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Because of the importance of backlinks, and the way that "authority" is calculated, black hat SEO has proliferated LinkWheels and Mininets. In my opinion, we now have a situation that was like baseball during the steroids era. Everyone is cheating, so the people who don't cheat can no longer compete because the cheaters are dominating the game.

With hope that this does not become a discussion of the ethics, which would certainly move this to community wiki (at best), I'm curious about what is technically correct about both Mininet and Linkwheel implementations.

For example:

Do mininets correctly build backlinks? What is the lesson learned regarding backlinks (and their efforts to pose them as organic)?

Do they increase the so called "money site's" authority?

I also should add that it's quite interesting that the Linkwheels are largely built upon the same Web2.0 properties that it seems those sites must be aware of their place in all of this (Squidoo?). If you can cite examples of sites making public their DoFollow or NoFollow link policy, please do.

Please note that I'm not an apologist for those black hat techniques. What I'm trying to do is gain a strong understanding of the techniques that are successfully deployed with Linkwheels and Mininets. In so doing, we all may better architect our off-page SEM and social media campaigns.


I changed the URL I linked to for Mininets (definition). I had originally linked to the "money site" that sold the book that possibly established the phenomenon, entitled "Revenge of the Mininet." That landing page was not very informative, although the book is still a good source on that topic. The original link follows:

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Great question!!!! BTW I followed the Mininet link you suggest, but it does not explain much, they say you have to buy the book. I definietly starting to agree more and more on your saying about SEO "Everyone is cheating, so the people who don't cheat can no longer compete because the cheaters are dominating the game." – Marco Demaio Nov 23 '10 at 21:36
I don't know much about baseball, but certainly not everyone is using blackhat SEO. In fact, if you do a random Google search, the top-ranking page will probably not be using blackhat SEO. Otherwise, SERPs would be quite useless if ranking was primarily being determined by blackhat techniques. That said, certain types of low-value websites are dominated by blackhat techniques because they would not gain backlinks or rank well otherwise. So if you are running a spam blog, then yes you need to use blackhat techniques to "compete". – Lèse majesté Nov 24 '10 at 16:11
@Lese majeste: I don't know about random Google search, I know very well about specific Google searches (the ones that really count in business) with evident deceptive DUPLICATED sites with just diffrent domains show up in results before sites that tried to follow Google webmaster guideline. One day if you have time I can show it to you a clear evidence of it. – Marco Demaio Nov 25 '10 at 18:08
@Lese majeste: The one business category that is top of mind to me is lawyers/attorneys. The SEM consultants they use typically have cooked up inbound links to pump up their organic positions. Another category is travel -- many independent bed and breakfast (or similar lodging/resorts) have deployed SEM consultants to "get them to the top of Google." I'd venture a guess that the instructions of the business owner say to deploy LinkWheels or Mininets, though. :) – Chris Adragna Nov 29 '10 at 16:19
Funny that I got downvoted on this question. – Chris Adragna Dec 7 '10 at 2:24

3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I read about link-wheels both the link you posted and this one that is more detailed:

1st of all I would say that link wheels are actually NOT real black hat SEO, they might be called gray hat, because Matt Cutt's himself suggests to spread over web 2.0 sites the existence of your main business/website by writing interesting stuff So basically by creating articles on web 2.0 (as suggested by the link wheel) you are exactly doing what Matt himself suggests you to do.

The main difference between a link wheel and just spreading on web 2.0 your site existence is that Google does NOT suggest to also create a wheel of links among all the articles you write. :) But considering that Matt says that is ok to cross-links website as long as they are contents related, well the link wheels technique tells you to write article that are contents related, so is that black hat SEO?! :)

My point is: considering all the effort that you would have to put in writing at least 5 good quality contents articles on 5 different sites, black hat for black hat: wouldn't it take less to spam around forums blogs (the ones you know they don't use nofollow). Comparing the same amount of time required it's very difficult to say if at the end of the day this link-wheel technique is really worth it, you would have to compare two very similar new sites (with no links at all pointing to them) and attempt to use the link wheel on one site and just a link-building-campaign for the other site. Than see which of the two sites gets a better Google PR.

Telling you the truth, wasting time writing (and reading) about these techniques instead of putting good contents on the websites I build makes me feel really sad and more and more frustrated. But:

  1. considering the type of results Google is returning lately basically strange cross linked websites and the new strange web 2.0 directories (the ones created by users) filled with all sort of crap usually rank better on same search terms than well written site that follows all Google webmaster guidelines and that really are relevant to the searched terms;

  2. and considering that customers (and probably not only mine ones) lately mind only about being on 1st page on Google they seem to be happier with a crappy ugly site as long as is 1st page on Google (the issue is that 1st page contains only 10 results, so I wonder how we will all fit in there);

  3. and considering that the amount of time spent in building a nice looking website with interesting contents it does not seem to be worth the effort anymore, because IMHO for how Google ranks sites (at the end they consider the link references to a site more than its contents, even if Matt says they do balance both) it somehow seems better to spend on SEO the time you would normally spend in making a nice site with interesting contents;

all these considered, I would say SEO has become basically the only thing that really matters, and I agree with you that too many people are cheating, and still IMHO Google does not seem to be able to automatically catch up on this issue and to detect the cheaters, it relies on manual spam report from webmasters, I tried to fill some of them, but I never seen penalties given I've never got a reply.

Well so far I never cheated on Google, but re-reading myself I'm wondering if I am slowly moving to the DARK SIDE of the force.

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Marco, thanks for breaking the ice and answering this. I was afraid no one wanted to touch it. Your comments are spot on. It's not all bad that clients are interested in SERPS. It has the side benefit of getting them away from Flash intros and the like. OTOH, our resignation that everyone is cheating has brought us to knowing we have to beat the cheaters... somehow. Google really needs to admit some fault in creating this mess. It's like their ignorant of capitalism. Their algos not only permit cheating, they encourage it. – Chris Adragna Nov 24 '10 at 15:46
Nowhere in that YouTube video does Matt Cutts suggest generating large numbers of artificial backlinks to inflate a site's PR. There's a huge difference between using user-generated content sites to publicize your business and exploiting a lax nofollow policy to boost your PR. Cross-linking is also not the same as creating dummy sites for the sole purpose of gaming the PR system. – Lèse majesté Nov 24 '10 at 16:15
@Lese majeste: I didn't say Matt suggest generating large numbers of artificial backlinks, I said he simply suggest to sperad the voic around about the existance of your site. Writing article around is a way to spread the voice around. I wonder what otehr ways you would suggest. Moreover reading how these link wheels are supposed to work, they start with a small number of articles about 5 and NOT large number. – Marco Demaio Nov 25 '10 at 18:13

You'll find most black hat tactics have their roots in white hat practices, it's my understanding that the mini-net and link wheel concepts are taken from main stream media. Most newspapers and magazines own far more then just one publication they have many niche publications and usually somewhere on each of them it says its owned by x or it's an x publication with a link back to the flagship site. So these practices in themselves are not bad, they've been in use since before there was an internet (take a look at some of your print magazines there's almost guaranteed to be some cross promotion).

In my mind when it turns to spam is when you get lazy with it, it's pretty easy to go to buy 5 or 10 articles for less then $100 total and spin them into a few hundred or thousand unique articles and then just change the links around a bit and place them where you want them, so that's how most people do it, and thats why it's generally regarded as spam.

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+1 for the clvere consideration and for the link I didn't now the idea of "contents is the king" is creating these new type of businesses. Well, considering all the SPAMMY UGLY written articles we can find on the web at least the ones created with these services like will be still SPAMMY articles, but WELL written :) – Marco Demaio Nov 25 '10 at 18:25
+1, Thanks for the example of newspaper publishers, etc. I like the offline analogy, too. – Chris Adragna Nov 29 '10 at 16:16

They are not blackhat tactics. They kinda work. They used to work a lot better.

If you build 1000 of them with a tool, then it 's blackhat. But of course it 's 1000 times more effective so pick your poison. ;-)

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