No1 in all search engines, though, with manufactured links, even in 2009. I still think quality links can beat sheer weight of links too.

What do you think?

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28 Responses

  1. Ryan @ Linkbuildr says:

    Excellent points mate and a Sphinn from me. It’s nice to hear some fresh words around link building. I’ve been getting a lot of clients lately with low amounts of content on their site which makes my work awfully hard. So anyone out there looking to get some “organic link building” done from a consultant make sure you’re providing him/her with a good base of content to work with. I agree about the manufactured links. Since I’m researching 100+ sites backlink profiles every week I’m still seeing really bad link building practices that people should avoid….and I’m seeing this within all the people ranking in the top 10. It’s frustrating because I’m avoiding those methods and the big G is supposed to be putting the kibosh on them.

  2. Shaun says:

    Thanks for the comment and Sphinn, Ryan :) I think we could be waiting a long time before Google puts much of a kibosh on anything.

  3. Dave says:

    “Organic Links You Ask to be changed to a desired keyphrase” I’m pretty sure that if someone asked me to do this and it wasn’t a clearly superior link phrase, I would add noref attributes to the links. >:)

  4. Dave says:

    * nofollow, rather

  5. mark Waterfield says:

    This linking game is enough to give me a mega headache

  6. Shaun says:

    @Dave I’d be hoping for a bit more of the milk of human kindness sort of thing :) Obviously, I’m talking about rare occasions when the link just doesn’t match up to the quality of the linking site. I don’t recommend asking all your organic links changed to keyword rich phrases – but in cases it can be worth it. :)

  7. Wedding photographer in Hampshire says:

    So are we still in favour of blog commenting to related theme sites as a source of backlinks. I have chosen 4 keyphrases that I use as anchor text in the blogs i comment on. I use a different one on each blog and even rotate them. Am I wasting my time, or maybe doing some good.

    • Shaun says:

      Yes it is better to rotate text I think, but that depends on how the site you are backlinking from is set up to pass Google Juice ;) Related sites? Yes, I do believe there is benefit from getting links from related pages, ie pages with the keyword in the title and *prominent* on both pages. I am trying to test this acurately ;)

  8. Dave @ Gencia says:

    Am I right in interpreting: “Also, I much prefer single, or multiple links from the same site with different anchor text, than sitewide links or any links you suddenly pick up en-masse from one domain” in that, on a number of client sites we put a varying anchor text linking back to varying pages back to our website rahter than one site wide link? for example: ****** Edited ******* (suffice to say not the site I link to here :) ) in the site wide footer, I link back to our home page using the keywords “Manchester Design Agency” – I guess what you’re saying is that it’d be better on the other pages within the site, for this link to use different anchor text and link to different pages rather than be the same link?

    • Shaun says:

      Hi Dave @ Gencia I don’t think sitewide links even have the Pagerank benefit they had 18 months ago, let alone anchor text benefit. If I was using client sites to rank, which i tried to move away from a long time ago (still got a couple though, I’d go for natural looking links, a number of them on deep pages well inked in the internal structure, one per page) :) Hey you can test this yourself quite easily, without screwing yourself or client. Find a top commentator plugn activated on a dofollow blog and get commenting and see how the anchor text performs as Google spiders that site. Look for any imporvement. As I mention all the time, I think it’s fair to say it depends on the site you are linking to, and the site you are linking from.

    • Shaun says:

      And Dave…. don’t ever give specifics of your linking practices. ;) – Best to be safe than sorry – embarrass Google and they slap you :)

  9. Vijay says:

    Hi Shaun, I would add, one also needs to keep a check with the old links on his site. You might be happy to know the links with a low PRs earlier might have slowly ascended to a higher PR thus adding value. At the same time keep removing those which are not effective due to the site being closed or the links fetching a lower PR than earlier times. Vijay

  10. John says:

    The thing is – most webmasters are really impatient and wants to generate revenue immediately or rather quickly. As a result many goes blitzkrieg on link building campaign without every worrying about implications which are not good these days. Too much – too soon -> DOOM. On the other hand, established sites (already contain good amount of quality content) can focus on building links much faster than new sites - You are right – organic links are the best – but they are inadequate in a real competitive field. Buying links is also no-no these days. There are also not too many quality article sites for article marketing. Buying good links from open source sites – is also not a viable option these days as most of those pages have been exhausted. So IMO – there are only limited options left for link-building these days - 1) Create content – submit to book-marking sites and try to attract visitors and links. Only drawbacks with this method ? No control over anchors. So hard times ahead for Organic SERPS.

  11. David Leonhardt says:

    Well, I think you have pretty much convinced me that natural links are indeed best. Of the 9 links you suggest might be better than organic… #1 is limited in that there are only so many sites you control, but I’ll grant that this is always a great place to start. #2 is pretty organic, using link-bait, but spreading the word by PR and letting other websites choose to link back. #3 is buying – bad idea in any quantity #4 is organic (just modified) #5 is buying – bad idea in any quantity #6 is buying – bad idea in any quantity #7 is organic #8 is sort of like link exchange, but probably higher quality overall, so those might be better than organic if you are willing to link back or do whatever in return. #9 I am not sure these dropped links are really better than organic. They are good, but on their own they end up being a lot like low-quality organic links IMHO.

  12. Nick Stamoulis says:

    I think a great approach you can’t go wrong with is by doing a little bit of everything. A blended approach has worked great. launching profiles, articles, PR blog commenting etc.. By taking a solid quality approach and not trying to cut corners will yield much greater results overtime.

  13. MOu says:

    Im sorry but are you telling people to buy links?

  14. Shaun says:

    @ MOu – I don’t advocate buying links en-masse, ever – but I see them work for some. If the opportunity arises from a particular site I would certainly consider it. Thats very rare though – I still think you can get plenty of free links that manipulate SERPS, so why bother? @ David Leonhardt – How very dare you! LOL :) – My writing may be a bit confused in places, but my title is bang on. I stand by I wouldn’t rely on natural links to rank a page for main keyterms in competitive niches. You are up against the online business authority of optimised home pages – I don’t see many linkbait articles at the top in positions like ‘secured loan’ for instance. Thanks everybody for the comments :)

  15. Online Internet Faxing says:

    I totally agree. Next you need a list of the worst & least effective types of links :)

  16. seobro says:

    I notice that you nofollow links. You can join a dofollow group and get links that way. It is a great way to get thousands of targeted links.

  17. Randy Pickard says:

    Regardless of how effective your link building campaign is, it seems to be increasingly difficult for a commercial site to obtain positions above the fold on the first page of organic listings.

  18. Jack says:

    I think buy links from related sites is valuable. But related sites also means competitors.

  19. Wedding photographer Hampshire says:

    Yes I would like to see that list too Shaun. This is one of the few blogs that are making sense to me and I appreciate your efforts. I never realised that trying to get your site noticed was so hard and time consuming. It kinda feels like I am in quick sand and if I do nothing I will sink, so I have to keep working at it. Finding dofollow groups related to my business is also a bit tough, or maybe they are just thin on the ground. I’ll keep looking.

  20. trade show booths says:

    hey Shaun, In your post, you wrote: “but domain authority needs to be unloacked with fresh new content…” What is “unloaked”? Is that a Scottish term? :) To me it’s all a matter of balance. Even what is “natural” is subject to interpretation. I don’t think Google has any issue with “legitimate” promotion, the question is what is “legitimate”? It’s best to have a mix of natural/organic and “legitimate” promotional links, me thinks. ~ Steve, purveyor of “natural” promotional trade show booths

  21. Boris A local SEO says:

    I would strongly disagree with this statement ‘Buy links from sites Google would think twice before banning (think open source, pillars of the web etc etc sites Google needs to have in it’s index or it would be a crap search engine)” We avoid this practice like the plague! We simply will not by a link period!

  22. Matt Keegan says:

    Very good advice! I, too, discourage clients from buying links anymore unless they find a “no follow” link on a high trafficked site for a bargain. Yeah, right. Then again, maybe the Open Source angle is worth a shot, but I’m sure those link packages are pricey.

  23. SirBigWig (SirBigWig) says:

    Superb article on links!

  24. gav says:

    @shaun – Also, I much prefer single, or multiple links from the same site with different anchor text, than sitewide links - I’ve been searching in vain for information on this. Can you consider my scenario please? I have control of a website called with 2 pages, namely index.html and services.html. I currently have a sitewide link in the footer pointing to my website design firm at with the anchor text ‘professional web design’. I hope to gain some benefit in serps for the phrase ‘professional web design’. However, I’m also interested in ranking well for the phrase ‘affordable web development’. Now I see a possibility of using the second link on the services.html page to point to my site with the anchor text ‘affordable web development’. The page the links point to is the same page, it has suitable on page optimisation for both keyphrases. Is it the case then, that I wouldn’t adversely affect the benefit in serps for the phrase ‘professional web design’, by changing the anchor text on the services.html in the way described? (IE) would I get the same benefit with one link with that anchor text that I would from 2? And so would I be best to make the changes suggested above as it would give me the same boost for ‘professional web design’ with an additional boost for ‘affordable web development’? thanks

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