How To Steal Money From SEOs

by on April 4, 2011 | posted in SEO Theory

In the past, I considered starting up a link directory. It only makes sense for SEOs to run link directories – after all, they know what other SEOs are looking for when they submit a link. For whatever reason, I didn’t do it, and I don’t really see myself doing it in the future – however, theoretically, I thought it would be interesting to disclose the foundational practice I believe would eventually lend to pillaging SEOs of their link building spend – independent of the real value of the link I would’ve offered with the directory.

One of the tiers of standard link building is acquiring links from your competitors. The reason to do this is twofold: One, they have similar content offerings, so it seems probable that you could potentially get the same link. Second, they rank well, so hypothetically these same links got them the rankings they now have – whether or not that’s actually the case.

For these two reasons, rummaging through competitor link profiles is high on the hierarchy of link building procedures for an SEO. Any time we see a link a high ranking competitor got that we can get, we get it without blinking – because link building is tough, and any potential link that matches the above two characteristics seems worth getting – at least to a threshold of a non-insane price.


Well, not in the link directory circumstance I describe – because it takes into account these very foundations of link building to maximize revenue for the link directory.

A Link Directory of Industry Leaders

After setting up a normal link directory structure that’s fundamentally solid – and pumping in a moderate number of external links, the link directory owner could/would/should then find as many high volume commercial keywords for each directory category, and submit the top two/three players in the space automatically to the directory, for free.

From there, they would set an abnormally high submission price for the directory value (something like $80 is pretty obscene for a non-top-tier directory), and then watch all the wannabe-rankers  flock to their site to extract the link that must have added to the value of those websites’ current ranking position.

By finding the industry leaders and hosting them for no cost – with the perception that they were hosted at cost – a plethora of SEOs would end up pumping in negative-ROI spend en masse, to obtain a link that isn’t worth much at all.

A Link You Can Get Isn’t Always A Link You Should Get

So, what’s the lesson here – besides supplying a directory map to make a bundle off of link groveling SEOs? The lesson is that a link you can get isn’t always a link you should get. And that’s obvious a lot of the time, but as it comes to replicating a competitor’s links, it’s a policy that will go ignored almost always as the two earlier factors pull on them to acquire the link.

Always stay rigorous in your evaluation of a link. A terrible link on a high ranking competitor’s link profile is still a terrible link. If you waver from this, someone might just be lurking with a website somewhere – waiting to take your money without returning the value you had hoped for.

Be conscious of your psychological biases when link building – especially “my high ranking competitor has this link, I should too” – because it’s the highest on the list of factors that will make you get a link that you never would have otherwise.

  • anthonydnelson

    Great post Ross. I’ve had the same thought before about ‘starting a directory’ because it seems like a ridiculously easy way to make money. I won’t ever actually do it though. I like the way you refer to is as ‘stealing money from SEOs’ because that is essentially what it is. A paid link with almost zero value, purchased because of a few token big sites that appear in the listings.

    I’ve noticed the same thing with Directories that ask for reciprocal links as well. You look at the big brands listed and do some digging and obviously realize that those brands didn’t link back. Reciprocal links should be avoided, but these are the type of things that pop-up when looking at a competitors link profile.

  • Brent

    isn’t this just hoovers or crunchbase but just re-publsihed years later in a blog?

    • Ross Hudgens

      Say what? Not sure how it’s like Crunchbase at all, and I’m not clear/sure what Hoovers is.

      • Rhea Drysdale

        I was just as confused when I read it the first time and came back later for some clarification. Crunchbase is free and user-submitted. A few businesses may have been submitted early on and it’s definitely over-run by SEOs and PR people now, but not even close to a paid directory. As for Hoovers, yep, you’ve got to pay, and get a solid listing (well-ranked) business or individual listing, but no outbound linking opportunities.

  • Rhea Drysdale

    It’s certainly something that happens often, but there are times when a directory manages to build up enough authority and other qualifying factors that in my mind it becomes worthwhile. Worth the caution, I’d usually err on the side of not submitting to most directories, especially when speaking to someone new to the space.

  • Cassie

    This is so true- I work in SEO, and no matter how tempting it is to start a directory, they can just be so scammy. These directory sites are already mainly low page rank (although some are still doing ok), but eventually The Google will place zero value on them, if they don’t already.

    • Ross Hudgens

      I think they pass value – it’s just really thin at deep levels and most are spammy as you say, so when those two things interact, they’re worth almost nothing. If you were an SEO and knew that, though..

Previous post:

Next post: