Climbing The Heights Of Mount Google

Link Building is a fundamental skill for SEO practitioners, but many go about it in ways that could hurt their long term ranking benefit.

Just over a year ago I wrote my first and only guest post, as an entry into Marketing Pilgrim’s annual competition.
At the time when I published the article, I joked that “I had been robbed“, you wouldn’t believe the number of comments suggesting a way to get my revenge, file DMCA, report to Google or recover my “stolen” article.

Climbing The Heights Of Mount Google

When you set out to climb a mountain, or rank for a competitive keyword
term, some methods are effective.

This is a simplistic look at climbing the heights of Mount Google.

Human Pyramid

A human pyramid might be suitable for those low hanging fruit, but this
method is unlikely to help you scale great heights. Not only is it hard to
gain great height, but the weak construction is easily eroded by

Photo credit: S@TS

Belay or Blogroll

Whilst exchanging blogroll links can help lift you up to a certain level,
they can effectively anchor you to your peers. From an SEO point of view
they are more about securing your position than lifting you higher.
If you have achieved a certain height, there is nothing wrong with pulling
up a few team mates. They can then aid in a push for the summit, which can
be a very lonely solo trek.

Photo credit: dfinnecy

Grappling Hook

This is the “gizmo” mindset, that specific tools can blast your website or
blog to prominence, maybe as a clown from a circus cannon, or to scale the
walls of the Vatican in Mission Impossible.

Whilst I am a fan of some forms of automation, and it can achieve
significant results, those results are often short-lived.
Whether it is trackback and referrer spam, automated social bookmarking,
directory submission software, or other quick fix, the writing is on the
wall before you even start, only many are too blind to see it.

Not everyone gets a safety net, or is Ethan Hunt.

Photo credit: Wikipedia


Teamwork is often the most effective method, especially if one member of the
team is already at the top of the mountain, and can pull you up.

Photo credit: JasonRogers

V.I.P. Ticket

It might not convey the same bragging rights, or sense of achievement, but
if you are a “big hitter” working for a major corporation, or have plenty of
funds to grease the wheels, there are faster ways to the top.

Photo credit: Photo Monkey

Highest Mountain

Don’t try to climb the highest mountain from the start, it will always end
in failure. Start on lower slopes, build experience, and if possible gather
together a solid team to help you scale the higher slopes of Mount Google.

Then again, who wants to be top of the mountain, and why am I writing a
guest post ;) Pull me up Andy!

2009 Competition

The 2009 Competition has just reached the judging stages – batch 1 & batch 2 – there are some good articles to read on all kinds of online marketing


As a guest article, I was a little disappointed in the results. Not so much my results in the competition, but overall traffic, appeal to Stumbleupon visitors, etc.

I deliberately chose a different style of article, more images, light weight/broad appeal content, but with a deeper message that might have not quite sunk in for readers.

I am going to try another attempt at the same article using diagrams and more specific wording soon.

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  1. says

    It is good to the view from top, feels really awesome and is very pleasant. I have no words to explain the excitement believe me. I have had many such beautiful experience and sometimes they are dangerous too.

  2. says

    I love heights….i get really mad i see them. I went more mad i got to see that pic taken by PHOTO monkey. It is really awesome, i wished i was there with them. Nice post in all and feels great to read.

  3. says

    talking about climbing is a activity that hard to done…especially climbing to google mountain, so far i've done as good as possible i can to increase my blog PR but there's no progress…:) oh ya..don't forget to visit my blog too my friend…Nice info

  4. says

    I have written in the past that blogrolls can kill your PageRank

    I have even told people not to put me on their blogroll (especially if search traffic matters to them), though appreciate links to content.

    That doesn't mean they can't be used strategically, or that they have to be the same on every page, or even link to a root domain. I have 13 widget areas on this theme that could be used for “blogrolls”

    Weblogs Inc uses massive blogrolls for sister sites
    B5 Media has used various linking strategies, not sure what they are doing these days – last I looked they were linking to related network content.
    Techcrunch top navbar is a blogroll

    Then you get big media, Ebay, IAC etc – Footer link lovers united.

    The idea that Google “punishes” site-wide links is ludicrous. They may value them differently, though most link based algorithms are page based.
    With blogroll links you don't get the benefit of link diversity.

    Most people who have received some kind of penalty for blogroll links have been selling them, and penalties are still not universal, even more than 18 months after Google Oktoberfarse

  5. says

    Wow, what a great inspiration piece! The part about jetting to the top in your company helicopter is hilarious. As if!!! I don't know many people whose workplace will support such extravagence, but I did work in Kyoto, Japan for a while, for a private school for wealthy girls. Maybe I should have checked into that when I was there…!lol

  6. says

    Well you could look on it that Robert Scoble was catapulted to fame while at Microsoft, though he probably would have got there regardless. At least one personal blog of an Adobe employee last I looked was a PR7 or 8.

    There are lots of Google employees enjoying PR6+ simply due to blogroll links from Google blogs. There is a dramatic drop in PageRank if they leave an the links are removed.

  7. says

    I much prefer people call me an idiot in the comments so I can respond, and in many ways I welcome negative comments because it allows me to clear up any misconceptions.

    I certainly don't want to encourage people to run around leaving comments or using contact forms asking for random blogroll exchanges, but I wouldn't rule out strategic sitewide linking.

  8. says

    I liked the new style Andy, in particular the references to teamwork and cooperation.

    Once a “lone wolf” I have come to believe that as an individual I can accomplish little relative to the results of a team or a community; I think this applies to SEO as well.

  9. soundbud says

    interesting controversial blog! i like to read through any thing seo related. i thought that using reciprocal links was a good idea to anchor similar sources of information giving readers extra info to back up the topic.

  10. says

    I've had positive experiences with limited application of blogroll linking – obviously, techniques lacking tact are going to be caught and punished. It's just like all SEO efforts … do it piece-meal and intelligently using varying techniques.

  11. says

    Just need to consider carefully who you add to your blog roll and exchange links with in that way. If is a site you don't think will be around much longer than a year or so, you might consider not going through with it. Good post.

  12. says

    Very nice article. You know I really like how you talk about building a team and really you don't need someone already at the top though it would be nice. I really try and build relationships with the top bloggers and make sure when I comment to let them know I have recognized them as top bloggers on my blog. Very good idea also when you talk about climbing the smaller slopes at first, what is really nice once you reach the top for certain keywords and your blog gains page rank it makes it much easier to rise within the SERPs. Anyway excellent post I really like the pics.


  13. says

    It is good to the view from top, feels really awesome and is very pleasant. I have no words to explain the excitement believe me. I have had many such beautiful experience and sometimes they are dangerous too.

  14. says

    Do you think the benefit of link building comes from the PR of the site giving the link, it's authority, the relevance of the 2 websites (giver & receiver) to each other, the optimisation of the reciever (or giver), a mix of all of these, or something else?

    Any ideas?

    Personally I'm edging towards authority being a bigger factor than most people think.

  15. says

    I think it gets more complicated than that


    Lots of authority sites have lots of hanging/dangling pages, especially PDFs
    Since the original patent, even IBM have published patents on how to handle dangling nodes, I am sure Google has refined things as well
    What happens to the PageRank from dangling pages/nodes, as well as nofollow links? They might be treated in a similar way
    Why distribute all that PageRank randomly? Why not allocate it to indexed pages on the same domain? This would partially explain .edu and .gov ranking, and why very little was observed in overall changes on major sites.

  16. says

    The Tom Cruise picture didn't depict the scene, but the film graphically portrayed the use of various state-of-the-art gadgets. I am not going to get into what Tom does outside acting.

  17. says

    First, you are investing time into a blog that is not on its own domain. You don't really own it – not sure how easy it would be to migrate.

    In many ways my blog is just waking up again, I took 9 months off – when I started blogging on this site I was pumping out 90 posts per month, I could have done much better spending my times in other ways, but I was looking to attract a specific audience which I couldn't attract with a landing page and squeeze.

    If you are looking to optimize a site, you need to do it for terms that set searched for and which you can monetize.

  18. says

    Mount google… baby steps, baby steps… one foot after the other. Let's hope no acute mountain sickness! LOL

    No tricks no quick wins, no shortcuts. Just plodding slowly along.

  19. says

    First, you are investing time into a blog that is not on its own domain. You don't really own it – not sure how easy it would be to migrate.

    In many ways my blog is just waking up again, I took 9 months off – when I started blogging on this site I was pumping out 90 posts per month, I could have done much better spending my times in other ways, but I was looking to attract a specific audience which I couldn't attract with a landing page and squeeze.

    If you are looking to optimize a site, you need to do it for terms that set searched for and which you can monetize.

  20. gregdbowen says

    I wish someone could share a link about the kinds of mistakes that you can make that can really mess with your SEO attempts in the long term. I a, always afraid that I am going to break something

  21. says

    In your follow up, I think you've got it all wrong. I actually found it refreshing; the topical content, the visual analogies to otherwise completely mathematical concepts. Keep the faith man, you did well. I got the message loud and clear. Much like any solid structure, good things take time and sound method to build.

  22. says

    Pat, I'd have to respectfully disagree. It's how you implement blogrolls.

    Just to preface, I design my website for my human visitors first, search engines are an afterthought.

    There is nothing wrong with having a blogroll of several highly relevant, trusted, and useful blogs listed on every page for your readers.

    The problem is listing hundreds of blogs including those that are less trusted or relevant, THOSE will hurt you.

    Search engines are getting better at understanding what is useful for a visitor, and that is how their algorithms are adapting.

    To come out and blanket suggest “DONT DO BLOGROLLS!” sounds very simplistic to me.

  23. says

    I agree with one of the original commentators that blogrolls have the potential to sink your blog. This has happened to me in the past. Still, as you suggest, teamwork is the best solution to get high pagerank and traffic for your blog. That often consists of getting solid relationships through networking.

  24. says

    I'm just getting in to climing this mountain… And sometimes it looks kind of scary. But i guess it is all about strapping on the helmet and just start climbing.

  25. says

    It is only in very rare circumstances that someone linking to you will have a negative effect on your rankings, and then in all the cases I have seen, it was due to specific tactics used such as spammy anchor text in WordPress themes spread virally.

  26. scottbfit says

    very interesting its very daunting at first but its all about climbing the mountain

  27. playpiano says

    Climbing a mountain can be an over whelming experience. It is scary at first but gives an altogether different feeling once achieved.

  28. says


    Could you articulate the 'VIP Ticket' concept a big more fully? Perhaps in another blog post?

    I'd be curious what techniques might be adapted by small businesses.

  29. says

    There are the less obvious routes

    Be the blog mouthpiece of Microsoft (Robert Scoble)
    Developer relations for Adobe Flash
    Google Employee blogs
    Leverage your brand as a journalist
    Existing stars seem to pick up lots of followers on Twitter, easy to leverage into links

    With small business it is a little harder but not impossible

    Here is an example

    Currently you seem to be publishing your blog on your Volusion hosting, plus using images through out your site directly from the same hosting.

    That is probably costing you a small fortune, or it would if you had a lot of traffic.

    Here is what I would do (if you are otherwise happy with Volusion)

    Set up a Cname pointing to some 3rd party hosting
    Set up a WordPress blog with a good gallery theme to highlight stunning pictures and videos.
    Change all your media links on the Volusion cart to use the images on your blog hosting (though make sure they allow this – with some hosting that might be looked on as being used for media hosting)

    Document the whole process with great pictures – I am sure lots of other Volusion store owners would appreciate the tutorial and possibly link to you.

    I bet lots of your customers have got blogs, and would love to tell their audience about the new table or bed they purchased.
    Why not provide them with an image of their purchase along with link text to the appropriate site section or model within one of your thankyou emails.
    Create “link to us” links on each product page, with image, but have the image from your other server

    Work on building a mailing list, maybe with an incentive for signing up
    Attack prospects from multiple angles – work out your conversion rates and lifetime customer values – see what you can offer affiliates – possibly offer a free hand crafted item in exchange for a mailing address, or a DVD on Amish furniture.
    Maybe an ebook on what to look out for when buying hand-crafted furniture.
    Also take advantage of the free training Stompernet provided in their recent relaunch of Formula Five.

    Investing money in learning how to make more money from each prospect, so you have more money to spend on traffic and other growth is a killer option.

  30. says

    Some good ideas to think about … thank you.

    (A new site is going up in around 1 week that's well-integrated with blogger and picasa, with most of the images being hosted by google).

  31. hghexpert says

    What an excellent article. The pictures were great. Makes me feel homesick for the adventures.

  32. makemoneyathome says

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  33. allmaritime says

    OH God … I'm also asking if is possible to me to climb a big mountain in my country (Romania) and the same question I'm asking if I can understand the Google system how it works … . And to fiind the secret of Eric and Larry the owners of Google is like I take a helicopter to climb the big mountain from my mind.

  34. magreet says

    Wow. Your focus is awesome and a great example for others.By writing it down you are creating a sense of accountability and structure to your goals.keep it up.keep blogging.Thanks for sharing.

  35. k2seo says

    Really very interesting heading for the post. I think its hard to start up but once you reach a point things get better.

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  37. mark2009new says

    Interesting way of putting across the thoughts through pictures. Enjoyed reading it!

  38. okebro says

    I think human piramyd is still good anyway :)

    Today i think focused on news and syndycation is still good way to climb the mount of google.