The Most Important Factors for Ranking in Google

By Spencer Haws |

I have recently been sharing the success of my public niche site project.  I’ve been able to start from idea inception to ranking #1 in Google in just a couple of short months.

That site,, continues to rank #1 at the time of this writing for the keyword, “best survival knife”.

I’ve written several in depth posts here, about how I was able to rank the site, what I’ve done, and more. However, I still feel like I can’t emphasize enough the importance of effectively analyzing your competition before you ever try to rank for anything.

Choosing WHAT to rank for is much more important than what you DO to rank.  In other words, in my opinion, more than half the battle is won by picking a low competition keyword.

Unfortunately, this is the most common mistake that people make – choosing the wrong keyword.

So, today I want to dig a bit deeper on why websites rank and what are the MOST important factors for ranking a website in Google.  By understanding these factors in more depth, you will be able to look at the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), and more effectively determine if you can outrank them.

Ranking Factors to Consider

I have covered how to analyze the top 10 pages in Google previously here and here.  In addition, SEOmoz has put out a Search Engine Ranking Factors report that covers all of the metrics that are important for ranking in Google.  I will be drawing upon that report as well as my own experience to explain what works for ranking in Google.

Overall, I am going to look at 7 different factors and discuss how important each of them are.  Those factors are: Content/Keyword Relevancy, Page Links, Page Authority, PageRank, Type of Sites, Dwell Time and Bounce Rates, and Social Signals.

As I discuss these individually, I am going to order them from most important to least important.

Content and Keyword Relevancy – Most Important!

Think about how search engines work.  You type in a search query, and you expect Google to return what?  The result with the highest PageRank?  Absolutely not!  You are looking for the most RELEVANT result that meets your search query.  So, if you are searching for, “funny cat videos” you don’t want the website to pop up just because it’s more authoritative, you want a website with funny cat videos, and you want it NOW!  Luckily Google understands this, they rank RELEVANCY above authority.

So, the lesson here is that even if you see some very authoritative sites ranking in the top 10 of Google, it still may be possible to outrank them IF you are able to target the keyword better than they are. The primary ways to target a keyword on your site is using the keyword in the domain, using the keyword in the title of your page, and using the keywords in the content of your article.

A perfect example of this was from my niche site targeting the keyword, “best survival knife”.  When I looked at the top 10 results in Google, a few of the results where using the phrase, “Survival Knife” in their Page Titles, but NOT “best survival knife”.


I saw this as a huge opportunity for me to go in and target the search query better than these websites were.  So, what did I do?  I made the title of my page to include, “Best Survival Knife” and immediately my page was a 100% match on the relevancy score for the searchers query.

So, even though many of the other sites have a better PageAuthority or PageRank, I was able to quickly outrank them – in part because my site is more relevant.

Page Authority – Very Important

Page Authority is a metric provided by SEOmoz.  So, what is Page Authority and how is it calculated?  According to SEOmoz,

“Page Authority predicts the likelihood of a single page to rank well, regardless of its content. The higher the Page Authority, the greater the potential for that individual page to rank well in search results.”

In other words, its a metric calculated by SEOmoz to predict the overall authority of a page and how well it should rank in Google based on several factors.  And notice they say, “regardless of content” – this just underscores the importance of keyword relevancy – you need authority + relevancy to actually rank.  Page Authority ranges in score from 1 to 100, with 100 being the most authoritative.  Here’s how Page Authority is calculated:

Page Authority is SEOmoz’s calculated metric for how well a given webpage is likely to rank in’s search results. It is based off of the Linkscape web index and includes link counts, mozRank, mozTrust, and dozens more. It uses a machine learning model to predicatively find an algorithm that best correlates with rankings across thousands of search results that we predict against.

So, its a complicated formula, and SEOmoz doesn’t reveal everything that is involved; however, Page Authority takes into account amount of links, mozRank, MozTrust, and much more.  Reading their description, its clear that overall link profile comes into play, including how authority sites are that are linking to the page, and more.

So, much more than raw link counts are used to calculate Page Authority, its actually looks at where the links are coming from and the strength of those links.

Page Authority includes, “dozens more” factors; which likely includes Social signals, and more.

In addition, this calculation is CONSTANTLY updated to reflect the most important factors for ranking in Google today.  (This is not true for tool bar PageRank for example, which is caculated the same way it was 10 years ago…which is why its not as important).  In other words, we have one of the top SEO companies looking at all the factors that exist to rank a page in Google and they are constantly tweaking, calculating, and making it the BEST indicator of how competitive a site is on

What is also important to understand about Page Authority, is that its on a logarithmic scale; meaning the difference between a 25 to 30 is less than the difference between a 30 to 35.

Here’s how SEOmoz puts it,

“We score Page Authority on a 100-point, logarithmic scale. Thus, it’s easier to grow your score from 20 to 30 than it would be to grow from 70 to 80. We constantly update the algorithm used to calculate Page Authority, so you may see your score fluctuate from time to time.”

How to Use Page Authority

Now that you know what Page Authority is, how do you use it when analyzing sites?  I like to combine Page Authority with keyword relevancy to really start to get a feel for how easy or difficult the top 10 sites in Google are.  Lets take a look at an example.  Here’s a screenshot of all the sites ranking for “best survival knife” in Google.  (The screenshot is provided by Long Tail Platinum – my keyword research tool).

Click to Enlarge

I personally like to see results pages that have a Page Authority of 30 or less.  If I can find at least 2 websites in the top 10 that have a Page Authority of 30 or less, this is a good sign.  You will notice in this image that several of the pages are VERY authoritative…anything above a mid-40 is a really solid site.

However, you will also notice that Results #2, 5, 6, 7, and 10 DON’T even include the exact keyword, “best survival knife” in the title of their page.  The keywords are bolded for your convenience in the software.  This means the results that are NOT targeting the exact keyword would be seen as less competitive, even though they might have a high Page Authority.  So, you need to look at all factors in combination with one another.

So, even though my niche site (and others here) have a lower page authority, they can rank above other results because we are targeting the keyword phrase better.  Then other factors come into play as well such as dwell time, keywords in the domain, and more which are discussed below.

I will also just quickly mention that the “Average Keyword Competitiveness” calculation that you see above is a formula used by Long Tail Platinum to combine both Page Authority AND relevancy factors (keywords in title, domains, etc) for one overall score for how difficult it would be to beat the results on page one of Google.

You will see that the #1 result (my site) has an individual KC (Keyword Competitiveness) of 59, which is the highest of all the results.  This means I’m doing a very good job of controlling the on-page and off-page factors that I can control.

Dwell Time

I recently wrote a post discussing the importance of time on site.  More correctly, the “dwell time” is likely much more important to search engines like Google now than it used to be.  Essentially dwell time is the amount of time from when a user clicks on one Google result to when that same user comes back to Google to look at other results.

If users are clicking on your site and then quickly clicking back to Google to look at other results, this is a signal to Google that your site is not providing what the user is looking for.

This is a signal of quality content.  If you have an excellent website that truly provides what the user is looking for, then Google will reward you with high rankings.  This is based on dwell time.

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And to clarify, Google can calculate this time without using your Google Analytics data.  That is totally different data (including Bounce Rate, etc).  Google knows when a user comes back to their search engine because its their website.

So, technically it may not matter how much time users spend on YOUR site, just that they don’t go back to Google right away.  So, even if a user comes to you site and clicks a link to go away from your site just a few seconds later; you may have a HUGE dwell time if that user never goes back to Google for the same query.

This quality signal shows Google that you are helping the searcher out with their query.  So, quality content is very important…and is likely only to get even more important in the future because of this dwell time or other similar calculations that Google is likely using.

Page Links

When Google was first created, links were the way that all websites were organized and ranked on the internet.  However, as you can see, there are many other factors that come into play now as Google continues to evolve and become more advanced.

However, the amount and quality of links are still one the most very important factors for ranking a site in Google.  I listed it lower than page authority because page authority already takes into account not only the amount of links but also the quality of those links.

However, when analyzing the page one results in Google, I still like to look at the Page Links, and more importantly the “Juice Page Links”.  This metric tells you how many links are pointing to the page that are actually passing some sort of authority…or “juice” as SEOmoz calls it.  This is primarily “Do Follow” vs “No Follow” links; but again its calculated by SEOmoz so they likely also take into account overall quality factors of the link as well (authority of page where link is coming from, etc).

I like to see a couple of results in Google that have less than 30 juice page links.  And I get excited when 5 or 6 of the results have less than 10 Juice page links. (This was the case for my survival knife site).

Click to Enlarge

In addition, some believe Google is doing more and more to move away from anchor text and towards link page relevancy.  In other words, having a link from a survival site is much more important than having a link from a cat videos site; even if the cat videos site is a high PageRank and using my keyword anchor text.

So, link relevancy is important.

Don’t get me wrong, I DO still think that anchor text is important, but Google is likely moving away from anchor text.  In a few years from now, anchor text may have become obsolete. (And if anyone has any evidence, I could be convinced that it already doesn’t matter).

Type of Sites

When analyzing the search engine results, there are certain types of sites that are just generally weaker in nature.  A few types of sites that I like to see (because they are often easy to outrank) are:

There are likely many other types of sites, but in general if I see one of these types of sites ranking in Google, it tells me the keyword is likely easy to rank for.  You still will want to look at other factors, but this is a very good sign.

When I was first analyzing the competition for my survival knife site, a Forum was ranking as well as a Squidoo page.  This got me excited…and as you can see, I quickly outranked them.

Social Signals

I put social signals a bit lower on the “importance” scale because almost none of my niche sites have any type of social media presence, and yet many of them rank #1 in Google.   So, other factors like keyword relevancy and links and more important than social signals.

However, for certain queries (such as recent events/news items), its likely that Google is paying more attention to social media stats; such as Facebook shares, Tweets, Pinterest, and more.  According to certain experts, the authority of those Tweeting or Liking a page is important in addition to the quantity of likes or tweets, etc.

Ideally you will have social signals, but many of my niche sites don’t, and they do just fine.  In addition, its likely that these social signals are already implemented as part of the SEOmoz Page Authority number…so you are covered when analyzing the competition for this.

PageRank – Is it Still Important?

PageRank is a Google algorithmn named after Larry Page and created in 1996.  So, if it was named after Sergey Brin, it would be called BrinRank.

Let me emphasize again that PageRank was created in 1996.  PageRank is still PageRank – but Google uses WAY more than this determine what sites to rank.  So, was PageRank important in 1996 and 2000…absolutely!  Is it important now?  Let’s see what others say about it:

Neil Patel of said (and this quote is from 2011, so its even less important now):

So while it’s true that PageRank played a huge role in Google’s ranking algorithm in the past, its role today clearly isn’t as important in terms of rankings, due in large part to the fact that plenty of other ranking factors have been introduced since the launch of PageRank. As more ranking factors are introduced, their relative weight must get smaller, as each represents a smaller percentage of a site’s total score.

Neal goes on to explain in that post that working on increasing his PageRank did not result in better rankings in Google.

Aaron Wall of said:

Yes, PageRank is important to driving indexing, but for rankings it is nowhere near as important as it once was in terms of delivering top rankings….

So, Aaron says PageRank still determines how quickly a site will get crawled and indexed, but not very important as a ranking factor.

But when determining which site ranks better than the next, link diversity is typically far more important than raw PageRank.

On (from Feb. 2013):

The problem with PageRank was that you could game it.

This article emphasizes AuthorRank (quality of an author) over PageRank.  And in fact it is easy to game PageRank.  If I own a PR 5 domain – “site a”, and link to say “site B”.  Site B will automatically become a PR of 3.  The PR of site B will always be a PR of 2 less than “site a”.

So, if “site b” only has 1 total link, but its coming from “site a” that has a PageRank of 8; then “Site B” will be a PageRank of 6.  That’s just how it works.  So, yes, its easy to game, especially if you know how to find high PageRank expired domains.

And no quote from this one, but also wrote an article called, “Why PageRank Doesn’t Matter“; the title says enough.  In a future article I will dig into whether getting links from high PageRank sites really matters.

Other Ranking Factors

Google is known to use hundreds of factors for ranking websites, so there is no way that I could cover them all.  However, what I’ve covered here is what I feel are the most important factors to look at when trying to rank a site in Google.

So, when you are analyzing the top 10 results in Google for a particular keyword, you should focus first on keyword relevancy (in title and domains), Page Authority, Juice Page Links, and the Types of sites ranking.  If you can find weakness in these few factors, you are likely well on your way to finding a low competition keyword.

Your Thoughts

As always, I am VERY interested in hearing your thoughts.  I’ve laid out pretty well what I think in regards to the most important metrics for ranking in Google.  However, if you feel like I have missed something or would like further clarification, please leave a comment!

I look forward to the discussion…

Niche Business Ideas | 149 comments

By Spencer Haws

Spencer Haws is the founder of After getting a degree in Business Finance from BYU (2002) and an MBA from ASU (2007) he worked for 8 years in Business Banking and Finance at both Merril Lynch and Wells Fargo Bank.

While consulting with other small business owners as a business banker, Spencer finally had the desire to start his own business. He successfully built a portfolio of niche sites using SEO and online marketing that allowed him to quit his job in 2011. Since then he's been involved in dozens of online business ventures including: creating and exiting Long Tail Pro, running an Amazon FBA business for over 3 years and selling that business, founding, and co-founding You can learn more about Spencer here.

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Thanks for the great information. I found your site from the interview on Pat Flynn’s Passive Income blog. Great interview and great site! Thanks

Spencer Haws

Thanks for stopping by Tommy!


I second this Spencer.

A ton of solid information here.

I will have to take a look at my keyword selection to see if I made a mistake based on this information.

Also, the interview with Pat was pretty epic. I can’t believe how much information you crammed into that show.

When it your next podcast coming out Spencer?

Spencer Haws

Not sure…still waiting for inspiration to strike 🙂


Perhaps the niche site duel with Pat would be interesting to hear.

Spencer vs Pat lol. Could be an interesting read or listen.

Bradley (Domain Spoon)

Awesome guide for those out there wanting to follow along or duplicate your site’s success. I am loving the competition checker for LTP Platinum (which I upgraded to last month). It saves me a ton of time when picking out keywords.

BTW, I agree that social signals may not play a huge role in ranking at the moment, but there is evidence that Google is trying to change that with Google+. I read a good case study on using Google+ to rank sites, but I don’t have the URL handy at the moment. I will come back and add the link when I find it.

Spencer Haws

Thanks Brad…social signals certainly can help, but still isn’t widespread in most markets yet. We’ll see if that ever happens.

Bradley (Domain Spoon)

I used to say that it would be ridiculous (or just a waste of time) to start a FB page or other social media page for a review site, but then I listened to Pat Flynn’s interview with Brendan Hufford about his BJJ Gi Reviews site.

Last time I checked, Brendan’s FB page has almost 5000 likes. So I guess even if social doesn’t help a lot with ranking, it could help someone take a review site to the next level (if one were passionate enough about the topic).

Spencer Haws

Oh absolutely! I agree – but its just a different business model then I currently run – I can’t maintain dozens of facebook pages for all my niche sites. However, for perhaps my top 1 or 2 this would be a great source of traffic potentially.


Spencer, awesome post.

What are your thoughts about using expired domains? I know that Pat Flynn kinda touched on this in prelude to NSD 2.0.

Spencer Haws

If used properly, it can help. I’ve shared a ton about expired domains here on my blog; including a couple of podcasts I’ve done. Here’s one of those posts/podcasts:

Claudio Barbieri

Hi the link for the videos is dead, he compiled all the tutorials here:

Darnell Jackson

This is excellent Spencer very soon I will be starting a case study extending your advise published here.

It will be a good opportunity to verify the benefits of this technique.

I have ranked a site using my own techniques but I think this makes much more sense.

My site is ranked #1 for the primary keyword but it doesn’t get much traffic from this ranking as a matter of fact it only gets about 1% of what the Google keyword tool estimated.

I need a new strategy to rank for more keywords and this is the best I’ve found.

I’ll let you know how it goes, thanks for sharing your results.

Spencer Haws

Hey Darnell – are you sure you are checking the EXACT match search volume for the keyword. Because if you are checking the “broad” match then you probably are only getting 1% of that number. Always look at the exact match. Overall, hope this helps out!


Hey, nice round up of the key factors. I agree that relevant content and relevant links are king right now.

“Evidence” you’re looking for that anchor links might not matter:

Spencer Haws

Thanks for sharing Oytun!

Tung Tran

I absolutely agree with you that relevance is the most important factor and relevancy beats authority.


Another epic post, great work!

I’ve started to use expired domains more and more and then do make a big difference if KW research has been done properly. Typically, I’ll 301 a couple off the bat just to get some links immediately. I’ve built a few sites on expired domains and have had ok success doing that as well.

Spencer Haws

Interesting strategies…thanks for sharing! Definitely more in-depth than many people are able to do; and I may dig into some of these strategies down the road.


Thanks Spencer – but how does Google assess page relevancy?

If I had a survival knife site I may link to site aimed at “Best gifts for you Dad on Father’s day”. Nothing to do with survival knives but the link is still highly relevant IMO. Google would then probably discount the link because it’s not “relevant”?

Spencer Haws

Google has a lot of smart people to figure things out like that. In your example though it seems pretty simply. If your site is about survival knives and you link to a site selling survival knives (even if its called Best gifts for Dad…) – seems like an easy relevancy link. But yes, there are other situations that are more complicated, and so I don’t have an answer for every situation, other than to say lots of engineers at Google are probably working on it.

Eve - Livret de messe

Great summary of the key factors to rank in google ! I need to implement your SEO strategies, Spencer ! I guess the google algorythm works the same way in France for french speaking pages.

Spencer Haws

Yes, it would be the same for France or other countries.

Krzysiek (Ziarna Kawy)


Great post!! I am very interested in this fragment about the dwell time. Now the dwell time on my site is about 1:50, but of course I would like to extend it as much as possible…

Therefore, I have a question – in your opinion, which are the best ways to extend it?

Best regards, Krzysiek

Spencer Haws

Okay, the Dwell time is different from the “time on site” that you see in Google analytics. Dwell time is the time between when a user searches on Google and comes back to Google – you won’t know the dwell time, only Google will. However, it would be correlated to time on site that you see in Google Analytics. So, to increase that time on site metric, you can add multimedia, videos, or increase the quality and depth of the content you have provided.

Krzysiek (Ziarna Kawy)

Thank you for the explanation – so it goes as someone does not read with understanding – my fault 🙂

Best regards, Krzysiek


One method you can use to keep visitors on your site is to add links to related posts at the end of every post you have.

There are plenty of WordPress plugins that will allow you to do that but I would recommend you use Outbrain. It is free to use and it will also provide you with stats on number of clicks and CTR and they have their own way of optimizing things and it actually works really well (CTR improved each day for the first month or so after adding it to the site).


nice artcle. tks for sharing

Loc Nguyen

Great post Spencer. This is the second time i came to your site through email newsletter.
I just have one concern. If i have a site about email marketing and i got a link from articles site’ category such as Marketing or Email Marketing, does Google see it as relevant


Spencer ,

Thanks for another reveal post with full of information. Its seems to me a total website research case study, whatever SEO competition cheeking is still complected issue for each niche research , and i am fully agree with you that one of the most important issue is relevancy of keyword and content of ranking sites.
I am still struggling for checking SEO competition and find out some standard criteria for my niche site how to choose less competitive niche .


John Shea

Great article, I am looking to start my first niche site and your content has really helped me out.

Adrian Abrate

You should join our niche site challenge. I was able to build out my first Amazon niche site in under seven days with 15 great articles. All following Spencer’s methods.


Hey Spencer,

Another Classic post from master.

Keyword research after careful competition analysis is the first and most important block for niche sites I feel.

Still, Google has some loopholes.

I followed Alex Becker of Sourse-wave for testing purpose.

1. Keyword with 8100 Global and 4800 local exact monthly searches, CPC of $1.91. KC of 18 in LTP.

2. Exact match domain. And just one page SEO with Yoast plugin. No content. Only image, title, description, and 2 lines.

3. Basic backlinks like web 2.0, social bookmarks, PDF and one Youtube.

Ranked on 2nd page in 2 days. Growing since.

In short, if you can find lowest competition, you can still rank without content.

Obviously, you need great content then to engage visitors.

You content strategy also rocks SPencer.

Heading straight to SPI for your Podcast with Pat. Thrilled.

Priyank, Your Indian fan and Follower,


Stellar post. Thank you. I’ve been using PR to analyze competition. Will definitely pay more attention now to SEOMoz page authority.


Hi Spencer,
I’m interested in your Long Tail Pro. Would you consider a promotion sale with discount for coming Father’s day ?



How do you feel about the recently passed bill by the senate that is going to start forcing online retailers like Amazon & Ebay to charge sales tax? Are you worried that it might affect the earning potential of your niche sites?

Spencer Haws

I don’t think any small business selling online likes it, including me. However, as I understand it, the Bill would only affect businesses making over $1 million in revenue. I don’t fit in that category (yet), so even if the law passes, it wouldn’t affect me.


Amazon itself is doing over $1 million so they will be collecting sales tax on every customer that you send to them…………………

One of the main reasons people shop online is to avoid sales tax. Now that that is going away, will people stop shopping online as much?

Spencer Haws

Good point, Amazon’s tax increase likely will affect amount of sales or possibly commission %…who knows. Although I actually don’t think it will detract as many people as you might think from shopping online. I think most people (including myself) shop online for convenience and selection, not to save taxes.

Travis Davison




Great Article!

You said in one of your LTP videos that EMD’s no longer received a bonus from Google.

Aside from EMD’s, how much weight would you say Google puts on having your keyword in the domain as opposed to just having a relevant domain name?

Spencer Haws

There is still same weight placed on EMDs and having keyword in the domain, its just less than it used to be.

John Gibb

And I think we can tell with 100% accuracy if Google doesn’t like EMD when there’ll be zero EMDs into the SERPs, which I think might never happen, but I might be wrong…

The fact is that some of the niches which I’ve inspected, EMDs are still ranked in the top #3… I’m sure Spencer noticed this as well.



This is the most insightful post I’ve read about link building in a long time. I never knew Open Site Explorer had so many important and useful features. I’ve been using the free and limited version for years now and I didn’t see any reason to upgrade, but now I do. It is the first tool I will purchase, and Long Tail Pro too, when I get deeply involved in niche site marketing. For now, free tools are sufficient for me.

Thanks for the post, ‘cos I learnt a lot from it :-).

Kang Yudiono

Excellent article, Spencer!

One question: what do you think about exact keyword synonyms on the title? For example, I saw sites with kid’s shoes in Top 10 Google when I searched keyword shoes for kids.

John Gibb

This might be because Google considers them alike, or, why then both terms show identical exact matches? Did you notice that too?

That’s not the case for singular vs. plural keywords…

Spencer, do you have anything to add or amend to what I’ve just said?


Hi Specer , Great work man ,
I really appreciate It . Thanks a bunch .
I’d like to know what you think about wikihow , wiki answer ,ehow …
Is It even possible to outrank these website ?

Thanks again !

Spencer Haws

Yes, its very possible to outrank those sites.

Tavis Yeung

EXCELLENT post Spencer – been following this case study like a hawk and it just goes to show that time and time again, if you do proper keyword research and attack a niche in the systematic way that you lay out – top rankings are virtually guaranteed.

Awesome stuff man


I have found what I feel is a good keyword to target and it is based around a brand. I cannot use an exact match as it contains a trademark however I have managed to get a similar domain but it is not exact match.
Would you suggest I build the “money page” on the root domain or as a page so that the URL could contain the exact match?
Thanks for any help Spencer.

Spencer Haws

I usually build my “money page” on the root domain. I would probably still go that way in your case.


Thanks for the reply, I appreciate the advice. 🙂


Hi Spencer.
Great interview with Pat, and some really good nuggets in there.

I have a question for you regarding table press or similar plugin.

I don’t know how these things work.

Do you think Google is seeing the content within the table and using it.

or is that content rapped in some sort of code?

Thanks for your time.

Spencer Haws

Sure, Google sees the content in the table.

John Gibb

hey Spencer,

I cannot wait to read your next post where you’ll be revealing your table plugin strategy… as I feel ALL review sites and niche blogs that are product centered should have similar “tabled” resources as you’ve created for this experiment.

Don’t you think? I mean you’re saving so much time for the user, they’ll be happy to tell others about the site… did you notice any increase in referral traffic using this method?

Spencer Haws

Yes, users like the tables. I haven’t noticed an uptick in referral traffic though.

Josh Garrod

Hi Spencer,

I was hoping you would do a post like this. I bought Longtail Pro a few months ago and it has helped me to find a couple of new niches. You have clarified a few things about the stats that the software provides, now I can make even more informed decisions based on my findings.

Great stuff!




Hey Spencer!
Long time reader but first time poster here(i’m shy :/). I believe this is your 200th post!? Congrats if it is! Another great post full of useful info. I have been using long tail for a couple months now and will definitely start looking at the relevancy vs page authority more.

One quick question about your survival knife site. How do you have comments on you static front page. I tried to use a post under ‘general-reading’ but it only lets me use pages. Did you use a plugin? keep up the good writing!

Spencer Haws

Well, yes indeed!! This is my 200th post…woohoo!! I didn’t realize that until you pointed it out…I should have celebrated a bit more 🙂

To have comments on a static page you have to check a box in your “screen options” for comments on that page. So when you are in wordpress editing your page, up in the top right hand corner is a menu called “screen options”, then check the comments box. Then below the text area check the box for “allow comments”. Hope that made sense!


Yes! Thank you! That was very easy, I was about to start editing template files :/ lol.

I followed your guide to getting approved for adsense and just got approved a few days ago! I made my first money online yesterday. A whole $1.17 from one click! I’m rich lol. It’s the best feeling in the world!

Thanks Spencer and keep up the good work!


Hi,Spencer, I’ve been reading your NSP1 series lately. I found your some links come from blogroll, and I think it seems like a very easy way to build links and Google seems cool with that.

My question is how to find and land your domain url with anchor text(keywords you want to target) on these blogs?

I dig some keyword research and find the links of #1 site for my kw in Google Serp almost all from 2-3 blogs (with blogroll) and hardly find any links from article directories or somewhere. It blows my mind.

I’m quite new to niche marketing, and have a lot to catch up. Hope you don’t mind.

Thanks 🙂

Spencer Haws

Steven, all those blogroll links were NOT built by me. These are the spammy links I have referenced several times as being an attempt at negative SEO by someone: . I don’t recommend these types of spammy links. I believe Google has discounted all these links, but not penalized my site…as I explained in a post here (along with a video by Matt Cutts explaining the same thing):


Hi Spencer,
Nice overview of the ranking factors. Relevancy is definitely one of the most important elements.

Stephen Malan

First time visitor of this site and I love it! Great job on this post. I have already learned a lot and will be busy using this advice to advance my sites.

Thank you,!


This for me is your best post to date. Detailing the four things to look for in LTP like this is exactly what I needed.
In three of the things you give quantities to look for example “Page Authourity” two with 30 or less.

In the first criteria talking about exact phrase match in titles of the top ten results, obviously less is better, but what is acceptable two of the results containing the exact match or 4 etc ?

Spencer Haws

Thank you Neale! I put a lot of time into this post. I prefer to see at least 2 or more that don’t have an exact match title. However, this is not required. Even if all match the title, it may still be possible to outrank based on PA and Juice Page links. However, if you can find a query where a few of the top 10 don’t have exact phrase in Title, its potentially a great sign.


Spencer, I thought that was your best post yet.

I thought I had a pretty good handle on competitor analysis but have just gone back through my winners and losers and almost everything matches up with the numbers you’ve provided

e.g. at least two sites with page authority of less than 30 or Less than 10 Juice page links? etc.

Thanks, I got a lot out of this.

Spencer Haws

Thank you Marty…great to hear that you are seeing the same things I am…as far as winners and losers.

Rajesh M

Hi Spencer,

Congratulations on your 200th post.
I have recently bought LTP and have been following your NSP1. I want to thank you for your posts. Each and every post has golden nuggets especially for someone who is quite new to Niche sites and Internet marketing. Would you be able to also help out with local biz SEO tips and guides?

Here’s to even more success with and to LTP.

(A mumbai indian, another of your many indian fans)

Spencer Haws

I may have to dig into more of the local biz SEO tips…thanks for the suggestion!


Hi Spencer,

This is the first time I have commented on your blog. I have a very specific question that I am hoping you will respond to.

My question is this:

For your niche sites (not the but the other 200 sites in your portfolio that you monetize with AdSense.

What do you typically look for as far as CPC on the keyword tool? Do you have a rule that it has to be over a dollar per click?

I hope to hear from you soon.

Spencer Haws

I like it to have 2k exact match searches and at least $1. But if the search volume is higher, say 4k exact match searches, I would be willing to accept 50 cents as a CPC. So, depending on the search volume, I may require a higher or lower search volume. This is a general guideline, not a hard rule.

Thanks for commenting!!

John Gibb

Will you be building more Amazon related sites to outrank this first success anytime soon?

Did you decide yet to participate in Pat Flynn’s niche experiment 2.0?

What do you think are the pros and cons of it from your perspective?


Spencer Haws

I’ve already started several niche sites since creating my survival knife site – its how I roll :). And yes, at least one of them is an amazon site – I’m sure I’ll do more in the future. I’ll wait to see what Pat’s “rules” are before I decide to participate.



I do believe that your experience and knowledge with keyword research and ranking a niche site in Google to be very helpful and accurate. I appreciate all your site has done for me in learning how to implement your teachings with my sites. However, I am having one issue with your public niche site and I would like to ask you one question.

Do you think that without the almost 7,000 referring pages for anchor phrase ” best survival knife” that your site has, your site would still be ranking in the #1 position?

I have created a niche site, by following your examples and my site has also reached the first page of Google for my main keyword. My keyword is comparable to yours in regards to competition. So I do realize that your site very well could have been ranked on the first page without all that spammy negative SEO, as you call it. But, the real question is would it be in the number 1 position?

I also have another site that i recently started with comparable keyword attributes. So, I decided to experiment by giving my new site some exact keyword anchor phrase backlinks from one of my other sites on a different hosting account. This site had been sitting at around page 14 (google) for about a month. A few days later the site was on the 2nd page and a few more days on first page. So it is obvious that for at least now my site is on the first page due to the keyword phrase backlinks.

While I have the utmost respect for your knowledge and expertise and genuinely appreciate all you have done for me and others. I have a hard time hearing you claim that your sites complete success is due to your keyword research skills.

I, as I’m sure many of your readers are patiently waiting to see the final results to this so called “Negative SEO”. If your site comes out of this without harm, then i guess you could say your public niche site has exposed an SEO template for others to follow.


Spencer Haws

Yes, I believe my site would be number 1 without the negative SEO links. Although I’m not sure where you got the idea that you should never build anchor text links to your site. I’ve detailed all along that SOME anchor text links are important, and I’ve done that. In fact, I’ve giving a percentage of keyword anchor text to follow. Read here: and read here:

Its unfortunate that I could prove 100% that my link building strategies work because someone decided to build links to my site against my will. However, I have many other sites sitting at #1 following exactly what I’ve laid out as a linkbuilding plan.

I think your question is sincere, and so is my response. Obviously you are seeing success following my strategies, I recommend reading my link building plan and doing that – not building 4000+ links with keyword anchor text 🙂


I did not say you should never build anchor text links to your sites. I was just pointing out that you have over 6,000 anchor text backlinks for your main keyword. That has to have some weight in your rankings. Right?

I do find your information at Nichepursuits to be very helpful and yes it has help me tremendously in my niche marketing pursuits. I’m not trying to discredit your success, but rather looking to clear up some skepticism that I and I’m sure others have as well, in relation to these negative SEO links.

Spencer Haws

I think 10% to 20% (max) is a good exact match anchor text. More than that could penalize you (aka Penguin). The 6,000 anchor text links were not built by me. In fact, I keep waiting for a penalty because of these (which is what Negative SEO companies do – built lots of exact match anchor text from spammy sites). But I’m hoping Google is recognizing these links as negative SEO and discounting them. I don’t believe these links helped. (I’ve ranked lots of other sites without all the links – they are NOT needed).


hi spencer,

thanks for another in-depth post. very helpful and interesting. also, i find it very encouraging what you have reached in just 60 something days with your new site.
sometimes i wonder why people don’t sell great “keyword-lists” because you are right, once you master keyword research you can turn a lot of things on the internet into gold.


Insightful post… this is what I call quality content!

Brian Dean

Awesome overview of the things that make the biggest difference in Google traffic, Spencer. Like you said, Google uses over 200 ranking factors…which are far too many to take action on.

It’s important to apply the 80/20 principle to SEO so that we spend our time and energy on the things that actually make a difference (which is what LTP helps people do!).


Spencer, I believe social signal is getting more and more important now as it gives Google a good understanding of natural links coming from social sites. Among the varies social sites, which one do you think Google will place more importance on? Google+?

Spencer Haws

Certainly Google+, but probably also Facebook and Twitter would be the other big ones.


Great Post!

I had a question that has just slightly off topic, but still related, if you don’t mind:

If you were using an expired domain to link back to your money site, would you put content on it that was similar to what it used to have, similar to what your money site is, or do you try to find expired domains that are in the same niche as your money site so that both the original content and the money site content match up?

Also, I have Longtail pro, which I love. If I decided to try the platinum version for a while, can I still switch back to the pro version later if finances dictate?

Thanks a bunch!

Spencer Haws

Ideally you can find expired domains in the same niche as your money site. However, if not, I wouldn’t try to create the same site that used to exist there; go ahead and just make it as relevant as possible to your money site.

And yes, you can always cancel your platinum subscription at anytime and still have access to the standard long tail pro. Then you can start back up your subscription whenever you want.




Spencer, this is an insanely useful post! So thanks for that!

My question relates to the types of sites you like to see in the top ten. It used to be that if there were Amazon pages in the top ten that you could displace them easily since they dont have too many links to them.

Would you say that is the case today? Would you be happy to see an Amazon page with few links but PR3 or 4 when you looked up best survival knife?


Spencer Haws

I personally never liked to see Amazon pages or other shopping results in the top 10 – I’ve always avoided these niches. For certain ecommerce keywords where most of the top 10 results are Amazon, ebay, walmart, bestbuy, or other ecommerce sites – the standard rules I laid out do not apply. So even if there are weak backlinks or page authority, I don’t go after it. The reason is that Google understands searchers intent. Google knows the users want to find a website where they can buy the product when searching for product keywords – for this reason, Google gives extra weight to ecommerce results.

So personally, I never like to see top 10 results where the MAJORITY of sites are Amazon or other – I avoid.


Very helpful. I completely agree with your reason for not trying to rank for a keyword where most of the sites are ecommerce ones.

Rather my question was about when it’s only Amazon in the top ten and then other sites.

Also, unrelated question but what do you do to get your sites to get indexed fast?

Spencer Haws

I see. I guess I haven’t seen results where all are Amazon results – but my guess is that its the same scenario. For indexing I honestly don’t do anything. With wordpress, my sites are usually indexed before I even publish an article. You don’t have to do anything to get indexed if you are using wordpress because it auto-pings.


Thanks Spencer. Sorry for the confusion. I meant just one Amazon site in the top ten and no other ecommerce sites, but I get the gist.



Hi Spencer

Great post 🙂

I purchased LTP a couple of months ago and really like it.

Whats your opinion on outranking youtube videos? I’m looking at a keyword now with 5 results in the top 10 that are YT most with page authority of 1 with no juice links.

Spencer Haws

If 5 of the top 10 are youtube videos, it appears that this is the type of content Google wants to rank (perhaps users like it). So, I would look at the other 5 results to decide how difficult it is. You can certainly outrank youtube videos, but I would verify by seeing low competition in the other 5 results.


Thanks for the answer Spencer

Gonna give it a go i think 🙂


Hi Spencer

As a total noob to the world of IM can I say that stumbling across your website was the best thing to happen to me in the last 72 hours. I’ve known about affiliate and adsense marketing for a few years but never really looked much into it. However, losing my job a few months ago has meant looking into possible alternative revenue streams to provide for my family becoming more important.
I have been reading up for the last 3 days and this topic of making money online is probably the worst term to search if you’re looking for any kind of consistency or honesty!
For that reason your website has been a breath of fresh air. Thank you for explaining the nuts and bolts of what you do in a clear and (relatively) jargon free manner for Luddites like me.
I’m hoping to build my first niche site soon. I’m currently playing with wordpress on my own pc as a local server to get the hang of it.
If I understand correctly, the most important part is to target the right niche, and for this, proper keyword research is fundamental, right? After much soul searching I’ve decided that if I part with any cash it should be for a tool that helps me with this crucial part of the equation. But I have a question regarding Long Tail Pro that I hope you can answer for me.

I’m not based in the US, I will be targeting a European audience with my site using a local ccTLD. With this in mind when I use LTP will the local search data be for the area I’m targeting or will it be US-centric? Is there a setting I can tweak like in the Google keyword tool that allows locality to be set? Will it recognise where I am based on IP address or some such? Or does this not matter?

All this is brand new to me as I’m sure I’m making more than obvious!
There is just so much information out there that ‘paralysis through analysis’ sets in very quickly. I just want to create a site to play about with but obviously the keyword bit has to be right or the rest of my effort will be in vain

Please help!!

Many thanks

Spencer Haws

Thank you so much! I really do try to make this blog open and transparant about what works and what doesn’t, so I really do appreciate the feedback. Comments like this really make my day.

In LTP the data will be for whatever area you select in the software. When you create a campaign (or edit a campaign) you can choose ANY country as a location. So, it doesn’t matter where you are physically located, you can get the search volumes of any country.

Best of luck!


I have a question that is a bit off topic, but would love it if anyone who knew had an answer. I have tried Googling it and have not found a good explanation.

Is there anything about the sites that we build using Google Adsense where the adsense code or analytics code can be tracked? I am wondering if someone can find a way to link my sites and determine whether or not two different sites are owned and operated by the same person with the same adsense account, etc.?

I have seen Whois info traced so that you can learn whether or not someone owns more than one site with similar whois info. Can the same be done with Google Adsense?

The primary reason why I am interested in learning this is that if you find a niche that seems to be low competition, I would like to possibly build two or more sites for that niche..but I don’t want anyone to know that the same person owns both of them. Does that make sense?


Spencer Haws

Yes, people can find all your sites based on your adsense code or Google analytics code.


Thanks spencer. I just looked and finally was able to see that you can track websites based on their adsense account number/id.

But, how do you see analytics code. Doesn’t each site have its own UA number that you plug in there?

Spencer Haws

Analytics may be different, yes.


Hi, Spencer

One simple question regarding your niche site.

I saw there are many links within the content (affiliate links or outgoing links).

How do you add links like that? plugin or manually?

I’ve read some forums saying that interlinking within blog content is important for SEO. Is there any strategies or guidelines to do this?


Spencer Haws

I’ve been using the EasyAzon plugin for my Amazon links:

Yes, interlinking content is good. I do it manually in the content, but you “yet another related posts plugin” at the end of my posts to link to related content as well.


Less technical compared to the conclusions of SEOmoz, but completely straightforward…

Worth bookmarking.. 🙂

THanks spencer

Dave Wedge

Thanks for an interesting article. I am interested in the anchor text guidelines, as I understand it Google does not like to see too many anchor text links and wants to see them heavily outnumbered by natural links or you can actually get penalised (particularly in the early months of a site). Do you agree with this?

Arwin Adriano

Hi Spencer! Well, I think I can’t add anymore and I agree on how powerful keyword research is if you wanted to rank on the top spot at the least possible time. Doing some research on keywords with high search and low competition is the first step you should at least be familiar especially if your main objective is to earn something out of the top page from the search.


Spencer, recently found your stuff and it is incredible. Just the kick in the butt that I needed. Thank you! Question: I have a blog that gets low traffic (poor keyword) but is actually a very good domain page rank. I am getting into different niche sites and was curious how linking from my high PR site could help or hurt. I am afraid to link from it too often. Is there a way to do it that won’t harm either site?

Spencer Haws

It can help. Especially if you can make it a quality/relevant link. I wouldn’t link lots of times, just one quality link is sufficient.


I’ve read a lot about how you shouldn’t do this if they are hosted by the same company. I guess I forgot to mention that. My high PR site shares hosting with my niche site. Still ok to do once?

Spencer Haws

Maybe once. But yes, you need different c-class ip hosting.


Hi Spencer,

Really useful stuff, especially in the wake of tall the recent Google algorithm updates.

After reading through, and listening to a bunch of your stuff, I can see that you are moving more, at least for testing purposes, towards a more diverse site portfolio. What I mean by that is a mix of niche, affiliate, and authority sites.

A lot of these posts are about how to move up in Google, or improve overall traffic, but what I am curious about is not how to improve a site, but how to decide when a site is just not going to rank well, and give up on it and focus time elsewhere. I know they are not all homeruns, so when do you know it’s time to call it quits on a niche site that is going nowhere?



Spencer Haws

I usually re-evaluate a site after 90 days. If its not ranking anywhere and I’ve done lots of link building, etc, I move on. However, if its showing promise (traffic, earnings, rankings), I keep focusing.


You have mentioned if amazon is top ten,we should avoid that niche but the real truth is almost 80% niches online amazon links available. In this case how do you look into this issue

In my case I am able to see less juice links (6 links below 1)
and page authority less than 30 (3 links) and NO pr pages but amazon also listed in top ten what should I do ? keep in mind i am able to see hub pages,sguiddo and other forums on top ten.These are the case for some niches….

Looking for an advice

Spencer Haws

No, I didn’t say if amazon is in the top top – I said if ALL the top 10 are ecommerce sites. So, if 1 site is amazon and the others are niche sites, that probably a great niche to go into.


Hi Spencer,

I remember you mentioning once in one of your niche website videos that you try to avoid ranking for keywords where the top 10 is dominated by e-commerce websites entirely (if I remember correctly, my memory could be a bit hazy).

What I wanted to ask is just how difficult it is to outrank these websites, in your opinion? For instance, I have a bunch of keywords related to the beauty & clothing industry, let’s say it’s something like this (just a made up example, not the actual keywords I’m looking at):

Gucci Handbags

The top 10 pages seem to be really week, most of them with less than 5 backlinks, quite a few with a PageAuthority of less than 30. The domains are pretty strong though. All of the top 10 results are online shops that sell beauty & clothing items, and of course somewhere in the top 3 there is the main Gucci website (again, just an example). Still thogh, the PAGES have really few backlinks and decently low Page Authority.

I’m not sure whether in situations like these I should go for it, or should I just assume that I’m never going to outrank and other ecommerce websites no matter how weak their backlinking profile / domain authority is, simply because Google will always prefer these sites over any other type of site?


Spencer Haws

I would avoid. In my opinion, if all the top 10 sites are ecommerce, then the rules are different. Doesn’t matter about PA and links. Google wants to rank ecommerce sites for that keyword and will. So if you don’t sell the product on your site – avoid it.


Then I guess the question becomes: how does Google know it is an e-commerce site in the first place? Do they simply see that a site does not have any affiliate links, has a shopping basket and “add to cart” buttons etc., or is there something more major that I’m missing?


After spening over 20 hours on this web site – yes, call me crazy, I have to say, Spencer is amazing.

I originally came here from Smart Passive Income Blog because of the Nishe Site Duel 2.0 project that Pat Flynn is about to launch. As a part of preparation, Pat interviewed a few experts (so far) to learn more about link building strategies.

Spencer is one of the experts interviewed and he turns out to be my favorite one. I purchased his Long Tail Pro after I read his public Niche Site Project on “Best Survival Knife” and spent more than 8 hours doing research by now.

The process seems a little bit hard from the beginning, but very quickly I found myself sticking on it until 1am in the morning. I love this tool and found 3 potential niche site ideas by now.

I want to shout out a big “thank you” to Spencer and the great community on You guys are great!



Spencer Haws

THANK YOU SIBO!! I love comments like this, and am glad you found my site through Pat Flynn. Hope to continue to produce lots of great content for you and others…thanks again!!


Are you using content curation techniques ???

Spencer Haws

Nope. Just original content.


Good discussion Spencer. Also good information on page ranking. I never really looked into that before.

Yash Sehgal

A big thanks to you Spencer for providing us with such in-depth information in such a simple and lucid language.I have read all your articles on Survival Knife niche site and it has motivated me to start a niche site of my own.

Spencer Haws

Thank you Yash!!


One Word “AWESOME”

Reading your posts is like sitting in a lecture room. I have been using Long Tail Pro Platinum for some months without much success now I know why.

Guess I was focusing on the wrong metric. Thanks bruv.

Spencer Haws

Thank you!!!


Hey Spencer,

This a great post. In fact, this the type of post I’ve been waiting to see for quite a while. It’s simple, to the point, and tells you what to look for when analyzing competition. Too many other blogs beat around the bush too long. It doesn’t hurt that I am also using LTP (except I don’t have Platinum at the moment).

When analyzing KW Competition how do you feel about seeing sites like Yahoo Answers, Squidoo, or Hubpages in the SERPS?

It used to be that seeing these were an immediate indicator that you could rank for keyword x. I see in your example that there is a Squidoo lense, so is this still something to pick up on?


Spencer Haws

I like seeing Yahoo answers, squidoo, etc that you mentioned – usually means low competition. I definitely still look out for these, but also still look at the other metrics.


Nevermind. I didn’t get to the end of the article. I guess I should have continued before posting!


But thanks for answering.


My keyword competitiveness is 26 but it has 2 root domain in top ten and it is like and no squidoo,hubpages but all are pages site except above 2 root domains.Do you think we can go ahead in no:26

Spencer Haws

Its hard to say without knowing the keyword. But sounds like a good one potentially, I wouldn’t worry about only 2 root domains.


Spencer .. Great post better product … working with Long tail Pro now and just signed up for the class room .. can you tell me your thoughts about .info domains …. com, net and org are best but would you conceder .info if those are not available for a exact match domain? Love to know your thoughts. thanks bob

Spencer Haws

I personally never use .info, just a decision I made a long time ago. I just add a prefix or suffix if the emd isn’t available.

Alex Zemkus

Great article Spencer, very detailed and informative.

Congratulations on the ranking of the Best Survival Knife Guide.

cliff wright

what software is best to automate the web directory links? i have 35 websites to do and dont want to do it manually. please answer this question. also, to make all the web 2.0 accounts and tumblr, blogger, weebly,, alexa, etc…. which software can create accounts there and post? and the blog comments? scrapebox for blog comments is good ? but how do i get to feed scrapebox the blog list? i put it in excelt and pop it in or what? i have 35 sites to do fast. scrapebox? ultimate demon? thanks.


For web directories I use submiteaze. It takes some time to learn how to use, but you can add a decapter service to it and it will auto-fill the submission details and submit to around 900 directories on auto. The tool works good, but I don’t know how strong the links are.

I wouldn’t recommend scrapebox for linkbuilding. It builds super-spammy links. Some people use it for boosting their backlinks but I have no experience with that.

kiem tien

I just think of the most factor is the well themed articles that are easy for the spider to crawl and useful for the readers. The more content the more traffic from long tail keywords.

Greg @ MNB

Spencer, love it man! I just bought Long tail pro and it is so much quicker than Market Samurai. I had downloaded the trial version of MS and it was sooo slow. Thanks for the great product! Greg


I don’t see Site Age or Domain Authority mentioned anywhere. Does this mean these are not important metrics to consider?


Hi Spencer,

Thanks for all your great content in building Niche Sites. I purchased LTP recently and am actively looking for great keywords. I think I found a good one, but for this particular keyword an .gov site is ranking number one (but my keyword is not mentioned in the TITLE). The rest of the top 10 consists of .com (with pretty limited Link Juice), overall KC is 38.

What’s your take on .gov sites? is it doable to beat those? thanks.

Spencer Haws

A KC of 38 is usually more difficult than I like to target. So, based on that – sounds like a tough niche. .gov sites are authoritative and can be tough; but if they are not targeting your keyword exactly, then they are beatable.

discover here

well,What is the best KC to target.You mean above 30 is not possible to traget?

Spencer Haws

Below 30 is best. Above 35 is usually something I avoid.

David Ashton

Hi Spencer,

I have been reading about not going after keywords that come up in the first page of google as ecommerce. Do you mean an exact match to a keyword or could that count for something that is reasonably longtail. As an example if say I had a site that was and the google search came up with all ecommerce sites but the descriptions included just parts of the keyword like biker jacket or mens leather jacket, would that still put you off going for iy?

Appreciate any advice.


Jayden Wood


You can increase PA by simply spamming a domain or 2.0 with tools such as GSA SER with a decent verified list.

But while everyone else is so wrapped up in PR, you can easily purchase high PA/DA domains for low prices because of the stupud PR craze.

It’s going to take SEO’s sometime to be convinced of PA rather than PR.

But I have already made that switch.

PR is a factor, but it’s nothing compared to what it used to be, it’s the 4th or 5th metric I look at these days.


Spencer I’ve watched and read a lot of your content can you do a real break down on your quote “I get excited if I see competition has less than 5 or 6 Juice page links” on how you know which sites pass on link juice. Right now I’m trying to rank a page top 10 in and i;m dancing between 10 and 13 on a daily basis webmaster tools says im averaging spot 11. If you’d email me or just offer some advice or juice page links and where to get them or how to know when a site passes these types of links i’d be very grateful. I’m even willing to pay for some advice.

Thanks very much

Spencer Haws

I view what juice page links my competition has in Long Tail Pro; its a metric provided by Essentially, its links that are do follow and that pass page rank.

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