The Less Links, the Better – How SEO Hacker Achieved PageRank 5

Less Links

So there’s that recent PageRank update that finally put me through the PageRank 5 barrier. There is no real ‘quantity’ as to when you are going to have that numerical increase in your PageRank score – but I’m pretty sure that my (approximately) 20,000 inbound links is not anywhere quantitatively enough to put me on PageRank 5. So how did it happen?

The PageRank System

Disclaimer: This is my idea of how Google’s PageRank system works. If you think it is inaccurate or if you know anything to add to my knowledge, please do leave your thoughts at the comments section below.

The PageRank score is a metric that Google gives each and every webpage. It measures the quantity and the quality of your inbound links – that’s all it measures. In order for a website’s PageRank score to increase, it has to exponentially increase its inbound links quantitatively or draw in qualitative links from high PageRank webpages.

Quantitatively this is my idea of how your PageRank score would increase:

  • PageRank 0 – 0 – 10 Links
  • Pagerank 1 – 10 – 100 Links
  • PageRank 2 – 100 – 1000 Links
  • PageRank 3 – 1000 – 10,000 Links
  • PageRank 4 – 10,000 – 100,000 Links
  • PageRank 5 – 100,000 – 1,000,000 Links

I’m currently nowhere near that 100,000 – 1,000,000 links. Good news is, PageRank score does not only deal with quantitative factors but qualitative ones as well. The thing is, I don’t know how they exactly go together to determine a webpage’s PageRank score.

What I do know is I DID NOT actively built links for SEO Hacker. So how did SEO Hacker get to PR 5?

To be honest, I have no real answer and it does also bother me. But here are some of my assumptions:

  1. I have a Content Strategy that I follow for my target audience and my tribe of followers – Create content for beginner to intermediate SEO and write it out all on simple terms.
  2. I got a lot of Word of Mouth links through Cornerstone Content – I don’t ask for links nor work hard to build them. I simply create content that gives value, answers and comfort, and my readers reward the value I give with their referrals.
  3. I practice smart Interlinking – Let people and the search engines which other content in your website is related to the one they’re reading right now. Perhaps they want further readings or sources.
  4. I practice smart Outbound linking – Don’t give out linkjuice if you don’t have to. Give to those who deserve it. Otherwise, keep some for yourself. A site with a lot of outbound links can look like it’s a link farm.Outbound links

Lesson learned?

I’ve always been a guy who looked at the value of great content rather than a great link profile and good rankings. Perhaps I want you to realize that a site that ranks really well can make good money online but can’t make good business in the long run. Someone with solid content is always bound to overtake you in terms of branding.

And mind you, branding is an ever-increasing factor in the Search engines nowadays.

So the key takeaway would be: don’t focus on building links. Build great content that dishes out value to your audience.

Remember the story of Jack and the Beanstalk?

Golden EggsI’m pretty sure you’ve heard of the tale. Jack went up the beanstalk and saw the Goose that laid the golden eggs. What did Jack do? Did he take the golden eggs to make himself rich?


He took the Goose.

Why? Well, the eggs will make you rich – once, twice or perhaps thrice. But after that, his riches will be drained out and he would have to look for magic seeds again to climb the beanstalk and face the giant once more – just to get more golden eggs.

I don’t want to climb the beanstalk again. I don’t want to face the giant again. So I went for the Goose.

You should too.

The Goose? Well, if you haven’t figured out yet, it’s Cornerstone Content. No you don’t steal it. But you’d have to make one yourself. Overlay it with solid content strategy and promote it with exceptional content marketing – that’s the formula for golden eggs to get laid. That’s the formula for attracting Word of mouth links.

I already outlined what SEO Hacker’s content strategy is. What our type of audience is.

Content PromotionWhat you need to do is to define those things for your website – then publish content that follows your content strategy. The thing about the ‘Content is King’ mindset is that they leave out the ‘Promotion Strategy is the Herald’ part of it. Once you’ve got great content, you have to have a great promotion strategy to go with it!

A Great Promotion Strategy Comprises of:

  • An extremely attractive headline overlaid with “Yes” Content – Grab attention with your title. Get people to agree with you. Trigger emotions. Read all about it here.
  • A clearly defined target audience – Who are the kinds of people your content is written for?
  • Platforms where your target audiences are – Where are they spending most of their online time? Facebook? Twitter? Google+? A forum perhaps?
  • Clearly defined list of your target audience’s influencers to help boost your promotion strategy – Who are the influencers in your niche? The thought leaders? The people with a good tribe of followers?
  • An effective strategy in reaching out to those influencers to help you promote – How are you going to tell them about your content? How will it help them? How will it help their followers?
  • Building solid relationships to those influencers so that they would keep on promoting your stuff even if you don’t ask them to anymore – Can you return the favor? Are you willing to promote each other’s content mutually?

The thing is, things are moving slowly but surely away from linkbuilding towards great, solid content that provides your target audience with value. These things are what I’ve been doing for the past 2 years since SEO Hacker started – and lo and behold, we’re now in PageRank 5! It’s a thing to celebrate and I wanted to share with you how I did it.

Forget the golden egg.

Go for the Goose.

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  • Congratulations on your 5 PageRank, Sean! You certainly do deliver quality content that fits your target audience very well. It was good to read this “case study” of how you did it.

    I especially appreciate your summary of the elements that comprise a great promotion strategy. Working through answers to each of the questions you raised in your summary would be a great end-of-year project to line up a great 2013!

    Thanks for the great information :)

    • Thanks Jim!
      Hope this post sparked a few ideas for you on your own site :)

  • Sitebee

    It would be amazing to see why I have a pagerank 8 on this page, it has no backlinks.

    Any Ideas?

    • That is interesting. Only 3 inbound links (internal) and no backlinks. The site looked different on November 14, 2012 though – it’s named ‘’ – perhaps there was a redirection that happened? I don’t really know. This is an isolated case.

  • Very informative article. But I like the most is the Social bar which comes down when I reach the end of the post.. How did you implement it.. BTW, can you look at my main domain and tell me any suggestions to increase Adsense revenue..I have 700+ unique visitors daily, but the revenue is only $1 per day.. Could you please help me improve it.?

  • Giorgi Aptsiauri

    Really informative article. Thanks!

  • The less links = the better, #Lessons learned. I visited your blog through and its quite nice. I’m now subscribed to you blog :)

  • Bud

    Good informative article, many thanks

  • Ron

    a very informative post. Thanks, it can help me on developing my newly build personal electronics blog :)

  • This post again reiterates one clear thing to me, content marketing is the way to go and if you want to rank high these days you have to really change the way your think about SEO. There will be a lot brain work involve in this strategy and those who are still stuck on the mindset of click and run auto link building without solid content, then their game is up. In this post, I have seen classic examples of how effective content should be written, one is story telling. Cool writing strategy I personally want to apply to our content as well :)

    Cool one Sean! Great stuff! Congrats on your PR 5!

    • Storytelling is still one of the best ways to make your branding stick to people. We remember stories. I didn’t learn this writing style overnight. The good news is, it can be harnessed through practice.
      Thanks Jordan!

  • No disrespect, I have to say….after the first 3 paragraphs I the hypothesis behind the pagerank algo was false…I went back and read it all just to confirm.
    Your a good writer but I can show you a site with less than 100 links and a PR5.
    I work on one right now, and it was quite easy.
    The site has so-so content.
    With that said…toolbar pagerank is different than your internal pagerank as well.

    Here a question. What’s the deal with some of the pages you see with a pagerank of -1 ?

    Thanks for the article, keep it up.

    • Hey Levise,
      I’d love to see that website and take a short analysis on the quality of its PageRank. Again, the way I described PageRank here is my personal opinion on how it works. If you can share with us your hypothesis on PR, toolbar and internal, it would be greatly appreciated. I also have not seen pages with a PR of -1 – you could also send me a link to check that page out :)

      • levise

        You know what…it must have been my add on acting funny. I can no longer find a site to show like that…but now know it was a glitch with my toolbar.

        With regards to internal and external pagerank…it seems your internal PR is much more fluid and can climb quickly if the right signals are sent. This explains sometimes a site with a PR0 or PR1 ranks very high for competitive keywords.

        The site I was mentioning with the PR5 had an old provider…they provided 2 links (they were pr5) in hidden text near the footer of the site. So even though we then had a PR5…we were definitely filtered by the algo. We since had the company get rid of the hidden link and are doing some things in the meantime to recover from the flagrant error on the other companies part.
        If you want I can pm you the site…just don’t share it please.

        Have a good one, off to read some more of your work.

  • I totally agree with you Sean because I even experienced a downfall for my website since last October, after I stop promoting content from my blog. Then suddenly my website’s ranking drop from 4-7 and then now rank 11 and sometimes it goes back to 10..

    • Hi Arlene,
      I think you might have mistaken PageRank with SERP rank. :)

      • victor willemse

        the best comment I have seen – ever!

  • Lensa Olahraga

    yups, backlinks is king of google pagerank, :)

  • there is one thing for sure that Pagerank is not decided by how many backlinks you have, it is all about the quality. with just a few backlinks from high quality sites you would be rewarded with higher pagerank, i know your site from which has a high PR. really appreciate your sharing and will keep an eye on your site.

  • Hi there Sean

    It is about the quantity but it’s more about the quality of the links. One PR5 link worth 1000 PR0 links.

    All the best,

  • Sante

    I love this place.

    I get something that applies to my sites and regular updates..

    I will be so much happy to visit time to time to get daily/weekly updates.

    SEO Hacker is the best place for education tips.

    I appreciate

    Love and Gratitude.


  • preeti

    hii, nice sharing. solved my lots of doubts..

  • Chad Buie

    This is very well written post.

    The most important thing an SEO can focus on now with a new campaign is to focus on a pyramid structure to their link creation. You have to balance your efforts! Meaning starting out with directory reach-out, forum account creation, blog commenting, guest post writing; eventually you need to step your game up and build content that will or can go viral. This will certainly look very natural especially after the first 90 days of a new SEO campaign! This is for both new and existing websites. You always have to grow new content and SEO is really about pages.

    Each time you build out new pages, you need to think the same structure and algorithm to produce the range of 1,000 to 10,000 links with natural or as Sean says, “Corner Stone” content. Content that will be linked to because it is useful to target audience members!

  • Wow! It is great news SEO-hackers for getting this PR. PR is really hard to earn. I got a website before which already ranked 4 but suddenly went to rank 1 now. I did not know how that happened but I submit, i did not do anything to raise the rank again. I realized i started poorly when it comes to content.

    Great contents really push you up to search ranks. Thanks for this tip Sean.

  • Nice post. I prefer quality links in comparison to quantity links. You have actually something powerful to contribute to the internet. Such a good blog. I will return to get more.

  • Great post. Content should always be the number one priority not only onsite, but offsite as well. As a guest blogger, providing bloggers, editors, and web designers with engaging evergreen content is key to getting a backlink. Bloggers are growing wise to spammy SEO practices which is making it harder for those of us who try to build links in the most natural ways possible, but we can still do so if we let the content speak for itself.

  • Nice job breaking down the fundamentals of good content creation and SEO, Sean. Too often, many people get caught up with backlinks that they forget the basics of good SEO. It all starts with good content and going from there. You need to give people a reason to come to your site and want to stick around, and then share what they’ve seen.

  • Thanks for the well detailed explanation Sean. I admit that PR 5 is not easy to achieve. That’s why congratulation to your site:) Today’s effective SEO professional knows that the products a link makes each of the difference, to the point where only 1 well thought out, thoroughly sourced, relevant link might be priced at a hundred links from irrelevant sources.

    • Hi Darrell,
      Yeah it’s quite difficult, not to mention unpredictable, to achieve. Hope you become more successful at getting a higher PR than I am.

  • Hey Sean,

    Really good post.. It does make you consider other good SEO methods. I do agree 100% that content marketing is among the best SEO strategy at this time. Content is the fullness of SEO. It’s time to use content marketing for better results. I appreciate your ideas.

  • xany

    I am one who frustrated on how to rank n Google but i did all my best and not surrender. thanks for this article Sean. i also remember the time you discuss about SEO in PICC last 2011.. thanks again and GOD bless..

  • shubhangi srivastava

    hi sean ,

    wow very good post. First of all i want to congratulate for PR5. I am searching several sites for learning SEO and now i think i found the best one. The best thing i found here is that you have mixed the SEO with great content means both are equally important.

  • Excellent post which contains very useful information. If you seriously wants to get your website in Google. Then you should think about delivering quality content and some good link building with high Pr website which have also a good and Alexa traffic rank.

    Thanks for sharing such an excellent article.