From Russia with Link Love

Wed 16 December 2009 16:30, Evert Veldhuijzen

From Russia with Link Love

The first post in our top ten is one from the beginning of the year. Blogger Evert Veldhuijzen wrote his post "From Russia with Link Love". He showed us that link brokers coming from Eastern Europe can have some significant influence. Worth a top ten spot in our 2009 posts of the year!

From Russia with Link Love - originally posted on January 2009

Almost on every conference there are some link building sessions and on almost every link building session you hear the phrase “It’s hard, but no one said link building is easy”. Why is that? Link building could be so easy: you just exchange some links, you just go to 100.000 directories to put your link on (or you use this awesome 29 dollar automatic directory submitter :-)), write a few articles for article directories and to complete your link profile, you just buy a few links. And you know what….until a few years ago this actually worked and, if you do it smart, maybe today this is still working for you.

But unfortunately many webmasters and even agencies don’t do smart link building. In Germany there are some big discussions around the blogs (see Matthias Süß and Sistrix) about the so called “Russenlinks”. Link love from Russia has one big advantage: it’s cheap. For a few bucks you get a PR7 link. But if you buy some of those and Google sees that a big part of your link profile for your German web site is build on links on Russian pages, maybe even containing Cyrillic script, what do you think will happen? Right, they penalize your site.

Other people go to one of those link brokers out there. Some of them have a real nice interface; you are able to see immediately on which domain you can buy a link. But… do you think that Google doesn’t have a login? Do you think Google doesn’t look at footer links, because their Quality Raters are too lazy to scroll all the way down?


Picture from Sistrix Toolbox: Rankingdistribution after a site got a +50 penalty.

So if you find yourself ranking on your brand at position 55, it’s time to think about another link building strategy.

Google Guidelines say:

Let me make one thing clear at this point: yes, your competitor can hurt your rankings! He will not be able to get Wikipedia penalized, he’ll not be able to get Amazon penalized, but if you don’t have a strong domain (or especially if you have a young new domain) he definitely can harm your rankings.

And if you still want to buy links, just do it smart and shut up about it.

  • Comments (15)
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Comments (15)


  • You're right on Evert ! Linkbuilding is by far most the number 1 factor to gain top places in the Serps and yet 95% of the webmasters finding it too hard, time absorbing and a waist of time to do it right.

    If you like to win a marathon you won't make it with using some kind of steroïds. You got to practice hard..every f"é&# day :o


    Do 29 jan 2009, 22:48

  • well, top-linking translates into link-bait, but of course those who are selling things like industrial equipment or something like plastic sliding doors, you know, more regular stuff, they have a hard time creating some kind of link-bait.

    so, many people just have to go the standard link building way; directory submissions, articles, forums postings and social bookmarks to get anchor text links, but all rather low PR ... well; look for the top-blogs in your niche market and do as I'm doing myself right now; take it serious; write comments that are genuine and become part of the blog-community; many blog owners who will test you first, as long you go back to their blog 1-2 times every week and leave serious comments; after some time they will trust you and turn your nofollow link in a dofollow link and that's how you score high PR links ... genuine high PR links; this mix works!

    anchor text links from dir subs and article etc. and then a bunch of high PR links from blogs ... after all, there are also real site out there, not every site is from some guy who's just trying to steal traffic so he can sell it ... you know all those fake health and mortgage sites etc. the more impossible it becomes for them to rank, the better!

    Vr 30 jan 2009, 04:57

  • Hi Michiel,
    Thanks for your comment. I think you're right although I don't know a lot of people who turn the links later from nofollow to dofollow :)

    One thing you're saying was very good: it's the mix that does the job!

    In my opinion everybody should do what he wants. If you have your own project then I don't care if you go out and buy every link you can. I mean, you know the risk, you know it can hurt your rankings, but it's not a secret that sometimes these strategies still work out very well. That's why I said, if you still want to buy links, go ahead, do it smart and shut up about it. I don't think a link buyer is a criminal :) But I think that at least one has to use his brains.

    What I don't like are agencies, that buy these links for their clients. Normally a client doesn't even know what the agency is doing, so he doesn't understand the agency is playing with fire. This kind of behaviour is damaging the whole industry and it's the industry I'm working in....

    Vr 30 jan 2009, 10:43

  • well, if they're standard set to have nofollows, they're not going to change that for you, but many have simply set a minimum of e.g. 5 comments and are very sceptical allowing comments, so when you are accepted 5 times; the links turn into dofollows.

    the best part: RSS feeds, by simply subscribing to the right blogs; which are about a gazilion for seo etc. but are otherwise very hard to find: on-topic blogs for niche markets, you get an email about new articles, and as they're from related blogs it should interest you, so it's not just about linking, it's being part of the group and getting accepted; once you have that; the links will show just that to google and so google will give you more trust ... higher rankings

    now, about those blogs with noffolow, well, ok, many are simply not awrae of it, but it does restrict your audiance; enough who have figured out the basics of seo and link building and will check for it; nofollow blogs miss out on the professionals surfing around the net, who are willing and able to deliver good FREE content for your blog and keep the thing alive :)

    Vr 30 jan 2009, 11:15

  • about buying links; well, indeed as long it's done smart it can be very effective, but it's of course more expensive and then it comes down to comparing the cost of (more or less) natural links and paid links, obviously google has gotten really good in filtering out the paid links, so it becomes less and less effective

    still, smart done it can be very profitable.

    Vr 30 jan 2009, 11:18

  • Great post Evert - agree 100%

    Vr 30 jan 2009, 12:41

  • Oops,
    I think I just killed the pagerank of Searchcowboys with my post. The Russian (but German speaking) "link czar" certainly will be angry about my post:

    Vr 30 jan 2009, 21:28

  • This summer I released a plugin for Wordpress that got a bunch of Russian, Polish, and east European links. My site is in English.

    Result: Higher rankings and more traffic.

    It doesn't matter what language it's in - people speak multiple languages. The question remains whether the links belong there naturally or not. If your link naturally can fit on a Russian site, awesome.

    Zo 1 feb 2009, 01:41

  • If you are aware of the risks, and how it could impact on your site, then I guess paid links are a way forward - howver I can't think of too many organisations that could do with a couple of months in the 'slammer' for penalisations due to paid links.

    I guess like someone above says, if your prepared to do the time, then its one thing doiong the crime - if not don't whether that be Russian, Korean, Japanese or any other type of link...

    Zo 1 feb 2009, 14:44

  • @ Gabriel Goldenberg:
    Gabriel, Thanks for your comment. To be clear: I don't think that Russian or other links from Eastern Europe are bad! Of course it can be completely natural if you have for example a site about Berlin, to have a link from a Russian site talking about Germany. There's nothing wrong with that. And of course these links will help your rankings.

    "Natural" is the key. What I am talking about are "SEO" agencies that just buy links in these countries without giving a damn thing about relevancy. Those back link profiles don't look natural. And my point is that if you do link building like that it's easy for Google to find out.

    And if you are an agency, working for clients, I think you shouldn't do these kinds of practices. If you do it for yourself: go ahead....

    Zo 1 feb 2009, 18:11

  • Yes, the importance of getting the mix right cannot really be overstated in my experience.
    If you want your inlinks to appear "natural" i.e. "organic" to avoid raising any suspicions (even the algorithmical kind).
    Now if you go out on a link buying spree paying tons of money for "high PR links only!", as so many utterly clueless people are doing, guess what that gives you: "high PR links only" pointing to your site - now how "organic" is that? And what kind of a link building/footprint does it create?

    Same for the prevailing predilection with "topical, focused sites", as in "put sports related links only on sport related sites" - utter nonsense: there's absolutely no proof that any of the major search engines deems entire web sites as being "topical" or "themed". Pages, yes: that's the important part - sports links on a baby food site *may* (not: WILL!) have slightly less value, but that's where it ends. But confusing "authority" with "topically focused" is just one of many other fallacies dominating the link building industry.

    Personally, I wouldn't mind a Russian or Polish PR7 inlink one bit (not that PR really matters, but that's yet another story...) - it's only when ALL or the vast majority of your inlinks derive from that part of the world/Net that you might encounter trouble.

    Good article anyway - keep it up!

    Di 3 feb 2009, 00:10

  • Hi Fantomaster,
    Thank you for your comment. It's an honor to get a comment from you :)

    Of course some Russian or Polish inlinks are okay, but some people exaggerate. Like you said, if you have 100 inlinks and 70 are high PR Russian links, you'll have a problem....

    Di 3 feb 2009, 00:34

  • Link building is not so difficult - it's just time consuming. There are many SEO consultants who know what kind of links they need - but don't have the time or the desire to put their head down and do link building for 8 hours a day. Companies that sell links publicly don't offer much value. The only thing you can do is roll up your sleeves and build them yourself (which is going to mean picking up the phone as well (emails are ineffective), or hire a real link broker. In the past I've worked with freelanceers (, WeBuildPages(, SEOLinkIn (, and a few others. SEOLinkIn was the only one that delivered good results. I think in general though even if you hire a link broker you should devote some time to making you site linkworthy and do everything possible to get good links from a variety of sources/vendors.

    Wo 4 feb 2009, 07:35

  • A good post and some excellent comments.

    I disagree that incoming links can "damage" your site, poor quality links or insufficient mix of link types will downgrade the usefulness of those links but damage is a bit strong.

    If that was the case I could get a competitor downgraded by setting up an full-blown link farm with obvious cloaking and doorway pages on a Russian, Chinese, <insert other country here> host and set links to my competitor.

    Dirty trick yes but if it had an effect then there are sections of the internet community who would stoop to such levels. No, that cannot possibly damage your rankings, it just won't help them.

    Most SEO consultants have little or no idea about what they are doing, if they did then they would be making more money doing it with real sites not selling SEO consultancy services.

    Building the links yourself is the only way to go. This is actually very easy to do and should be something that you do every day before you even check your emails.

    I don't even care about don't follow sites, the search bots still find the links and know you're there, they just don't pass the link love on.

    So don't worry about it, just keep doing the work and the Search Engines will love you. Every other method is just attempts to speed up the ranking but they don't/won't last, doing it right will.

    Za 14 mrt 2009, 08:59

  • Hey Burtm10,

    Thanks for your comment. I'm happy that you discussed this, because I was already wondering why nobody doubted this statement in my article.

    From my experience it is definitely possible to hurt your competitor's ranking. Like I already wrote you will not be able to get BBC or the New York Times out penalized, but you are certainly able to get a young or weak domain penalized.

    Two things to consider:
    1. First of all Google admits that a competitor can hurt your rankings. Why? Look at the Wbemaster Information of Google back in 2001: /webmasters/facts.html

    Now look at the same information today:

    See any difference? Right, the word "almost". It's a big difference though. If it there is "almost nothing a competitor can do", there is something.

    2. I have seen several sites, that were punished because of bad link building or, to use a better term, bad link buying. Normally they get a -50 penalty. Actually the whole story about a German SEO agency which got penalized (together with it's clients) because of excessive link buying (expecially in Russia) shows that it is definitely possible to hurt a competitor. Because if a SEO agency can hurt my ranking because of excessive and bad link buying, a competitor can too. Especially new peojects are vulnerable for a "Link attack". Johannes Beus, aka Sistrix, wrote a good post about the story above:

    Za 14 mrt 2009, 13:26


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