SEO Heaven: How I Got 922 Dofollow Backlinks From A PR4 Website With A Single Blog Comment

Google webmaster tools logoToday I had a bit of a surprise when I checked into Google’s Webmaster Tools to see how theWebalyst.com was doing. A few things to add to the task list, such as some “page not found” errors, and then I noticed rather a lot of backlinks. Too many to be real, surely: 922 from the top linking website, and over 200 from the next!

So, “Dammit,” I thought, “Webmaster Tools is screwing up, or there’s something broken on the source website, or perhaps there’s some kind of ping-pong redirection sending Google’s web crawler into a spin.”

I looked at the source website to find one of these links and my assumption seemed to be confirmed. Looking at the first page with a backlink, I found no mention of theWebalyst.com on it, let alone a link.

But In Fact, The Links Were Real Dofollow Backlinks

Yes, the backlinks were real. A little investigation (a post to Google’s Webmaster forum—always a great source of help—and a word with the website owner) confirmed this. The links were real, but only around for a short time—and lucky for me Googlebot caught them. If you think about it, on a PR4 (pagerank) website Googlebot is quite likely to spot them because it crawls high ranking websites frequently, much more frequently than others. What’s strange is why they were still showing up in Google’s tools. More on that in while, because the first questions in an SEO expert’s mind are always going to be:

If the backlinks were only temporary, were they any good for SEO? And if so, how can YOU get some! Hopeful grin

How Were The Links Made?

This one was easy to figure out. They were the result of a single blog comment, and that comment showing up in a widget used to show the most recent comment on the bottom of every page. So after I had commented there was a backlink (and a dofollow backlink in this case) on every page, just waiting for Googlebot to come along and sweep up all that link juice and send it zipping over to theWebalyst.com. Which brings me to the question..

Were These Very Brief Backlinks Any Good For SEO?

This one is hard. I haven’t commented too frequently on that website so if I could review my comments I could probably work out when this happened and might be able to say if it had any impact—by inspecting Google Analytics to look for a bump in organic search visitors for example.

However, the website has been restructured and old comments seem to have been lost so I think I’ll have to leave this one open for now. Will update if I learn more.

I do know though that my comment was weeks or months old. And its a busy website, so the links were probably around for just a few minutes, a couple of hours at the most, and have been gone for quite some time. This raises some other questions and the plot thickens as you’ll see.

Why Did The Backlinks Stick Around Weeks After They Disappeared?

I think this gives some clues as to how Google’s Webmaster Tools gets its data, but firstly here’s some additional information I’ve since noticed.

  1. In addition to the 922 backlinks from a website that has since undergone a complete re-architecture, the next 200+ backlink website also happens to have undergone a complete re-architecture since I commented on it.
  2. Just a few hours after discovering this, Google’s Webmaster Tools is no longer showing the 922 backlinks. That’s “a few hours” after I noticed the first set of links, posted about it to Google’s forum, and queried with the website owner. The 200+ links from the other website are still showing.

This strongly suggests two conclusions:

  • The backlinks may have stuck around in Google’s Webmaster Tools because the original pages have disappeared, and Google is keeping the backlinks in place in case the pages come back. Just maybe, that means my link juice persisted in the mean time. In which case, thank you Google!
  • Something I did today caused those backlinks to disappear, but what? Logging into Google Webmaster Tools? Maybe. Posting about it on Google’s forum? Very unlikely. Telling the website owner about it? Possibly, though I don’t think its likely.

I don’t believe in co-incidence, so my bet is logging into Google Webmaster Tools caused it to zip off to some data store (the real Google index) and update the dataset it uses to generate reports. This is speculation, but if true it probably means I wasn’t getting link-juice in the mean time, and that the main Google index wasn’t keeping the phantom links in place after all.

Conclusions

Don’t believe what Google Webmaster Tools says about backlinks without checking them! But I knew that already.

Google Webmaster Tools is handy, but the data can be out of date, and may be the moreso after a period of absence. If you use it frequently the data (at least around backlinks) may be more accurate.

Even if you are lucky enough to get 922 dofollow backlinks with a single blog comment, the best thing to come of it might be the fun of investigating them and writing a short blog post about it!

Thanks for reading. If you have your own tales about backlinks, Googlebot, Google Webmaster Tools or similar I’d love to hear from you.

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8 comments to SEO Heaven: How I Got 922 Dofollow Backlinks From A PR4 Website With A Single Blog Comment

  • I am having this kind of experience, one single blog comment and it keeps on generating hundreds of backlink, and it did recorded in Google’s webmaster’s tool, one blog comment with a total of 412 backlink. It stayed there for about two months now.

    I’m kind of worried if this is bad for my new site because i’ve read other forums and what they are telling is to avoid these kind of blog that generate hundreds of backlinks. I am really looking for some insight on this matter.

    • @Brian, thanks for this info. I haven’t heard this and so I’d be interested to know where you’ve read this. You’re probably aware that there’s a lot of rubbish circulated about SEO, so the source matters!

      All I can say is that it is unlikely to be negative if the backlinks are “nofollow” links, and that my Google traffic is rising quite rapidly at the moment, and so I’m not seeing a significant negative from these kind of links.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, and please let me know if you learn more. Likewise, I will ask around my SEO buddies and see if they have anything to say and update the post as needed.

      Mark

  • @Markh, I read it from warriorforum.com while researching for this same experience. Im worried about two things; when you got so many backlinks appearing for a very short time for just a new site, some say its bad from Google standpoint. 2nd if there’s a sudden drop in numbers of backlink, this is not good for your new site either.

    I’ll take your expert opinion on this while observing the number of traffic my site is getting at the moment. Thank you for this post, this is one of the most detailed explaination on this subject.

  • Pen

    Every place I check my back links gives me different results. Who can tell the most accurate?

    • That’s a good question. Its not surprising they vary to some extent, but they do seem to vary more than you’d expect, and even the same service may come up with different results at different times.

      I don’t do a lot of ongoing monitoring (which I could then use to make comparisons). Generally I do ad-hoc research, for which I use Google search. I trust Google to do a good job of scraping links from pages and to have very up-to-date data. For ongoing monitoring I use Google’s webmaster tools, but as I say its not a big part of my work. I focus more on on-page SEO.

      Other services don’t have the advantages of using Google’s data, so are bound to have less complete and less accurate datasets.

      Which services have you tried?

      • Pen

        I just google ‘check backlinks’ ( i refuse to pay for it) but everyone has different results. Alexa shows the least amount of results out of all of them. What prompted my question is on google webmaster, for one of my sites, suddenly it says no data available where links to sites used to be. My other sites are fine just this one is not. Does this mean my backlinks are gone, are they no longer counting them?? Any recommended sites to check links?

        • Here’s some guidance from Google’s FAQ which may help:

          “If you do a Google search using the link: operator [link:example.com], you’ll see a sampling of pages that link to your site. For a more complete list of pages that link to yours, verify your site in Webmaster Tools and check out the link reports. Note that, although these reports are more comprehensive than a link: query, they may not include 100% of all links that you know about.”

          (Reference: http://sites.google.com/site/webmasterhelpforum/en/)

          Mark

  • I use Yahoo Site Explorer and a couple of other tools to check my do follow backlinks. Never used Google Webmaster before but I have heard similar stories. Thanks for the post, Nice Blog!

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