Shock, horror!!!. At Holistic Search we have recently run a poll on the site which we put out to the general public. The question we posed was whether or not it was possible to rank in super competitive sectors (such as car insurance, gambling, loans etc) without using paid links. I have my own views on this which I will cover later, however it was interesting gauging the feedback from an initial Twitter Sample against that from the integrated poll on the Holistic Search website.
Before we go any further it may be worth highlighting what I would constitute as a super competitive market
- Mature organic market
- High number of high profile organisations. Credit cards for example was not included due to the number of potential competitors
- Generally very high CPC which restricts the number of entrants and coverage an organisation can get (without blowing the budget)
- Often are ‘jackpot’ terms within a particular vertical/sector. For example – Car Insurance searches far outweigh that of similar and further qualified search terms
- Previous histories of organisations erring on the ‘grey’ side of SEO
Contrary however to the earlier Twitter poll I ran before the start of the poll on Holistic, the result of this one suggested many Holistic Search browsers thought it impossible to rank a site on a competitive keyword phrase without incorporating paid links into the overall link acquisition strategy with votes suggesting it was impossible outnumbering those against by nearly 2:1.
Interestingly, having run each other close for much of the duration of the poll, the trend of the poll changed significantly after the post was published regarding ‘Link Building in competitive verticals – are you scaling enough‘ with subsequent votes suggesting that paid links were a massive part of super competitive link strategies and one would have to use fire against fire.
This would suggest two things
- Google is not as clever at identifiying paid link patterns as many people think
- There is more of a widespread acceptance of *cough* paid links than many would suggest
Paid links are a debate that are is not going to go away. Increasingly there is a sentiment Google are moving away from pure linkage signals and factoring more behavioural and social factors into the algorithm, however one can’t help but feel – for the moment at least that within super competitive verticals – that if content is king, paid links are pretender to the throne that just won’t go away.