New Poll: Is it possible to rank on a super competitive phrase without paid links

by Peter Young on September 28, 2010 · 9 comments

Analysis of the SERPs would suggest many verticals are dominated by organisations who obtain links beyond the rules outlined by Google’s guidelines particularly on jackpot terms such as ‘car insurance’, ‘online casino’ etc etc.

As such we thought it would be good to find out whether you – as SEO’s – think its possible for a site to rank number one

[poll id=8]

Google+ Comments

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Dave September 28, 2010 at 1:10 pm

I do think it’s a possibility – I just think it could be very, very difficult.

@neyne on Twitter said “it is possible to rank for any phrase without paid links. If you have a better way of getting links, you don’t need paid ones”, which I completely agree with – although for terms as competitive as that, it’s going to need to be a mix of very, very effective tactics.

Sadly, I’m seeing a site ranking #1 for a very(but not insanely) competitive term using hacked links :( Definitely not cool.

ady berry September 28, 2010 at 1:39 pm

Not impossible but tbh very difficult and depends on time scales involved – with online casino and gaming related KW the sheer volume of legacy IBL’s must have a lot of weight still.

Regardless of what keeps being said paid links still have value and seem to work in certain industries – along with the less scrupulous black hat methods.

Jake Langwith September 28, 2010 at 3:41 pm

I think its still possible without paid links, although i’d say 99% of the firms involved do go out and buy them. I think getting the huge volume of links is whats tough in order to compete, and for this to appear natural. But people do do it.

robwatts September 28, 2010 at 4:10 pm

All links of real value are paid.

I guess it all depends who you are.

If you can ask yourself the question “should I really be on the first page for this serp” and the answer is yes, then the likelihood is you’ll be doing lots of stuff and have lots of material to generate the buzz and wine and dine the journos/bloggers or pay for their beer or or or etc…

If the answer is no and you think you’ll get there and stay there on the back of bought-low-quality-cookie-cutter-yawnesque-type-keyword-rich-bored-already links, then you prolly need to wrap up and go home already.


Freelance SEO Consultant October 1, 2010 at 1:56 pm

If the website does have something that would be interesting to the user; using the social media channels and frequent PR effectively should see improvements. One of my clients blog is ranking quite well on search engines as they have become a really good source of information within the industry.

Sam October 7, 2010 at 11:18 am

I think it really depends how you define “super competitive”. I definitely think it would be possible to rank for difficult head terms without paid links, however it seems like you are talking specifically about industries that have been given a ton of leeway from G on the terms of service. In the particular examples you mentioned, I would say probably not.

In less spammy, but similarly competitive verticals I would say absolutely.

Dean Cruddace October 7, 2010 at 11:23 am

Shocked at the number that say you can`t, some might say you`d be mental to try and start out from scratch right now to compete using non-paid links, but I am a firm believer that you can with a combination of tactics, yes its a time thing but not impossible.

Paul Reilly February 14, 2011 at 3:41 pm

In some verticals yes.. in others… possibly.

However, success is much more down to luck when you’re leaving your link footprint down to nature.

Where the topic isn’t newsworthy or social, as it is with Casino, no one is going to give you a free link.

When’s the last time you lost 600 quid on the Roulette and shared it with a friend?

Add to this the player revenues and the size of the available budgets which your competitors are using to bribe their way to the top…

Put simply, you’ve got yourself a knife and gun fight situation if you turn up wearing a bleached white hat.

If you can’t beat them, join them.

Or to to put it another way…

When in Rome, don’t carry on like a Greek.



Caleb August 25, 2011 at 1:01 am

I definitely think it is possible ranking a site for a super competitive keyword only using whitehat seo techniques. Combined with the correct on-page seo and internal linking along with consistent linkbuilding and doing it properly you can rank for any keyword in my opinion. Its just the more competitive the keyword the longer it will take.

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