How A Website Gamed Google
I know what your thinking but rest assured the claims are legit. This company has managed to make some significant gains within the search results in a super competitive niche. This website resales Wordpress themes and has been consistently ranking just below Wordpress itself.
They have managed to beat out some veterans within the search results with a domain that’s gain traction within the last few months according to SEMrush. Let’s dig beneath the surface and see how this is possible.
The domain in question is “themecircle.net”.
Upon first glance, there isn’t anything particularly strange going on. They have fairly subpar boilerplate copy that has been keyword stuffed to the brim. Over optimizing web pages isn’t necessarily manipulating Google but is more of poor SEO practices. However, it becomes painfully obvious at first glance they are targeting “WordPress themes”. This is interesting since it’s not a fairly established domain and this is a highly competitive term.
Let’s examine the backlinks!
When I run the domain through SEMrush I see they have around 28,000 backlinks or so in total.
That’s impressive for a domain that is roughly a year old. With SEM rush I can see they had a surge in rankings over three months. It’s apparent something odd is going on. With highly targeted anchor text like “WordPress themes” and “premium WordPress themes” somethings looks a bit off. Let’s run a quick SERP analysis report with Moz pro for the keywords in question.
A quick SERP analysis report yields some interesting results. For the keyword “WordPress themes” themecircle.net ranks second just below Wordpress and above more established domains like ThemeForest and template monster. They also rank 9th within Google’s search results for “premium WordPress themes”. They probably should have stuffed a few more keywords to optimize that term.
Who Is Linking To The Themecircle.net?
My next question is who is linking to themecircle.net. Using Moz’s open site explorer I get a list of linking domains along with their anchor text. I can see a good portion are linking with “themecircle.net” as the anchor text. However, when I look closer I see a good amount are linking with “WordPress themes” as the anchor text. This looks benign so far. Time to inspect a bit further.
I take a look at one site vintagevillas.com to see where the link appears and it is nowhere to be seen on the page.
By using an extension called link clump I drag it over the footer and find a link hidden beneath the Google Maps icon. A bit ironic I think.
This poses an issue as hiding external links is unfortunately against Google’s guidelines and can potentially get a website severely penalized. Or, worst case scenario gets them permanently removed from most major search engines in general.
It appears you can manipulate Google’s search results at least for awhile. As of writing this, they are still ranking high for their head keywords along with a plethora of other “WordPress” related keywords.
Hopefully, the website’s unknowingly linking back to themecircle.net do not get penalized.