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How Buying Links in Public Ends Up – Interview with Vitaliy Kolos


We are happy to host an interview with Vitaliy Kolos, the man behind the famous turmoil with Webdesign.org and T-Mobile. When it occurred, it was widely discussed on various websites. Five days later, Webdesign.org was penalized by Google for selling links. Vitaliy decided to shed some light on the situation.

Link-buying-Twitter Link-buying-offer Matt Cutts on Buying Links

Can you introduce yourself? How long have you been in the SEO branch?

I’m Vitaliy Kolos. Coming from a tech support background, I got a chance to do SEO for a few sites, including WebDesign.org. I’ve been doing SEO for about three years now.

How do you see the latest changes to Google’s algorithm?

I think that it’s best to create your product or amazing content that you offer on your site. That done, you’ll be able to easily promote your site and do SEO for it because people eagerly share and link back to stuff that is worth their while.

Can you give us a little background on the situation that occurred with the T-Mobile and the Webspam team?

As a matter of fact, we used to sell text links back in the day (now we aren’t), and many of them were long-term ones. Iacquire.com purchased such a link for T-Mobile.com about two years ago. Before I went any further, I contacted Iacquire.com and wondered if they would like to renew the text link. They replied that they are not working with T-Mobile.com anymore. I decided to contact T-Mobile.com directly after that. I was able to contact them via Twitter only. In the beginning, I did realize that we were talking in public. I even asked them to get back to me via email. Once I got a reply that it was not possible, I somehow forgot that we were talking in public and said what I said loud and clear. 🙂 That’s basically how it all happened. By the way, a T-Mobile representative replied to my email with the following message,”I do not know who you are, but I wanted to be clear T-Mobile does not buy links nor does it engage in any practices associated with it.”

Was your conversation on Twitter an effect of a bigger plan or a totally unpredictable activity?

No, there’s no bigger plan behind it. It’s just my absentmindedness. And there’s nothing else to it.

What is your present strategy? How did you manage to get around the penalty? It is clearly visible that your website is keeping up in SERP based on bit.ly redirection.

Google SERP Results Webdesign.org

Our present strategy is to provide awesome content on our blog so that people naturally link back to us. As a matter of fact, we did get a penalty. For starters, our PR decreased from 6 to 3, and we drastically lost rankings for our keywords. It goes without saying that we also drastically lost traffic (up to 70%). Basically, it all happened after the Twitter issue. We got a manual penalty (Unnatural links from your site) shortly before our SEO metrics started deteriorating.

Do you think that in such a highly competitive space as the SEM industry, it’s possible to achieve great effects without going into a grey/black hat?

The grey and black hat methods work less and less. You don’t want to base your online business on those. Since some of them still work, online entrepreneurs are tempted to make use of them. In our particular case, it was not possible to immediately remove some long-term text links. Firstly, it would not be fair to our customers. Secondly, it would mean cutting employee salaries or firing people at our office. You can say that we were between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, it’s not good in terms of white hat SEO. On the other hand, you can’t drastically change your business model because it can jeopardize your business anyway.

Do you think that it would be possible for any company to beat a professional SEO?

The thing is, you need to make sure that your site is crawlable and visible to Google. Also, you need to conduct proper keyword research. That said, you still can do pretty well without a professional SEO when it comes to link building in the wild. Long story short, hiring an SEO professional is more important for on-page SEO than for off-page SEO.

Could you point out some trends, changes, or your predictions in the industry that, in your opinion, will matter within the next few months?

It looks like video content is taking the web by storm now. You need to ensure that your site creates video content as well. Other than that, you should use a responsive site so that it’s friendly for all kinds of users. It’s especially crucial if you can see your site stats showing a deluge of users that come to your site with the help of different devices.

What’s your favorite link-building tactic?

It’s best SEO practice just to create content that your blog readers want to share. If you have online authority, you may also want to do some guest posting, but that’s not that effective after Matt Cutts said that you can stick a fork into guest posting. 🙂

Could you tell us what, in your opinion, works and what does not?

Well, it depends. I think that you need to do a competitor research and analyze what works for them. You can take a close look at what kind of backlinks they have and use the data to put together your link-building plan. Sure thing, you should not use any methods that are known to be frowned upon by Google.

Any advice for people who are just starting to use SEO as their marketing channel?

First things first. You need to properly set up your site so that you have a crawlable website with all important content accessible to the major search engines. Having taken care of your on-page SEO, you can follow the suggestion that I pointed out above. Offering stuff that people want to share and link to on their own is the future of link-building.

Hope that you enjoyed the interview. If you have any thoughts or burning questions,  feel free to leave them in the comments section below!