SEO: No Option But To Buy Links; Google's Cutts: That's A Bad Strategy

Nov 7, 2013 • 8:32 am | comments (44) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

paid linksOver at Hacker News there are some complaints about the Google SEO Starter Guide (PDF). So Google's head of search spam, Matt Cutts jumped in to try to understand what is wrong.

That isn't the fun part, the fun part is later in on the conversation, one person said the thing that is wrong with it is that it doesn't mention how you need to buy links.

The webmaster said, "Yeah, this is all good and everything. But to get to the top in a competitive market, there is usually very little option but to buy high quality links."

In which, Matt Cutts responded, "That's a really bad long-term strategy."

I am sure the comments on this post will be fun.

Forum discussion at Hacker News.

Image credit to BigStockPhoto for $ chains

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11/07/2013 01:55 pm

Its a bit of a catch 22 right now, if you start a new site, and its the best site in the world, its that good that matt cuts himself would cream his shorts from just looking at it............... Without links whos going to find it? if no one finds it how can you earn links? So what you have to rely on traditional methods to get the word out? PPC? If you contact sites in the areas your site focus's on other sites are now all scared to link to you with "dofollow" these days. in 2013 It is VERY hard if no impossible to start a "new" site and NOT pay for a single link, it doesn't matter how amazing the site is people are scared to link out, even I wouldn't want to link out to anything other than a authority sites from my site! IMO the serps are a club for the already established business's, new business's don't stand much of a chance on a national level really! I accept this and wil be buying adds but BING adds because they rank my site more fairly than google! Plus if Google is against "link building" yourself that isn't earned why the hell do they allow "link builders" to advertise using addwords??? Google "link building"! Come on Mat just clean up the adwords, lead by example and get rid of the confusion!


11/07/2013 02:02 pm

A good strategy as far as google are concerned is to continue to destroy small businesses. When google has no small businesses left in the SERPS, Matt and all his little chums can pat each other on the back and declare JOB DONE. All the dirty little spammers are now dead! Thanks for killing small businesses Matt. Your SERPS are a much better place! without them. NOT... If you use google you are helping them kill small businesses! Think about that before your next search.

Shane K.

11/07/2013 02:27 pm

It's actually not too difficult to figure out. When you have a new site, build great content and utilize social media to get the word out. NETWORKING, that's the key to a successful SEO strategy these days. Go where your audience is (reddit, industry forums, G+ communities, etc.) and let them know about your great content or product. Don't spam them, but start a conversation with them - build a relationship with them. Think of fun new ways to get your audience engaged with your content and get them to share it. The backlinks will come naturally. Ya, its a lot more work than sending out a blast email for reciprocal links, but the only option these days is to build a business the old-fashioned way - networking and word of mouth that comes with a great product.


11/07/2013 02:38 pm

Yea doing this on all platforms for 5 months now, giving out freebies to get people interested, people are taking the freebies, hitting our site from all the social media platforms, returning visit from the social networks..... but not a single dofollow link. But I don't blame people because I wouldn't want to link either. Links work well for a specific business model like a blog but certain business types just aren't going to attract many natural links no matter what you try, not now you have the fear factor. We have nofollow links because we are worthy of being linked to but to be safe it seems most people nofollow, and who can blame them?!

Yo Mamma

11/07/2013 02:52 pm

Tar and feather the R-tards


11/07/2013 02:56 pm

Should add I do understand what Matt is trying to do in the SERPS but its very confusing to anyone when they are selling advertiser add for the link building services that get you banned in the organics. : /


11/07/2013 03:40 pm

You're right in theory, but it doesn't work in reality. Just watch this website - seroundtable. Barry collects information from different sources and provide links, but we're still here, on SER. Barry, mentioned Ycombinator many times, but we don't go there. Barry works as our agent, searching for the info. This is convenient for us. But as a result the source of information gets less attention, than those who summarize information from many sources. We return to SER, not to sources. Google sees this as the sign of authority, but this is just convenient. Finally, we have broken authority and when one searches for the information about AnyWord one gets summary websites, not sources. "Networking" is good anyway, but unfortunately with Google's understanding of authority you can't be sure it will work as it supposed to be. It's highly possible, that Google will rank higher the website(s), where you and others do "networking", not your website as the source. Quality replaced by popularity.


11/07/2013 03:50 pm

Yup, that's correct. Can you imagine, that my main project has 100000+ unique pages with ZERO outgoing links? I just don't want to follow all these Google games about links. If there is no strict rules, then this is a game, but I have things to do instead of playing games by the uncertain rules. Visitors can still post links, but they are heavily moderated and if accepted, then can be accessed on the second click only. Click on link button ----> link by itself is opened ----> click on link Google gets what it deserves - no links to crawl, no signals for algo, broken SERP. It was Google's choice, not our.

Mike Kalil

11/07/2013 03:55 pm

"Go to where your audience is... G+ communities..." LOL! You work for Google, right? That strategy might work for a blog, but if you're running an ecommerce site, people aren't gonna jump to link to you. People don't really link anymore, period, but if they do it's not to boring ecommerce sites. That's where the big companies - that already have massive link profiles - have an advantage.

Chris Gedge

11/07/2013 04:52 pm

Travelsupermarket dont think its a bad straegy, and they are being proven correct!searchin/webmasters/travelsupermarket/webmasters/u56C6Y-Wwkk/3CccKZ6xU4oJ

Chris Gedge

11/07/2013 04:54 pm

Shane, you sound like a Google press release.


11/07/2013 05:19 pm

A bad strategy is expecting Google to find good content and give it good ranks based on the content's actual value to end users. It's very obvious that Google only ranks "signals" such as links and the like. Whitelisted big brands dominate the search results even though the best customer service is given by small businesses. Anyway, the way things are going it does not look like Google will be relevant in the organic search market for much longer. Too many YouTube, Wikipedia and Amazon crowding is going on right now that there is no room for anything else other than paid ads. For example, I want to take the family to Disney World and just did a search in Google. The top five organic listings are from the same site and one organic listing was from a 2011 NBC news story. The site that has the top five organic listings also has a paid ad at the top. If Matt Cutts was truthful about a long-term strategy for small businesses, he would have said to pay for Adwords or look to other search engines for organic traffic. Because we all see what Google's long-term strategy is all about - killing organic search results to attain higher profits. This strategy of Google forces out small businesses who do not have the volume of sales that allow them to gain the same margins as the warehouse warriors like Amazon.

Durant Imboden

11/07/2013 06:11 pm

"Because we all see what Google's long-term strategy is all about - killing organic search results to attain higher profits." Really? I see organic search results in Google all the time--including e-commerce results, and not just for big brands. Google's search results aren't perfect (often they're far, far from perfect), but even if the junk were cleared from the top 10 or 30 or 100 results, we'd all still be facing a lot more competition than existed a decade ago. The number of sites and pages on the Web has almost certainly grown at a far greater rate than the number of searchers--and that would be a challenge for site owners even if Larry Page and Sergey Brin had decided to become dentists instead of search entrepreneurs back in the late 1990s.

Shane K.

11/07/2013 07:04 pm

I am not disputing that it is much more difficult for a small ecommerce site to get started these days. But you have to think outside of the box now. Even if a product is not inherently shareable, what are some things that you could do to the page to make it so? Is there a unique angle that you could approach it with? Is there something creative you could do? I think of the blender guy. He was just selling blenders. Could there be a more boring product? But he came up with an ingenious idea to blend random things on YouTube, and as a result drove tons of traffic to his site and boosted his sales. In addition, I think you guys are a bit too infatuated with links. Yes, links will always be an important metric in Google's algo, but it will decrease in value. With the Hummingbird change and the rise of semantic/conversational search, they will begin to surface a lot of high quality content that come from smaller sites, etc.The hope is that it becomes a meritocracy of sorts. However, on the other side of things, I do see how part of this could be strategy to drive more small businesses toward Adwords. To get good organic results going forward, it takes A LOT more work. So, it may force small businesses to invest in PPC, rather than SEO.


11/07/2013 07:30 pm

"But he came up with an ingenious idea to blend random things on YouTube, and as a result drove tons of traffic to his site and boosted his sales." And this is exactly the problem. He got traffic not because of quality, but because of promotion. Quality replaced by promotion/popularity. It means, that there is no reason to be professor and write smart articles. Collect quotes, promote this page heavily and you're authority, according to Google. This is exactly what we see right now in SERP. "With the Hummingbird change and the rise of semantic/conversational search, they will begin to surface a lot of high quality content that come from smaller sites, etc.The hope is that it becomes a meritocracy of sorts." Exactly the same we heard after the Panda. I waited for two years before make any conclusions and heavily supported Google. 2,5 years after the Panda I'm afraid to use Google. I'm afraid to be disappointed again and again. P.S. English is not my native language and I use Google a lot regarding the grammar and definitions. Right now I decided to check, if it's appropriate to use "I'm afraid" the way I did. I typed "I'm afraid" in Google and first result is this : How is this helpful ? I would respect Google more if it just showed me "Sorry, but we don't know".


11/07/2013 07:41 pm

matt cutts want you to buy links in adwords only or contact them for such opportunity. Him can sell you link from mattcuttspaydayloans domain or may be from their coupon sites. Because google also sell links (it named by other way, but exactly same thing) - it just to prevent competition (google is NOT ONE search engine in the world and people can buy links NOT FOR PR, they even can don't know what is it, what is nofollow, why it bad and who is matt cutts and why him so crazy about it). So anti-monopoly dep. must also look in this thing.


11/07/2013 07:44 pm

"Really? I see organic search results in Google all the time--including e-commerce results, and not just for big brands." You must be searching for bizarre and unpopular items then. For example, I need a humidifier filter for my home. Doing a search in Google I find Lowes, Holmes, Walmart, Sears, Target and a couple of listings for Kaz (the most relevant among the bunch IMO). I have an AprilAire unit, so what Holmes sells is out of the question. Lowes may have it, but Lowes is nowhere near me and their prices are high. Sears and Target are all riding the domain authority bandwagon just like Walmart is and does not stock these items so they ordinarily take an extra two days to get if ordering online. Sears, Target and Walmart have all become Amazon super-affiliate wannabees by loading up their storefronts with items they don't ordinarily sell. Regardless, the only non-corporate giant appearing for this search query is Kaz. Filters USA, where I bought my last 3-pack of filters from, is number 23 in Google despite the fact that they SPECIALIZE in house filtration and had awesome service on my last order (affordable, fast shipping, etc.). I saved the magnet they sent with the last order and stuck it to my furnace so I would remember when I needed to reorder. The point here is that Google is pushing corporate search results even when the large corporations they are listing don't stock the items I want to buy. Apparently Google thinks that how large a company is should trump common sense. The problem is not unique to just filter searches but everyday consumables.


11/07/2013 07:48 pm

"it does not look like Google will be relevant in the organic search " Yup, I just realized couple of weeks ago, that we have two different approaches now on the search market. Google - engagement/popularity approach + voice Bing - relevancy approach (used by Google before Panda) + touch These two approaches will compete in the nearest future. My personal opinion is that Bing has very good chance. Especially, if Win 8.1 will take noteworthy market share. At moment I don't see negative reaction about it. I would say, that previous decade was just warming-up before the real competition )


11/07/2013 07:52 pm

just search "make money online" or any similar question. You will find 10 nonsense articles from forbes, all newspapers, even from wikipedia - which not answer this question, but provides only really thin content (to make money for themself from ads). It exactly what google understand under thin and spammy content (at least what they tell us). Just useless but high authority spammy content. Google is not search engine anymore and must tell peoples about it at their main page. Because search engine is UNABLE to penalize sites, it just able to search them ALL to provide correct answer. That what google do now, it stupid thing like "search engine know better me what i need". It crap, but not way to future, sure. Google is not AI and I never gives it any permission to make decisions for me! Also, now google operate with VERY LIMITED set of data (99% of sites already penalized, not matter how good content quality). So, content is NOT A KING, KING OF INTERNET IS GOOGLE DICTATOR WITH THEIR ADS.


11/07/2013 07:53 pm

This is exactly the example of my theory Quality replaced by Popularity. Big brands are more popular and Google rates them higher just because of that. But the quality one is not so popular and Google rates it lower. The whole Google's approach is W-R-O-N-G !


11/07/2013 07:56 pm

-google +bing


11/07/2013 08:01 pm

google going to deadly evil loop! I think they will close more services soon and very soon we will see amazon/ aff programs products (with google affiliate links) in top10 of organic search results ranks better than wikipedia & youtube under informational queries. G is most hated search engine wordwide after their stupid animals.


11/07/2013 08:14 pm

i not see it, sorry. Please clear your browser cache.


11/07/2013 08:21 pm

google themself buying links for google chrome, in japan, etc. But to show us, they give 3 day penalty to own sites (for main keyword, but grab more longtails) ;-)


11/07/2013 08:25 pm

problem here what google is not only search engine. And google is unstable, they show us what they can play with others business, can destroy it easily, so NOBODY can trust them and make their sites for google only. We need also to work with bing/yahoo/duckduck/etc. If google like our sites - good, if not - we will put robots.txt with "very good words" to google. Anyway - it NOT a search engine anymore, it tv reality show - how to destroy the best search engine in the world for 2 years!


11/07/2013 08:28 pm

What utter drivel.


11/07/2013 08:30 pm

Bye-Bye-Matt:>>Matt and all his little chums can pat each other on the back and declare JOB DONE They never will declare "JOB DONE". They will declare we need few more billions to get rid of non-google sites in organic search results (or to get rid of deep space spammers, or get rid of all links in the internet, etc - they will find way to ask for more money). This is never ending story, until end of this tv reality show.


11/07/2013 08:33 pm

today it authority site, tomorrow not authority site. so better to link to wikipedia, webmd, amazon to google get more "natural links". I think 2014 will year of negative seo, really.


11/07/2013 08:41 pm

1. is somebody on G+ communities except the googlers? 2. try to speak with anybody on the topic at any forum and provide him useful link. 1 minute and your link removed (if not wikipedia or webmd) and your account banned. Google made webmasters so much worry about any links. So google destroying itself even from back. Even if google tell us what nofollow links not dangerous, everybody know what blog spammed with comments also have nofollow links on this comments....


11/07/2013 08:49 pm

Google did not make webmasters edit/restrict/ban people for posting links in forums... ...the hordes of spammers did long before Google started getting aggressive. Ignoring this and attempting to make the causal link you do in point number two is intellectually dishonest or lazy.


11/07/2013 08:55 pm

1. yes, but google organize this process - by rumors, blackmail, matt cutts speaches, etc. Google also created negative seo at last year and not give us any real protection from it (disavow tool is something what not really work, 2-8 weeks, no effects, no full list of links, not easy to separate good from bad, etc). 2. In any area of human life people have a competition. But in google problem what hunting for spammers, they destroying just everybody and not cares about it. They go more and more deep, and now penalizing all small business, papas & mamas for ANYTHING and still claims what they are "search engine". But it in human nature what people will do anything to survive. So with google or without google, but paid links will exists. Also imagine - people spend lot of money for site with good content (really good). But no traffic, and only one thing to get more or less stable traffic without paying for clicks - is buying links. So you think people after spending money for good site will sit and wait when somebody will put some link on his site? It big discussion about "discussions/etc", but if it really easy to do - peoples use this way. But in reality it not easy and not always possibly. Also when we listen what they say us "content is king, natural links, highest possibly quality of content" and we see their serp with "in depth useless articles", "amazon product not available", "contact pages", "wikipedia doorway pages - no content, only internal links", "spammy youtube video", "spammy google maps" and listen how more billions google get in this month - everything become very very clear!


11/07/2013 09:06 pm

it just irony. I can tell you what I know niches where ALL top players buy links (just sending emails to everybody in this industry without any worrying). And they stay on the top for really long time (after pandas & penguins). So we need to listen more of mr. mc ideas.


11/07/2013 09:15 pm

For fun: 1. it will work if put new iphone in the blender, but peoples who come to your site not will looking to buy new blender. They will come because will want more fun. 2. Monster from deep space using blender to survive at planet earth? Kids will come, but not will buy anything. Because they will want more animation. Give us some real idea about blender sales on youtube? What people need to see to make him want to buy blender? History of blenders, recipes, blender on kitchen of his dream, women(men) of his/her dream using blender? :)

Soni Sharma

11/08/2013 05:24 am

Well this is really big and interesting discussion on relevant results. Below comments shows human behavior --- disappointed when not able to find (expected - ;) results in top 10. This is truth nothing is perfect till now even Google...


11/08/2013 01:47 pm

-google --bing (its just all EMD there, thats why spam people, who are trying to make quick money exploiting the system +bing)

Medium sized Company

11/08/2013 02:41 pm

Dear Matt Cutts, Not everyone works for companies that have money printing machines in their basement, free food, free healthcare and no worries about their place in Google search for the next year. Matt - You can't answer this because you don't have any experience in the real world like many people working for Google in well paid positions. You are really out of touch!! You say "That's a really bad long-term strategy." and maybe you are right in a Google-osophy sort of way but more people coming here will listen to my advice over yours, even though I'm anonymous and insignificant. Buying links has always been like buying advertising. If done correctly, its far more affective than adwords and makes money faster. If it works in the short term, you'll have cash in your pocket to buy adwords in the future.. Whats the point of following your advice and going bankrupt because your website can't be found?

Gracious Store

11/09/2013 04:49 am

Will Google be able to detect all links that are bought and give adequate penalty if need be?


11/11/2013 12:37 pm

xoxo does drivel a lot, its a common theme in his comments.


11/11/2013 01:09 pm

Each judge the extent of his depravity :) xoxo


11/19/2013 10:46 pm

I couldn't have said it better myself!

Spook SEO

11/21/2013 03:03 pm

Ouch! It hurts Matt! Actually, everybody is starting to feel the changes that Google is doing every second of the day. I think he’s telling the truth because there might be some serious changes and could really hurt those who invested on buying links. How about the regular guys who are getting their earnings from this?


11/29/2013 08:55 am

Google keeps on updating its algorithms time to time. Hope Google will include a software to detect duplicate links or that are bought.

Tom Connelly

12/30/2013 06:36 pm

What this world needs is multiple search engines competing on an equal playing field - OR - people opting to use Bing and others and not solely Google...

Omar AV

02/17/2014 01:59 am

why buy links? produce relevant content!

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