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Dominating SERPs with better link velocity

Today, I want to have a chat about link velocity. In a nutshell, the term “link velocity” means, “the rate at which you gain new links to your website”. If you read SEO forums and blogs, it’s not a topic that you’ll regularly come across. People will harp on about PageRank, relevance of link and my personal favourite “just build better content than everyone else”. Now, I’m sure that last comment will annoy some people, but lets be honest here. People say “just build quality content” as if it’s as easy as knocking your tea on your keyboard. I’m not arguing that having quality content is an advantage, but quality content can take months, if not years to build and there’s nothing stopping other bigger websites just stealing your ideas!

This is what it boils down to: Google can’t tell the difference between average content and great content. It relys on people thinking your content is good and linking to you.

Link velocity is a great measure of popularity. It’s important. Very important.

Lets give an example:

Last year I set up a website for a for a niche with about 5-10 medium sized players in it and 1 super large player. These guys, quite rightfully had total domination of the SERPs, aside from SEO, they do PR releases, sponsorship, an affiliate scheme and they buy advertising on sites like MySpace.

Taking a closer look at their website:

“Super Large Player” Website Profile:
PageRank: 7
Indexed Pages: 15,771
Links to URL: 5,200
Links to domain: 610,000
Domain Age: 6 years

So by all accounts, pretty well established site with a large marketing budget. I set my own budget of £4.22 (for tea and some sherbet flying saucers) and decided it was time to take them down a peg or two.

Without getting caught up in the details of the web build, I uploaded a fairly basic, flat HTML website with about 50 pages of content, following all the basic SEO rules (page titles, h1s, anchor text usage..etc) that you can find on 1,000 other SEO blogs. The important thing is this; I noticed my super large player friend wasn’t gaining links very quickly – a chink in their armour we could exploit.

So how do we get 100 new links per day?
The niche I was in was providing web graphics. Now my competitor offered a download which installed the graphics onto your computer, for use in your blog, forum, e-mail or whatever. I opted for a “hosted” option, so you can hotlink my images off my server onto your site/blog/forum whatever.

To do this, when somebody clicked on an image, I was generated a little BBcode or HTML so they could paste it into anything they wanted. Fairly standard procedure. To get your head around the idea, my friend has built and launched a similar site – Free Icons. Have a look around the site, when you click on one of the icons, it will generate the code for you to display the icon. The code also generates an alt tag for the image, which can be the keyword/phrase you are trying to rank for.

No bombshells here, it’s a pretty standard technique. Sure enough though, after 7-8 months:

“Super Large Player” Website Profile:
PageRank: 7
Indexed Pages: 15,771
Links to URL: 5,200
Links to domain: 610,000
Domain Age: 6 years
Ranking for main terms: ~3rd

“My Home Made Website” Website Profile:
PageRank: 4
Indexed Pages: 27
Links to URL: 6,720
Links to domain: 11,500
Domain Age: 1 year
Ranking for main terms: 1st across the board

I was outranking them for every single one of their terms, result! The site’s success wasn’t on this one thing alone, but their site is stronger than mine in almost every way, the only thing I’ve got going for me is that I get a regular healthy dose of fresh incoming links every day. Google seems to deem this enough that my site should rank better.

All these extra links will boost your site’s authority. Since Google will have trouble identifying the content of the link, your on-page SEO will have to be spot on and the “regular” links you gain will have to have some well tuned anchor text. These bonus links can really give your rankings a shot in the arm.

Review your own position, you have have those dozen PR7 links pointing to your site and you’re ranking okay, but what mechanisms do you use to constantly garner new links? There’s a million and one ways you can use this technique. SEOmoz (who also briefly mentioned link velocity) offer “I love SEOmoz” badges that you can stick on your site, and guess what – they link back to SEOmoz.

For any site I do now, I always try and think of a mechanism to keep gaining links in the future, then integrate this into the design, whether it’s a tool, an image or document links. With these kinds of techniques, you can sit back and relax while other SEOs desperately scramble around the net looking for directory links and you are free to move onto your next project!

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28 responses to “Dominating SERPs with better link velocity”

  • Paul says:

    Innovative ideas. I’ve never seen sherbet flying saucers used in this way.

    Statcounter knew what they were doing!

    Comment by Paul
    April 20th, 2007 @ 8:54 am

  • Mark says:

    Yea they did! Stat counters are a neat little thing to offer for free, but they’re a bit out-dated now that Analytics and such is free. Gone are the days or hundreds of Geocities pages with their black LED counters :)

    /goes back to drawing board

    Comment by Mark
    April 20th, 2007 @ 1:19 pm

  • brazz says:

    So, you’re saying that having an image hotlinked is counted as a link (or at least gives some ranking boost)?
    Thanks for this post and all the others, very helpful.

    Comment by brazz
    April 26th, 2007 @ 11:28 am

  • Mark says:

    Hi Brazz,
    No, having an image hotlinked doesn’t count for anything in terms of SEO. However, hosting the images gives you the change to provide code to link to the image, rather than just downloading the graphic. By linking to the image, I mean giving the img src code, then wrapping this in a standard href and linking it back to your site with an alt tagged keyword. So every graphic that is used, is an actual link.

    Hope this helps!

    Comment by Mark
    April 26th, 2007 @ 11:43 am

  • brazz says:

    I got it now.
    I have some sites with many images which are often hotlinked.
    Your method looks great, but requires the extra step of creating another page for each image. An script would be great; also, maybe if a script could generate the code when a potential hotlinker right-clicks the image…
    Again, thanks and congrats.

    Comment by brazz
    April 26th, 2007 @ 12:40 pm

  • Mark says:

    Hey brazz,

    You only need to create one other page – not one for every image! Simply make a dynamic page, which all of the images link through to and pass the image directory and name on a query string. Can be done in minutes!

    Comment by Mark
    April 26th, 2007 @ 1:39 pm

  • Online Sports Betting says:

    Why not use this idea to automagically generate links to *other* sites? When the user clicks on the free icon/whatever, pop up a page with html that links back to a real target site; one where perhaps this tactic be all that effective. Of course, the image would have to be hosted somewhere on that third site too.

    Comment by Online Sports Betting
    May 4th, 2007 @ 6:26 pm

  • sp says:

    @Online Sports betting

    That is called Link Laundering. It is done rather easily if you have the free content

    Comment by sp
    July 4th, 2007 @ 6:03 pm

  • cp says:

    Nice but it doesn’t work in every market.
    and also you must check very carefully which site are linking to you – some of them could be “bad neighborhood”

    Comment by cp
    July 9th, 2007 @ 7:08 am

  • Mark says:

    Hi cp,

    I’m not sure what you mean?

    1) Link laundering does not have to match up with your market. You can make a seperate site.

    2) You aren’t linking to anyone, people are linking to you. So there’s no problems with nad neighbourhoods.

    Comment by Mark
    July 9th, 2007 @ 8:48 am

  • Jacob F. says:

    Thanks for the article – its a really creative approach to getting links. The readers who figure out how to apply this principle to other niches will definitely be successful.

    Comment by Jacob F.
    July 15th, 2007 @ 1:50 am

  • Matt says:

    Excellent info. I will put it to use. One question – does it help/hurt to have all of the link point to the index page or is it better to point to sub pages? Thanks again.

    Comment by Matt
    August 6th, 2007 @ 6:48 am

  • ecoshopper.net says:

    The image trick only works in certain markets…

    But I see your points. ONe must have a steady consistent flow of links…Not just how many and from where…

    Comment by ecoshopper.net
    August 28th, 2007 @ 3:09 pm

  • Digerati Marketing » Making Money With Adult Affiliates The Blackhat Way says:

    [...] is the perfect kind of site to exploit any link laundering sites if you have [...]

    Comment by Digerati Marketing » Making Money With Adult Affiliates The Blackhat Way
    September 23rd, 2007 @ 10:34 pm

  • Digerati Marketing » Star Wars SEO Link Building For Padawans says:

    [...] would imagine Luke would be using highly effective techniques such as link laundering to build a good cross-section of links. Not exactly what you’d call “white hat”, [...]

    Comment by Digerati Marketing » Star Wars SEO Link Building For Padawans
    December 12th, 2007 @ 9:08 pm

  • Cy says:

    great tip!

    Any idea how to promote these icons so that people will hot link them?

    Comment by Cy
    December 13th, 2007 @ 9:13 am

  • julien says:

    you could probabaly buy sig links on popular forums that say “free images for sigs” or whatever. it begins slowly at first then starts to gain momentum as more and more people use it.

    Comment by julien
    December 14th, 2007 @ 4:31 am

  • Guadagnare says:

    This is a great tip.
    I will start using. It would also be nice to have some programmer create a wp plugin to easily create the code.
    Francesco :D

    Comment by Guadagnare
    December 14th, 2007 @ 9:12 am

  • JohnGore says:

    Hi Mark

    As per your friends site for love icons, it generates code for the user. Great.

    My question is: Is the code provided “for your website” that displays the image and a line of text, the same code you referred to.

    Will this code count as a link? Will it increase rankings.

    (I only ask because I know images dont, but if this is a work around to get banner ads to count as “links” then I will start using it asap.)


    Comment by JohnGore
    February 7th, 2008 @ 1:46 pm

  • Mark says:


    Yes, it’s basically an image wrapped in a standard href tag – so it’s no different to any other link.

    Comment by Mark
    February 7th, 2008 @ 9:21 pm

  • Digerati Marketing » Understanding Optimum Link Growth says:

    [...] blogged before about link velocity before and generally summerised that it was of course, a factor in how well your website ranks. [...]

    Comment by Digerati Marketing » Understanding Optimum Link Growth
    December 12th, 2008 @ 12:11 am

  • [email protected] says:


    Could you go a bit more in depth with the technical details ie; step-by-step how to?

    Am thinking of making ‘badges’ for some of my charity sites

    Comment by [email protected]
    January 18th, 2009 @ 12:36 am

  • Mr. G says:

    Well, Steve, I’m not Mark, but here’s my take on it…

    For each image/badge with link you want to get out there you want a “Post this image to your blog/profile/web page – copy this code” and a little textarea containing something like:

    a href=”http://www.yoursite.com” rel=”nofollow”

    (And some code – javascript? – that selects all that text when you click in the textarea… I shall have to look up how that is done.)

    You could do this manually for just a few badges, or programmatically, in PHP or something, for lots of badges. Check out the above-mentioned “Free Icons” site, or any of the various “MySpace glitter” sites, for how they do it.

    Other crafty ones – which fall under the category of “widgetbaiting”, I believe – are things like the “IQ test results” that people post to their profile. Of course, everyone is a super-genius according to the test ;) and they’re only too pleased to post the widget to their profile. Or those widgets that claim even the most meagre Blogspot blog is “worth $12,724″ or something.

    Comment by Mr. G
    January 26th, 2009 @ 7:06 am

  • Mr. G says:

    Oops, my code example was filtered out above – I thought it might convert the tags to htmlentities. But Steve, it’s just the basic HTML code for an image which links to your site (and some relevant alt text), in a textarea so that it is easy for anyone to copy and paste – a random example from the Free Icons site being:


    If you just have a few badges you can make the html code by hand.

    Comment by Mr. G
    January 26th, 2009 @ 7:15 am

  • Mark says:

    As a bizzare twist of fate, the guy who runs that free-icons website sits next to me and is one of my best friends (:

    Comment by Mark
    January 26th, 2009 @ 10:02 am

  • 195.ct says:

    All I have to say is WOW! Awesome article. I have been a want to be internet marketer for the last 5 years. I have read countless forum/blog posts, articles, and ebooks about SEO; yet I have never heard the term “link velocity” before reading your post on this blog.

    Using this tactic must kill your bandwidth. How much bandwidth does it take to host these images? How much does it cost?

    Most people say it is best not to get to many back links too quickly. Because; getting too many links to fast will look spammy in the eyes of search engines. Doing so will place get your site placed in the sandbox.

    Was this site a newly built domain or an already established site with off site inbound links? Did this site go into the sandbox then come out after 7-8 months?

    What would you recommend are the best sources and services for keeping up with elite, leading edge SEO tactics? So far, on my list: are this blog of coarse, Seo Moz, and Blue Hat SEO. Do you recommend others?

    Comment by 195.ct
    February 16th, 2009 @ 7:05 pm

  • Rob Pitt says:

    Hey very nice blog!! Man .. Beautiful .. Amazing .. I will bookmark your blog and take the feeds also…

    Comment by Rob Pitt
    June 24th, 2009 @ 9:02 pm

  • James Neil says:

    You’re right about one thing for sure, most of the forums I kibbutz rarely talk about “link velocity” if at all. Kinda makes me nervous that I’ve not tended to such important SEO dynamics thus far.

    Comment by James Neil
    September 10th, 2010 @ 9:11 pm