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Linkless SEO

I’ve been off on a lot of projects lately.  Many of these projects have to do with building sites that are designed for SEO traffic.  I’ve built about 50 sites in the last few months and some of the trends I see are interesting so I figured i’d share.  The first 25 or so sites that I built in this cluster, I almost immediately built links for because we all know that links are extremely important for search engine optimization.  About 1/3 of the sites in that cluster started getting traffic within a week or so.  About 2/3 of the sites never got any traffic at all (yet).  That discovery is really nothing revolutionary.  Obviously if you are pumping out a bunch of sites in different niches, some will get traffic and some won’t.

For the second cluster of sites (25 or so sites) I haven’t worked on getting any links as of yet.  I planned to let the sites age a little bit before doing link building.  One observation I find interesting though, is that out of these 25 sites, 5 of them have started to get traffic.  Again, THESE SITES HAVE NO LINKS GOING TO THEM!  This made me ask myself how could the search engines have firstly found these sites and secondly ranked them to any degree with NO LINKS?  I don’t actually know the answer to this question but here are a few hypothesis I made:

  1. Google/Search engines are watching registrar databases to see domains being registered and preemptively crawling them.  Hense, no links needed.
  2. These domains were exact match, so maybe that has something to do with it.
  3. These domains are on an IP with other sites that are indexed, maybe Google/Search Engines find an IP and then look for other sites on that IP?

Whatever the cause is, it’s pretty cool that it happens.  Since i’m working on a bunch of sites, i’ll update you guys on any observations I make.

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Published inSearch Engines


  1. My partner and I have actually seen the exact same thing. In fact, in building out 41 sites in different niches, with exact match domains and building out the content through some autoblogging we have only a couple sites that have never reached a point where they get quite a bit of traffic. Building no links to those sites they still came alive within 2 months if not earlier. We do have some pinging built into the system however which I suspect helps quite a bit.

  2. Your point about registrars got me thinking. Google probably pays attention to registrations, we know they care about age. Another think is that there are a lot of scraper sites that pay attention to registrations also. Is it possible that they are linking to your site and Google is following?

  3. Ad Hustler Ad Hustler

    @spyderman – i’m not sure but you add another interesting theory. I’m not sure of any programs that can reliably tell you links to your site within only a few days of the links going live. Usually the link tracking programs tell you more aged links.

  4. manofsteel manofsteel

    Do a check on the history of the domains. Perhaps these sites have already been registered in the past.

  5. Ad Hustler Ad Hustler

    @manofsteel – its possible but what are the chances on all of the ones that started getting traffic with no links? Not too likely considering the domains.

  6. Snoop Snoop

    Did you happen to build these sites with WordPress? If so, WordPress will automatically ping the Search Engines making them aware of your site.

    Also, if the niche you are targeting ins’t very competitive, you’re on-page optimization alone will get the site to rank nicely for some of those mid to long tail search terms once the SE Bots index the site.

  7. Ad Hustler Ad Hustler

    @Snoop – Not wordpress. I actually didn’t realize that wordpress does that though.

  8. Snoop Snoop

    @Ad Hustler wOrd. And I’m assuming you didn’t install any Google tools (analytics/webmaster tools) on these, right?

    If not, I’m putting my money on #3. I launched a new site 3 weeks ago (maybe longer) not using a CMS (WP, Drupal, etc) and it has not been discovered (no links pointed to it/not promoting yet). It is on VPS hosting so not sharing IPs.

  9. Ad Hustler Ad Hustler

    @Snoop – no google tools.

  10. interesting stuff. I’m actually finally getting off my ass and getting back into doing some SEO projects as well. I have several sites that I’ve done virtually little to no link building at all for that ranked in a pretty reasonable amount of time and get traffic.

    To me domain choice and very good on page optimization play a huge role in getting your site to consistently rank and stay ranked. Doing some experiments on that now.

    Note: 99% of my SEO sites are on wordpress

  11. You might remember a few months back when Google called out Microsoft for snooping on user queries and surfing behavior, either through the Bing toolbar and/or Internet Explorer. I believe Google has admitted to doing the same thing before using its own toolbar and probably the branded version of Chrome as well. It could be the competition is such that any signals, such as those from toolbar analysis, might be enough to rank something, especially when using an exact match or keyword-focused domain name.

  12. Adi Adi

    Interesting theory, nice observation.

    Wanted to ask if you have noticed any drop since the Panda update? Any concerns/recommendation for targeting exact keyword domains with low amount of pages per domain?

  13. Rhawn Rhawn

    Same issue here. I don’t know if its sharing the links via email or IP cluster co-location or being logged into google while developing. They are aggressively crawling sites that haven’t even broadcast their own existence yet. Nothing like getting a whole template’s worth of sample content indexed for a brand new site.

  14. @Ad Hustler, I’ve seen the same thing coming from some of our Development servers getting crawled by Google. No way Google could have known these links existed. I HIGHLY suspect Google’s Toolbar.

    I’d also like to know if you’re launching this network of sites all under one host or on many hosting companies (meaning different IP) at the moment?

  15. Gluttoner Gluttoner

    There are plenty of sites that list recently registered domains (and Whois databases and such) and those sites are in googles index. Therefore any new site will get visited by the google spider without google itself ever having to get involved with the registrars. Whois db’s are public, even if registration is private

  16. @Jeremy – This particular network is all on one host/IP

    @Gluttoner – This “recently registered” website theory is the most feasible answer at this point…..but still no proof.

  17. I’ve heard of the theory that you shouldn’t really start building links at the start so I’ll be interested to know how sites that have links built right from the start compare to sites that only have links built couple months after they get indexed.

    The number of variables involved in SEO is overwhelming indeed!

  18. Jardini Jardini

    This happens a lot especially on share hosting. Shared ip, shared namesever, will always get g spider to visit

  19. Gluttoner is correct, they spider sites that list recently deleted/expired/etc. sites as well as recently registered. Another thing is that Google OWNS it’s own registrar for reasons that are pretty clear (lookup registrations on domains, including getting real info behind proxies), in order to protect themselves.

  20. Did you discuss any of the urls in emails/gmail, on facebook or twitter. Anything like that they will count similar to a backlink. Also anyone browsing the sites with googles toolbar installed could be logging url data of visited pages to Google. There is probably a million and one other ways they monitor traffic and new site registrations to get urls of active sites to crawl.

  21. 1 and 3 are my top picks. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the search engines are watching registrar databases like you said.

  22. I do have a question though and feel free to email me on this one. Why would you build 50 sites? i’d like to get more details on that part? Is it for clients or link building, niche sites? How do you plan to monitize them?

  23. I have noticed a lot of domains of mine getting indexed without any backlinks. So, maybe Google is watching the domain registrar or ip information to index such sites.

    Another observation is that the exact match domains have high value in the eyes of Google, specially if the keyphrase comprises of 3 or more terms. Recently, one of my domains was on page 3 within just a few days without doing any backlinking as it was a EMD.

  24. Dude..great advices I’m def going to check on my website to see what i got..make sure everything is in proper others

  25. Amanda Amanda

    Thanks much for sharing! I’ve seen the same with many of my exact match sites. Some of them have ranked within G’s top 5 within a few days before I have gotten around to do any link building.. However, I hooked WP blogs onto the sites so they’d be pinging immediately and get indexed fast.

    I also use G analytics and webmaster tools on all of my properties so that could also be playing into the equation.

    Either way, I can say definitely from experience that exact match gives you a huge competitive advantage at the moment, across all engines but especially in Google. However, there is likely to be changes to G’s algo soon that may start devaluing exact match domains. At Pubcon this last November Cutts mentioned that was being considered…which sux.

  26. […] “Linkless SEO“ – How do search engines find websites that have no links pointed at them? More importantly, how are they being ranked? Check out Ad Hustler’s theories. […]

  27. @3weeks in review : I have a sneaking suspicion that this concept of “linkless seo” is auto-updated by each site crawled while autogenerating links off that content

  28. i also think google may be restructuring to benefit all by helping orchestrate this new concept so their hand that has slapped so many can heal up lol

  29. This is an intresting topic, but there should be 1 more thing, what you should check, and nobody mentioned, before you bet any of 1 – 3.

    If i want to write a search engine, first of all i make a cycle, what go through from to (in this case i don’t use IPv6) and check, is there a webpage or not.

    If yes, folows the links, index them, and build a big database etc…
    Still this point, it’s clear.

    BUT what if, i register a domain, ex., point to my server, not a host company server, and make a 404 header in the index.php on port 80 and 8080.

    After this, i bind another port to, ex. 49846 (or thing a random port number) index.php with content.

    So you can access this content only on

    That could be intresting to observe this. Never touch the page, never write it in the address bar, never tell to anybody, etc…

    you should try it, i think, it will be never in the google or any search engine.

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