Link Baiting with Fake Article: The Limits of the Google Algorithm

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Using articles to generate incoming links to your website is a popular link baiting tactic. However to make people want to link to your article, the content needs to be either highly qualitative or very exclusive and sometimes a combination of both and more

If it does not exist, let's invent it

If you have done some link baiting, you would probably find that this type of content is usually extremely rare and hard to produce if you are not a huge publishing company, which has access to exclusive information. Mid May this year, a UK online marketer, Lyndon Antcliff, decided to find an alternative by producing its own piece of content that was surely exclusive, highly controversial and arguably qualitative.

Fake content, but massive results

Using a journalistic style, Lyndon outlined the 'fake' story of a 13 years old kid that used his father credit card to buy for around $30,000 of video games and hookers. In a flash the story has created a large buzz on the internet, generating 2489 diggs votes, over 1500 inbounds links in a week and a large amount of traffic. As a result of the popularity of the article, major news websites such as The Daily Telegraph,, Fox and The Sun published the news, which produced more links and even more traffic...

Fame can trick you

While producing a really successful link baiting campaign, the SEO guy may have made a little mistake (or not as Lyndon is now offering his services as a link baiting coach), which is to reveal the hoax in his blog (please note that the post has been removed since then) rather than on the website where the story has been published (note that the story now mentions that it is a parody). While increasing his notoriety, generating a lot of discussions in the SEO community, the blog post also later came to the ears of Google and its spam team represented by Matt Cutts.

Applause, Criticisms and Google in the awkward position

In his blog, Matt Cutts condemns this link baiting practice quoting the Google Webmasters' Guidelines:

These quality guidelines cover the most common forms of deceptive or manipulative behavior, but Google may respond negatively to other misleading practices not listed here (e.g. tricking users by registering misspellings of well-known websites). It’s not safe to assume that just because a specific deceptive technique isn’t included on this page, Google approves of it.

As the 'manipulative behaviour' was clearly stated by its author, all the inbounds links created have been ignored and have therefore no impact on the website search engine rankings and it seems that a penalty has been applied to the website

However, this particular case puts Google in a really awkward position (as well as some arguably reliable media sources). Before, Lyndon actually said that the article was fake, Google's alogorithm could not technically verify the exactitude of the content and therefore could not condemn the 'manipulative behavior' of the tactic.
Such case reveals some of the limit of the almighty alogorithm, built to provide users with the most relevant and useful information, but not built to verify the exactitude of the content...
Would this open the door to a new link baiting style ?