High PageRank comment links from WordPress blogs, guestbooks and forums used to be a viable, but black hat SEO method for increasing a sites PageRank and Google rankings. The most important part of the above sentence is “USED TO BE“, it’s March 2014 and Google moved the goal posts over 5 years ago to a point where commenting on WordPress blogs for directly increasing search engine rankings does NOT work and is dangerous (think Google Penalty).
Black Hat SEO Link Building Tactics to Avoid
In the early days of SEO it was all about high PR backlinks, the black hat SEO’s would link SPAM the crap out of guestbooks, forums and blogs, basically anywhere a clickable link could be added, black hat SEO’s would be spamming their links with perfect SEO anchor text for PR and rankings: I know because in early 2000 I was one of them and managed to generate a PR8 home page for a site selling sexy lingerie and sex toys (my first online business).
I had top 5 SERPs like lingerie, sexy lingerie, sex toys and loads more and my less than a year old domain would regularly receive 8,000 unique visitors a day and sometimes over 15,000 unique visitors a day (these are unique visitors, not pageviews).
I saw the SEO writing on the wall just in time, I knew Google would act and my site would be banned and my online business ruined, so I changed direction and started offering white hat SEO services just one month before my business site was hit with a massive Google penalty.
Google traffic dropped like a stone, PR reset to 0 and I was lucky to see 2,000 visitors a day in the first few months after the penalty for link spamming and within 6 months it stabilized at around 200 visitors a day, not enough to run that sort of business, it was over.
SEO Blackhat Risks vs Rewards
I’m explaining what happened to my first business domain as a cautionary tale, had I not spammed high PR links the site could still be making money today, instead it’s a crappy affiliate site (~1,000 visitors a month) that I could delete and not miss (keep it for sentimental reasons, my first real business domain).
I did however make quite a bit of money from the black hat link spamming, can’t complain at £80,000 from a domain in one year, so some could argue the risk vs rewards was worth it, I don’t see it that way, had I used sustainable white hat SEO methods I would still own a decent ranking lingerie/sex toys site and though I’d have made less money the first year or two I’ve missed out on 10+ years of potential revenue: who knows could have been massive and have sold the business for millions by now.
If you are reading from the above that you can make a load of cash just by link spamming today consider this was 10+ years ago. Google has adapted to this black hat technique so avoid it, you won’t even generate a PR3 domain using the same black hat methods I used a decade plus ago. Google has clicked on, blog owners have clicked on, forums have clicked on and the guestbook phenomena is long dead.
Google SEO and rel=”nofollow”
Late last decade Google and the other major search engines adopted the rel=”nofollow” attribute, when added to links nofollow informs search engines NOT to pass any SEO benefit including PR to the link. You will find all popular blogging platforms like WordPress and forum software like PHPBB adopted nofollow as the standard way to ‘prevent’ black hat link spamming.
Reality is most people online trying to make money are stupid, they don’t follow even the basics of what currently works SEO wise today and so the introduction of rel=”nofollow” has had no impact on comment link spamming, it’s got worse with automated link spamming software.
Even though it’s failed to stop an epidemic of comment spam (most WordPress comments for example are spam) it has allowed Google an easy way to tackle comment spam without having to work hard, links with rel=”nofollow” are ignored when Google determines PageRank. Not much help to the poor webmaster stuck with tens of thousands of automated spammed links on a regular basis, but at least Google is sorted :-)
That’s not to say nofollow links have no ranking value at all, users do click links from forums and blog comments and this can have an indirect SEO benefit: send me half a million visitors through clicked nofollow links and some will convert to commenter’s, some will link from their websites, others will like/share your content on Facebook and Google+ and Tweet about it. All help SEO wise, but you will not benefit directly from the link benefit (PR) of the nofollow links.
In my SEO experience the click through rate (CTR) from comments is not very high even from high quality blogs with high quality comments, if a site allows spammed links to stay live for months on end the odds are it’s not a popular site, so the direct CTR will likely be negligible.
Still Tempted with Black Hat SEO Tricks Like Comment SPAM for Backlinks?
Google might not count the backlinks in their ranking algorithm, but they certainly take action against those using blackhat techniques and if this is one of a number of black hat tools you regularly use consider how it looks to a manual reviewer: Google has a team of people searching for websites breaking the Google guidelines and slaps them with manual penalties.
If you are a little greyhat in a few areas, let’s say you use some duplicate content or over use your keyphrases, not enough on it’s own to warrant a Google penalty, but throw in a campaign of comment link spamming and a manual reviewer might decide it’s worth a penalty.