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The New SEO – Link Schemes are Allowed (For Big Brands)

The New SEO – Link Schemes are Allowed (For Big Brands)

Welcome to Nenad SEO.

This will be the first among numerous reports, SEO case studies and articles that you’re going to read on our blog.


After receiving a manual penalty by Google for 2 small sites (for gaming the Google PR system,  even though one of those sites had 3 links in total (!), 2 being no-follow) in December 2013, I decided to shoot myself in the foot and explain a little bit about how SEO, Internet and marketers work. I am going to talk about the biggest sites in the world. I am going to talk about tactics they use to rank their sites and earn billions of dollars. (Believe me, there is nothing special about these tactics, even your grandmother can do it…wait,wait, I sound like a WSO sales page)

Now, what’s the big deal? Right? Here is the thing: We wanted to have sites rank higher, building high quality links on several high quality sites, which means that we wanted to do something that Google SE does not allow – link schemes, which SEOs call “content placement.”

The big deal is that multibillion businesses are doing this as well. Are they punished? No. Are they buying links? Yes. Are they hiring bloggers to place “guest posts” on numerous sites with optimized anchor keywords pointing to their sites? Yes!

So, why does everyone in SEO know this (at least anyone with a little bit of brain), yet Google fails to punish sites that are using, what they call, “poor SEO tactics” or something similar to that term? I was never a big fan of preaching one thing and doing something else. If a client wants to rank for a keyword, I will do as much as I can to have his site closer to the number one spot, and we all know that on-page SEO is often not enough. Spamming and using auto-generated content and/or using tools to generate links is out of the question, of course. We’re not in 2006.

You know all those bloggers/SEOs at MOZ giving webmasters tips and tricks on how to rank higher? Well, they never said: “Guys, you gotta do basic on-page SEO, buy quality links and you will rank higher, that’s all you need to know.” Instead they keep selling stories how their clients rank using “white hat” SEO.

Everything seems so legit when people read MOZ. Articles mostly start with tips like these:

1. I will show you how to engage your readers

2. It continues with some mumbo-jumbo about how Google authorship is a must

3. They add a little bit of “Content is King”

4. And they finish with some screenshot from Google Analytics showing how their traffic spiked at a certain day and how it was growing steadily ever since…blah blah blah.

How come they always forget to tell their readers that they skipped the most important part of their strategy?



We will make a report about huge companies (we will start with one company), ranking for tens of thousands of keywords using black hat tactics. Yearly revenue for the biggest company on this list goes well beyond $1 billion!!

And all this because they rank in the first place at Google for millions of profitable keywords, and all this thanks to low quality off-site SEO, using overly optimized anchor keywords.

Their SEO budget? Limitless.

Why would they bother engaging anything/anyone when they can take “hard earned “cash and buy thousands of quality links?

I still don’t get it, Google. Why are you playing with some small “Anglo Network” on BHW yet you don’t have time for big players? So what if some spammy site is going to rank for “Garcinia Cambogia” in front another spammy site? Who cares? I don’t and I bet no one else except Dr. Oz and a bunch of affiliates trying to earn pennies.

Is it possible that such a big company has some kind of a deal with major sites? Is it possible that they are paying Google not to be penalized? I doubt it. Google is much bigger than a $1 billion/year type of company.

In this report I will show you screenshots, tactics they use and the amount of traffic they gain using these tactics.

We’re starting with the first company,

The head of “inbound marketing” at Expedia is Martin Macdonald. Let’s see what the head of “inbound marketing” at Expedia says about SEO. You can read his thoughts here. I hope you enjoyed that article, welcome back here. I find one sentence in that interview really interesting. This is what he had to say:

“Big brands have an advantage – they have the resources to create great content, and already have large followings.”

So, big brands create great content? Maybe some companies do this, but great content and Expedia do not go hand in hand. What Expedia creates is the huge amount of paid articles filled with fluff content aaaaand…what else?


Overly Optimized Anchor Keywords

Yes, that’s what Expedia is doing. They are using Link Schemes to hit the top spots in theSERPs– and they are getting away with this. Nobody is going to punish them.

Why would Google punish a big spender such as Expedia?Just check this (old) infographic and you will see how much top travel companies spend on AdWords.

I have inserted a screenshot from that infographic, so you don’t have to jump to

adwords costs


But that’s nothing; we’re talking about pennies here. So what if Expedia spends 5% (I don’t know the exact number) of their earnings on AdWords? It’s not a biggie. AdWords is just a part of their SEO “efforts.” The other part is hiring bloggers and fake journalists to write random articles (you know those articles that start with “Top 10 this” or “Top 5 that”) and link back to Expedia using 2010 SEO style keywords. Why do I say 2010?

Well, for the rest of the SEO community, Google announced how overly optimized anchors are a big no-no. Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s web-spam team said:“Usually there is a clear distinction between occasional guest blogging and large-scale, paid-for links.” Thank you very much for that line, Matt.

So, Expedia was (and still is) using large-scale guest posting services for the sake of ranking higher for these types of keywords:

– Cheap flights (insanely profitable keyword)

– Car rental

– Get cheap tickets, etc.

So, basically, their writers create a meaningless article then post it on a site and they link from the article body to Expedia’s site using these types of keywords.

Let me show you how they do this.

Here is the article that talks about The 10 Best Gadgets for Your Vacationand if you are the type of person that is not into SEO, you probably won’t notice anything suspicious about it. It would be just another Top 10 kind of an article, you would scroll down to the end, and that’s it. But if you pay attention to tip number 6, you will notice that cute anchor keyword “get cheap tickets” inserted in the article body, totally unrelated to the text. So, this “blogger” (Abigail Clark) is writing how you should have a fully charged phone yet she decides to link to Expedia site….??!!

expedia seo


How is connected with a fully charged phone? Oh yes, you can search for “get cheap tickets” using random apps, that’s how….I am really foolish.

OK, but this must be some kind of a fluke; Expedia is a quality site, and people link back to Expedia because it offers “quality content,” right? Wrong.

The other day I was really in some kind of a biz mood, and I wanted to read something about entrepreneurship because I really wanted to learn more about this niche – and guess what I saw? I saw our friend Abby blogging for and she was covering a really important topic:

Top 5 Tips for Business Travel

So, while I was reading this fresh piece of content – BAM! There it was:the keyword “car rental” pointing to, and I thought to myself, “How bizarre…”

bizzare seo


But this must be a coincidence; it’s not the same anchor as it was in the previous article written by Abby and she probably adores Expedia. Well, I thought this was a coincidence until I saw this article (link removed cause blog died in the meantime) written by our dear Abby.


Now I remembered something: She even contacted me to say how my blog is awesome and how she would really like to…well, read for yourself:

Holy Cow…You Rock

But I will stop talking about Abby here – this operation is much bigger, and Abby is just a small cog in this gigantic wheel of a process. She was just doing her job, and the job was to get a bunch of links for Expedia. Let’s not blame the mailman.

Let’s continue with our story. Remember how I said that Expedia had nothing to do with great content? Ok, so here is the article written by Jennifer Gilligan– and even though English is not my mother tongue,I noticed that the article did have some major flaws. I saw that subtitle “Niagra Falls” and thought that spelling was a mistake. Nope, if you read that paragraph you will notice that Jennifer uses“Niagra” one more time, so I guess she thinks it’s “Niagra” Falls rather than Niagara.

niagra falls bitches


I am not going to be a Grammar-Nazi here. Who knows how many mistakes I’ve made in this article? Let’s focus on the anchor keyword “United Airlines” and how it points to the landing page at Expedia’s United Airlines reservation and flight deals.

Now, even if you think that this is probably something that is not suspicious, I will prove to you that you’re wrong. Our writer here, Jennifer, often share posts written by our friend Abby. In this screenshot from her G+ account you can see that she shared her post on November 4, 2013:

share the love


Ok, the post she shared is written for some other client, but I will leave that for some other report. If you follow the footsteps of these bloggers you will discover the rest of the crew posting crappy articles and using these articles to link back to Expedia.

And now let’s see how Expedia got awarded for this SEO campaign. Rankings went up more than 50% in one month (October-November).

expedia seo efforts paying off


So far you’ve seen a couple of sites where these links appeared, and majority of these blogs/sites are either small niche blogs or sites you never heard about. Lifehack is the only one that sounds familiar.

Now, I will tell you a little bit more about Huffington Post writer Jake M. Fisher. Besides the fact that he’s posting all of the articles for the sake of SEO/link building, there is another fact that is really interesting here. How did Jakeget started writing for such a site? What smart tips can we learn from him? He claims to be a “nerd who loves all kind of tech.” And that’s it? Huff Po, please. Is that the best you can do?


How is Jake Fisher connected with previous writers (Abby and Jennifer)? Well, he has obviously been hired by the same person/team to build overly optimized, targeted anchor keywords for

I really doubt that Jake,Abby and Jennifer are connected enough to get directly hired by Expedia. I mean, let’s take a look at their Twitter feeds and their G+ profiles. It’s funny that they all come from Tampa, Florida, and sometimes I wonder if they are real people. (I won’t talk about the agency behind those writers).

Even though I have many more screenshots, I am sure these couple of pages proved my point – which is that “link schemes” are allowed….as long as you’re a big brand!

Important, I contacted Martin Macdonald prior to publishing this report and I must say that he explained to me that he is not the person in charge of the SEO campaign (he is the head of another SEO department in Expedia), so he can’t be blamed for this SEO campaign. He pointed me to a person that could answer my questions related to the SEO campaign. Even though we never blamed Martin for these actions we did quote the part of his interview because he said something that is, in my opinion,  not true (big brands producing great content). We used this sentence to open the article and prove our point, nothing more, nothing less.

I hope you enjoyed these tips on how to maximize your SEO results (if you’re a big brand) and make sure to get cheap tickets.


In the next report, I will talk about the biggest network of fake bloggers and why US/UK sites shouldn’t hire Indian and/or Pakistani freelance “SEO experts” to optimize their sites and run their SEO campaigns. Stay tuned.



  1. Really great post. Even poor quality private network links work GREAT for big brands. I don’t however think that Google does this intentionally. As the total number of backlinks of your site grows and also the site itself, so does the amount of “allowed” spammy links. So a site like expedia can easily get away with those links while smaller sites can’t.

    Also, “In the next report, I will talk about the biggest network of fake bloggers and why US/UK sites shouldn’t hire Indian and Pakistani freelance “SEO experts”” – although I have to agree that most of the south Asian self-proclaimed “SEO Experts” know jackshit about SEO (except for maybe Filipinos), I don’t always generalise things as there are STILL one or two genuinely good people out there in those countries. :)

    • Hi Rohit

      Thanks for your post

      I totally agree that we shouldn’t generalize anything, especially people. Of course i won’t talk about real people and real services, my next post will talk about bad kind of links for UK/US businesses and I will also go down on fake bloggers, fake SEOs, scammers and fake sites. (not talking about blog networks here)

      • I’ll be looking forward to it! :)

      • You raised very good points. :-) and it looks you got so much frustrated by google penalties and all that. Anyhow, its a fact that google or any-other search engine always supports big brands. at the same time Google hit some rare big giants with passage of time. such as “Rap genius”. (although Myway depends upon its direct traffic which is 70% of total traffic. :-) )

    • I agree with Rohit there, generalizing all Indian & Pakistani Seo people as bad is not right. I also agree that many of them have no clue what is working in seo right now as they are mostly working on shoestring budgets and prices but painting all of them in one color is also not right.

    • “As the total number of backlinks of your site grows and also the site itself, so does the amount of “allowed” spammy links.”

      That’s a great point Rohit — it is reasonable to assume that there is something like a ratio of bad to good links, and as long as it is small enough, you’re probably going to be OK.

      However, this can’t be the rational of Expedia or anyone else buying links, i.e., if Google is calculating a ratio then they must be, somehow, identifying “good” & “spammy” links, and if they are — why in the world would they not mark all the suspected “spammy” links as bad in Expedia’s link profile so they just don’t count and thus making Expedia waste time and money building these links? But Expedia obviously thinks it is worth their time and effort (see the SEMRush graph above) else they wouldn’t brother.

      In short, Expedia can’t be ranking well for these specific keywords because Google is allowing a certain number of them to pass pagerank.

      It seems more reasonable that, for whatever reason, if a site has a very large link profile, and overall it is truly strong and healthy, it must be harder — again for whatever reason — for Google’s spam detection algorithm to actually detect spammy links, e.g., the detection algorithm just can’t scale with large link profiles. If this is what’s going on, then Google must be aware of this and is working on a fix.

    • I am quite surprised with your cheap language and pointing fingers at some sections of people without knowing anything about SEO. Please share your knowledge what you know about SEO. Also I am quite surprised how moderator of this blog approving such comments. Please correct me if I am wrong. Yes I am Indian and doing digital marketing past 3 years and my clients are very much satisfied with my work around the world.

      Nenad, I must say these are just wonderful findings and I believe “Nobody can fool search engines specially Google, if anybody tries, will face the consequences like Rap Genius.” Thank you so much.

    • So this only happens because manual reviews are not done on big brand sites, as they have implicit trust. When they are investigated they are penalized, but they are rarely investigated.

      Junior brands as I call them are unknown and get assessed much more quickly.

      It’s obviously wrong and seo is a farce anyway.

  2. Great stuff here. Google and brands are just like politicians and big corps in offline world. Conspiring against small webmasters, preaching one thing and doing another on a such a grand scale it’s almost impossible to believe they could.. They all know what works but sending fake propaganda through “whitehat” channels so masses would follow them. It’s just to much money out there.

  3. This is so true always ” big player”

  4. This is perfect and at the same time making my blood boil. I have been hit over and over again and have been trying a “whitehat” approach. Let me tell you, it is not working well at all. Maybe you should tweet this to matt cutts and see if you get a response. I doubt it though, but worth a try!

    • Ever considered not commenting with overly optimized text links back to your site? :-) No offense, but you gotta apply some common sense when applying SEO techniques in real world (signing comments with your name for example is very natural). If I could give a single advice to people learning/practicing SEO it would be “ensure moderation and balance in everything you do”

  5. I read the whole blog post with a lot of interest.I admire you writing style and the courage you have to write about the hidden sides of big brands. You can see and have access to stuff we hardly can ever see.

    This post was really an eye opener for me.

    Thank you very much, and keep up the good work mate, I’m really excited to read your next blog post.

    Kind regards,

  6. Do you think next year the big brands will dominate even more?
    Really loved it, hope to see your next post soon.

    • Of course, it would be delusional to think different.

  7. Fun read. I’m not sure I’d chalk it up 100% to only big brands getting a pass. Definitely part of it is that Google is not the great and powerful Oz it purports to be. As I’m sure you know that was the very reason for ‘rel=nofollow’, it was too hard for G to tell which links were bought and which were “earned”. Even though Google is better at it now, its still difficult to do with any kind of precision at the scale that Google is operating.

    Also, the hypocrisy in the SEO industry is stifling. It’s always fun to either attend or be on a panel with other experts extolling the virtues of white hat while their agency is known pretty much exclusively for buying links. good times.

    • Haha, that’s hilarious and sad at the same time.
      Thanks for this Rich

  8. Agree with what some of the others said – great writing style and voice, and an enlightening topic. I’ve done some interesting work on both black/white hat sides of things over the years and always find it entertaining when big brands get called out. While I don’t think there’s much of a correlation between what they spend on adwords and where they rank, it does show they have money to blow on shady SEO agencies who can manipulate things on this scale.

  9. Thats how life goes now a days.
    In every single aspect of business(not only SEO/google rank) the big brands want to knock down small businesses so they are the only ones standing.
    I wouldnt be surprised if Matt is “sponsored” by some big brands to do this and not just out of “natural” love for google having fair rankings.
    I wouldnt be surprised either if google had a “box” where all the big brands are listed there and none of them can get banned no matter how many cheap bad links/ seo they do.
    As long as they put millions in google’s pockets they can do 5 million guest bloggings and Matt is not going to do anything.

  10. top notch article. love it!
    i experienced similar things once i stuffe my blog network with content from my myblogguest. same name, same stories and much big brands…

  11. Well, at least I know now that if you get traffic for this site, it won’t come from google :D

    Do you think you can earn from Adsense with this :P :P

  12. The SEO challenge seem to be eluding a lot of people,some of these SEO Companies makes rediculios promises that they can’t even deliver.I have been able to obtain first page of Google with out spending money on SEO. The top things to focus on is Quality contents that will benefit customers who are searching,Use good key words in your contents,Focus on your local market and be different and communicate that to your local Market.

    • I really enjoyed the investigative nature of the post and level of supportive detail, not commonly seen on blogs. I am very curious in the debate that I expect will follow this post and outcome, of any.

      I agree that being an advertiser with big AdWords budget is likely a huge factor and correlates to boost in SERPS and perhaps buys some forgiveness from Google for stepping over the line.

      Lets be clear, Google CAN catch up to link schemes by analyzing context (and relevance) of the sites linked as well as anchor text profile. The Anchor Text profile for page is full of the same repetitive phrase “cheap flights”:

      Extra Ridiculous – page title for is:
      Cheap Flights: Find Cheap Tickets, Flights & Airfare | Expedia

      Seems fitting the definition for keyword stuffing, isn’t it? :-)

      Tip for those learning/practicing SEO – balance and moderation is your friend!

      • Sorry Nenad, the post above was not meant to be a reply, I posted this comment again on the main level, thanks for a great post and starting a debate! – Lilia

  13. Google would make an example of Rap Genius and not penalize Expedia for link spamming. Total BS. #feedthebeast

  14. This is a great post and as you have stated I doubt anything will happen about it.

    Another good read is by Dave Gooden and about how airbnb spammed craigslist.

    • A lot:)

  15. Just a quick question, not trolling: is this just another ploy similar to RapGenius to get attention from Mr. Cutts to see if they get a manual penalty?

    • Hi Patrick

      Thanks for your comment. It is not a ploy and I don’t expect Google to penalize Expedia, and if they do it would be a miracle. It is not about Expedia here, this was just an example. The point was to show that Google have double standards. Anyone with account can see (in a matter of minutes) backlink profile of top brands and you would be surprised to know which other brands are doing the same thing, without being punished. How come Google have time for mom and pop sites, yet they always skip big companies?

      • You’re just talking in SEO babble. It doesn’t even mean anything.

    • Haha, you’re not the only one who had that thought.

  16. SEO bullshit; didn’t read.

  17. Good job Mr. Holmes! Now, what’s the way out ? If google is not going to penalize expedia, booking etc. how can a travel start-up do any better SEO ?

  18. Remind me to use Kayak or Orbitz next time I need a cheap flight.

  19. Hey Nand,

    Damn you. You just spilled the beans. This is what big brands are doing to get high rankings and there is this MOZ that keeps preaching high quality content is the best way to get ranking. I can rank a one-page site with less than 10 words (almost no content). I will be sharing some case studies on my website.

    I didn’t like the fact that you outed some companies and writers doing this. The people you are outing do seo for living, they feed their families with it and most probably they are going to lose their jobs after their employers find out this article here.

    Think about it, I doubt you don’t manipulate Google searches to rank your clients’ sites and still you are busting the truth behind the success of tons of companies including yours. It is sort of eating the hand that feeds you.

    Nice analysis, keep up with good work.

    I love you


  20. Wonder if google turning a blind eye to the guys working in this way for big brands has anything to do with google’s failed/appearing to take no more interest in the google authorship they rolled out so promisingly to promote genuine content and ‘help’ all us little people?! There seem to be very few people that it works for – I have tried everything advised to get it working, to no avail! Of course that is one thing that ‘might’ show up all those fraudsters – if you don’t exist how can you have a photo or proof of identity? All my internet products are google but I am fast losing faith in them – they are showing they are just another big corporation with a view to making big bucks and screw the little worker :-( Great article, thanks for sharing :-) I have also come to the conclusion that Facebook is a complete waste of time for business, despite the numerous experts telling us we absolutely must have it! Back to the good old reliable person to person networking for me! Internet gurus and app providers can only go so far in their manipulations before critical mass abandons them in favour of smaller, honest providers and inventors.

    • Hi Mara

      Thanks for your comment.

      Yes, Facebook is not good for business anymore, they are doing pretty much the same thing what Google is doing at the moment (I am talking about ads)
      I was thinking about writing my next report on Facebook,with a lot of real info. No, it is not going to be something you can see on SocialMediaToday, it won’t be “Top 5 ways to engage your fans…” type of the article.

      But we will see

      Don’t be a stranger, hope to see you again

  21. I certainly agree that Big Brands are not hitted and the reason I believe for this is, in the age of negative SEO (after Penguin) competitors (Big and Small) might be building spammy links for Big Brands so that they can penetrate the SERPs. So if such spammy links are not in volume, compare to their natural links.

    When I started reading your article I loved it, but in the end you disappointed me by claiming that your next article would be on “why US/UK sites shouldn’t hire Indian and Pakistani freelance “SEO experts” to optimize their sites and run their SEO campaigns.”

    If you’re writing blogpost just for claiming that your website was hit so other should also be and Indian & Pakistani’s should not get SEO projects, so that you guys might get more then it’s very selfish of you…

    If you cannot take care of reader’s sentiments then you’re not a perfect blogger yet!

    • Hi Indian

      Thanks for your comment.

      Regarding the other article about Ind/Pak SEO freelancers….If you read the article carefully you will notice that I said how having a link from a real Indian site is a good thing. I did say “freelancers” on purpose because freelancers tend to lower the price and quality just to get the job (I know you agree with this one) and once they get the job they find themselves in a position where they can’t deliver what they promised so they try something else and this (something else) usually means low quality. By low quality I mean getting links from sites like MyBlogGuest (I also talked about this site in the next report about fake bloggers), and if you check Alexa rank of MyBlogGuest (even though I know Alexa is a rough estimate of sites popularity) you will notice that this site is very popular in India,Pakistan,Philippines…

      But again, I don’t have anything against India… know, the name of the street I am living in is Gandhi Street :)

      • I do agree that some Freelancers, and even companies of India take low quality task to show reports to client but ultimately could not deliver the results. But that does not mean all freelancers does that, nor all companies are good even.

        But if you say all freelancers are spammers then I would still not agree. Many are good and effective, that is why outsourcing is still on peak ;)

        BTW, I’ve read your article carefully, and I do agree on most of part. It’s started in a great way but ended badly/sadly.

        Good to know your street name, and trust me, I do appreciate your response here!

        • Thanks Indian

          No, I don’t think all freelancers are bad, because we work with a lot of hand picked freelancers.

          All the best

  22. Send a link to this post to Matt Cutts, i’m curious what he will say to this.

  23. Hey!

    This is pretty good post indeed. Didn’t know that Expedia does that but again, well … guess this is how life goes huh.

    I believe this teach us to be practise basic SEO and never try to outsmart Google. Of course, you could but it will kill you sooner or later.

    Thanks for sharing!

  24. Hi Nenad,

    Did you tweet your article to Matt Cutts? I would really like to know what he has to say about this :)

    Enjoyed every bit and piece – keep up the great work!

    • Hi Goran

      A lot of people tweeted.
      Thanks for your comment :)

      • Heh, and what was Matt Cutts reply? I see the conversation on inbound and see that a lot of people don’t agree with you. For example, like this is a kind of personal rant – but we all know from a while back that people get away with link schemes. Thanks!

        • Well, yeah I knew that some people in SEO community won’t like my article, but I also know that some other, bigger part of SEO community (on Twitter) are sending thousands of UVs over here.
          Rearding MaCu, I guess he’s busy preparing for a wild New Years Eve, so it is understandable that he is missing out on such a great article.

      • Thanks for including my tweet. Looking forward for the next chapters.

  25. Great piece, thank you!

  26. Great post. I’m surprised that you didn’t mention TripAdvisor – they seem to rank first for almost EVERYTHING travel related (minus cheap flights ;) ), even if the page Google links to doesn’t actually contain the phrase you’re looking for, and often the pages are completely useless in relation to your search query.

    Read your post regarding ‘SEO Experts’, too. I’ve actually noticed a LOT of people doing SEO work now from Poland, judging by names and email addresses. Nonsensical comments ahoy!

  27. being a part of digital marketing industry i have seen many big brands who are our direct competitor practicing these techniques and enjoying better search engine positions. I always thought why?

    It is getting more difficult for SMBs to promote their products and services through organic search position.

  28. Wow good research. I can’t say that I’m surprised as big companies definitely have the resources to perform such linking schemes

  29. Interesting post. I have to agree on all points. Having had sites drop out of SERPs for no good reason and been on the receiving end of dodgy freelance SEO work. Dev – I think the only way for a start-up to compete organically is using local SEO. Dominate one city and then rinse and repeat as other locations open up. Watch the local space though, I doubt it will be long before large corporations start gaming the system, having G+ local profiles per store and a website per store.

  30. Hi Nenad,

    Great article and interesting read.

    Finally, someone is saying what needs to be said. Everyone preaches WH SEO but BH their way through search engines and you know what, that’s alright as long as it works.

    Generally, buying “quality” links is the only method that works, it might not follow the rules of search engines but neither is any kind of link building.

    It may also not be the best way to call out specific bloggers / companies but I guess it did bring the point across.

    Keep it up!

    • Hi John

      Thanks for your comment

      Yes, you’re right about calling out bloggers/companies. We tried to prove the point without having names in the article but that was not possible. Even if we said “hey, go check out this link and you will see some strange anchors there” everyone would be able to see who wrote those articles.

      Also, this article is not anti-Expedia or anti-Link builders, cause we also build links for our clients, Google algorithm feeds itself with links, that’s how it works. The point was to show that Google have double standards, that’s all.

      I did mention in the article that we will talk about more big companies, but I guess this one is enough, and believe me the other companies are even bigger. Here is a hint – You might have their product in your hands right now while you’re reading this:)

  31. Just be careful mate, it’s better to make love not war with people on the internet.

  32. OK, so it seems Google isn’t as good at filtering out overly optimized anchors as they claim. How does this favor big brands over little ones (other then the fact that big brands probably have more money to throw at people to write the overly optimized anchors in the first place)?

    • Hi Brad,

      Thanks for your comment.

      How does this favor big brands? Try – Not getting penalized for the same thing small site will get penalized?

  33. Hi,

    Interesting article and i don’t know if i should believe you or not, since you only have 2 articles posted on your Blog.

    I am curious: how would you do SEO in this case? How would you get a website/blog from 0 to 50,000 visitors/month in a good niche? How much would you have to invest? How long it will take? How good it will be on the long term with all the updates that will come?

    Thank you :)

    • Hi Mihai

      Thanks for your comment.

      Regarding that project of yours…well, this site (nenadseo) went from 0-50K in a matter of days. This means that Content is King

      On a serious note, please use contact form at our Contact page and someone from our Zendesk support will contact you soon. Please make sure to send more details, this way we would be able to tell you what can be done.

  34. Excellent post. Though I highly disagree that one shouldn’t generalize Pakistani and Indians. There is a vast majority who are working in UK and from their homelands who are too good. For instance Syed Balkhi of WPBeginner from Karachi, Pakistan, Neil Pattel Kissmetrics, Quicksprout no need for introducing him from India and another guy OM Malik Indian of

    Other than that, many big brands I really wish I could name here have been enriched in terms of their search marketing goals from Pakistan and India. So I think such a well researched post must have evidence and facts to generalize and give this unfair statement.

    • Hi Saad

      Thanks for your comment

      In our next post we explained which kind of Indian/Pakistan freelancers (and this also goes for every other nation, I know some fake SEOs in my country as well) is not good for your SEO efforts.

      I have visited your site and I must say that this is how SEOs should represent themselves (your site and Linkedin profile represent a real professional), but you must admit that a lot of freelancers have sites that often looks like “fake it till you make it” . And what I noticed a lot of these fake SEOs swear on their mothers grave how they’re going to place you at the first page of Google, and all this for a pocket money…you must agree that this is quite funny.

      • Sorry for the late reply, forgot to check-in the notify option last time. This was exactly my point. Like me many people are continuously working on to increase the ratio of positive services out to the customer. I would really love to see your next post but I also be glad to know if you can mention the good efforts me and many people from my country and India are doing to provide the quality and committed services.

        Most of my friends have complaints (who provides SEO services) that clients have obstacles trusting on them, few of the many reasons is the past / previous experience on Freelance websites like ODesk where they got victim of poor services by an inexperience person.

        So it’s not only the client’s who suffer but also the quality service provider experts who have spent hours and days on gaining a particular skill-set and now the time to earn over it by helping others. So for few we cannot generalize the whole country. Thanks though… and btw I have just seen your next post while writing this comment. about to read it now.

        Thanks again fingers crossed. :)

    • @Saad:- When you become SEO consultant? :-P just kidding.

      @Nanad: – There are always good and bad people in every industry and every country. I will wait for your next post. :-)

  35. Awesome article! So whatshould the small businesses do? That would be a great follow on post.

  36. Google has a White Listed Sites list and those big brands get a pass on many tactics new sites will never be able to enjoyed but that’s nothing new.

  37. Google says: “Links with optimized anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites is prohibited… !/..then how we can rank for keywords: any suggestions:

    • As long as they don’t catch you, you’re good :) Stay under the radar and do not use tools to build links, use hands and brain. Of course, SEOd anchors are not good anymore, try to use random anchors. For low/medium competition KWs you need your domain to have good site authority and good on-page SEO, you don’t need exact anchors.

  38. I agree with alot of the things your have said however this was obvious even dating back to 2012. Today you see Google trying to push their products more than ever, do you think they are willing to spend 1000’s of bucks and manpower on making their algorithm “fair”?

    Google is looking out for their own, it’s time we accept that. They even punish bigger brands , it depends on how much money you are spending on your paid search campaigns that determine your rankings.

  39. I know I’m late to the comment party but I noticed the “get cheap tickets” link in the paragraph “A Fully Charged Smartphone” from “Abby’s” article “The 10 Best Gadgets for Your Vacation” has since been deleted.

    I wonder if it was due to this post, Nenad…?

    • I knew it would get deleted, that’s why I like to take screenshots.

      Thanks for the comment David.

      You know what’s the interesting part? Even if they delete everything, I can come back with new screenshots and links….but I won’t do that, it is about Google here, not Expedia.

      • I’m not surprised either. But I’m genuinely stumped…..What sort of link building strategy involves deleting a link after a period of time? How does such a practice help them sustain ranking position?

        • The plan was not to have that link deleted, but someone (I guess someone from Lifehacker) saw this article and deleted the link.

  40. interesting article! but I’m more interesting on how can we become the big brand. We can’t spend million on adword because we don’t really have tht kind of budget.

    • Well, check out our Authority Building page ( ). You won’t become a big brand, but you will be on the good way to become top authority in your niche. Of course, this service is only for B2B clients that are serious about their marketing efforts.

  41. Building links are good in your opinion, if you are a big player.

  42. Thanks for you article! I’m just curious: you claim that backlinks from these low-quality articles are still working for Expedia’s BH SEO, but how do you know that they aren’t disavowed already? :)

    • I know that some of these are deleted after we published the article. But that’s not the point. And why would they disavow when Google didn’t penalize them? It’s working just fine for them

  43. Interesting article.
    Thanks for sharing this.

  44. Have just been hit up by Laura from HomeDepot wanting to do the same thing. We’re a B2B SaaS company for professional services… and a big brand who should know better wants to guest post about hardware?????? The sad thing is Laura has an email address; this isn’t some sketchy agency play, or if they are, they’ve got the approval and buy-in from corporate to go around creating employee/user accounts in the corporate system to support this.

    • Yandex did a smart thing when they decided to stop using links as a ranking factor (for commercial queries) and I see Google doing the same thing in the future (if they are smart).
      Regarding Email. That can be faked, but I guess there is a story behind that mail. Why don’t you accept her guest post, let’s see where the links are going to take us :)

      • I thought about playing with her Nenad, but we’re shaping up for a massive 2014 – so I just replied with “No” and a link to your blog post :-)

        As for the faking of the address, I thought of that, but the reply-to is the same as the sender, and the email came from this gateway,

  45. Very good article, I read it a couple of hours after you published it.
    Now I was wondering, did anything happen to Expedia yet or did Google comment?

  46. Haha bravo majstore. Finally some real information from the murky waters of SEO.

  47. You Smashed It Nenad…Also it was very funny, when I saw ‘Nenad’ appear in Danny Sullivan’s article, I had to stop and rub my eyes, wondering how did he find out!?

    Just a week ago, I had the telephone job interview with a Senior Director, Partnerships & Global Head of Search at Expedia Inc. (don’t want to name the person).

    No, I did not get it, (my SEO is too honest), but I had the opportunity to have a look at the job description, find out more on how the ‘SEO link scheme’ works in Expedia and talk to my friends about it.

    That is why I appreciate your article even more and apart from this, thanks for promoting our ‘difficult to pronounce’ name.

    • Haha, sure, no problem. Actually it is not that hard for strangers once they hear it. My wife is French and everyone on her side pronounce my name properly :)

    • ‘My SEO is too honest’… bullshit! Stop lying to yourself, you’re honest until you’re caught. Though interesting to hear about link schemes, care to expand on that?

  48. This is a good thorough writeup, an eye opening alarm for bigfishes.

  49. Fantastic – Finally someone with the balls to tell it like it is. Good on you.

  50. This is pure denonciation remembers me some old times …..

  51. Absolutely amazing how quickly these teams are reacting to your post. Almost of all these examples have already been taken down. This is the biggest Samurai post I have ever seen. NICE WORK

  52. This is an excellent article. I thought Google had really cracked the whip on these types of campaigns a few years ago, but I guess not. I do think big companies pay Google under the table to allow these link schemes. Google can do what they want. It is their search engine, but to look the other way when it’s convenient is hypocritical.

  53. I ALWAYS KNEW THAT, They are spending SO MUCH Money in adwords that Google don´t penalize them
    So if you want to make real money in the internet you should start spending some Big money on AW

  54. Holy shit was this awesome. Can I just make a suggestion for the sequel to this article? Please call out HomeAway/VRBO.

    Of course we couldn’t expect Google to take action against them because they were/are backed by Google Ventures……or could we? :)

    If you think about dipping into that pool, drop me a line I’d be glad to help.

    Helpful hint: Prepare yourself to see ‘Mommy Bloggers’ whore themselves out. It’s not as hot as it sounds, trust me.

  55. Great post and far better than the one I did here about some shady tactics used by the UK’s largest cruise agent.

    Alas questions on Twitter to Matt Cutts and other actions by me have been ignored by Google but how can a major website like Talk Talk have a sitemap that points to other websites. These are paid for links that are followed. The link is then redirected from the url in the affiliate link to main website therefore passing link juice…I could go on but I won’t.

    Anyway; great post.

  56. Everyone is using his scheme to make more $$$.
    This post was posted against Expedia by their competitors.
    By taking down Expedia -25% Google looking to increase their revenue from paid ads.
    Expedia going to spend more time and $$$ to create a new content and better quality of links, just say user friendly links.

  57. Great post, such a elaborate and detailed explanation, i have never seen. great work and now in january, we see the solution on this coming in from Matt….

  58. that was an awesome post – felt like reading one of my favorite books! thanks! :)

  59. So link schemes are the reason why multibillion businesses obtain a better rank for their sites and earn billions of dollars.

  60. Bravo Nenade! You are very brave to call names of such big companies and brands. Google is biased and that is no secret although Matt Cutts claims otherwise. It is all about money. No matter how we hate or love Google’s doings we have to “try” to abide by their terms because we webmasters depend on them until some other search engine kicks them out of the stage but unfortunately that may not come soon.

  61. Google has been the biggest search engine to date, so with regards to SEO. It’s a love and hate relationship with google’s rules and algorithms. =)

    Thanks for this detailed article.

  62. I wonder if this would have gone unpunished if there wasn’t any commenting. So the SEO team or agency (?) possibly created fake bloggers and used the budget to guest post. Seems a pretty normal strategy, the transparency and conspicuousness is what amuses me.

  63. In 2014, people are very careful about linkbuilding and looking for most relevant and high authority resources for generating links back to their websites. However, well established brands will get benefit from linkbuilding scheme either they generate it on relevant or irrelevant resources. Majority of people are now moving their attentions towards content writing and marketing which is very necessary for getting more visitors after the introduction of Google’ Hummingbird update. I am pretty happy to read your post about linkbuilding in today’s SEO world.

  64. Send a link to this post to Matt Cutts, i’m curious what he will say to this.

  65. Hello Nenad!

    Thank you very much for sharing these tips on how to maximize our SEO results. You really got a very helpful post here. I have learned something new from it. Anyway, I will be sharing this post of yours to my friends. I am also hoping to read more of your articles.

  66. Very interesting article Nenad. I will be sharing this post.
    I’m going to be following you now and can’t wait to read more from you.

    Kind regards~

  67. Fantastic point you have made.
    No big brand has been penalized more than 1 months, why ? Same question asked to Google spam head Matt Cutts and his replay was “we have certainly taken action on large sites for long periods of time”. The answer doesn’t satisfied me at all.
    Eagerly waiting for your next write-up.

  68. Amazing post! Still very relevant in 2014. Seems linkbuilding and link schemes will never die.

  69. It does seem nearly impossible to beat the big “mountain” sites such as zillow, truilia, webMD. They are good sites but they don’t always provide the best information to visitors. Now with Google taking local results away from real estate companies, life in the SEO world, just got a bit harder. We love you Google ;b

  70. Very good article, I read it . Finally some real information of SEO. Absolutely amazing

  71. I hate fuckers like you, people’s livelihoods may depend on these things, bet you don’t publish this comment you pussy



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