The first guide to Canonicalized link building
I know it’s a long time I don’t update my blog, so for those not knowing me (almost anyone, then) I’m adding a bit of context to this post.
I usually try to come out with alternative techniques when dealing with link building, and in the past I covered a few of them, including:
They basically are variations of Broken Link Building; I guess you know what I’m talking about, but if you don’t read this.
Today, I’m creating a bridge between technical SEO and link building: two disciplines that have little in common, apparently, but that in reality can work very well when paired, like I’m going to show now.
So, this is my point.
Disclaimer: greyhat SEO at the horizon.
Let’s say you work in a competitive and spammy niche like gambling. You excel at content marketing but you struggle in placing your infographic because no one wants to link to a poker website.
But you are in this industry since a bit of time and you remember that great idea by Peter van der Graaf with JonBukkake and 301 cloaked redirects… and you realize that you can do it even more easily, nowadays.
So you create from scratch a mommy blog and pretend to be a new mum trying to get her little attention with your humble but very useful infographic 10 crazy signs that reveal if yourchild will become an addict to gambling.
And you ask other mums to help spreading the post, embed the infografic and link back to your little mommy blog, because it’s important and helpful and every mother should know if her son will get likely get in trouble…
And they do it.
And now, you upload the same content on your (gambling) site and make the magic happen.
On your mommy blog you set your shining rel=canonical and you know what happens…
As Google says, rel=canonical helps:
Consolidating link signals for the duplicate or similar content. It helps search engines to be able to consolidate the information they have for the individual URLs (such as links to them) on a single, preferred URL. This means that links from other sites to
http://example.com/dresses/cocktail?gclid=ABCDget consolidated with links to
and also, it can be cross-domain:
In a situation like this, you can use the rel=”canonical” link element across domains to specify the exact URL of whichever domain is preferred for indexing. While the rel=”canonical” link element is seen as a hint and not an absolute directive, we do try to follow it where possible.
And voilà, you’ve all the links going to the wanted site without anyone noticing it: while a redirect can be discovered and you have your links removed, a canonicalization is nearly impossible to detect.
If you really want to go for the Evil implementation, set canonical via the HTTP headers with this syntax:
Link: <http://www.mygamblingsite.com/dupe-child-infografic.html>; rel=”canonical”
On Apache, if you are using WordPress for your mommy blog, it can be easily done hacking .htaccess file
<Files original-child-infographic.html> Header add Link '<http://www.mygamblingsite.com/dupe-child-infografic.html>; rel="canonical"' </Files>
In this way, also looking at the HTML code, the canonical is invisible and only a real curious and technical skilled person will ever find it.
Now, if you are thinking that this is cheating and it’s against Google TOS, yes it really is.
Is it going to be abused? I think not: it still requires being good at content marketing and outreach and a lot of effort to get those links.
Anyway, I’m not suggesting anyone to use this technique, but just showing that for (either blackhat or whitehat) link builders, knowing a bit of technical SEO adds additional aces in the hole.
In conclusion, use it at your own risk.