Ok wait, but what are these “ghost pages” I mentioned in the title? Ok, so let’s first define what I mean by “Ghost pages”. A ghost page is basically a page that is not directly related to the navigation of your site (you don’t list it on your menu navigation, and it technically doesn’t have a parent page), but a user can still reach it by searching for that term on a search engine, and arrive to that page.
An example of this is let’s say that I am selling “Incan head masks”, and I realize through using the Google AdWords Keyword Planner tool, that there is a more frequently searched term (let’s say “Inca masks”) that I want to rank for my business. Well, I could change my main pages, so that they match the term, or I could leave my site the way it is (since I may want to still rank for the main terms I already have on my website), but also create a “ghost page” that targets the more frequently searched for word.
In that case, I could have a page on my site that a user will only find when they do a Google search. For example, mysite.com/inca-masks, and put the term “Inca masks” in all the 6 places I mentioned above.
This is a perfectly legal “white hat” SEO technique to use, but you should be mindful of the following:
- The “ghost page”, should still be a page that a user find benefits in. It should be user-friendly and have an end goal (for example, take them to a place where they can buy a product/contact you).
- If you just duplicate a page and change a couple of words, it could be marked as duplicate content by Google, which might be penalized. To avoid this, make sure any pages you create have unique and valuable content for the user.
- Avoid “keyword stuffing”. Don’t have the word that you want to rank for too often if it’s not relevant and doesn’t make sense.
If you are mindful of those caveats, I found that this technique can help you rank for many words that are relevant to your site!
Do Ghost Links Affect SEO?
You’ve got a great website you feel has a lot to offer, but none of that matters if you’re not getting the traffic you want. It is essential to invest in backlink SEO. If your website has lots of quality links then it is considered by Google’s algorithm to be worthy of a decent position in their ranking system. But sometimes bad things happen to good links and they die but still affect your SEO? In this article, we will find out.
What Are Ghost Links?
For a litany of reasons, links are often deleted. These reasons may be connected to updates on websites or it may be closed with the previously existed backlink. These dead links are called ghost links, also known as link echoes. The term echo is used because the links’ effects continue to echo even after they are deleted.
For a long time, experts assumed that a ghost link became a non-factor in SEO, and Google’s ranking algorithm. It turns out that a ghost link, while gone, is not necessarily forgotten. These ghost links continue, long after dying, to be counted and factored into Google’s algorithm. That is to say, a website’s ranking will suffer little to no effect from a ghost link. It seems that Google continues to assign value to links even after they are ghosts.
The team at Moz conducted an experiment, in which they took two websites and recorded their rankings (Website A was ranked #31 and Website B was ranked #11). They then added 22 links to each site. Predictably, both websites shot up in the rankings, Website A moved all the way up to #1, while Website B moved up to #5. Then the links were removed and very little changed. Website A stayed in its position and Website B moved down, but only one ranking. The team repeated this kind of experiment eight times to make sure they were getting accurate results.
From our end, to prove the theory, the tests were done on two writing service providers of highly competitive niche and the results were shockingly the same. The other question is that it is probably a temporary effect and that after some time Google notices the links are ghosts and adjusts its ranking of them. Wrong. The websites held their ranking for months after (at least four and a half).
The Value of Ghost Links
Nobody is totally sure why ghost links function the way they do in search results, but there are some interesting theories out there. Google may be allowing pages, despite their ghost links, to retain their ranking if they seem to be useful to people; and not experiencing a lot of people clicking on them, then immediately clicking back to the search results page.
Rand Fishkin, responsible for the study conducted by Moz, theorizes that Google considers ghost links to have intrinsic value. Meaning that although they no longer lead anywhere, the fact that they were there in the first place signals your page has value.
Despite their mysteriousness, ghost links are a useful tool and your website’s SEO can benefit from using them. While we’re on the subject of links, it is also worth to offer a backlink to other sites as well but make sure to use CiteItIn to backlink to any resource correctly. This will also help you to keep backlinks as long as possible on other websites.
Ghost Links and SEO
So what does this mean for you and your website? Well, a lot. Your website lives and dies by its status on a search engine result page (SERP). The lower you are on the results page, the fewer clicks you’re going to get. There’s also a massive drop off from the first result page to the second, in terms of clicks; so one ranking position can mean a lot. Those clicks translate into you getting new followers, recommends, and people paying for your product or service.
“Your SERP can mean the difference between your business succeeding and failing, so do whatever you can to improve it. The common best practice has been to aim for links that will last for a long time. But since we’re now learning that a ghost link can benefit you just as much, don’t be afraid to use temporary links,” recommends Julia Phillips, SEO expert at PaperFellows. Also, a lot of SEO “experts” will tell you to focus on long term-links, but anyone who gives you this piece of advice is living in the past and is probably not worth your time.
We don’t know exactly how long a ghost link will positively impact your site’s position. It’s probably best to think of them as a temporary boost. But they can be a very useful boost since the improvement they give you in SERP can easily lead to organic linking. Someone who views your page, while boosted by ghost links, may link it to their site or blog and give you some more permanent links. Since we don’t really understand either ghost links or Google’s ranking algorithm, it’s best to treat a beneficial ghost link as a bonus.
Really focus on improving your link profile organically, since for all you know, Google could calibrate its algorithm tomorrow and your ghost link heavy website could plummet. It’s better to go about as if this event was going to happen so that if and when it does, you take a much less drastic plunge in ranking because you’ve improved the intrinsic value of your site and its links.
Of course, it is essential to prevent deletion of your backlinks and becoming link ghosts. That’s why, when you’re writing new content to improve your site rankings with backlinks, use State of Writing and Via Writing to be sure content doesn’t get deleted because of mistakes. Also check out Grammarix, a good resource for when you need help with grammar issues.
Google’s ranking system remains mysterious, but every now and then we learn something very useful and interesting about how it works. The surprising effects of ghost links is an especially beneficial example of this. Since your website lives and dies based on its SERP, you need to use every tool in your SEO maximization kit available.
It’s hard to say how long your ghost links will remain a factor in increasing your ranking, but do take advantage of them; worry less about using temporary links, links you consider likely to become ghosts. Of course, the most important thing you can do is improve your content and try and attract organic linking, because there’s no saying how long your ghost links will help you out.