The First 500 Links

Most of the time, when I write about SEO, I like to present facts, data, or lessons learned from numerous experiences. This post doesn’t have those (well, maybe a little on the experential side, but not nearly enough to make it a rock solid assumption). Instead, I’m going out on a limb with a suspicion about how Google’s evaluating and punishing many forms of manipulative webspam today and what they’re going to be doing more of in the future.

Here’s my hypothesis: If the first 500 links that point to your site aren’t authentically earned, you’re screwed.

I’ll show you what I mean on a visual link scale.

The basic story is pretty simple – if you’re acquiring the kind of links that are suspicious in your first few hundred, it’s probably going to mean much higher risk of things like a Penguin update smacking your site, a sandboxing, a “why do I always seem to rank lower than I deserve,” a manual review by a search quality rater, or even just a reduction in the value those links provide. When I see new websites and new SEOs using the practices in purple, yellow, brown, and red to get their new site off the ground, I worry.

If you’re in that “new(ish) site” camp, do yourself a favor and stick to blue (and maybe a touch of green) for your first 500 links.

p.s. More proper terminology here would be “linking root domains” or “linking class-c IP blocks.” I don’t literally mean that if you find a nice site who’ll link to you on 500 pages, you can then go spamarama on your site. Also, in case it wasn’t obvious, don’t do anything in brown or red unless you actually intend to be doing black hat SEO and are ready for the churn & burn.