A blackhat trick from back in the day to get a .gov backlink surfaced in a discussion in the SIA Skype group and we were excited to test it. The trick exploits the url parameters of certain .gov sites that created redirect pages dynamically. To get the redirect page, and subsequent backlink, you add your target page to the end of a url string that will create a page that says ‘you are now leaving our site…’
You can obtain several lists of these type of urls that can be exploited on many different .gov sites. The question is, do you really get a .gov backlink out of this, or more importantly, do these types of links positively affect rank?
Five identical test pages were created and indexed. The third ranking page was chosen to receive the .gov redirect links.
We obtained a list of .gov sites with the url parameter flaw and tested the list until we found five US based sites where we could obtain the redirect link. The urls were tested by seeing if a page could be created redirecting. Of the five created pages/links, 3 redirect within 5 seconds, 1 redirects within 20 seconds and 1 sometimes doesn’t redirect properly. On the page that doesn’t always redirect, a page is created on the site with a clickable link to the target page.
2 weeks after the links were created, there hasn’t been any movement in ranking. This makes sense to us as there would really be no way for Google to know these links existed. In order to get the links seen by Google, we submitted them to Linklicious for pinging and put them into a Google doc.
Unfortunately, it’s looking like this blackhat trick is not producing results. Not only is the target page not moving, but we’re also not getting any movement in the SERPs on the other listings.
In other tests, when a ranking factor is introduced, we see a lot of SERP movement even on pages that aren’t receiving the factor being tested. Here, we’re not seeing any movement at all.
We’re thinking that Google isn’t seeing these pages and therefore, the links on them aren’t being credited. As a result, the links are not being factored into the algorithm.
This hack is a bust and is not worth wasting your time and energy on.
In this video, Clint discusses this test, how the “blackhat” redirect works, his insights on it, and suggestions on how it can work.
Test number 55. Blackhat Special: Do .gov Redirect Links Affect Rank?
It says black hat special, but at the end of the day, it’s not really “blackhat”. Essentially, what this is, is there’s a style that you can make domains and you can make them look like certain things or there’s some CMS, Content Management suites, or programming languages, etc., tied in with the web that allow you to create what are essentially the redirects based off parameters going to the site.
At the time of this test, a lot of the .edu sites were using this technology. Today, I would venture to say it’s actually pretty old but there are still some CMS that will do it. But essentially, you have like domain.com forward slash, question mark, equal to set the parameter, this is probably wrong and probably got it backwards or something, and then you put your domain inside of here and then when you go to this, it’ll redirect to your domain.
The idea is that by finding the sites that are using these particular types of CMS, you’re essentially creating a backlink from this domain to your domain via the redirect. Back in the day, messing with the PageRank so you’re getting the PageRank benefit from this domain to your domain and the idea is that you will rank is higher.
And this was actually sold a lot back then, I don’t know how many of you around in the blackhat forums are talking about it, it was sold a lot and it was touted as a “blackhat” method just because you’re doing it to manipulate the search ranking but that’s all link building, right? But at the end of the day, you’re not hacking, you’re just using a normal function of the content management system to create backlinks to your site in the hopes of ranking higher. So not a hack, not a spam because you’re not creating the pages, etc., you’re just using the redirect. And what we wanted to know is, was it working?
Now there are still some methods today that are actually working pretty good if you know what you’re doing that still leverages the idea behind this and Google hasn’t shut all of those down. And not all CMS updated to remove the redirect created by these parameters.
Famously, there’s a lot of whois sites that create these or you can create backlinks using them at the same time, that still do have some effect. It is minimal, you have to know what you’re doing with them, you have to be able to link to them and to send some juice through them, etc. But again, it is minimal. I would argue that is probably beyond indexing help, it is a waste of time to build these unless you have a set of targets that you can test and you know that sending links to them actually passes on to the website.
But in most cases, Google’s kind of fixed that issue and I won’t say in all cases because there’s no way Google’s going to find all of them and all the different setups, etc., and be able to filter all of them out. But in a lot of cases, and in particular in these .Gov type sites, it doesn’t work. And it didn’t work back then during the test either. It actually failed and there wasn’t any improvement.
Some things you can do to actually change that is to build links to this. And you don’t want to just build junk because you’re sending it essentially to your money page, right? It’s through a redirect and that junk is going to show up. Maybe you can do some really good links and pass that juice through.
In order for that to work, you have to test each one of these individually and see if it’s a true 301 or if it’s a matter of refresh or of a 302 because all of those make a difference in how much juice is going to get passed through. And two, you’ve got to look at the spam history. And I use the term spam history because that’s what Google’s going to do. Again, you’re not creating pages so you’re not making spam. But Google is going to assign it a spam history. So if a lot of people found this site, and a lot of people are doing this, more often than not, Google’s bots are trained enough to see that there’s a history of bulk URLs coming from this domain and at some point, it’s going to remove them because it tips the scale on the natural versus unnatural.
So you need to test to see if it’s actually going to do some work and be useful for you. It won’t take much, you just find a really weak page on your site, going for a really weak keyword, point this at it, see what it does. More likely not going to do anything, just see what it does, and then send 10 backlinks to it. If you get a little jump up, then you know it’s going to pass some juice and you can leverage that site a little bit more, at least until other people figure it out.
But if you’re smart, you don’t actually talk about where you’re getting your backlinks. You can tell people how, right? You can tell these are the theories behind it, these are some of the tools that I use, but at the end of the day, you shouldn’t be sharing your actual link building plans, your link building strategies, and how you’re putting all those different types of links together. And this is just another one of those different types of links.
Again, you can find really good sites that do move but you are going to have a little bit of testing required to do that.
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