The Decline of Organic Links Infographic

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How Google Hit Organic Links.

For many years it was true that SEO = links, but due to the rise of rel=nofollow, fearmongering & social media, organic links have lost much of their relative importance in many verticals.

Links are still valuable in some areas of course, but where the search results are full of listings from, pushed below the fold from larger AdWords ads and/or heavily skewed by things like brand bias there is much less value in link building in numerous big money markets. After all, few care who ranks #1 if #1 is below the fold!

Published: December 9, 2011 by Aaron Wall in google


Lalit Burma
December 9, 2011 - 2:11pm

Everywhere is the Jungle rule, now this apply to the internet search engines as well.

If you are strong than you will survive.

Tom McCracken
December 9, 2011 - 6:20pm

That was pretty cool!

SEO Junkie
December 9, 2011 - 7:06pm

They are exploiting little webmasters by making them follow their rules. Their stinking rules! Rules that get changed more often than my underwear! A company that rose up from a garage? Brought up on a donation check from Sun Microsystem? Is it true?

Buying a text link ad is prohibited. It can confuse the big G. It can kill their results. It can drop their advertising revenue. It is simply not in their interests. Okay. So, stay away from it.

Buying a competitor? Yes it’s legit. You can buy a competitor to solidify your monopoly. It’s not in the interests of the consumers/users/webmasters/small businesses. So what!

Promote your illegal drugs, fake degrees, college term papers, pirated software with AdWords. It’s no problem. We will see the court! If caught, we have deep pocket; we can pay $500m or more! We have calculated the risk beforehand so paying the tiny $500m is not a loss at the end of the day.

Hey little webmasters, listen, we have removed our Google directory, so everyone remove theirs now! If not, we are going to penalize you all out there.

Google AdSense: Yesterday’s recommendation is today’s restriction.

‘Blend blend blend. Blend your Google ads with your content.” Now blend and we will put your whole account in the ‘blender’ and eat out your earnings.

This company is out of my mind!

December 10, 2011 - 12:44am

You don't know what you're talking about, links work great. At least for Overstock :)

Remember them and their 14 minute penalty for links? Now they rank women dresses, furniture and more or less everything else.

Here's a dirty secret making the rounds: Eric Schmidt and probably hundreds of Googlers have invested in startups or funds of start-ups like Matt Cutts. God help you if you compete with them.

December 10, 2011 - 3:19am that there was a part A & part B in the original design. In the part B it was going to highlight that since you were competing against a smaller link graph then if you had incentivized links you could afford to pay more for them because each link was thus worth relatively more, with fewer public free link data sources it would be harder for people to follow your links (and thus harder to copy/clone or rat out) and I think 1 or 2 others...but that bit sort of disappeared in the editing process.

December 10, 2011 - 12:59am

seobook, next infographic should be a list of all companies that Google and their Google Ventures has a vested interest on. Each time you click or buy from them Google benefits but they don't disclose it.

December 10, 2011 - 1:41am

And yet, link building is getting more and more popular. I am an SEO and have done (and do) campaigns for big brands too. It's a messy world out there, where brands compete with brands in the SERPs (so not just the little guys struggling). If we can lose our Google obsession, things would get a lot more healthy. We need to have campaigns where we promote the idea of not using Google for a day. Even if it just got the publicity, that would send a message to Google.

I've said this a million times and it's no less true today: Google are slowly killing themselves because they've only one main revenue stream. If Google had diversified successfully to have a 2nd revenue stream that rivalled Adwords / Adsense, Google SERPs would be looking a lot more healthy today. As it is, they're squeezing every last drop out of their cash cow until one day, their SERPs are simply going to resemble a parked domain page full of ads (you could argue it's like that already above the fold).

December 10, 2011 - 10:02am

I talked to a friend of mine and said that Google is now entering the "squeezing the lemon" phase of their business: they're sacrificing any user quality and even their own reputation to get every last cent of profit from search.

I also think that they're trying to Force everyone to exist in their eco-system. This is why Author pictures now appear in SERPS (only if you join Google+). They don't want you to have any other choice than to use their own services.

The truth is that Google should be broken up. Otherwise, there is no hope of this changing. They have simply lost their moral compass.

SEO Junkie
December 10, 2011 - 1:55pm

1) In a recent interview for The Economist, Brin jokingly said "We're both kind of obnoxious."

2) 'In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives' by Steven Levy claims that in 2001, Schmidt requested that a political donation he made be removed from Google search results. The request was not fulfilled.

In view of the above, I agree with what you've said and I'm certain at some time in the near future, we'll see them broken or a complete collapse of the company.

Breaking News: Search Giant Seized. Biggest Online Fraud Discovered.

December 11, 2011 - 2:32am

Both Google's CEO and Chairman would be in jail if they hadn't paid $500 million to the FEDS. They are criminals that bought their way out of jail. Google's moral compass?

December 10, 2011 - 2:55pm

Thanks for your hardwork. I really loved it :-)

Brian Greenberg
December 10, 2011 - 7:27pm

I happen to believe that no follow links still help sites rank. I don't think they pass page rank, but they do pass some type of link juice that can increase your site's rankings.

SEO Junkie
December 10, 2011 - 7:36pm

I surely claim nofollow still works in Bing and Yahoo. As for Google, I tend to disagree.

December 12, 2011 - 9:35am

Hi Aaron,

how did you establish that G stopped crediting Seo Book's links? If I may ask and if it's something that you can share publicly. I also agree with FrankieW01, it would be awesome to have a shiny infographic that illustrates to "non-experts" what Google is trying to achieve - world domination? =)

December 13, 2011 - 12:48am

"how did you establish that G stopped crediting Seo Book's links?"

Rankings fell right around the time of the outing.

"it would be awesome to have a shiny infographic that illustrates to 'non-experts' what Google is trying to achieve - world domination? =)"

Some of the trends appear over time & I think it is hard to put everything on 1 some cases there might be 5 or 10 big strategic moves in a single vertical. Add in dozens of verticals (and some of their other general strategic moves) and the infographic would quickly have north of 100 items on it.

At some point I think an all encompassing one could be made, but I would think numerous niche ones would make sense first. Share too much all at once & you look like a crackpot...whereas if you share bits over time in more bite sized chunks you can share the same info without looking as crazy. ;)

SEO Junkie
December 12, 2011 - 12:27pm

You are not alone. Everyone is ranting about their malpractices, ill-doings, wrong-doings, illegal activities and all.

December 12, 2011 - 1:00pm

I'm old enough to remember when Bell Telephone was broken up because they were a monopoly. Google has all the markings of a monopoly and they will be broken up at some point in the near future. Unfortunately, until that day all of us who make a living by marketing on the Internet have to play their game. They are obviously trying to squeeze as much profit out of it as they possibly can before the end. The search engine results have become a joke. Given the current climate in the US I wouldn't be surprised to see the government step in and take over the search engines.

SEO Junkie
December 12, 2011 - 2:15pm

Couldn't agree more on this. But what about the lobbying they have been spending too much on? Will it save them? A big question mark here.

December 13, 2011 - 12:39am

But not sure I agree with the part about government stepping in now. Technology & the web are a few of the big growth markets in the United States where our culture has created lasting competitive advantages. Given that old media wasn't able to ram through SOPA or Protect IP there is no way that the government would want to harm Google seriously. Yes that $500 million fine for the illegal drug ads sounds like a big number, but realistically that was a slap on the wrist for Google. They now make about 20x that much in profit per year!

SEO Junkie
December 12, 2011 - 2:24pm

What is Google?

A webmaster's nightmare
A small business killer
A user's privacy bomb
A disruptive technology
A monopoly!

December 13, 2011 - 12:36am

...the "disruptive technology" least not at this point.

I mean they were that a decade or so ago, but they have mostly been a series of network effects, aggressive public relations & pushing to commoditize paid parallel markets since then.

SEO Junkie
December 13, 2011 - 2:18pm

So is their 'Don't be evil' philosophy! It was appropriate/relevant until they moved to Mountain View. Today, it should be 'Evil is whatever Google decides is evil.'

A well-known brand found to be cloaking? No issue. A small webmaster caught cloaking? Penalized. Famous companies found to be buying links? No problem. A small webmaster caught buying links? Penalized. Big brand found to have dup content? Doesn’t matter. A small webmaster caught having dup content? Penalized.Money-mongering at its best inside Gplex.

Money-hungry CEO, directors along with their venture capitalists are making the web a dirty place and are selling out internet users' privacy for big dollars. No business ethics! Entering new industries and destroying small business. Competing even with their own partners. Solidifying their monopolistic search biz by bankrupting their competitors and then buying them. Illegal business practices and fraudulent 'secret' money-making schemes are destroying their reputation and goodwill but who cares? Money-mongers don't care. Honestly.

December 12, 2011 - 2:53pm

Items in quotes to the right of the equal sign = value.
Items not in quotes to the left of the equal sign = attribute.

Nofollow is a value of the Rel attribute.

December 13, 2011 - 12:36am

good catch.

December 12, 2011 - 8:11pm

There's a lot of negativity coming from this blog lately. I'd only suggest that you look at why people are linking to Wikipedia. Yes, it's hard to get links these days; it's time to get creative and be useful.

December 13, 2011 - 12:34am

...sometimes that means optimistic new opportunities & sometimes that means facing reality head on and accepting it as it is, even when things don't look pretty.

The bit about getting creative & be useful to get links...sure creativity is important, but utility rarely draws in links unless you are already well known & have a lot of distribution (or remove a lot of friction in a market vertical (often while undermining copyright) like Youtube did with videos). Even Wikipedia has in many ways peaked out. They have plenty of bias and expert commentary is frequently not welcome by their editors.

The other statement in "look at why people are linking to Wikipedia" ... is another way of saying "be a default market leader synonymous with a topic" ... and maybe for me that is being in the position of calling reality bluntly as it is, rather than sugar coating some overly bland but positive pablum. I really wish that there was better news to report, but in the SEO industry there is literally no theme anywhere near as important as Google eating their own search results is.

Online Agents
December 13, 2011 - 2:49pm

In the left corner is Google. Initiating the aggression. Always on the attack and fighting to deliver it's audience what they are really looking for.

In the right corner we have SEO, countering Google's Algorithmic punches with tricks and solutions to climb to the top.

The referee in this match is the audience who will follow, react and engage with content it deems relevant to his or her needs. Algorithm will never match human interaction.........IMHO :)

But like any good fight, there is money involved. Google can not allow easy access to the top. Ad words would not function with that type of strategy. SEO also can not survive if Google did not continue to change it's algorithm.

And so the battle continues.......this round is nofollows, next round is?????

December 14, 2011 - 12:49am

"Always on the attack and fighting to deliver it's audience what they are really looking for."

The word "always" in that context is a bit of a self-serving farce. It used to be mostly true up until 2010/2011...but this year & last Google decided to consume more value than they create & cut off many businesses that invested in the search ecosystem.

Google's threats to Yelp to let them scrape Yelp reviews & replace Yelp with junk Google Places pages filled with scraped content reveal a Google that is all about money first, audience second, publisher third.

December 14, 2011 - 1:24am

I really believe you can't leave it up to large corporations to provide unbiased search results. I wish that their was a popular open source search engine. You could consider Wikipedia as one, but I really would like a direct Google replacement. Like a top 10 Alexa ranking open source search engine...

Coders of the world? Can we make this happen?

December 14, 2011 - 12:44pm

Badges bloggers must place on their sites in order to verify G+ accounts and mandatory account creation. I guess they got jealous of Facebook which was PR 10 for so long and demoted to PR9 - same as Google.

December 17, 2011 - 2:20am

Kudos for pointing this stuff out Aaron. This information needs to get out there. Thought I would link up this article by in case you have not seen it. Also covers the ground really well:

December 17, 2011 - 8:39am

Your infographic is featured - so of course you've seen it.

December 20, 2011 - 4:01am

Love your insight & analysis Aaron. If you want to see an interesting perspective - derived in part from some of your posts - see my report on the coming "Disruptive Correction":

December 22, 2011 - 7:34pm

Google has allowed these ads (all leading to fake news sites promoting free trial scams) to run for at least the past 3 weeks:

More examples here:

December 23, 2011 - 6:58am

...I saved a couple local copies of those scamwords ads in case the above images somehow later disappear.

You know it is pretty bad when state governments start making fake mock up scam sites to warn consumers!

advancement seo
December 26, 2011 - 7:45am

Hello everybody!
I completely agree with Aaron. Creating a reputation of the most "unprejudiced" search engine caring for the customer in the first place looks like a part of the long-term business strategy. And yes, Google Places simply ouster a lot of businesses from the search results.

January 4, 2012 - 9:56pm

UPDATE: Google’s Chrome page no longer ranks for the keyword “Browser” after they got a sponsored post penalty from themselves, Google. I find this very amusing! they got caught out, and so as not to look like they show unbiased search results they give themselves a penalty... again!

January 13, 2012 - 8:36pm

This infographic explains a very complex story, making it easy to comprehend. I didn't really see the whole picture of what was going on with organic links and google till after this. Lots of great information and food for thought. I can't help but rethink about what is going on with Google.

I'll be sharing this. Thanks

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