Links, Links, Links. How We Hacked Google’s Algorithms (The white hat way)

Link growth

Back in the day, SEO executives had an easy time. Search engines simply scoured for pages with specific keywords to deliver the top results. Back then, the results you got from a Google search were varied, often displaying content which wasn’t relevant. But, over the years, search engines have become incredibly smart.

Google is well known for being the leader in the search engine world, with their engineers and developers continuously devising more efficient, smarter ways of matching results to search queries. The current, more semantic search takes into consideration hundreds of critical factors that significantly influence relevance. But how important is link building, and can it be hacked using white hat methods?

The balance between onsite and offsite, what matters more?

In the SEO world, our general assumption is that the more links a page has, the better it’ll do, right? However, popularity and links can’t be everything, I mean, it would be great, but sadly we’re left guessing that we’re doing the right thing and the only real deciding factor of our performance is through the position we hold on SERP’s.

Rumour has it, that there are many on-page factors that can drastically change your web page’s ranking on search engines. Some bloggers have sworn that their content creation and savvy onsite content has carried them to the top.

This would assume that search engines aren’t looking into the backlink profile, and care solely about the content on the page. In this content focused world, creating high-quality and valuable content is of the utmost importance.

It should be common practice, but take the time to create a stunning landing page that is relevant and jam packed with content. There is a much higher chance it’ll be fair well in terms of rankings. In the early days of any website, consider creating high quality authority grade articles with a decent amount of length. This’ll supercharge your organic profile, giving Google a better idea of what your site actually does. Though this takes into consideration that off-page SEO does very little.

On the other side of the SEO argument, there are those that claim the world revolves around links. With companies thriving to build an incredible amount of links whilst keeping their web content thin. At times this can be a graceful balance between building them without opening yourself to the shady world of grey hat techniques.

“Some” experts claim that on-page SEO is roughly 25% of what Google is seeking. But what do you think? Is the world about building links or creating content. Let’s find out in this case study…

Is there a relationship between inbound links and authority?

Before we jump into our story, let’s talk about Inbound links.

An inbound link is achieved when another website links to your website, that could be an article, or just a link to the homepage, and the more inbound links you get from high authority websites the greater the overall authority of the page. This is the general assumption.

But this isn’t the case, building links isn’t about links, links, links. Google and other search engines are getting a little too smart, and they know what a low quality link is. So if you are link-building… Relevance is everything, at least that is what they are saying.

Majestic results

So, how do you attract high-quality relevant inbound links? You do it by creating valuable content that others will appreciate, whether this is a piece of data to cite, or an article that is incredible.

Being a legit, white-hat, link builder is a long-term process and sometimes quite costly. This perfect model assumes that you spend 25% of your time creating content, and the other 75% using it to get links. A pure content strategy is the reverse, but can you hack this process to get serious links with minimal work using a viral marketing link building campaign?

It’s good to know what a growth hack is before we continue…

Simply put, a growth hack is a way of invoking rapid acquisition of your goals. If your business model is to grow 100% organically each year, a growth hack would aim for that each month.

Whether your goal is more signups, or simply boosting brand awareness, the growth hack is the pinnacle of out of the box thinking and savvy marketing to achieve those goals.

Progressive growth has always been the primary focus of our business at AppInstitute. We are always searching for new untested methods of driving traffic to feed our sales team with new leads.

Well, that’s what every savvy marketer’s dream is, right?

In our case we actually had a totally different objective, we wanted to build a high number of authoritative white-hat links in a very, very, short time span. We knew that placing content around our niche would be a time consuming task (one that we still work on to this day), but we wanted links, and lots of them.

It was a test to see how it would support our core marketing strategy which is 50% content creation & 50% outreach. This is alongside other marketing activities like onsite optimisation, social media, but for the purpose of this article we want to talk about link building.

So, I’ll cut to the chase, we wanted to create a data focused piece. It was something that we had discussed in length in the weekly brainstorm. A real-time infographic seemed like something that would be a great piece of content and whilst they’ve been done before, for a new topic they are fantastic. Top tip, data is highly citable, and people love a visual representation of data which means nearly free backlinks.

Pokemon Go download.

As a mobile app company we thought that there could be some very relevant backlinks if we reworked our infographic idea around Pokemon Go. Simple right?

Research it, review it, publish it.

Every growth hacking venture requires a large amount of research. So we spent a large amount of time building the real-time infographic, but it was mainly crunching the numbers that we could find.

Once we had all the necessary data, the next step was to find a place to throw our content at, hoping for virality and fame. I think that taking to the spreadsheets is a fantastic way to organize launch plans, listing everything, all the websites, any email addresses, even Twitter accounts.

Pokemon Go

Our goal, at this stage, was to build a list of relevant online forums and communities with audiences interested in what our site offered. We built a list of the most popular online communities including Facebook Groups, Reddit, Twitter, Pokemon Go forums, and Q&A sites such as Quora.

The launch from there was pretty smooth, it was just a case of hiring a few virtual assistants and smashing through the outreach. From there it took off and hit several mainstream publications, which in turn, scaled into more links to the real-time infographic.

Links built

All of this work to build some backlinks, did it work?

In just 7 days, we had generated over 92,000 sessions to the Pokemon Go page. In two weeks, we hit 115,000+ sessions. In terms of those juicy backlinks, we gathered 442 backlinks coming from 279 high authority websites. Our site began ranking for 294 relevant keywords and is still getting plenty of traffic.

Google Analytics

We attribute the success of this case study to taking advantage of an opportunity at the right time, in this case, the Pokemon Go fad. But did it help our main marketing efforts that were aimed at a completely different set of keywords? Can you just build links to your site and hope for the best?

We saw a modest increase across rankings on pages that weren’t even connected with the growth hack. But whether or not this will remain after the trend has died is another case study entirely.

Pokemon Go link growth

What was most interesting, was the lack of actual textual content on the page. Even though the infographic was thin on content, we ranked highly for a variety of keywords, showing that off-page SEO has a huge amount of influence over how your web pages are perceived. Relevance remains a key factor in any links that you do build though. Jumping a few months forward into the future, here is where the page stands:

AppInstitute link growth

As you can see there are still links appearing for the site, which actually had a fairly positive effect on the rest of our app builder related phrases, which was a big focus of ours. For those looking for a rough metric, we’ve seen positive growth on our ahrefs rank (which takes into consideration the diversification and size of a backlink profile).

About the Author

Jamie Fuller is a digital marketing executive at AppInstitute. He spends his days building links, creating content, and drinking far too much coffee at one of the world’s leading DIY App Builders (over 70,000 apps built).

AppInstitute regularly provides leading publications with app analytics, business data, case studies, white papers and statistics for established publishers across the world. They were named in the top 50 creative companies in England by Creative England.

One thought on “Links, Links, Links. How We Hacked Google’s Algorithms (The white hat way)

  1. Das Linkprofil einer Webseite gibt an, wie mehrere Backlinks eine Seite hat, welcher Art sie werden sein, woher sie stammen, sie Ankertexte verwendet und bei wem auf der Seite die Backlinks platziert wurden. Wie Linkaufbau (eng: Linkbuilding) werden alle Handlungen zur Erwerb eingehender externer Links, oder Backlinks auf einer
    Internetseite bezeichnet. Verweist zum Beispiel geraume sehr
    bekannte Internetseite via Hunde mit hohem PageRank
    auf ihren Blog, der von Hundefutter berichtet, würde
    dieser Backlink in der Regel höher bewertet als bei deiner lieblings Webseite
    mit diesen Artikeln.

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