You get penalised. You get a heap of traffic, and then get penalised.
While I am certainly no black-hat by any means, and do not advocate the techniques outlined in this post for long-term SEO projects, I love testing the theories and rumours that circulate in the SEO community about what link building works and what doesn’t. Regardless of how dodgy the rumours are, it helps me build a bigger picture of how Google treats link building.
So during the Christmas period a few months back I decided to set myself a challenge: to see what would happen if I built a very large quantity of low quality links in a short period of time into a new domain, in order to gauge where Google draws the line with this type of link building and to understand better what pattern this kind of link building penalty might have. Call me crazy, but these things are good to test and they help you to understand what to do and what patterns to look for when something goes wrong unintentionally.
So, I took a new domain that I wasn’t too worried about destroying, picked a reasonably competitive keyword, and built about 10,000 really nasty-looking low quality links in to the home page with a mixture of phrase and exact match anchor text (note: these weren’t ‘paid links’ per se). I assumed that this should easily be enough to obliterate the site from search results.
The site ended up ranking #1 on Google.com for this keyword for about three weeks, which as you can see had a significant impact on increasing the site’s traffic. Just as I was beginning to lack faith in Google’s ability to detect the most unnatural of link patterns, the site suddenly dropped out of search results for everything including brand searches, and what’s more it’s never bounced back.
The test confirmed what I had assumed might happen (the site would receive a ranking penalty), but I was surprised to see that it took over 3 weeks (and several thousand visits) before Google decided to do anything about it. So how could you utilise this?
I think one of the most practical uses for this tactic is to get a website ranking for a seasonal or short-term one-off high traffic keyword. For example, it might have worked wonders to get a website ranking competitively for ‘vuvuzela’ for a few weeks around the South Africa World Cup last year, or you could use it to rank for a term such as ‘gym equipment’ for a few weeks after new year when people are keen to get back into shape. However, it’s important to be cautious and aware of your local advertising laws and to know Google’s view on this type of tactic.