Evolve Or Die – Why SEO & Tiered Link Building Has Changed In 2014

Around 14 months ago I shared my own tiered link building strategy with the world.

But since then we have had at least 12 major updates to the algorithm. One of which specifically targets tiered link building.

A lot has changed which has started to make the method much less effective than it used to be.

As Google evolves we must evolve and with it so must our link building practices.

So I wanted to share my thoughts on the past 12 months with you and address the much wider problems at hand.

Long Live Tiered Link Building

The great thing about tiered link building is it takes advantage of how Google fundamentally spiders and structures the web.

The tiered link building theory will always be effective unless Google makes some serious changes.

But what needs to change is how we apply that theory.

Common Tiered Link Building Mistakes

I have reviewed a lot of peoples tiered link building campaigns over the past year and I always see the same mistakes/problems popping up.

Poor Content

The first one is poorly spun content. I know that it takes time to spin an article properly, but it is essential for success.

If you take short cuts here you are going to waste all of your time.

Poor Target Site List

I stress the importance of this in the series and I’m going to do it again. It is critical that you spend time scraping your own target list of sites.

Once you have done that you need to continually maintain that list, adding new sites, removing low quality/deindexed ones and so forth.

It’s amazing how many people don’t bother with this but it is essential.

Focusing Purely On Tiered Link Building

Tiered link building is much more effective when used in conjunction with other link building tactics.

A lot of people seem to be doing just tiered stuff and nothing else. I don’t think I’ve seen a single reader go to the effort of handmade web 2.0 sites or buying/repurposing an aged domain.

In my tiered link building theory video I highlight that the future is owning your first tier/your own site network and I still believe that to be true.

You need to mix things up and keep everything random.

Not Evolving

Regardless of whether you follow a tutorial for keyword research or for link building, you need to think for yourself.

As your knowledge/experience develops you need to evolve your practices and try new things.

If you are copying what everyone else is doing step by step you will have a tough time.

The people that benefit the most from any type of tutorial on any topic are those combine new learning with existing knowledge to improve/develop.

Poor Sites

I’m going to touch on this in more detail later in the post.

But can you honestly say your site deserves to rank? Even if it had the best backlink profile in the world, is it actually providing value?

The Future Of Tiered Link Building

Jacob King has highlighted the flaws of the current tiered link building model in his post and how to fix them.

I agree with a lot of what he says and it is great to see how he has evolved his process to move with the times.

But I do not think that is the right solution and the average SEO needs to do much more than simply evolving their link building process.

You really need to take a step back and look at the bigger picture to understand just how much SEO & link building has changed in the past 12 months.

We have much bigger problems to address.

Google Have Raised The Bar

Over the past year or so Google has really started to step their game up with spam detection.

Now this is nothing new, Google are always fine tuning the algorithm. But what is new, is they are actually getting good at it.

Over the past 12 months alone we have had-

  • 4 Panda updates
  • 2 Penguin updates
  • 2 unknown phantom updates
  • Pay day loan update
  • Knowledge graph update
  • Hummingbird

And they are just the updates we know about! Which doesn’t even consider the impact of authorship in the future.

In fact just yesterday we saw one of the biggest updates of the year since Penguin 2.0 was released in May according to SERPMetrics.

serp metrics fluctuation

This is also reflected by Algoroo-

algoroo fluctuation

Google has denied this update happened but what it seems to have done is reduce the number of results displaying authorship.

Secondly it seems they have reduced the total number of pages in their index-

  • Buy SEO‘ 12 months ago returned 210,000 results, which has dropped 27% by 153,000
  • Kontent Machine Review’ used to return 220,000 results, now just 56,300 – 75% drop off
  • ‘Matthew Woodward’ used to return 16,900,000 results, now 11,800,000 – 30% drop

This seems to be the opposite of the Caffeine update in 2010 which increased its index by huge amounts.

The Caffeine update sort of backfired by introducing a huge amount of spam and low quality results into the SERPS.

So whether you like it or not, SEO is changing.

The SERPS Have Changed

Not only are Google getting better at detecting spam from an onsite and offsite perspective, they have also changed how they deliver search results.

Way back when we just had 10 organic search results with a few Adwords ads based on the keyword you search for and the country you are in.

Now we have to compete with all of this

example google serps

Then you also have to consider personalization- based on previous search history, websites the user has visited before, people they follow on social media and their local location etc.

Now you might not think many people bother to sign in when searching Google but the rise of the not provided keyword shows how many people are actually signed in when searching.

Oh and lets not forget

  • 76.7% of results feature top Adwords ads
  • 51.9% of results feature side Adwords ads
  • 26.7% of results feature knowledge graph results
  • 20.8% of results feature paid shopping ads
  • 18.7% of results feature a news box
  • 13.1% of results feature bottom Adwords ads

To put it simply, ranking #1 just doesn’t deliver the same value as it used to.

Why Are People Obsessed With Ranking #1?

So that leads to an important question. Why are people so obsessed with ranking #1 for a specific term?

It’s nearly impossible to say what ‘ranking #1’ actually means now with all of the SERP changes & personalisation going on.

Sure you can enter private browsing/incognito mode and see your #1 – but that isn’t what is actually happening in the real world.

That’s not to say that having a strong organic web presence has no value. Organic search traffic is some of the most targeted and engaged traffic you can get.

But by purely focusing on trying to rank #1 for a specific keyword you are holding yourself back.

Ranking Factors Have Changed

One of the bigger changes that has happened over the past 18 months is the fundamental way in which Google ranks websites.

Since the introduction of backlinks in 1998, every Google algorithm has relied on backlinks heavily to rank websites.

The simple idea that when one website links to another, that casts a positive vote.

But as the web has grown we have seen the introduction of social networks. Which allow real people to easily cast a positive vote for a website (Google +1/Facebook Like/Tweet etc)

In essence a social signal is an everyday web user ‘building a link’ by liking your content.

This is much harder to fake then getting other websites to cast ‘votes’ which were previously limited to a select pool of people that knew how to make a website and a backlink (vote) in the first place.

Google has made a huge shift towards social signals as a ranking factor.

Ranking power has been taken out of the hands of webmasters and put it into the hands of the everyday web user.

Pause for a second and think about the real world impact of that shift.

That is serious stuff right there!

Backlinks Are Not The #1 Ranking Factor

SearchMetrics monitored 10,000 keywords, tracked 5,300,000,000 backlinks & 19,044,500,000 social signals across 2013.

Using the Spearman Correlation model they were able to determine the top rankings factors in 2013 were-

  1. Google +1’s
  2. Facebook shares
  3. Backlinks
  4. Facebook total
  5. Facebook comments
  6. Facebook likes
  7. Pinterest
  8. Tweets

That is not to say that link building isn’t important now – it always will be. But it is a lot less important than it used to be.

Obsessive Compulsive Backlink Disorder

Along with the obsession to be #1 for a specific keyword comes an unhealthy obsession with backlinks.

I see the same thing time and time again and if this sounds like a personal gripe, it is.

People build a site and immediately want to start link building to chase down that #1 spot.

They are so obsessed and focused with backlinks & ranking they can’t see the woods for the trees.

Forgetting about every other one of the 200+ ranking factors Google uses to rank websites, focusing all of their efforts on just 1.

Then scratch their heads when that didn’t work.

Even when a site gets penalised the backlinks get the blame with no evidence to back that up.

Every person that has contacted me for help with penalty analysis has blamed the backlinks.

Not a single one of them didn’t have huge onsite issues – the most common of which was duplicate/thin content.

The irony is even when I have told clients the site is at fault and the duplicate content must be addressed, they still just want to clean up link profile & build more backlinks.

I don’t know how we have developed this unhealthy obsession with backlinks, but it needs to stop.

Your Site Doesn’t Deserve To Rank

I have also received a lot of emails from readers asking me for link building advice to improve their rankings.

Hundreds and hundreds of people have done that and I can count on 1 hand how many of them had actually built a site that deserved to rank in the first place.

There is more to building a site than keyword research and keyword targeted articles at 3% density with the aim to getting people on and off your site as quickly as possible through an affiliate link or adsense block.

I think this is a symptom of obsessive compulsive backlink disorder – when people are so focused on getting rankings as quickly as possible, they want to spend as little time and money as possible on the site itself.

Amazon affiliates are one of the worst offenders of this. Find a niche, throw up some product reviews, bang in a few Amazon affiliate links, voila!

I always have the same question for people that follow this kind of strategy-

What value does your site provide over and above the reviews by real buyers on Amazon directly?

No one has come back with a good answer for that yet.

And well if you can’t answer that, all things being equal why would Google send the traffic via your site rather than directly to Amazon?

Now if you were supporting unique content by pulling in data feeds from a range of merchants with geo targeted product price comparisons you would be on your way to adding value. Maybe I’ll teach you how I do that one day.

But the bottom line is this, the onsite quality bar has been raised significantly.

My Favourite Affiliate Sites

I can’t give you any live examples of bad affiliate sites but I can share with you some shining examples of great affiliate sites.

I know these are established sites and you might be just starting out, but sites like this are built over time – they are not born overnight.


MoneySavingExpert.com is by far the leading consumer finance advice site in the UK. Built in 2003 by Martin Lewis for £100, in 2013 he sold it for £87 million/$140 million.


It gets over 13 million unique users a month recommending some of the highest paying affiliate programs including banks, credit cards, mortgages, loans, utilities & more.

If you spend some time browsing around the site you will quickly see why it has been so successful. They provide the very best consumer finance content in the UK period.

Not only that but they have put a lot of time and effort into the user experience. Everything is easy to find and neatly organised.

In fact after spending some time reading the site you quickly forget its an affiliate site at all!


CompareTheMarket.com have done a cracking job at taking data from affiliate feeds and API’s and combining it to create huge amounts of value for its visitors.


If you want to get the best price for car insurance, home insurance, life insurance, energy, credit cards or travel insurance this is the place for you.

Again these are some of the most lucrative niches and affiliate commissions in the world.

So when sites like this exist, why are people still trying to build and rank micro niche sites for ‘cheap car insurance’ that are nothing more than 1,000 word article with an affiliate link or two?


HotUKDeals.com is my favourite affiliate site in the world period. The idea is simple but the profits are huge.


Imagine a Digg like system where people could submit deals they find online, then the rest of the community could vote them either hot or cold. The hotter a deal is the more likely it is to hit the frontpage.

That is exactly what HotUKDeals is. A community of people fighting to find & submit the best deals and voting for them/discussing them.

In my corporate life I used to game the system and having just 1 deal hit the front page would drive a healthy £50,000 of revenue without fail.

Now imagine if every time someone submitted a deal they found, the link was automatically turned into an affiliate link on the backend.

The community finds the deals, the community votes the deals, the community promotes the deals, the community discusses the deals and you just spin on your chair.

Now that is what I call an affiliate site!

Level Up Your Site!

What I want you to take out of those examples is to think out of the box a little bit. You can do so much more than just write an article with the hope someone clicks on an affiliate link.

Spend some time on those sites with your internet marketing hat on and get a feel for how they do things to find inspiration.

I’m not saying you have to invest huge amounts of time and money developing massive authority sites with custom developed features.

This blog alone was started with nothing more than a plan, domain, hosting and a headset.

But I am saying you need to build a site that actually engages people and provides value in some way.

Getting people on and off a page via an affiliate link just isn’t going to cut it long term.

What Happens When You Forget About SEO?

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you forgot about SEO/link building entirely and purely focused on creating great content like Matt Cutt’s keeps telling us to?

Well I did.

My regular readers will know this blog was born out of a zero link building case study.

I focused entirely on creating content and driving social signals. I was not allowed to use traditional SEO or link building to rank the blog.

This is what search traffic for 2013 looked like against all of the algo updates this year-

Search Traffic Updates

The proof really is in the pudding, by focusing on content and social signals the site has grown at a rapid pace throughout 2013.

If you want to learn more about exactly what I did and how I did it then have a read of this very detailed post.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Reading through all of that might seem daunting but I hope it helps to address some of the wider problems at hand with SEO & link building.

Usually there are no guarantees with SEO but one thing I can guarantee is Google are going to get better at detecting spam.

If you are fully focused on link building and that elusive #1 ranking you are going to have a rough ride.

SEO Is Just Risk Management

SEO is nothing more than risk management and the risks you take depend on the goals of the campaign.

For example if you wanted to rank something quickly, you would adopt a very aggressive link building strategy encompassing blog networks.

But that obviously sits on the higher end of the risk scale.

If you want long term sustainable rankings you need to play things much safer and mirror the Google Webmaster Guidelines as closely as possible.

Regardless of what type of link you build or how you build it, you breach Webmaster Guidelines – so it’s all black hat SEO if you ask me.

Really there is no right way or wrong way to build links, but the links you build and how you build them needs to align with the goals of your campaign.

It is still possible to throw a site together and link it to the top, but that model is dying.

So you really need to ask yourself – what type of site do I want to build?


SEO is no longer all about the links. In fact SEO has changed so much it’s hard to call it SEO anymore.

What we are seeing is a convergence of content, social, analytics, user experience & marketing.

It seems over the past 5 years obsessive compulsive backlink disorder has seen internet marketing become Google marketing.

We have forgotten about all of the other faces of internet marketing in our quest for rankings.

You really need to start thinking about a more complete & comprehensive online marketing strategy.

SEO is not SEO anymore. SEO is internet marketing.

Link Building Is Still Important

Please don’t get me wrong, link building is still important and it certainly isn’t dead.

However link building on its own just isn’t going to be enough to compete in the coming times.

It will always need to be a part of our wider SEO strategy.

You Have A Great Opportunity

I see the changes of the past 12 months as a fantastic opportunity.

What Google has actually done by leaning towards social signals more is hit a big ‘reset’ button in the SERPS.

This means that sites with little to no authority in terms of links can easily compete against established sites with strong backlink profiles.


Luckily so many people suffer from obsessive compulsive backlink disorder they have failed to notice this shift.

Secondary to that humans hate change, it pushes them out of their comfort zone and in general we avoid doing that.

I don’t think SEO’s have been handed an opportunity on a plate like this before in the history of search. Ecommerce sites especially!

You just need to plan things properly. If you ask me, every niche is for the taking right now!

I am In A Tricky Position

All of this puts me in a very tricky position.

Most of my audience just wants to know the quickest and easiest way to rank a site.

It is clear looking at my analytical data that no one really cares about site speed, conversion, user journey, social signals etc. The vast majority just care about link building and nothing else.

What they actually need though is their perceptions of SEO challenging and evolving. Breaking old habits that have been engrained in them for years.

That is no small task and is much easier said than done! Not everyone is going to like it & people naturally fight change.

I want to arm my readers with everything they need to be able to build a long term & sustainable stream of income online.

I have put some thought into how I can do that with your help through 2 case studies.

#1 – How To Build A Business Online With $100

I have mentioned this series before but just to recap you I’m going to build a successful business online step by step with a $100 start-up budget.

You will be able to follow along week by week as I share exactly what I have done and how I have done it.

This series is going to encompass everything I know about internet marketing & not just SEO/Google.

I have spent the last couple of weeks looking at different e-learning platforms to deliver the lessons and have finally settled on one.

This series is my top priority in the new year – it won’t be for the faint hearted.

#2 Live SEO Ranking Case Study

To cater for those currently suffering from obsessive compulsive backlink disorder I’m going to create a traditional SEO ranking case study.

What I plan to do is take you through the entire process of setting up SEO ranking experiments/case studies so you can roll your own easily in the future.

I haven’t worked out the full details yet but it will be something like building 3 sites targeting the same niche/set of keywords each with a unique link building strategy.

Then we can measure and report on the successes & failures of each strategy.

I have a few things to consider though, when other people have ran live experiments like this people have ruined it with negative SEO. But if you don’t reveal the sites everyone says its fake.

So not entirely sure how I’m going to solve that one just yet!

I’m still in the early planning phases of this but if you have any suggestions/ideas please let me know and I’ll take them on board.

Wrapping It Up

I hope this post has helped you to take a step back and look at the bigger picture of search.

SEO is no longer just about backlinks and we have much bigger problems to address over and above changing some settings in link building software.

We need to adapt & embrace the change to evolve with the times.

SEO is internet marketing.

Please let me know your thoughts/ideas on the case studies in the comments!

345 Responses

  1. Ekim Saribardak

    Great tips, thanks for the detailed article.

    • Matthew Woodward
      May 27th, 2019 at 6:19 am

      No worries – keep an eye out for my new content :)

  2. Abdul Rahman

    Very good article. I like it. Thumbs Up.

    • Matthew Woodward
      April 2nd, 2018 at 4:01 pm

      Thanks for the thumbs up Abdul

  3. Daarshikkarthick

    A nice article here, i think that people who have grown up with the idea of using computers are showing more responsibility towards writing posts that are thoughtful, do not have grammar mistakes and pertinent to the post..

    • Matthew Woodward
      August 1st, 2017 at 6:56 pm

      Well mine certailny have a lot of grammar mistakes!

  4. nalbo

    i have download the pdf, hope its worth reading :)

    • Matthew Woodward
      July 12th, 2017 at 1:22 pm


  5. Sindhubell

    Usually I do not read post on blogs, but I would like to say that this write-up very forced me to try and do it! Your writing style has been surprised me. Thanks, very nice article.

    • Matthew Woodward
      July 11th, 2017 at 12:29 pm

      No problem!

  6. Odira Ndubuisi

    Nice one Matt.
    Like I will always tell people, SEO will never die. It will only continue to evolve. You will just have to stay up to date or you will be left behind.

    • Matthew Woodward
      August 4th, 2017 at 2:16 pm

      That is true indeed!

  7. Madhushalini

    Great Post! Being a successful business owner is great, you are correct however, in saying “Broken link building, ego bait, content marketing, and email outreach is not exactly what most of us want to take on when we’re running our own business or managing client expectations on a day-to-day basis—or ever”. I just try to do my best and learn as I go, your post will help tremendously with my ongoing efforts. Thanks very much!

  8. Zen

    wow . I just found out about this , thank a friend

    • Matthew Woodward
      July 7th, 2016 at 11:00 am

      No problem Zen!

  9. Sreelal

    Though your post is getting 1 year old, every point mentioned here is very true in the current scenario. Google is repeatedly trying to emphasis on the importance of backlink quality than the quantity. When you create quality content – you have the chance to get more natural links, its quiet simple as that!

    “obsessive compulsive backlink disorder” – Lol, it is never gonna end unless Google officially announce that they are not considering backlinks as the ranking metric.

    • Matthew Woodward
      January 15th, 2016 at 9:40 am

      Yeah its the same story, different year – it’s been like this for a long time haha

  10. akuoka

    i have leave blog world for 3 years nothing change for me except content and % of achor text

    • Matthew Woodward
      September 28th, 2015 at 11:21 am

      True story :)

  11. Husnain

    Why didn’t I read that post before? Great work Matthew.. Cleared many new concepts for me :).

    • Matthew Woodward
      September 23rd, 2015 at 11:19 am

      No problem Husnain :)

  12. Myles

    If Google is using social signals for their SERP’s, how does that work with promoted posts on Facebook for example? It’s easy to buy shares and likes simply by promoting a posts. Could promoting posts boost you up the SERP’s? I hope not…

    Great post BTW. I discovered your site today and will be back. I have never seen so many epic blog posts in my life! Must’ve read five or six today. Didn’t get to some other things consequently…

    • Matthew Woodward
      July 16th, 2015 at 10:10 am

      I highly doubt it, but promoting posts can get you a boat load of traffic that in turn could raise your SERPS.

      Hope to have you around for a long time to come!

  13. Mike

    Great article, i like to add some notes. I am not sure if google’s last update improved search engine quality and i strongly believe google will go out of business soon. Here is a simple reason when sometimes now you search for something it actually does not show the latest topics on that subject sometimes it shows articles way old in a higher ranking rather the new ones. If i search for best plumber i get the business with that name. I think duck duck go and bing are doing better.
    And about link building Everything on world wide web is based on links that is how amazon started and now operating based on links and referrals from those links one thing people should realize is that links poiting to business website should be relevant to business itself.

    • Matthew Woodward
      November 19th, 2014 at 5:24 pm


      And that is precisely why Google will not go out of business anytime soon. Google is a business, they are not here to give away all their traffic free every day.

      • Mike Smith
        November 19th, 2014 at 6:19 pm

        Well as long as google is the Giant in the field we can not see it different way, but I hope human mind can get more creative so we can have equal market rather than having google taking the lead.

        • Matthew Woodward
          November 20th, 2014 at 3:22 pm

          Bing are growing but again, they are a business.

  14. Joe

    Hi Matt,

    If Facebook likes, tweets and Google +’s are so important, a website owner could spend money on Facebook or twitter ads. Spending some money on Facebook ads would surely drive many more likes and improve their SEO.
    But if you don’t have the money to spend on Facebook ads you could be at a disadvantage? Any thoughts?

    • Matthew Woodward
      November 5th, 2014 at 2:11 pm

      Well business is business, and you dont need to spend money to get social signals if you produce great content – which generally costs nothing but time.

  15. Raezic

    What about your original tutorial did not work because you did not grasp at all the concept of tier link building in which you are ranking yourself for as an adviser instead of spitting this excuses at the beginning of the article.

    “The old model of tier link building” you make a mistake newbie literally a week after Godoveryou made his article to clarify the concept.

    Don’t have the balls to admit that, I understand… the power of affiliate link is strong.

    • Matthew Woodward
      November 1st, 2014 at 7:35 pm


      Perhaps I should have said ‘My old model of tiered link building’

  16. xue

    Hey Matt , I am new into IM and seo , trying to learn , please send me some free pdfs if u got .
    All the best.

    • Matthew Woodward
      October 30th, 2014 at 2:25 pm

      Just take a look around the blog!

  17. rahul

    Tiered back links are best way to get natural links.you explained some best ways to create them easily.

  18. Stefano

    Hi Matthew.
    Thank for your great informations.
    I’m still elaborating many of your input; basically, i’m managing my blog in this way since the first day (end of 2013); i worked really low on backlinks because i was quite scared about the announced changes on the G algorithm.
    So, i took i while to stay on the window and look on what happens.
    Now i can say results are slowly coming and i’ll begin with a light and smart backlink activity.

    Now i just want to share with you some thoughts:
    – in August, G autorship has ended;
    – i saw some good result after the implementation of structured data on my blog; probably, the consideration for structured data is increased, to fill up the empty space left from Autorship.

    The main questions are:
    – did you see some main change (and new opportunity) on managing SEO trough Google +, after the Autorship end?
    – some says Google + will probably dies if Google doesn’t push people on using it for SEO purposes; which is your feeling? Will G + be modified and upgraded with other SEO oriented functionalities or simply the G + project will slowly die?
    – is G+ still an actual resource to invest in for obtaining SEO results?

    Thanks for your sharing and your time,

  19. David Morgan

    Very spot on, and correct. With these comments, and article. I couldn’t agree more. I think Matthew what people are forgetting is, its not about simply, SEO or Back Links that people are focused on.

    There’s another term two actually, which essentially mean the same thing, that’s overlooked quite often, and in many blogs and services is something called, “Search Engine Marketing” or “Internet Marketing.” Now it could be debated that these two things are the same thing, or all together different. One thing is for sure is the term, “marketing.”

    Treating our online space like you would your offline space if you had one. If you focus on just backlinks only, then that’s like saying I’m focusing only on classified ads.

    You’ve preached it well if I may use that word, to say the value and important of social signals. I often say, the online methods needs to parallel with the offline methods. Social is a big factor. How many services say, “Tell your friends about us?” What’s that called on line, “Click the like button” right.

    I mean, The Internet has been around for a good 20 – 25 years, as we know it. Before then, we have newspapers, flyers, business cards, and billboard. Radio’s and TV’s are fairly new, but been around for a century now. Think of McDonald’s. I see them hit everything that’s marketable. They don’t just junk mail. Taking this approach, and being mindful, there are many ways to market our website.

    You’ve done a splendid job going after the key factors that is hurting us as a whole. I want you to know, I have taken to heart what you’ve said, and have refocused my business model. Thanks, have a great day.

    • Matthew Woodward
      September 7th, 2014 at 10:01 pm

      Thanks David :) It is true that there is more to traffic/income/online than backlinks!

  20. Ahmed Amin

    How does google measure the “quality” of your content? Is it by the amount, the originality?

    • Matthew Woodward
      August 4th, 2014 at 11:09 am

      No one really knows but I’m guessing a combination of metrics such as length, originality, engagement (comments), social shares, links to relevant resources etc etc

  21. Vikram

    I think this advice applies when you trying to build a quality web property that engages people and has content that is written solely for helping out the audience.

    But when you are just starting out in IM and trying to make some money, use tiered link building with contextual dofollow links and spam all the way! This still works awesomely, as shown by Nick’s post on your own blog: https://www.matthewwoodward.co.uk/tutorials/build-rank-spam-site-beat-google-updates/

    Anyway, that’s the approach that I am going to adopt. What say Matthew? :)

    • Matthew Woodward
      June 5th, 2014 at 3:53 pm

      Go for it and let us know how you get on! I’ll be updating that post today!

  22. DrivenFromWithin

    I’m going through your tiered back linking tutorial. I want to get just 10$/day with my webpage that I’m making. This is good information bro. Thank you.

    I am not that great at making webpages, or making them appealing or even writing super high quality content.

    Though I do my Kw research and go through different ones, and then when I’m writing it I forget all about SEO and everything and then write it like I would if I was helping someone out. I do that after researching the keyword for like 20-30 mins. Sometimes even an hour. My speed at producing content sucks balls but it all comes out all right (That’s what she said).

    Spending a lot of time on your blog lately and I’m grateful for all the information you provide. I don’t have any compulsive back linking building disorders but its more like I’m looking to find whats working and what will help me get my content up and seen by everyone. My dream’s to get 1000$/day by the next year providing rockstar quality content on big authority pages that rank because they literally rock.

    For now I’ll be satisfied with 10 per day, haha. So that I can sink all that back into making better pages.

    Pages are businesses is how I see it. Again, thanks a bunch for all the information you provide.

    • Matthew Woodward
      June 4th, 2014 at 4:17 pm

      Sounds like you need to focus your effort on making an appealing website with great content, I wish you all the luck!

  23. Don

    Not sure what to think, I am one of those suffering from obsessive compulsive backlink disorder. I am online tonight trying to find a fast way to rank a post in Google. I understand the importance of social sharing and yes it has to be getting more important but I am finding it hard to let go of the old ways. I guess I just want instant success.
    So this is the first week of June so I figure your experiment has some results by now so I am very interested in seeing the results.
    Thanks and perhaps I should spend more time on social.

    • Matthew Woodward
      June 3rd, 2014 at 8:02 pm

      Well I generally find those that focus on instant success in the IM world rarely find any success

  24. Andy

    The SERPs wasn’t look like in my country!

    • Matthew Woodward
      May 31st, 2014 at 5:26 pm

      Soon :)

  25. Felipe Gonzales

    You sir are awesome. So glad I clicked on this link. Signed up for the newsletter and printing a shit ton of PDFs tonight for some late night reading. Love the way you approach things scientifically. Keep up the great work Matt!

    • Matthew Woodward
      May 9th, 2014 at 4:16 pm

      Thanks Felipe – let me know if you have any questions!

  26. Lucky Me

    1. I’ve been saying it for ages that if you want to rank then you have to make sure you have a decent and helpful website (I’m not saying that it has to be the best in the world).
    In forum (like DP and BHW), I see people moaning about their rubbish rankings but then I see their websites and I don’t even think most of them should be indexed by SE’s.
    When I make a website I ask myself if I would personally visit my own website to get my questions answered.
    2. If you have a decent marketing budget, you have to make sure you spend some of that on improving your site and content.
    3. Another factor people completely ignore is their AUDIENCE and it’s the main factor as you’re building your site/blog for an audience and it’s vital to understand who you target.
    4. Social… People just keep and keep talking about social media like every single website need lots of like and tweets. I work in the niche where people barely use facebook, twitter and such. Yes, I try to engage with a few but social media is on my lowest priority.
    Just imagine if you’re targeting people who can barely use a computer, do you really expect them to follow you on twitter of facebook??? LOL
    5. In some niche, people still heavily rely on forums and they shouldn’t be overlooked but unfortunately, most of the people just wanna spam the forums without actually helping people.
    I do interact on those forum and barely ever drop a link to my website, also I learn what info people are looking for and I then answer those questions on my own websites.
    6. Link building… yes, you need to do build links but you have to adjust to the niche and industry, look at your competitors and try to understand how they engage with the audience and why google rank them higher.

    • Matthew Woodward
      May 9th, 2014 at 4:17 pm

      I think you have hit the nail on the head =D

      • Lucky Me
        May 11th, 2014 at 8:59 am

        Matt, you gave me a great idea on how to prepare helpful content… Nowadays, I check forums and Q&A sections and see what people are looking for and then prepare content.

        As for link building, I mainly build links now to my links as I plan to have a few but powerful links, also it will keep me away from google penalties as I barely build links to my website.
        For example, if I were in the same industry as you and you posted my article on your blog next I’d be building links to the post rather than my money site (and I don’t like those 1000+ comments and wiki blasts).

        • Matthew Woodward
          May 22nd, 2014 at 4:34 pm

          I’m glad I can be of help – I wish you all the luck in the world with your new ventures!

  27. bobby

    Hey Matt,

    Nice vcard at the top right of the blog ;) Seriously your articles and videos in youtube are very helpfull for me. Respect!

    • Matthew Woodward
      April 30th, 2014 at 6:21 pm

      Thanks :)

  28. Kristijan


    I’m reading your blog for a while now and you’re good, thanks for all the info!

    • Matthew Woodward
      April 29th, 2014 at 10:10 am

      No worrys :)

  29. alex

    This guy has copied your post.


    I really respect you and your writing’s, thought you should know. He actually ranks above you.

    • Matthew Woodward
      April 15th, 2014 at 7:27 am

      I don’t see what he has copied?

      Thanks for the heads up!

  30. Nick


    for non English websites what’s the best practice for tier 1 links?

    1) Create English content (articles, wikis, etc) and non English keywords in anchor text?


    2) Create English content (articles, wikis, etc) and English keywords in anchor text?

    Thanks a lot.

    • Matthew Woodward
      April 8th, 2014 at 6:21 am

      3) Create non english content with non english anchor text

  31. Will

    How did you get visitors to your website without doing any kind of SEO? I know that ‘content is king’, but how do you actually get people to look at your king content?

  32. Nick


    Do you maybe know if is possible to “connect” Facebook Fan Page likes with website likes? Or its not possible and are treated independently?

    Also website shares count more than likes n terms of Google ranking or have the same weight?

    Thanks a lot.

    • Matthew Woodward
      April 2nd, 2014 at 12:38 pm


      No they are entirely separate

      • Nick
        April 2nd, 2014 at 12:41 pm

        Thanks for your replies!

        Do you maybe know:

        Website shares count more than likes in terms of Google ranking or have the same weight?

        • Matthew Woodward
          April 3rd, 2014 at 7:03 am

          I would attack both

  33. Nick


    I am a bit complicated.

    Facebook likes are valuable when these likes are on the website or on the Facebook fan page my website has?

    My Facebook page (which has the name of my website and many links to it) has about 1600 likes but my website has only a few likes (about 10)

    Thanks a lot.

    • Matthew Woodward
      April 1st, 2014 at 7:31 am

      They are valuable in both cases for different reasons.

      In terms of ranking in Google, you want your actual websites URLs with Facebook likes

  34. eslam

    hello matthew

    when i have to start link building for new page in my 2yrs domain

    example :after indexed and ranked in your target keyword in page 7 or 9 or 10

    or i have to wait for a while


    • Matthew Woodward
      March 18th, 2014 at 8:22 am


      Whenever you want really but I always try to build traffic outside of Google to a site first.

  35. David Law

    And I thought I wrote long posts :-) Seriously my wife complains my articles are way too long and people won’t read them (which is partially true), but the length of this one is EPIC.

    I love this sort of detail, I’ve only quickly skimmed through this post, but can see I’m going to be reading a lot of your site this week :-)

    How have I not stumbled on your site before (fellow Brit as well), only found it today by chance, I’m targeting the SEO Tutorial 2014 SERP with a newish site and you are the only domain (not including a couple of YouTube results) that’s above me.

    Better get back to work, can’t have anyone above me in Google :-)

    David Law

  36. Zhe Yan

    I found is very easy to rank by web 2.0 network,
    but is will stopped after certain back links from web 2.0,
    IF the ranking are all come from the web 2.0,
    Is really not stable!

    Thanks for your Tier theory, I think this is the way to rank right now.

    • Matthew Woodward
      March 18th, 2014 at 8:18 am

      Well its all about diversification!

  37. Kevin

    Some SEO’s say social media likes/+1 have no impact on page rank what so ever. Is this true with all the new Google updates? Does Google actually take into account social media signals when searching?

    • Matthew Woodward
      March 18th, 2014 at 8:24 am

      This is up for debate. My own personal experience is yes they do use them. I’m using a very social based strategy with great effect at the moment without revealing what that is.

  38. Dominique

    Never heard of Tiered Linking until now, definitely learned a lot on this article. Thanks Matthew for the informations.

    • Matthew Woodward
      March 11th, 2014 at 8:52 am

      No worrys :)

  39. Paulo

    Hello Matthew, good night :)

    There is a question that is pissing me off:

    Is it a good or bad strategy do backlinks from niche related site, but with a different content language?

    For example, if i have an site about SEO with content written in portuguese, it would be good or bad create backlinks in SEO Site’s with different language written content?

    What i mean is, google will consider this links contextual or non contextual?

    Thanks for your time!

    • Matthew Woodward
      March 10th, 2014 at 8:31 am

      I have little personal experience here but use your head a little bit.

      Right now from my understanding it doesn’t make a huge difference. But I wouldn’t be surprised if it does in the near future as Google evolves.

      • Paulo
        March 11th, 2014 at 4:58 pm

        Thanks for the reply!

        • Matthew Woodward
          March 12th, 2014 at 8:36 am

          No worrys!

  40. Katrina

    Hello Matthew I came across your site my putting in the keyword query in Google “list of tier 2 links” and I am glad I came across your site. The information you give on https://www.matthewwoodward.co.uk/tutorials/the-ultimate-guide-to-tiered-link-building-part-1/ is absolutely amazingly informative. Most so-called gurus and internet marketing experts do not offer this kind of informative valuable content. I really appreciate all of your hard work and effort you have put into your videos.

    But right after I read the above post, I was going to go out and get the software you use but then I came across this post. The software you recommend in the tools of the trade section of your website, are they now obsolete? I feel that I have something of value to share on my website. I research and work very hard on all of my articles. So what do you suggest in terms of software to use to rank a website.

    I have been posting content to my website for the past two and a half months now and received very little traffic. I haven’t done any link building at all. So what do you suggest to do to get websites ranked in the SERPs. Posting high quality unique content hasn’t worked for me thus far:( I have put in all of this hard work for nothing. I was thinking about using services such as unique article wizard, synnd.com, or even traffic zombie, or just pay for traffic. What do you think? Thank you in advance for your help:)

  41. Paul Beswick

    Hello Matt! This is actually my first time yo visit your site and i forgot if I just came across through Google or Facebook..lol Anyways, It so nice to read your comprehensive article about SEO link building in 2014 which it gives us SEO’s a deeper understanding on how to properly dominate Google without using a dirty techniques just to improve the rankings of your targeted keywords. As always, “content is the king”! Actually, the best things to do right now when building links is build links slowly or one link per week then 2 for the next week and so on and so forth then, Google think it’s gaining popularity. But if you build 3 links 1 week then 2 week after then 0 Google think it’s no longer relevant. I hope you would agree with me Matt! :-)

    • Matthew Woodward
      February 28th, 2014 at 9:29 am

      Thanks :)

      What you are talking about is link velocity, either keep it steady/level or increase it gently. Never let it decline in trend.

  42. Chris

    Hi Matt,

    Great post and something that brings a sigh of relief to many people, I’m sure, since backlink and using software is a huge headache, especially for non tech-savvy people.

    It’s good to know we can all focus on writing quality content and then use press releases, social sharing, quality/manual blog/forum commenting to get the word out.

    I will also do some quality manual web 2.0 like Squidoo also, since they rank well on their own using their powerful high PR internal link structure.

    Looking forward to seeing your $100 start-up case studies.

    Thanks again,



    • Matthew Woodward
      February 28th, 2014 at 9:31 am

      Thanks Chris!

  43. Michael Felix

    Great read, thanks, the biggest point for me is that people’s perception of seo needs to change as you mention. That is half the battle; educating and in some cases re-training the way they think. Often it’s these people who spoil it for everyone else which makes the likes of Google not only WANT to update their algo but also NEED to update it to adapt. Like everything people always abuse the system.

    • Matthew Woodward
      February 28th, 2014 at 9:32 am

      And if you look through the comments of this post, you will see how rigid that perception is!

  44. I. C. Daniel

    Amazing, I stuble upon you site and read like 30 minutes, SEO is changing and for sure doesn’t deserve to be called SEO anymore.

    I subscribed for updates. Kind regards!

    • Matthew Woodward
      February 27th, 2014 at 9:49 am

      Thanks for the subscription :)

      • Paul Beswick
        February 28th, 2014 at 7:30 am

        Hello Matt,

        I just leave a comment to this blog post last night.. I hope you will approve it.. Thanks!

        • Matthew Woodward
          February 28th, 2014 at 9:22 am

          Working through the backlog now :)

  45. Tapis de marche

    It’s hard now to build links safely for niche websites ..

    • Matthew Woodward
      February 20th, 2014 at 9:21 am

      Well any form of link building is against webmaster guidelines so =\

    • Kevin Marshall
      February 25th, 2014 at 2:44 pm

      Life is hard! I would rather SEO be hard than easy. If it was easy, the competition in the SERPs would be fierce. Since it is hard, 90% of the competition (other internet marketers) will give up before they ever achieve success in Google.

      Google is doing us a favor in the business world. It makes our skill set much more valuable when only a few of us really know what we’re doing. The same holds true whether you are working for yourself, or working for a company.

      • Matthew Woodward
        February 26th, 2014 at 9:20 am

        SEO is easy – the problem is people are always looking for shortcuts to get away with doing the bare minimum.

        When you do that, SEO is hard ^^

  46. Marian

    The article is too long but it’s worth reading the whole of it. Very comprehensive lots of valuable information. Simply amazing… Thanks a lot..

    • Matthew Woodward
      February 17th, 2014 at 10:00 am

      Thanks :)

  47. Wesley

    What an amazing article. Thanks Mat. Where I currently work, there is definitely a feeling of obsessive compulsive backlink disorder which, after reading this, has reaffirmed to me it is an old-school way of thinking and is very much a ‘putting all your eggs in one basket’ approach.

    I totally agree that G+, Facebook shares and social signals are carrying a lot more weight in 2014 (and I think will continue to do so in the future!) too.

    Thanks again for a top post.

    • Matthew Woodward
      February 15th, 2014 at 7:51 pm

      I think a lot of agencies have fallen into that rut unfortunately =/

      • Wesley
        February 16th, 2014 at 7:13 pm

        Will certainly be relaying these findings, anyhow. Thanks again, Wes :)

        • Matthew Woodward
          February 17th, 2014 at 10:00 am

          No worrys :) Evolve or die ^^

  48. Amod

    Hey Matt,

    All said and done, there are still literally millions of niches where “sharing” is simply not going to happen. (Think: embarrassing health problems, obesity, etc.)

    What criteria for ranking would be left then, since social sharing is completely out of the window…

    Would then, the most indepth content on that topic shall rank without any other “signals”?

    • Matthew Woodward
      February 15th, 2014 at 8:00 pm

      In these cases backlink profiles will play an important part but it will be interesting to see how Google+ authorship authority takes place in that kind of scenario.

  49. Paul

    Hello Matt,

    you mention the following earlier too…

    “I’m about to launch my $100 online business case study/course which will focus on building a long term asset.”

    Will you launch it soon?

    • Matthew Woodward
      February 10th, 2014 at 11:30 am

      It’s a few weeks away :)

  50. Jack

    Hey Matt Great Stuff as Always. I have looked over your stuff, backlinking especially. Tiered link building seems like a hefty task for ranking your more meaty type websites.

    ATM I am interested in making lots of smaller low competition niche sites 5-10 pages at startup and increasing if there is potential.

    I was planning on getting a few PBN’s going and linking through those.

    Besides a few links from those though what do you recommend as good backlinks to rank these smaller type sites?

    Would a couple p3 blog network links and like 15 relevant pr 1-3 blog comments be enough? Or would I need more typically?

    • Matthew Woodward
      February 7th, 2014 at 11:07 am

      I think you missed the entire point of the post.

  51. ms518

    Unbelievable, after spending the whole day reading journals for my law degree. You would think that, I would be tired not want to read anything anymore BUT no sir, this was awesome. Changed my whole mind set about internet marketing.

    I’m not sure as I can only speak for myself, but a big reason I got into internet marketing was for the quick cash. I’m still a student at Uni, so this was so appealing to me. Looking back now, although I haven’t been in IM for long, about a year and a half. I am still trying to create something that works. I think something you should keep in mind, about the whole backlinks issue. I personally think that this issue is because of the way IM is sold. Thinking back, the plan was so simple, create a shitty site. Get backlinks and you get number 1. You get number 1, you get traffic. You get traffic, you get sales. Thinking back now, I would have found so much value in a system, that was built more on long term success. If someone had said to me that, “You know what 6 months, be creative, GIVE VALUE TO THE MARKET and there is a good chance of creating on-line income”. I would have really been much better off.

    I think maybe this is something you can consider for your up coming projects, and might help. The nice thing about the way you do things, is that you give people a choice, and I think that with your upcoming projects, you would give people the choice of long term gain, or short term gain(with a lot of the current post on here already).
    Thanks a lot Matt

    Thanks a lot Matt.

    • Matthew Woodward
      February 5th, 2014 at 8:59 am


      Well if that rocked your socks you should definitely check out https://www.matthewwoodward.co.uk/tutorials/how-i-built-a-top-100-blog-in-12-months/

      If you only got into IM for quick money, that post could develop things to earn more money than a law degree :)

      I’m about to launch my $100 online business case study/course which will focus on building a long term asset.

      • ms518
        February 6th, 2014 at 9:45 pm

        When I started that was certainly the case, but as I’ve gone on I things have changed and my position has changed. I did read the your post on creating a top hundred blog, and it was also amazing. Figured I would first learn how to link built (on an extremely tight budget) then I could move onto creating something that actually gave value. But after reading this post i’m going to have to change my approach and focus on content first. I am now trying to improve the content on my site. I’m trying to learn how to pull data feeds from various merchants to do comparisons, as you said. Figured that would improve my content.

        I am looking forward to you $100 online business study. That’s somewhere I could start from.

        Again thanks a lot mate.

        • Matthew Woodward
          February 7th, 2014 at 11:04 am

          I have got to say the biggest mistake every newbie makes it getting obsessed with link building.

          My advice is build something of value first, link building doesn’t come for 4-8 months.

  52. eslam bakkar

    Dear Matthewwoodward (Matt Cutts: Facebook, Twitter Social Signals Not Part of Google Search Ranking Algorithms)

    so backlinks is the main or what

  53. eslam bakkar

    Dear Matthew thanks for your great article i agree with you for ranking factors but its not for all cases and i’ll give you example
    if you compete for a keyword and your competitors don’t use facebook or G+ and only use backlinks so social is useless and the 1st page ranking factor is backlinks .Google make lots and lots of updates but till now still old seo works ,Still websites rank with spun content ,EMD ,comment links.
    google algorithm updates only hits English language websites but Arabic websites as example still rank with crap content and spamming.

    • Matthew Woodward
      February 1st, 2014 at 11:00 am

      Yes it is still possible to rank with just backlinks, emds etc etc but if I saw a niche only supported by backlinks, I would take it.

  54. Gareth Bull

    Hi Matthew,

    Is your tiered link building strategy still working as I’m about to start it and wondering if it’s worth it?!


    • Matthew Woodward
      January 30th, 2014 at 11:17 am

      Yes as long as you consider everything in this post alongside it.

  55. Matt

    Fantastic information. Matthew: You are the man.

    • Matthew Woodward
      January 26th, 2014 at 5:54 pm

      Thanks Matt!

  56. Ben Head

    Hi Matt,

    I don’t know who you are, but in the last two years or so your domain keeps appearing for more and more of my SEO related searches!

    Pretty awesome job! :)


    • Matthew Woodward
      January 23rd, 2014 at 10:21 am

      Thats the power of the +1 baby ^^

  57. Yasser Bombale

    Great post Matthew. I just found your site few weeks ago and really love it. Keep it up!

    • Matthew Woodward
      January 23rd, 2014 at 10:23 am

      Gracias Yasser!

  58. Seo Explorers

    Hi Matt,

    Very nice article.

    I really like your idea of studying the onsite problems, produce great content, and so on.

    I want to make some considerations about the “correlations”.
    Correlations say “34% well ranked sites have several Facebook signals”
    But correlations don’t say which of the 2 factors came first.
    You can think that if a site has “several Facebook signals” it will probably rank better.
    But it could also be possible the other way around: If your site rank in first page, lot of people will see it and, as a consequence, it will receive “several Facebook signals”.
    In other words, the correlation alone doesn’t prove that Facebook signals help in the rankings.

    Another thing to point out is that I don’t know the keywords that were used for these correlations.
    If you use keywords that are not competitive Google normally manage to bring better results. The reason is that spammers are not interested in them.
    But if you use top competitive keywords, sometimes it’s harder to find in the first page a site that deserves to be there or to receive social signals.

    Thank again for your continues contribution and help.

    • Matthew Woodward
      January 24th, 2014 at 8:59 am


      Thats a good chicken and the egg look at it. I think having natural backlinks equates to having natural social signals and vice versa.

      The conditions to get natural links and social signals are basically the same.

      This makes it very difficult to test in isolation.

      In the correlations I talk about they were low-medium competitive keywords, each drove around £250 per day.

  59. Joe

    Hey Mat, I found your videos on YouTube (or they found me) and I was very impressed. I read your article and it is amazing. I am not an expert like you are but I was able to rank #1 a dentist site with no backlinks in about 5 days and it has not moved in 10 months. I have not sent any backlinks to it and I don’t plan on doing it. Why mess with what’s working, right?

    Yes, it has a lot of content and it is siloed content so it makes sense to the readers.

    I have a question though.

    I have no idea what you mean when you say social signals. For example, say I go to google+ local and I post a photo of the doctor with one of his patients. Should I have a link pointing to a page on the website or to the main page or not link it at all. What is the meaning of backlinks using social signals? Can I do the same for Facebook? I don’t even know how to use Twitter to build backlinks. Could you help me?

    Thanks for the awesome information and you have a new fan.

    • Matthew Woodward
      January 19th, 2014 at 8:55 pm


      A social signal is when someone clicks on the facebook like or google +1 buttons on a web page

  60. Laurie

    Using tools like GSA, UD, SENuke or any of them largely makes link building an automated thing. I still use them albeit carefully but while there running in the background I spend the rest of the day guest posting, building 2.0’s and finding content to write about. Truthfully I could give two shits about where my blogs are on the SERPs and I pay very little attention to it, what i do care about is revenue.

    • Matthew Woodward
      January 13th, 2014 at 6:07 pm

      Well where you rank is becoming more and more irrelevant with all of the personalisation going on

  61. Yeasmin Akter

    Everyday I read a lot about SEO and Link building strategy. I am very lucky to found this site. This post is really awesome to fill my curious about link building.

    Matthew Woodward

    • Matthew Woodward
      January 17th, 2014 at 11:56 am

      Glad it has helped you!

  62. Stephanie Riggs

    Tiered linkbuilding was effective before the Panda and Penguin update but after that I noticed that people are paying attention towards the content marketing strategy. Some people think that one day the linkbuilding strategy will come to an end and I don’t know how good they are in this argument but my point of view is that building links will not come to an end but there will be strict conditions. You mentioned in your post that ever increasing spam forced Google to take action and strict the ranking factors.

    • Matthew Woodward
      January 17th, 2014 at 12:00 pm


      It is still effective now, the same theory still applies but you must up the bar and encompass other elements into the strategy.

      Links will always be a part of the algorithm, some niches don’t lend themselves to social signals such as advice for personal/embarrassing problems etc

  63. pbatraining

    I asked a question earlier about social signals and their relationship with blog posts & web pages, but it has left me confused so I’ve done some research of my own. So far I cannot find any indication anywhere that Google is using Facebook ‘likes’ etc. to help rank external urls such as web pages and blogs. I’m not even sure now that Google has access to the data it would require in order to count ‘likes’ in this way, owing to the number of ways in which Facebook users can configure their security settings.

    Now I’m not saying that there isn’t value in social media promotion in respect of traffic generation opportunities and this blog is evidence of that. However, I don’t think that is all you are suggesting here is it Matt? From what I understand, you are saying that a ‘zero link’ strategy can actually propel a privately hosted blog higher in Google SERPS? This blog was intended to be the evidence of that strategy, but I notice that it now has almost 3,000 backlinks. So have the backlinks just occurred naturally? In which case how can you ever rate the value of ‘social signals’ and backlinks independently? I’m ot trying to be controversial here Matt, just struggling to understand!

    • Matthew Woodward
      January 9th, 2014 at 11:08 pm


      I have shown you exactly how Google can get this data from public facing open API querys via a simple web request. You can use the same method to find out the number of likes, comments and shares a page has.

      Look how easy it is with this for example – http://sharetally.co/12823/

      I know from experience that tweets affected rankings as far back as 18-20 months ago. I repeatedly proved this by order 500 retweets to a URL – what would happen is the URL would rise to the #1 spot, BUT as the social burst died the ranking slowly degraded. Almost as if it was being used as a realtime popularity signal.

      A friend repeated the test but across 50 URLs on a large site and all 50 URLs showed the same behaviour. We also did it on a site that got hit by Penguin 1.0 and recovered the ranking within a few days for just over a week.

      So based on my testing then, a tactic I haven’t shared to rank pages but I use on this blog and my zero link building case study it is clear social signals are a influential factor.

      Just look at any URL this site ranks for (use semrush) and compare the link profiles with competitors. Where mine always excels, is social signals.

      It is nearly impossible to fully seperate out social signals from backlinks. Because gaining a backlink can inherrently mean gaining a social signal and vice versa.

      All of this is just based on my own experience in SEO along with trends I have experienced over the past couple of years. I saw the rise of backlinks in the late 90’s and I fully believe we are going to see the slow decline.

      I’m glad to have the open discussion with you :)

      • pbatraining
        January 10th, 2014 at 12:23 am

        Hi Matt
        If I can sum up then, from what you’ve just said the effects of social signals are only temporary? So any long term benefits would require a continual stream of signals? Also I notice you only mentioned tweets – do you have further data to back up your claim about social signals in general (such as the effect of Facebook ‘likes’ on blogs)?

        In respect of your expanation regarding “public facing open API querys via a simple web request” – I’m afraid that’s a little over my head! In plain simple terms, where is the data relating to tweets, likes etc. that Google (or anyone else) can retrieve? Sharetally certainly looks like a useful resource, but it would help to understand just where that data comes from.

        • Matthew Woodward
          January 10th, 2014 at 12:04 pm


          Well that was from nearly 2 years ago and was simply a demonstration of how effective social signals were back then (when I believe google started to experiment with them) – now we are in the phase of them deploying their learnings to a greater degree in the algorithm. I didn’t test anything else at that period and only focused on tweets.

          Yes I have https://www.matthewwoodward.co.uk/experiments/google-webmaster-guidelines-experiment/ and https://www.matthewwoodward.co.uk/tutorials/how-i-built-a-top-100-blog-in-12-months/ – and like I said. Plug this blog into semrush to find the keywords it ranks for – then analyse those rankings.

          The public facing open api querys I’ve given you multiple examples of eg http://graph.facebook.com/?ids=https://www.matthewwoodward.co.uk is how many times this blogs home page has been shared on facebook. You can find out a range of data using the apis of various social networks – that is just 1 specific example. The sharetally tool is built using them.

          The data comes direct from the networks and is accessable by anyone that wants to access it. And in actual fact the Facebook API DOES allow you to search peoples personal walls etc

          • pbatraining
            January 13th, 2014 at 3:12 pm

            Thank you for explaining all of this Matt. It’s beginning to make sense now and I can see how we could use these principles on our blogs

          • Matthew Woodward
            January 13th, 2014 at 6:03 pm

            No worrys we’ll speak about it some more when I get back from affiliate summit

  64. Rachel

    You are right ! 1000% right. TWO years ago, I was getting on the top 10 in google… I sometimes got to be number 1 or number 5, depending what the article is. Now I either get on the first page or I don’t …

    I had to remarket myself, thanks to google’s changes.

    I am glad I found your website :)

    • Matthew Woodward
      January 10th, 2014 at 12:06 pm

      Glad it has helped you out rach :)

  65. Sheikh Ovais

    It’s been a REAL Eye-opener Matt! I’ve never ever thought of this big picture in the real world of SEO. What I’ve gained from your post is the aim of delivering value to the visitors, not just the sales pitches everywhere.
    This post is the living example of that “value” you give to your visitors, because I never bother to comment on any blog but I did for this post.
    The zero link building experiment was yet another exceptional thing, it really REALLY inspired me a lot.
    Thanks a ton for sharing all that Matt :)
    (Liked, shared, +1’d)

    • Matthew Woodward
      January 8th, 2014 at 11:45 am

      Thanks for all the shares – I hope this has helped reveal the bigger picture for you :)

  66. Nicky Helmkamp

    Hey Matthew- Great article! We included it in our Monthly Resource Roundup http://www.northcutt.com/blog/2014/01/december-the-best-seo-social-media-content-marketing/


    • Matthew Woodward
      January 7th, 2014 at 11:05 am

      Thanks for the share :)

  67. Glenys

    You make a great point wrt recent algorithm updates: That is, the emphasis on social signals can level the playing field a little for new sites trying to compete against sites with heavy backlink profiles & budgets.

    Really looking forward to your 2 case studies. I just read an interesting article about the need for fresh content on blogs in 2014 instead of regurgitated material. Your blog definitely qualifies as providing unique content. And case studies are a great way to provide new, informed value. Thanks.

    • Matthew Woodward
      January 6th, 2014 at 11:31 am

      No worrys hope it has helped you out Glenys!

  68. pbatraining

    Further to my last comment (and after a bit of research) let me run something by you Matt:

    After adding the Digg Digg plugin to one of our blogs I can see that a Facebook ‘share’ or ‘like’ essentially creates a backlink from that persons Facebook page (albeit with a bit more control using a ‘share’) to your blog post, article etc. This is what I assume you are referring to as a ‘social signal’ Matt and it is apparently these that Google are now weighing more heavily than backlinks from websites?

    If this is true, then in reality ‘social signals’ may just be thought of as ‘social backlinks’. In which case we are back to the traditional argument, which is that it’s still all about backlinks at Google.

    • Matthew Woodward
      January 6th, 2014 at 11:34 am

      Facebook shares, Facebook comments & Facebook likes can all be seen by Google as a raw number only.

  69. Garratt - Kustcom SEO

    The biggest problem I find is that 1 year ago I picked up around 7 PR5’s for about $50-$80 each for a client, (using TBsolutions and DP forums) additionally I created a large PR2 PBN for tier 1 $5-10 each through auctions. However now I’m even having trouble getting PR2’s.

    Load up scrapebox or use PR Powershot, and I go through ten times as many sites to try and find good ones and generally use up my free majestic bandwidth before I find one.

    Considering I’m now more experienced at spotting the good domains than I was a year ago (I know the correct metrics so domains don’t loose PR) I figured it would be an easy task. I’ve been at this for about 5 days straight now and can’t even find a decent PR2 that wont loose PR once I get my hands on it.

    The PR5’s are just a joke, at least $250 or more for a decent PR5.

    • Matthew Woodward
      January 6th, 2014 at 11:36 am

      To be honest decent PR5’s have always being that price, sounds like you got lucky early on.

      I would seriously question any PR5 for sale less than $200.

      Prices are only ever going to go up though, its basic supply & demand!

      • Garratt
        January 6th, 2014 at 4:36 pm

        Not really, around Nov/Dec 2012 they were around 100-150 each. I didn’t just get lucky I just spent a lot of time picking and choosing between the cheaper ones. They seemed to have doubled and even tripled in price since then.

        Only one of the group i bought didn’t live through Google’s latest PR update and that was one that contained a backlink(.com) widget in the sidebar.

        • Matthew Woodward
          January 7th, 2014 at 11:06 am

          Ahhh I see – I dont have so much time to spend lol Although one thing I did notice is the best time to win GoDaddy auctions is the weekend.

    • pbatraining
      January 6th, 2014 at 7:04 pm

      Matt’s right about the price of PR 5s – we bought 2 just before the last PR update and paid $340 & $110 for each. I thought the latter was a bargain and did wonder about the long term quality. As soon as the PR udpate hit the $340 domain dropped to PR3 whilst the cheaper one held at PR5! The metrics never suggested that might happen and I think there is only so much you can control when buying.

      In the long run though I reckon you can expect a fairly high attrition rate these days unless you are strengthening the backlink structure (which is probably more trouble than it’s worth). We just treat aged domains as ultimately expendable and recycle the hosting account if and when the PR drops too low. Maintaining a PBN is a fair amount of work but it’s still a cost-effective way of marketing IMHO.

      • Matthew Woodward
        January 7th, 2014 at 11:04 am


        Hahaha thats the luck of the draw I suppose and the game that we play :)

  70. pbatraining

    Good article Matt and I will definitely be using Social Media heavily to promote our training blogs this year.

    I have one very basic question at the moment which is: how can social signals be used to promote blogs & websites in Google? Surely when someone clicks say a Facebook ‘like’ button they are giving their vote so to speak to your Facebook page, not your blog post or web page? Clearly from what you’ve said, there is a mechanism whereby these social signals can be harnessed to give other web pages a boost, but I’m not seeing the connection at the moment.

    • Matthew Woodward
      January 6th, 2014 at 11:39 am
      • Paul
        January 6th, 2014 at 1:58 pm

        Ok thanks Matt. So do these signals count the same for normal Web pages as they do for Facebook pages?

        • Matthew Woodward
          January 7th, 2014 at 11:07 am

          No because a normal page isn’t a facebook page

      • pbatraining
        January 6th, 2014 at 7:08 pm

        I’m assuming the metrics for the Facebook likes are for your Facebook page? If not how can you set up metrics at Facebook to show likes for a separate blog??

        • Matthew Woodward
          January 7th, 2014 at 11:03 am

          No thats for this blogs homepage, look at how the URL is structured – you can replace my blogs address with any URL you want.

          You can use a similar method to find out how many shares, comments and likes a specific URL has had on Facebook. The same sort of system is also available for twitter/pinterest/linked etc etc

  71. Laurie Lacey

    Thank you for the great post! I haven’t read as much free useful information in a long time. I’ve signed up for your $100 Business Building course.

    All the best,

    • Matthew Woodward
      January 6th, 2014 at 11:41 am

      Thanks for your subscription!

  72. Drew

    I have been using the old tiered method and got no where in the last 2 months. I was wondering if using hand made Web 2.0 sites still can get me good rankings? I have been looking at the pbn route but I really don’t want to sink to much $ into domains and hosting.

    • Matthew Woodward
      January 2nd, 2014 at 12:20 pm

      Like the title says :)

  73. greg

    hey mate.. i would think that people would like to see someone go from $100 to what ever with your #1casestudy.

    so many people are selling stuff but never sell things that people could really follow along and copy in order to make money. yes they teach all methods like email marketing, seo, traffice and what not but really when i was first getting in to this all i just wanted to copy someone and learn from succeeding and then scale it up..

    anyways just my thoughts..

    ps.. i tryed to subscribe to #1 but did not receive a confirmation email..


    • Matthew Woodward
      January 2nd, 2014 at 12:54 pm

      There is no such thing as something you can truly follow and copy step by step. It is those that take that learning and apply it with their own mind that succeed.

      Plus you don’t learn from succeeding, you learn from failing and people telling you why you suck.

  74. Graham

    Good post Matt, thanks. I only found your website yesterday and have covered a lot of your material already. Congratulations bud, you’ve done really well, your path is incredibly similar to my own right down to building a zero link site. I’m still way behind you in terms of monetized success though. I think you’re local to me as well if you are around the wirral/chester area, good lad :)

    • Matthew Woodward
      January 2nd, 2014 at 12:57 pm

      Drop me an email if you want any points/tips on what you have done already!

  75. solidgoldextra

    Thanks, Matthew for a brilliant article. This is my first comment on your site, and I must say this article is a perfect introduction. It really resonates with me and my approach to SEO, going into 2014.

    The coming year promises some very interesting nuances, but the basics haven’t changed in the past 10 years. I don’t expect them to do so within the next 365 days.

    Sites will always rank based on backlinks. The most important social media networks will become Google+ and Twitter (if not already).

    However, a new opportunity is that businesses can leverage social media to build real-time interaction with customers and potential leads. This is just another level of direct marketing.

    The true SEO experts of 2014 will be those that take a more holistic view of Search Engine Marketing/Lead Generation, as you have started to describe in your article. For the record, I agree 100% with Roxana’s comments.

    Thanks @David McSweeny for an insightful comment. I have read your posts (David), in response to this article.

    My personal opinion is that Google Authorship is great, but not as important as it is being made out to be. Think about the recent “abuse” of the Authorship model.

    Tons of “faceless” faces, ranting in the SERPS. I think in 2014, Google will cull Authorship sharply. Author Rank will mean just that. It’s not just about claiming Authorship; it’s also about being recognised as an “Author”.

    Thanks again, Matthew, and I really look forward to your case studies.

    • Matthew Woodward
      January 2nd, 2014 at 1:01 pm


      Thanks for your kind words :)

      I have to agree that the basics haven’t changed – your the first person I’ve seen say that :)

      2014 is certainly a year of opportunity!

  76. adamsa

    Hi Matt,

    What you shared here is more like long term website. What about site that build specifically build to promote 1 particular product? I mean a minisite with 5-7 page of content.

    • Matthew Woodward
      December 29th, 2013 at 5:44 pm

      I think you might have missed the entire point of the post

  77. Peter

    Hey Matt,

    Great article. It seems that Google is trending away from links and more towards authority and (in the very long term) meaning of content.

    I have a question about your $100 online business. When will you begin that? Also, is it going to be similar to building a site like this one or something different?


    • Matthew Woodward
      December 29th, 2013 at 5:55 pm

      Hi Peter,

      Im hoping for mid-end of January. I’m spending a lot of time getting a good platform in place to deliver it – preparation is everything :)

      So no drop dead date really

      I’m open to suggestions for either case study

      • Peter
        December 30th, 2013 at 4:57 pm

        Thanks for the reply Matt. One suggestion that I could offer for the $100 online business case study is to try and make a site like one of the ones that you mentioned in this article (e.g. moneysavingexpert, hotukdeals etc). I know that would probably be pretty difficult because those sites seem to require more programming knowledge since they aren’t really blogs, but it would be really awesome if you could build a site like one of those. Maybe it could even be done using wordpress somehow.

        One other thing that I think would be cool to see would be a site where user-generated content is really important. I know you use user-generated content with this site, but I mean a site where it’s basically entirely user-generated content. I don’t know how this would work exactly because it would probably require programming knowledge as well (or more money).

        Those are just some ideas I had. Don’t know how realistic they are, but I’m just throwing them out there.

        • Matthew Woodward
          January 2nd, 2014 at 1:00 pm

          Yes that is a possibility however what I need to consider is my average audience member probably won’t have the technical knowledge to do that and the budget is tight. It is something that could be explored though.

          I would love to show people how to pull data feeds together to make price comparison websites etc, perhaps that could be the natural evolution of the case study :)

          Also I’m trying to avoid 100% focusing on one area so while UGC is great, I’m only planning to make it part of the overall picture. The more pieces of the puzzle I can touch on/teach people – the better :)

  78. Ernesto

    Thank you for this post and Merry Christmas to you and your family. I’m fairly new at this game (internet marketing). I started a self-study crash course in June and launched my first money website in Sept. I since then had 2 other websites in different niches.

    Without backlinks the best I did was 2nd page on the SERPs with two keywords. On other keywords I’m hovering from 3rd to 9th pages and got stuck there. What really gets me is that I’ve seen that some websites with trashy content, although not on the first page, are ranking better than websites with quality content on the same topic.

    One particular website that makes me fume is one that has 1 page with only 7 lines of content announcing it will be coming soon, and it even has an adsense ad on it. It’s not on the no.1 page but it’s always on no. 2 to no. 6 on the different keywords that I use (no, I didn’t spy on them – I have no idea what their keywords are). And it held on to those spots, sometime even inching up a number or 2. Whoever’s doing SEO on it must be pretty good if not great.

    Wish there’s a way I could attach screen shot of it so it would be clearer and may benefit some of your newbie readers like me. I did blur out specific id marks to be safe.

    I don’t know if these are more of the exception to the rule but I’ve really seen sites with garbage spinned content not doing too bad.

    My question then is how do you explain this? All I hear is content is king. On this one there’s no content. I did get obsessive/compulsive on backlinks as there was no other explanation to me. I just thought it had to be the backlinks. Maybe if they had content they could be on page 1.

    I got here when I started researching deeper into tiered links (the pyramid) which I had no idea until the other day when I found a very inexpensive WSO explaining about pyramid links in the simplest and most detailed way possible that I was able to understand it.

    Thank you again and looking forward to more insightful posts like this.

    • Matthew Woodward
      January 2nd, 2014 at 1:05 pm


      Sounds like you have an interesting story to tell, would love to hear more about a ‘self study’ crash course.

      And this sounds pretty standard to be honest, but one things your view doesn’t take into account is longevity. Spam still works, but it doesn’t work as well or as long as it used to – this is a trend that will continue.

      It sounds like you just need that extra push in which case I would prescribe something simple like https://www.matthewwoodward.co.uk/seo/link-building/backlink-analysis/

      What was the WSO?

  79. Infernox

    I’ve been reading up on a lot of SEO related stuff lately since I’ve only just created my website and am getting serious about marketing it. Do you have any advice on SEO for a beginner? I came here from your video tutorials which helped a lot. Seems like having a new domain name is harming me.

  80. George Njogu

    Matt, thanks for the post.

    Looking forward to the case studies.

    Cheers man.

    • Matthew Woodward
      December 23rd, 2013 at 8:23 pm

      No worrys :)

  81. Raj

    I agree your words because that back link process very boring, Lot of google updates coming in 1 year i dont know…. How to manage my site..

    • Matthew Woodward
      December 23rd, 2013 at 11:06 am

      Forget about Google :)

  82. Paul

    Matt I just found you via an interview with Sarah Staar and I just found her yesterday and like what you both teach.

    I have been learning, stumbling, bleeding cash for the past year but really feel confident that I can launch something profitable very soon with your teachings.

    Back to learning, Thanks

    • Matthew Woodward
      December 23rd, 2013 at 11:09 am

      Thanks Paul :)

      If you have any questions you know where to find me!

  83. Luigi

    Thanks Matt. You always have very good points of view.

    Keep up the good work!


    • Matthew Woodward
      December 23rd, 2013 at 11:10 am

      Thanks Luigi!

  84. vij

    Nice post Matt. IMO its easier for a blogger to build trust and work out a zero link building experiment in the IM niche. Its harder in other niches and even harder in niches where you are not the expert. Your views?

    • Matthew Woodward
      December 22nd, 2013 at 4:01 pm

      If I wasn’t an expert at building houses I wouldn’t build houses. Every niche has an audience to address!

  85. Jack Britton

    “The irony is even when I have told clients the site is at fault and the duplicate content must be addressed, they still just want to clean up link profile & build more backlinks.”

    Yes! Why is it that even when you try and address the other issues holding them back some people seem so fixated on one thing.
    There is only so much we can advise on though at the end of the day

    • Matthew Woodward
      December 22nd, 2013 at 4:02 pm

      This is why I don’t take on SEO clients lol

  86. Shay

    You have a good vision of the future Matthew, but I don’t really agree with you on social signals being more important than links.
    Acutally it’s much easier to buy likes, tweets and other social signals than building backlinks properly, I think google still relies mostly on backlinks with it’s algorithm because it’s a lot more complicated nowadays.

    • Matthew Woodward
      December 22nd, 2013 at 4:07 pm


      Well if I could only have social signals OR links for the next 3 years, I know which I would chose :)

      In my experience with social signals, cheap crappy blasts are ineffective. I had good success with a more expensive twitter provider ($40 for 500 url retweets)

      • Vincent
        December 22nd, 2013 at 9:27 pm

        Hi Mat,

        Which Twitter provider do you use ?

        Thanks a lot for your blog.


        • Matthew Woodward
          December 23rd, 2013 at 11:07 am

          Drop me an email

  87. Satans apprentice

    Great Article, Matthew, as always. You are a trusted expert, and you always give credit where it is due.

    I am, however, not happy with Jacob King. His article was a totally unattributed ripoff of posts by Ozz and Ron on the GSA SER forum, that have been there for a very long time. The style of tiered link building that he claims to have developed was stolen, including his diagram (with a minor edit) right out of the forum, with no credit or attribution.

    Jacob King is a pompous, idea stealing scumbag who should be banned from any of your future posts.

    • Matthew Woodward
      December 22nd, 2013 at 4:10 pm


      Got any links to those posts?

  88. Icahbanjarmasin

    Hi..Matt..Nice write up, I have a couple follow up questions though..keep in touch from INDONESIA god bless for you.

    • Matthew Woodward
      December 21st, 2013 at 4:44 pm

      What are the questions :)

  89. Roland

    Hi Matt!

    Thanks for the nice overview.

    In my opinion, the webmasters must focus on the term of “Internet Marketing”. Internet Marketing includes SEO, SEM and SMM. In other words, they must consider things from a marketing perspective rather than only from Search Engine perspective.

    The White Hat SEO Blogs mention the following in almost every post they write:

    1. Focus on quality content.
    2. Engage with your visitors.
    3. Market naturally using the social media websites.
    4. Try to connect with other leaders in your niche.

    All of the above though is pretty common knowledge. An average student from any marketing background would be able to guess the above without blinking an eye.

    To be honest with you Matt, i liked your other set of articles much more than this one. I read lots of articles everyday as part of my work and frankly i didn’t find anything new in your post above. It is well written though and i highly appreciate your time on it. Thanks again for the share.

    I’ll be tuned for your future updates!

    • Matthew Woodward
      December 22nd, 2013 at 4:15 pm


      Yes I agree, and I am happy that internet marketing might just become internet marketing again. It’s much more fun :)

  90. Paul

    Hi Matt,

    great article.

    You mention the series of :
    “#1 – How To Build A Business Online With $100”

    Is this coming soon? January, February…?
    And will you create a new section for this on your blog, or this will be on the forums?


    • Matthew Woodward
      December 21st, 2013 at 4:45 pm


      Actually I’m taking my time to put together a platform like you’ve never seen before :)

  91. JADE

    Lead by example right. I see 4000 words here and a smooth sprinkling of mostly internal links with strategic anchor text planning. You smooth it together with style. Thanks for the honesty in your client evaluations too.

    The way I see it, you have already built trust with most of your valuable readers. So, I would set say a 1 year time limit on the experiment and conceal the domains until it was all over. Publishing the full details where haters and search engines can see which domains are being experimented on could skew rankings results for sure.

    You could post .com vs .net or tiered vs wiki with all the numbers and analytics, then reveal the domains as social proof at the finish line.
    Would satisfy me –

    • Matthew Woodward
      December 21st, 2013 at 12:09 am


      Actually I just write stuff flat out then I go back and look for anywhere that has external or internal linking opportunity. With over 100 posts published I have lot I can internal to, but that was born out of a content strategy.

      The problem with a 1 year experiment is by the time the results were published, it would be null and void. Look at the pace search is moving!

      I like the idea of keeping it anonymous but posting updates, then revealing it all at the end.

  92. Sam

    Great post Matthew, I really liked reading this post because it is interesting and also because I think it’s true. But ya know what, you can lead a horse to water………

    • Matthew Woodward
      December 22nd, 2013 at 4:14 pm

      Such is life!

  93. Ti Roberts

    Fantastic post once again, Matt.

    I swear you’re literally one of the single best IM bloggers around. Even better than the “guru” sites.

    Thanks for sharing such awesome content with us!! :)


    • Matthew Woodward
      December 21st, 2013 at 12:27 am

      Thanks Ti

  94. Rick

    I think there was some kind of update going on where they are re-adding URL’s to the index. Today I saw URL’s indexed from an old linking structure we used at work 8 months ago. The links have been 301 redirected for 8 months. Then later the old URL’s were totally gone.

    • Matthew Woodward
      December 21st, 2013 at 12:02 am

      Have you noticed any changes in the number of search results returned?

  95. Jim Burns

    Nice post with a lot of substance. Well done.

    Despite Google’s domination and perhaps dictatorial mandates that harm the innocent, the overall trend is to reward substance.

    While you have lifted other sites in this post, it cannot be overlooked that MatthewWoodward.com is a site of substance that takes seriously its task of sharing knowledge to help others.

    It is a good thing that quality prevails. We can all think harder, plan better, execute more effectively and analyze with greater precision. In the end, the greatest achievements are the result of hard work; success is not easily repeated by those unwilling to suffer for the cause.

    • Matthew Woodward
      December 21st, 2013 at 12:03 am


      I suppose at the end of the day, long term it will be make the web a better place for everyone.

  96. Charles

    Useless! I knew you’d delete my comment. The truth is bitter and all I said was the truth. Keep fooling the gullible noobs in your forum.

    • Matthew Woodward
      December 21st, 2013 at 12:05 am


      I assume your not fully aware of how the wordpress comment system works-

      1) you submit the comment
      2) it goes into moderation
      3) you can see it is awaiting approval
      4) if you come back later/have cleared cookies, you wont see it

      If the last approved comment is the same one as when you submitted your comment, its a good indication the moderation queue hasn’t been worked through yet. Oh and the default sort order in worpdress comment moderation is newest – oldest.

      So I’ll get to it dont worry :)

  97. Catherine

    Thank you Matthew! I’ve read most of the rest of your blog and I’ve been waiting for this post for months. Since I first found your tiered backlinking series, I’ve felt like there was more/something else that mattered besides just spamming the hell out of the internet. (No offense to tiered backlinking because it obviously works.) I’ve actually not gone into tiered backlinking because I have felt my time and budget was better spent elsewhere. I’ve been working on a PBN and understanding how to use Social Media for SEO. I feel like I’m right there on the edge of success with both of those so I’ll keep you posted. :D

    You are right on that the masses are looking for fast and easy “success” and ABHOR change. And I agree that it creates incredibly opportunity.

    Regarding the SEO Ranking case study, I’d say keep the URLs and even the specific niche private. If people want to say it’s fake then that’s their problem. I think anyone who follows your blog will trust that it is real and would appreciate seeing results that aren’t tainted by negative SEO.

    One last note…I’ve been wondering what caused a 30% increase in traffic to my main site the last two days. Seeing your comment about unofficial tweaks to Google just made me smile and think that might be it.

    Have a great day!

    • Matthew Woodward
      December 21st, 2013 at 12:13 am


      Great to hear of your success, if you want any advice/pointers shoot me an email.

      Thanks for your feedback on the case study.

      Be interesting to see how you jumped up on those days, it was on the 17th

  98. Adam Gent

    Hey Matt,

    Great post completely agree with pretty much everything you say. The industry is obsessed over links but that is only pushed by clients who want to see results FAST!

    Look forward to reading more great content on your blog in 2014.

    Just one last thing, spotted a typo :s. In the sentence:

    “You really need to start thinknig about a more complete & comprehensive online marketing strategy.”

    Just change to “You really need to start thinking about…”

    • Matthew Woodward
      December 21st, 2013 at 12:16 am

      Hi Adam,

      I agree that clients do lead to this behaviour a lot, and if you wont do it they can always find someone that will.

      Haha fixed it, actually there are a bunch of typos. This is what happens when you rush to publish a post before time runs out for xmas shopping lol

  99. Jangoz

    Great article as usual Matt. SEO is evolving and we really need to adapt but nevertheless there is a lot of deception coming from Google.

    • Matthew Woodward
      December 20th, 2013 at 1:25 pm

      Yes there is a lot of deception, there always will be – but they have got better!

  100. Andrew

    I do wonder how much of the increase in the appearance of social likes and +s are more correlation rather than causation.

    Personally I think google is much better at measuring users on site stats. Site where people spend a lot of time and are fully engaged get rewarded. These are the same sites that end up with the likes and google + votes. These votes are not causing be better ranks – but rather sites that are favoured because of how people use them happen to attract these signals.

    • Matthew Woodward
      December 21st, 2013 at 12:21 am


      Well its very very easy for them to measure, and as long as the social networks keep a lid on spam – they are reliable easy to read signals as well.

      Keeping an accurate track of site engagement for every site on the internet and every user on the internet, now that would involve some serious resource and cost, which they could just offload to Facebook/Twitter etc

      Ever since Larry Page took over Googles direction has changed towards profitability and reducing costs.

      • Ian
        December 30th, 2013 at 12:26 am

        Another blinding post and pretty spot on I’d wager! But as for engagement, your reply above that it would take too many resources for google to measure, but for sites with Google analytics, that is exactly what Google is measuring isn’t it?

        I get the fact that sites not using Google Analytics and using some other platform or none at all, still rank but I wonder if those sites do not get the leg up that a google activated site has.

        I don’t think Google provide anything for free to anyone, everything they do as a corporation has a reason behind it – hence Google+ – so I am willing to bet they use engagement as a metric. They can still measure engagement whether you have analytics or not through user behaviour through their search anyway and the more so if users are logged in. And now we have Google linking all our gmail accounts as well to gather yet more information – a bit intrusive really, but the candy they offer through their free stuff is pretty irresistible.

        • Matthew Woodward
          December 30th, 2013 at 11:14 am

          Hi Ian,

          I don’t agree that Google uses data from Analytics directly on sites.

          I don’t see a reason when they can measure if someone clicked on a #1 results, then came back to the search results to either refine the search or click the #2 result.

          • Ian
            December 31st, 2013 at 10:31 am

            Hey Matt – Happy New Year mate

            Well Google can and does do what you say, which is to see if the searcher was satisfied or came back looking for more. But if they are gathering the analytics data to show it to you then It would just make sense to incorporate it.

            Then again who knows and increasingly should we even care? Maybe that is the thrust of your post – make fantastic content to keep the campers happy and just dress it up a little – add a little undisclosed salt to the peanuts to keep people drinking sort of thing.

            My black hat is closeted, the grey one firmly attached but white has that virginal appeal!

            I am looking forward to your 2014. And thank you!

          • Matthew Woodward
            January 2nd, 2014 at 12:53 pm


            Incorporating it would poison the data pool though, as they wouldn’t have equal sets of data available for every website.

            In my own experience I haven’t found it any harder to rank a site that is/isn’t using analytics, but with so many variables at play its hard to draw a solid conclusion.

  101. Andrew Guida

    Hey Matt,

    Nice write up, I have a couple follow up questions though.

    In the top 8 influencing stats I’m surprised that Facebook took several of the top spots because Facebook doesn’t let the search engines crawl posts and hides most of it’s data from other companies.

    Also, I do think that creating excellent websites is essential for long term rankings but what about industries that are not exciting inherently like a bank or electrician? Not much to write about lol

    Great post and happy holidays

  102. angello

    Hi matt, i think i will definitely relay my site on social media an wait for the backlinks come by them self, lets see what happens.

    • Matthew Woodward
      December 21st, 2013 at 12:27 am

      Let me know how it goes :)

  103. Dat To

    Matthew, wow what an article! Fantastic insights! Thank you for putting this together. That SearchMetrics 2013 top ranking factors list is an eye opener.

    With Google getting better at detecting and devaluing link manipulation, we have to look at what we do for Clients in real world marketing terms and not SEO.

    Loved how you kept answering the questions in my head as I just kept on reading your post.

    • Matthew Woodward
      December 21st, 2013 at 12:28 am

      No worrys :)

      Got any more questions?

  104. P-A

    Hi Matthew,

    I believe that the social signals are getting more important in ranking a site, but honestly when I observe the SERPs, I don’t see lot of sites with little backlinks and tons of social signals. It’s usually the opposite.

    I use SEO quake to check this. Is there anything wrong with this approach?

    Suggestion: It could be a nice experiment to try to rank a site using only social signals. If they are really more important than backlinks as the study mentionned above says, the site would rank quite easily.

    • Matthew Woodward
      December 21st, 2013 at 12:29 am


      Its impossible to rank a site with JUST social signals. Because in order to drive social signals, you will inherently pick up backlinks as shown with my zero link building experiment.

  105. Randy

    This was an epic post. Very eye opening for me. In fact, I was so infected with obsessive compulsive backlink disorder that I got burned out from building links.

    I totally stepped away from SEO for nearly a year because just the thought of building a single link would cause me to get very upset and a sour taste in my mouth.

    Your post was very refreshing to know that I don’t need to slave over managing link building software to rank.

    • Matthew Woodward
      December 21st, 2013 at 12:29 am

      Consider yourself cured :)

  106. Melodye

    Thanks so much for sharing this with us, Matt! It was right on time! I woke up this morning thinking, “Am I wasting my time, nothing’s happening, maybe I should just do FB PPC…” (I’m very impatient)

    I literally just started my social signal marketing yesterday. I created my first backlink sites and links about a week ago. But I have yet to see more traffic to my site or have anyone opt into my list.

    I was very discouraged this morning – and truthfully I don’t know why I woke up that way (talk about the wrong side of the bed).

    I jumped on my laptop, went to my email, and decided to click on your email that led to THIS article.

    This was Godsent in my opinion – you are addressing what I was feeling and more.

    You spanked me this morning – my site is thin with content and I’m working on that continuously, but I think my content gives value and I def want to do that!

    I think of how I can stand out from others in this niche – with very little money to work with or resources.

    The good thing is – I am so new to all of this that if things are changing the way you say, I don’t have to unlearn bad habits.

    My goal def is to sell my affiliate products and build my list while I deliver value to the readers, but I can’t lie and say that making sales is not on my mind everyday all day.

    With so much out here, it’s starting to get confusing again. I downloaded your RankCracker but have not dug into yet.

    I’ll be doing that asap!

    I look forward to your case studies!!!

    I always enjoy reading your content – I can see why you have those awards!


  107. Rohit Palit

    Great post as usual, Matt.

    I’m however unable to see any reasons why link building ISN’T still the most powerful factor influencing search results. I mean, go search for some 50K+ MS keyword like ‘iPage’ and check the aff site ranking 4th. Even if it’s ranking for a couple of months, it can make more money than its owner can spend. Like I’ve always said, it entirely depends upon your own purposes. Want to grow yourself as a reputable figure in a particular niche? Build an authority site. Wanna rake in some good cash quickly? By all means keep building links.


    BTW, found a typo:
    “but that model is dieing.” – it should be ‘dying’.

    but that model is dieing.

    • Matthew Woodward
      December 21st, 2013 at 12:37 am

      Thanks Rohit!

      Backlinks still play an important role, but they were previously the ONLY really important thing. So powerful you could rank pages for keywords that weren’t even found on the page with anchor text alone.

      Backlinks still have power, but they are not the steroids they once were. There are also niches that dont lend themselves to social signals and we have to find the balance between that.

      There are a bunch of typos, forgot to spell check ^^

  108. andrewkarx

    hmm.. I think there are problems with my posts…

    • Matthew Woodward
      December 21st, 2013 at 12:37 am

      Whys that?

  109. David

    Exellent article (great content0, but I think there is an error in the title as you are reviewing 2013, not 2014, and looking forward to the correct strategies for 2014…
    “Evolve Or Die – Why SEO & Tiered Link Building Has Changed In 2014”

    • Matthew Woodward
      December 21st, 2013 at 12:38 am

      Ahhh I see your point, will take a look at it tomorrow when its not 1am ^^

  110. andrewkarx

    Hi Matt,

    Great post (as always!)

    It’s funny because your post is exactly right on time. Even more, for me I have spent last 90 days or so thinking and scratching my head trying to figure out and decide (that wasn’t easy!) where to take my SEO and marketing.

    Finally I decided to abandon majority of techniques a employed earlier. I have been using Senuke a lot, and was able to rank TOP1 just with this tool (plus some high PR links) from zero in a “few” competitive local niches in about 3 months time.

    Then I bought GSA, UD and other “machines” and expanded on my services. However, at some point I have noticed that results are a bit more unpredictable. Before I knew what to expect, but then not really.

    That situation caused some delays in my rankings. Speaking about clients, one of my clients was so unhappy with the progress that decided to quit. I ranked his newborn site TOP3 for his best KW in 90 days in a local niche loaded with old authority sites. Than site dropped to second page for a 2 weeks, again I ranked it back on TOP3-8 (currently is stable #8).

    But client wasn’t happy, he expected me to get it back TOP3 again in a matter of 30 days or so. Of course, I knew that is not going to happen because his site just don’t deserve to be ranked TOP3 in that niche, not yet. I told him about building social signals etc. and taking some time to build solid base for future.

    He didn’t like it. He is now looking for someone who can deliver “faster” results (and cheaper!).

    Another client, when I told him about importance of social signals got so excited that bought something like 300 G+ and blasted all that crap right onto the site in one day. Yep, website gone from TOP3 to page 5 and beyond :)

    Sorry for writing soo long, but just want to make point that PATIENCE is what many of us really need (and cool head as well).

    As for my SEO right now, I’m completely with you Matt. Considering some radical changes in regards to my “SEO arsenal”. Just few hours ago I bought nice set of aged domains in most competitive niches (and like your idea about case studies… actually I may take same path…).

    Anyway, the best thing is that I have one site that is ranking rather well with almost no SEO done whatsoever. Just few good links from relevant sites, that’s all. Site from no PR jumped to PR3 (december 6th) and all pages are PR1 now (that’s thanks to proper site structure based on good KW research).
    One of KWs is #10 and this is niche considered competitive.

    Regarding your case studies Matt.

    Let’s say that you want to make 2 case studies. You will need three websites to do it. So, get yourself 2 x 2 sites so you will have 2 public and 2 private ones (in same niches).

    It might be less exciting working on two sites in same niches, same KWs etc. but on the other hand it will allow you to get more data from this tests.

    And even, if some fuckers will try to kill your efforts, you still have your private sites.

    And ultimate option… charge fee for opportunity to follow your cases.

    Once again, sorry for lengthy post!

    Have a good one


    • Matthew Woodward
      December 21st, 2013 at 12:34 am


      I think that kind of client pressure has led to a lot of the obsessive compulsive backlink disorder. Combine that with change, along with other SEO’s/agencys resisting that change and its going be stormy :)

      I think blasting/faking Google+ signals is a bad idea, Google know to much. But the other networks, thats cool – all Google can see is the actual numbers shared (except twitter). But take what you know about link velocity and apply that to social, evolve what you know already :)

      Actually working on the sites wont be that tedious, i’ll outsource the content and the spinning – I just need my best copy/paste fingers on the go!

      I was considering making the $100 case study a paid membership but I don’t know if I feel right with it

      • andrewkarx
        December 21st, 2013 at 11:56 pm

        “obsessive compulsive backlink disorder” like this term :) 2014 maybe really interesting year in SEO department.

        Yandex claims they will not use links anymore… (in Moscow area). To be honest I don’t blame them :D There is madness going on.

        This is exactly what I’m doing right now. Adding few likes, shares etc on a daily basis. However, I’m using paid service to do this (also G+)… It’s public service and that worries me a bit. Thinking about switching to more private solution. Also, my T1 are going to be like real sites, no more thin PR network style sites. I will build them the same way I do money sites. Other Web2.0 will be less perfect but still have to be decent.

        You are right probably, $100 can be a lot for many people, especially if they don’t do any $ yet.

        Maybe you should not worry about protecting those sites and let them rank in a natural environment?

        Anyway, can’t wait to see it :)

        Ahh, one more question. You want to build a site with initial $100 budget… what about content? Are you going to write it yourself?

        $100 isn’t that much…

        • Matthew Woodward
          December 22nd, 2013 at 4:09 pm


          If you create the right content you dont have spend time worrying about those social signals, they will just come :)

          Yes the budget will be tough for sure, and I always write my money site content :)

  111. Oliver Sherrington

    This is simply one of your best articles to date Matt. Fantastic stuff.

    Things are going to get very hard indeed for the business I represent. Building content for an industry that has an enormous negative public opinion, that is ALSO a distress purchase is a big challenge!

    • Matthew Woodward
      December 21st, 2013 at 12:38 am

      Hi Oliver,

      Sounds like lots of opportunity for unique angles

  112. Pratik Unadkat

    Excellent article Matt. I agree completely with you. I was earlier these days too trying to see what works and would try to make as much sites as I could. however I was very slow. I built two sites and they started ranking as well on page #1 in a month or two but I became a victim of negative SEO.

    So I’m now trying to jump into a different and more authority site market with absolute focus on content and social media. I’m not sure if I would be doing any link building, but even if I do, it won’t be more than 10% or so.

    SEO is an ever evolving game and I agree with you. Google is setting new bars and standards daily and if you do not keep the pace and stick to same old school “spam-o-rama” guide, then it’d be very hard to stick in.

    I also can completely relate to about you being confused to whether reveal or not, your public niche site project. We’ve seen Spencer’s project (in case you know about him) suffering as well due to negative SEO. Would be definitely interested to hear what you decide and come up with.

    Good luck!

    • Matthew Woodward
      December 21st, 2013 at 12:40 am


      I nearly included a section about negative SEO in the post but didn’t. The ironic thing is that anyone can destroy your rankings in their sleep. Even this blog has been hit!

      I will definitely reveal the $100 one, might build it out a little bit first behind the scenes and get the first few posts prepared but will reveal it from the off.

      • Munir Nathoo
        April 7th, 2014 at 1:18 pm

        Hi Matt,

        How’s the $100 Zero to Hero project coming along? Eagerly waiting for this one :)

        • Matthew Woodward
          April 8th, 2014 at 6:21 am

          Slowly with my move =\

          • Munir Nathoo
            April 15th, 2014 at 10:03 am

            Well, hope its all going well. Have noticed you’ve been quiet for a while, now I know why :)

            Hope to see you back online soon, take care and good luck :)

          • Matthew Woodward
            April 18th, 2014 at 10:13 am

            Yeah taking more time and energy than I expected!

  113. Erim

    Great post, Matthew. It’s hard to get too many reminders of where things are going. That OCBD is tenacious.

    Keep up the good. Can’t wait for the case studies, and thanks for the inspiration.

    • Matthew Woodward
      December 21st, 2013 at 12:41 am

      Thanks Erim!

  114. Lee

    As always Matthew a lot of good info some of it will be a mind changing thing to a lot of us who are so use to the old link building ways and now use a lot more social ways to improve our sites and try harder to either create or outsource more of our content…..Matthew you seem to be the UK very own Alex Becker.

    Thanks for your time and input you have gave us….

    All the best out there guys.


    • Matthew Woodward
      December 21st, 2013 at 12:41 am

      No, thank you for reading!

  115. Yeison

    Great post Matt, thanks for sharing all your knowdledge, this is very interesting, and it make a lot of sense when I check new results and rankings on mytanfeet.com I still remember your very first words to us … Forget about SEO and do quality. Wisest advice ever !

    Thanks Matt

    • Matthew Woodward
      December 21st, 2013 at 12:43 am

      Pura vida mai!

  116. James Hare

    I’ve never experimented much with social signals. It seems much easier to build them than building backlinks (on web 2.0s). It would be great to try and rank a site with just social signals. Have you done this before?

    – James

    • Matthew Woodward
      December 21st, 2013 at 12:43 am

      I think you’ll find its much harder than you think. Other than this, one – no. Its nearly impossible to test social in isolation

  117. Lee

    Great stuff as always Matthew and perfect timing for me. Loads to consider going into the New Year, and I look forward to following along with your case studies! :)

    • Matthew Woodward
      December 21st, 2013 at 12:45 am

      Cheers :)

  118. eZFlow

    Love you for this and pointing us to http://www.jacobking.com/broken-tiered-link-building!

    I’m almost done with spinning and very happy i haven’t started the campaign yet.

    Could you please make a post showing the corrected way of using GSA for T1, T2 & T3? I always wondered why i would need to use senuke/get/UD for T1 but then i remembered you are an affiliate marketer :P


    • Matthew Woodward
      December 21st, 2013 at 12:50 am


      Actually I’m a victim of the reluctance to change. GSA has evolved a lot the past 18 months, and I loved the control I had in UD which GSA didn’t offer. UD allowed for a tightly controlled list of targets while GSA was much more wide spread.

      In fact back then it didn’t even have tiered support, take a guess at who got Sven to integrate that ;)

      The best feature they have introduced recently though is the remove links feature (another grip I had with it for the first tier)

      I’ll have a detailed review of GSA in the new year BUT I want to quote myself-

      “SEO is no longer just about backlinks and we have much bigger problems to address over and above changing some settings in link building software.”

  119. Tanguy

    Thanks Mat, we need those kind of articles to reopen the eyes of SEOs, because in fact you don’t say anything new here !

    We all know it’s best for long term rankings to follow Google guidelines. SEOs and the human beings in general just seek the quickest, easiest way to do things, that’s how the majority of people live.

    Why do most famous and rich people manage to have that life ? They just understood life is not about results, but process and all the steps before attaining the desired goal. Some of us understand it’s better to live that way, but the main problem is keeping that way of thinking :p

    Also Mat, about social signals, what is your answer regarding this article : http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2319951/Facebook-Likes-Shares-Dont-Impact-Google-Search-Rankings-Study

    Keep doing what you’re doing dude ;)

    • Matthew Woodward
      December 21st, 2013 at 12:56 am


      I’m not saying the best thing to do is follow Google guidelines, you can certainly break the rules – just break them in the right way.

      I do think the biggest obstacle a lot of people face is themselves, everyone on this planet should read ‘Think & Grow Rich’ by Napoleon Hill.

      And if you think your not holding yourself back, you need it more than anyone else!

      In regards of that article-

      We know Google doesnt crawl facebook, they just pull numbers from the API – http://graph.facebook.com/?ids=https://www.matthewwoodward.co.uk

      In fact reading through that suggests they dont actually understand what Google has access to via the API

  120. Hazli Khalim

    SEO is internet marketing. Yes indeed!

    Great post Matthew.

    • Matthew Woodward
      December 21st, 2013 at 12:57 am


  121. Robert Kirk

    Hey Matt,

    Just read over this article – fantastic read!

    We have around 20 sites we work on, our own and our clients and we have noticed in last 6-12 months, getting them ranking is definitely not as easy as it was before! We have started moving into more social, YouTube channel etc as other ways of driving not only traffic but mix of links to our sites, so far we finding this working well.

    We still seeing some spammed sites hitting the top though in certain niches, and some of them lasting through Google updates so Spam to a degree still works.

    Have a great Christmas Matt, and best of luck in 2014

    • Matthew Woodward
      December 21st, 2013 at 12:57 am


      I agree spam does still work, just not like we are used to :)

  122. Sal

    Thanks for the post Matthew. You have bought me up to speed with what must be done to achieve my goal of working from home. I was a little behind the times with my processes, however I am slowly getting there thanks to you.

    • Matthew Woodward
      December 21st, 2013 at 12:58 am

      Good luck Sal :)

  123. Mark R.

    Hey Matt

    Another great read…I agree that focusing on creating compelling content and social engagement are a good safe approach to SEO…especially for affiliate related products.

    However, this can be challenging on the local business level. Some businesses simply aren’t that “compelling”…an example would be a funeral home. It will be tough for businesses of this nature to create compelling content that people would want to share. No one tweets about how “we have the best most, affordable boxes to put your dead grandma in”…or maybe they do?

    The point being, I think it will be tough for certain niches going forward.

    • Matthew Woodward
      December 21st, 2013 at 12:59 am


      Some niches dont lend themselves to social signals so backlinks and local citations will always play a role.

      But I bet the funeral home that creates the most amount of helpful content to a family going through that process will prevail.

  124. David McSweeney

    This is very interesting Matt. I’ve read through quickly, but will going to have to take the time to go through it fully later on.

    I agree with a lot of what you say here and in fact had written up an article a month or so ago ‘Does Your Website Deserve To Be Number 1?’ – it’s the huge elephant in the room that a lot of webmasters miss.

    With barbed comments from Matt Cutts like ‘they are looking further up stream’ in your link profile I still think tiered link building (or any sort of manipulation) is asking for trouble.

    I also think that (the right) backlinks still trump social (for now). There has been some interesting research done on this by the likes of Eric Enge and Mark Traphagen and whether google +1s actually influence rankings at the moment is still very much up for debate. I believe they will in the future though.

    What you are missing here is things like the importance of claiming authorship for content and building author rank (if it’s not here already it will come). google wants to know who is doing what and where.

    It makes sense too. If I can build 100 anonymous splogs today with crappy spun content where does it all end? Do you build 200? Does someone else build 300?

    With you 100% on Hot UK Deals. They have an awesome model. When I ran an ecommerce business they drove around £10K of sales to me in one day with an offer on one £90 product – they must be making crazy money.

    Like I said, I’ll read through again later and come back with some more thoughts or possibly put them together on a post on my own site.

    • Matthew Woodward
      December 21st, 2013 at 1:06 am

      Hi David,

      Got a link for that article, sounds like the stuff! Will feature it in my round up this month

      I saw over 18 months ago now some interesting things with social. Blasting 500 tweets (from good accounts not fiverr) to a URL would push it to the top 3, but as tweet velocity died down so did the ranking. A friend repeated this at a larger scale on multiple URLs of a site and recorded the same changes.

      And that was a long time ago!

      Let me know when you have had a full read, interested to hear your further thoughts!

  125. Roxana

    Aww, Matt, I always love coming back here whenever I see statistics and variables and analyses mentioned. So the moment I read Spearman’s r correlation I just had to take a trip down memory lane in my 1st year of college. Back when I was a total noob and knew nothing.

    Yeah, so 2013 has brought some significant changes. I felt some of them in my accounts, too. I just wish clients would pay not only in cash, but also in patience. ‘Cause if I ever hear another “I want to rank #1” during Skype calls, I’m going to explode.

    To be honest, I think people struggle too much in building their business through competition, you know? You don’t have to be no. #1 to succeed. I mean, a business can very well rank #50 in Google, but generate $1,000,000 USD annual revenue in its first year. For some, direct marketing works better, for others email marketing or social media marketing. It doesn’t have to be 100% link building.

    Back in September, I organized a SEO workshop (in the middle of nowhere, Romania) where I explained to my audience that a business will grow (rank in SERPs) with each of the following: PPC + SM Ads + Backlinks + Content + Domain Age + community engagement + social signals + many more.

    And I even proved to one of my clients that although through a campaign of 30 backlinks he landed #2 on Google, he had ZERO social signals on them. Ahrefs clearly pointed out. And then the keyword influence/power started to drop. In 4 months time, he dropped on #4. But it was still on the first page of Google and my campaign got him around 300+ clicks per month for his e-commerce site, out of which around 70 people would actually buy the product.

    Anyway, the online would be a better place if some people would listen. You have this bunch of wanna-be SEO experts who don’t even understand the statistical part of Google and that SEO is quite technical, but they promise #1 places without a solid background analysis.
    And then you find yourself having to fight them all because apparently they’ve done some heavy brain washing to business owners. :(

    I hope in 2014 I can gather up the time to launch my online projects, as well. Also planning on focusing on case studies, although I think I’ll use some of my clients for that and not my own sites. You know, like an integrated part of the digital marketing strategy, I’ll offer to do some creative strategies and analysis and see what goes well and what doesn’t. Worst case, I’d just be left with a huge whole in my pockets. :))

    Happy holidays! And let’s hope 2014 will be generous with people in terms of brains, understanding and will to do things differently.

    • Matthew Woodward
      December 21st, 2013 at 1:20 am


      Haha you nerd :P

      How many times have you heard, but this company guarantees a #1 ranking in 4 weeks?

      Thanks for sharing your valuable insights with us all

  126. Charles

    This has got to be the worst article on SEO I’ve read in the entire year. Why didn’t you show us one of your so-called high quality affiliate sites that actually offers “value”? Why don’t you show us one of the sites that you were able to rank in a niche other than internet marketing solely with social signals? Since backlinks are no longer that important, I find it difficult to understand why you still discuss link building strategies here.

    Your blog is just a superficial example because with the rate at which social shares and backlinks are being created in the IM niche, the success of your blog will come as no surprise to anyone. To succeed in the IM niche, all you need is one popular blogger’s endorsement. Heck I can create a successful IM blog if I want.

    This article is just a wretched link baiting attempt.

    • Matthew Woodward
      December 21st, 2013 at 1:23 am


      Here is one https://www.matthewwoodward.co.uk

      Did you read the part about the 2 case studies?

      Have you seen what has happened to previous people that revealed sites? In essence what your asking me is “please blindly sacrifice your income for my personal benefit”

      How about you show us what you have done and break it down step by step – I would be happy to publish it for you.

  127. Ryan


    Your post was great. One questions though.

    You mentioned

    “Using the Spearman Correlation model they were able to determine the top rankings factors in 2013 were-
    Google +1′s
    Facebook shares
    Facebook total
    Facebook comments
    Facebook likes

    If google plus, which is a strong social networking, but nothing compared to FB, Twitter, and LinkedIn is being pushed by Google as their priority ranking factor, how do you expect business large and small to get hiring ranking from a social network that does not have a massive following?

    • Matthew Woodward
      December 21st, 2013 at 1:25 am


      Have you seen the changes Google have made to force people into it? I know its not the most engaging of platforms right now, but man with all the new features they have introduced it has legs.

      Also what better way to get people to use it, by making it a solid ranking factor and having millions of webmasters push their audience/traffic into using it.

      This reminds me of the same strings behind the disavow tool – https://www.matthewwoodward.co.uk/tips/why-google-disavow-is-bad-news-for-seo/

    • Simon
      June 10th, 2014 at 6:20 pm

      Mathew, sorry this is a litle late in the day but in the spirit Ryan’s comment I think the rel=author and rel=publisher attributes are Google’s effort to pimp G+. Ultimately I think their own social signals will carry a tad more ranking weight than FB, et al…what’re your thoughts?

      • Matthew Woodward
        June 13th, 2014 at 10:49 pm

        I wouldn’t be surprised if that happens at some point

  128. Alex Stojkovic

    Good morning Matthew! Amazing post as always! I’ve done my duty and shared throughout all my social sites this post.

    Keep up the great work and have a great holiday season! All the best in 2014. Can’t wait to get some down time to actually catch up on some of your posts.


    • Matthew Woodward
      December 20th, 2013 at 1:42 pm

      Thats very kind of you thanks!

  129. 12.20.2013

    Great Insight Matthew! for the niche site experiment I think you should try your “No Link building strategy”. People would be more interested to see something if you try to drive traffic in a “Less Google dependent” way.

    Chasing after ranking brings nothing but frustrations ! what do you think?

    • Matthew Woodward
      December 20th, 2013 at 1:38 pm


      Well theres actually 2 case studies I will run :)

  130. Kitty


    • Matthew Woodward
      December 20th, 2013 at 1:38 pm


  131. Simon

    Lovely detail rich article Mathew. You set the bar high, I swear I read your stuff and think to myself, “…man I wish I could write like this!”. Thanks for posting

    • Matthew Woodward
      December 20th, 2013 at 1:39 pm

      Thanks Simon :)

  132. Steve

    After reading this article I’m a bit confused.

    Do we have to build links or not?

    If yes then what type of those links should be?

    Now a days guest blogging is really in what you think about that?

    Awaiting for your reply!


    • Matthew Woodward
      December 20th, 2013 at 1:39 pm


      Yes you must still build links, but you must not only build links!

      • Steve
        December 20th, 2013 at 2:27 pm

        Then what kind of links should be those?

        Can you please elaborate?

        • Matthew Woodward
          December 21st, 2013 at 1:02 am

          I think you might be suffering from obsessive compulsive backlink disorder

          • Ian Wilcox
            December 31st, 2013 at 12:12 pm

            My name is Ian and i have OCBD ….

            You should set up a support group Matt =) !

          • Matthew Woodward
            January 2nd, 2014 at 12:51 pm

            Hahaha perhaps :)

  133. Rich

    Hear.. Hear.

    Matt I couldn’t agree more with your message.
    I have been preaching this to my clients for a while now.

    I lookk forward to your new ‘build a buisness .. with $100’ series next year.



    • Matthew Woodward
      December 20th, 2013 at 1:39 pm

      Thanks Rich!

  134. jade

    hello Mathew,

    It will take me some time to fully understand all this updates. Thanks for sharing. I have been looking around for a wordpress plugin I got disque, but I like this comment form. Where do you get this comment plugin? and the please share widget?


    • Matthew Woodward
      December 20th, 2013 at 1:25 pm


      This is just the default wordpress comments, which share widget do you mean?

      • jade
        December 20th, 2013 at 2:19 pm

        The default one looks so simple but it has the subscribe features to update readers, thought it’s a high end plugin. I see, the share widget is the one right above here, where it says in turquoise blue “please share” with 5 social plugins.

        By the way I found your blog from God of seo I stick to both.

  135. Daniel

    Do you think essentially people will stop link building and start “like/follow/+1 building”?

    If so then SEO is no where near dead and just a huge evolution.

    • Matthew Woodward
      December 20th, 2013 at 1:24 pm

      I think you need to do both. But social building challenges us on a number of levels compared to link building.

      • Daniel
        December 20th, 2013 at 1:32 pm

        Like you had previously said in this article – “Opportunity”. =)

        • Matthew Woodward
          December 20th, 2013 at 1:38 pm

          Its knockin!

    • David
      December 23rd, 2013 at 2:29 am

      I’ve ranked plenty of sites with just retweet experiments. Yes, just plain old retweets. And lots of em.

      It works… even better a variety of social signals and you can rank for some pretty hard to rank terms.

      • Matthew Woodward
        December 23rd, 2013 at 11:06 am

        Word to that ^^

  136. Reginald

    Hey Matthew,

    Interesting write indeed. Like what you say, SEO is changing and that’s for sure. I feel it is going more towards the path of social media and content curation.

    Well that’s me! Thanks for sharing mate.

    • Matthew Woodward
      December 20th, 2013 at 1:26 pm

      No worrys :)

  137. Jake Six

    Great stuff buddy. Are you going to case study with social involved? I’m still not ready to buy in to social making a difference in the serps.

  138. Leo @Newbiesup

    received your post update email
    sat around with a cup of coffee
    read through this article and took notes

    This is the best time of mine today!

    Then I’ll be needing days to digest what I learnt here.
    My quick takeaways is: valuable content+social signals+backlinks+persistence => success

    • Matthew Woodward
      December 20th, 2013 at 1:26 pm

      Thanks Leo :)

  139. Nacho

    Great article.
    I entirely agree that link building has its limitations.
    I think of it as a shortcut. I believe that the best way to build an online business is by providing quality and being patience, if you stick to delivering quality, success will arrive sooner or later.
    Using shortcuts might backfire and ruin all the work and effort done.
    Thanks Matthew.

    • Matthew Woodward
      December 20th, 2013 at 1:27 pm


      Well there are smart ways to do it and not so smart ways to do it, thats why I wanted to point out that SEO is just risk management.

  140. Mark

    Great post Matt, thanks. I completely agree with your thoughts on content and social shares.

    I have a couple of pages which made it to page 1 of Google just through decent content and using a social sharing tool, but they have never moved beyond the #5 position.

    Maybe some quality tiered link building would give them the extra boost they need.

    Looking forward to your case studies in the new year.

    • Matthew Woodward
      December 20th, 2013 at 1:28 pm

      Yes I agree they need both – but what I would like to see you do is add an extra 1,000 words of content and then sprinkle a few more outbound links to relevant resources.

      You might be surprised ;)

      • Manuel
        December 21st, 2013 at 12:33 am

        Matt, if you outbound link to relevant resources, which do you think is more preferable – do follow or no follow? Thanks.


        • Matthew Woodward
          December 22nd, 2013 at 4:15 pm


  141. Steve

    Hey Matthew, another superb post.

    Your zero link building experiment was the main driver behind me also setting up a site and not building any fake links to it.

    The emphasis on ‘Great Content’ is what people should pay more attention to. I was looking at Pat Flynn’s latest ‘niche’ site, his food truckr one.

    I really wouldn’t call it a traditional niche site though, as he’s filling an awesome design with absolutely top notch content. He literally has far and away the best content in that niche, so I’d imagine he’d have to be top of Google for his terms and hundreds of others.

    It takes a tonne of time to produce this content (and not only that but having a solid foundation to present it on is also becoming much much more important) and searcher satisfaction should be the goal – completely fulfilling your visitors needs.

    It’s gonna be an interesting year for sure 2014, I have a feeling the updates to G will be more regular and more dynamic. Like you say, having #1 slot no longer means what it used to, so it will be interesting to see what other tricks and techniques will start working in the near future!

    • Matthew Woodward
      December 20th, 2013 at 1:29 pm

      Hi Steve,

      Thanks for your kind words!

      I have to agree 2014 is going to be great!

  142. elcid

    Wow! Thanks for responding to my question on the forum.. I read this half way and had to stop and write back!!! Simply awesome as usual!!!

    • Matthew Woodward
      December 20th, 2013 at 12:58 pm

      No worrys, it was half written anyway :P

      • jual madu hutan
        March 5th, 2014 at 9:54 am

        Sorry if i bother two fo you. Could you please tell me what forum it is? i am really just a newbie in seo and want to learn more.

        Can you give me some good resources matt? Thanks before and sorry if i take your time

  143. mindlesswizard

    Have downloaded the PDF file and i am going to spend some time reading the pdf

    • Matthew Woodward
      December 20th, 2013 at 12:58 pm

      Thanks :)

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