Link Wheel Explained or Why You Should Avoid it, Especially Now With Penguin Update

I remember that when I started dabbling with SEO in 2006 the concept of link wheel was one of the best methods used to get solid rankings. In fact, for a short while link wheel was probably the best way to get rankings boost and was the preferred way of link building for many SEOs and webmasters. Of course we know that certain link building techniques had their golden moments and then disappeared. Currently, content marketing rules as the best way to get quality links that will reflect on your rankings, and that is for a reason, but let’s get back to link wheel, what it is, what it was and why you should stay away from it, especially now with Penguin update running loose.

Link Wheel is way older than my SEO years, it probably started way back in 2001 or 2002 after Google gained popularity. It is a simple concept that still works to some extent and is based on link power, or how much a link is able to pass juice or authority or call it whatever you like. The image below is the most basic concept of link wheel, one of the first.

basic link wheel

The idea behind this concept is to a) get all the pages indexed fast, b) get link juice flowing from each of the pages to the others passing page rank and targeting the money page with more power.You have the “money page” which is on your website, and you have several properties on other websites, this could be videos, photos, journals, or as the image above suggests, Web 2.0 sites that link to each other in a circle while each giving a link to the money page.

The concept we still use today from link wheel is backing up existing links. If you have a link from the guest post you created, you build a few more links to the guest post, like shown below. That makes the link to the “money page” even stronger.

link backup

Anyway, the link wheel concept grew stronger and was used to the extreme, so new patterns emerged to get more benefits and at some point to avoid Google finding out your link schemes. The next one in evolution was open link wheel, while the first example above is a classic example of a closed link wheel. Open link wheel didn’t inner link each of the web 2.0 properties but created a break between one or more pages linking to the money page.

open link wheel

This is an example of an open link wheel from back in the day.

Well, various patterns emerged later, like the following:

link wheel pattern

Or even this one:

complex link wheel pattern


They became more complex, including all possible sources for links, but they soon fell apart. Even the random link wheel left breadcrumbs for the Google Spam team to pick up on. I won’t give an example of a random link wheel as you can probably imagine it already.

The most important thing to remember is that your backlink profile can become really strong with careful approach using link wheel concept, but now with Penguin update scavenging for link schemes this is probably the worst idea you can have. Which is why I am writing about this outdated idea, people still use it in all forms, and they are feeling the wrath of the black and white updates.

The best thing you can do is dedicate your time to writing quality posts to feature on high quality websites. That will get you the support links, social mentions and bunch of direct referrals, not to mention new guest opps. In fact, one outstanding guest post featured on a highly authoritative blog can get you dozens of quality guest post opportunities that will get links and a whole lot of traffic and mentions with them, so forget about link schemes, blog networks and link wheels and concentrate on high quality firepower.

About The Author

is the founder and CEO of Practical SEO and also a passionate blogger. All of his free time he dedicates to his Practical SEO blog and giving free advice as well as participating in the blogging community.

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7 Response to Link Wheel Explained or Why You Should Avoid it, Especially Now With Penguin Update

  1. Jim Spartan on May 7, 2012

    Total agreement to shifting link scheme resources to better content. Excellent examples of Link Wheels from early to the present.

    Would love to see your interpretation of a natural link profile that was achieved by great content using the same type of diagrams. Sort of juxtaposing what no longer works to graphically showing the organic link profile result from quality content.

    Enjoying your info and glad I subscribed.

  2. Glidemiddel on May 9, 2012

    I hope they would have an automated process when linking from all the different sites in the “wheel”. Or else it would be a hell of a lot of work.

    Maybe a link wheel still can function (for a while). Too bad tough if your ranking in Google is based on a link wheel that gets caught = from hero to zero in no time…

  3. Scott Allen on May 11, 2012

    Disagree. As is so often the case in SEO, the devil is in the details. My link wheels survived Penguin perfectly well — in fact, one we just finished got the site to page one for its top two keywords within two weeks.

    The keys to making link wheels work are things most people don’t do:
    1) high-quality, unique content – hand-spun is OK, but at least 80% unique,
    2) some kind of mechanism for keeping a significant portion of the sites “fresh”,
    3) integrated social cues
    4) well, I have to keep something up my sleeve :-)

    Of course, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be guest-blogging TOO.

  4. Zarko Zivkovic on May 12, 2012

    Hi Scott, thanks for dropping by :)

    Well, we can agree to disagree on this one.

    1. high quality unique content and spun content can never be placed in the same sentance, so that’s one down!
    2. mechanism?
    3, this is good
    4. I just named a few most used types of link wheels and I said there are hundreds of variations out there, so it just boils down to which one you used, some high level one or one of the mentioned above, which are easily spotted by big G.

    Also, what kind of competition does the keyword have if you were able to get it into page one in two weeks? I’ve investigate thousands of backlink profiles and websites and if its a serious niche with websites moving forward that is impossible! unless of course it happens to be the blessing of Panda and Penguin that some other sites were pushed down and your took the benefit.

    bottom line, link schmes, content spinning and mechanisms and what not may work for smaller niches off of Google’s radar (not forever) but there is no chance they will work in high competative markets like shopping, law, real estate and the like…

  5. Penna @ Project Crashing on May 18, 2012

    Zarko, I had a question does internal linking also come into this Link Wheel?? and does excessive internal linking can lead to one getting penalized by Google through penguin or future updates ??

  6. Zarko Zivkovic on May 18, 2012

    @Penna, well link wheel with internal links is kind a hard to imagine, but, exessive inner linking can definitelly cause harm. If there are obvious patterns like too many mass anchor text optimized links pointing to one and the same page from different topics it will certainly raise a flag. So yes, abusing inner linking can defeintelly do harm to your site, in one of the recent posts I also advised against using (abusing) WP plugins for automatic inner linking.

  7. Penna on May 22, 2012

    Thanks Zarko, will keep that in mind…

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