Google has long been fighting a war against so-called “black hat” tactics in the world of search engine optimization. Many times, that war breaks out into a public battle between the company’s search engine executives and the nefarious organizations that engage in things like paid backlinks, robotic guest posting, and more. Perhaps the most recent spate was between Google’s search executive, Matt Cutts, and the group behind the Anglo Rank link network. The network had been one of the most popular, and one of the most resilient, even in the face of recent Google algorithm updates like Penguin and Panda. The network promised that there would be “no footprints” between the Anglo Rank service and its clients, preventing them from Google’s consequences and SEO enforcement. That didn’t end up being true.
In late December, Cutts tweeted directly to the team behind Anglo Rank initial iteration, mocking their claim of “no footprints” between their service and their clients. The message was clear: Google knew how this system operated and its time as a major force in website rankings had come to a close. In the time that has elapsed, the Anglo Rank 1.0 effort has fallen by the wayside. Sites that paid for links no longer rank very highly at all, and some have even been banished from the search engine altogether. The Anglo Rank team, however, isn’t willing to go down without a fight.
The Resurgence: Anglo Rank 2.0 Mocks Google and Bets On a Better Tactic
Just as Matt Cutts mocked Anglo Rank, the network’s founders are prepared to return the favor. In fact, that’s just what they did when they recently unveiled a new paid link network, now called Anglo Rank 2.0. The network is designed to be even more undetectable than its predecessor, largely be fitting itself more easily within the confines of Google’s latest algorithm update. The two most impactful changes to the system include the following:
- A strict limit of 100 clients in order to keep the system “clean” and free of any red flags that might tip off Google’s automated search engine algorithm or SEO professionals like Cutts.
- A focus on high-quality, homepage backlinks that are usually viewed as more authoritative and reliable in the eyes of Google’s SEO standards and its search algorithms.
These changes are designed to specifically thwart detection by Google’s automated systems and live SEO quality assurance agents. In addition, the service has refined its existing set of features and added a few more anti-detection efforts to the mix:
- Use of only English-speaking websites for higher authority and more difficult detection.
- A series of filters that keeps “bad links” at bay and makes it harder for Google’s automated system to tie certain backlinks to the paid network.
- A 10 percent blend of non-homepage links to avoid any of Google’s red flags that might lead to the sponsored network’s links being detected.
These efforts are not necessarily noble, but they come from a deep understanding of how Google’s algorithms rank content and judge whether or not a site is reputable, authoritative and valuable to the reader. Though designed to throw off algorithms, it remains to be seen whether the Anglo Rank 2.0 adjustments can properly throw off Matt Cutts and his army of Google SEO enforcement agents who regularly conduct manual reviews of websites and pay special attention to the patterns they find in any red flags reported by search engine spiders.
Detection Likely: Anglo Rank is Fighting with the Best of the Best
Generally, even the best link networks have fallen victim to increasing sophisticated Google search ranking algorithms. The ones that haven’t fallen victim to automated quality checks have lasted a bit longer, but they’ve eventually been found and disbanded by the likes of Matt Cutts and his peers at Google’s campus in California. The changes to Anglo Rank might stave off the service’s eventual extinction, but the modifications in no way make it impossible to find websites leveraging the power of paid link networks. In fact, minor changes will likely invite a Matt Cutts crackdown within a few months at most. Here’s why:
1. Methodical Link Diversity Isn’t Very Diverse
The people behind the revised Anglo Rank 2.0 system insist that their new approach will result in less detectability thanks to a healthy mix of both homepage and non-homepage links. This might sound good in theory, but Google will easily pick up on this formula. In fact, a similar formula was used by Anglo Rank and several of its competing link networks toward the end of 2013. Sold as a method of defeating automated detection, these formulas become known by Google algorithms and the resulting red flags helped Cutts and others take down dozens of link networks just this past December.
2. 100 Clients is 100 Clients Too Many
Another key selling point of the new and improved Anglo Rank is that the service limits its paid links to just 100 clients at a time. This sounds like a winning idea: By reducing the mass use and appeal of the system, Google will be less likely to observe patterns and raise red flags. The reality, of course, is a bit more dim. Whether it’s 10 sites, 100 sites, or tens of thousands of websites participating in Anglo Rank, the patterns mentioned above will become evident. Eventually, those 100 websites will either be banished from Google permanently or they’ll have their ranking significantly reduced after their black hat tactics have been nullified.
3. A Little Research Disproves the “Diverse” Link Pattern
The most common way to determine whether a site is leveraging the power of a paid link network is to look at the “who is” information for each of the domain names offering a backlink. With virtually all paid systems, including Anglo Rank, one thing becomes quite clear: one or two people own the vast majority of the linking websites. Upon manual review, use of a paid link network becomes obvious and the websites who participated in this black hat SEO tactic are typically punished accordingly.
4. The Stakes are Higher Than Ever for Google
Google sells itself to consumers in the 21st century as their single most important source of information online. Whether it’s a reputable search for product information, product and service reviews for local businesses, or the data that powers their Android smartphones, Google is the nerve center of their online world. Matt Cuts knows this, but he isn’t the only one. The company’s highest-level executives are keenly aware that their fortunes are tied to the concept of information integrity in Google search results. That’s why the recent Panda and Penguin updates have been so stringent and sweeping.
A crackdown on Anglo Rank 2.0 is one that helps consumers, boosts Google’s fortunes, and makes a real impact on search. For this reason, it’s probably safe to assume that Matt Cutts cracking down on Anglo Rank is not a matter of “if,” but a matter of when. Given his efficiency at handling so many other black hat tactics that were once “proven” methods of boosting a company’s SEO rankings, Anglo Rank’s remaining days probably number somewhere in the double digits.