What is a link wheel in SEO?
Are link wheels a reliable, sustainable SEO strategy?
In short, link wheels have inherent problems, including:
- You’ll never have enough time or resources to create the high quality backlinks you want
- Link wheels are limited in their ability to improve your search engine rankings
- They are expensive in time and money
- Link wheel are a beast to maintain and will be a content black hole
- They are the quintessential black hat SEO strategy and can be detected by AI in the linkgraph
For a well-rounded SEO campaign, you need more than a link wheel creation .
You need professional link building strategy & backlink building services from an SEO agency.
However, if you’re interested in building a link wheel creation to run an experiment or just to boost your site a little bit, here’s what you need to know.
Table of Contents
What is a Link Wheel in SEO?
Link wheel (a.k.a “hub and spoke”) can be visualized like a wheel with your main web page in the middle connected to “spokes” that represent backlinks from other websites.
In addition to each “spoke” linking to your main site, the “spokes” link to each other.
Whether or not a link wheel works depends on how it’s created.
Are link wheels just reinvented blog networks?
At first glance, you might think a link wheel creation sounds just like a blog network. While the mechanical structures are similar, there are distinct differences.
Blog networks are an old, ineffective, black hat SEO tactic that is essentially a link farm. A link farm consists of numerous blogs that publish reciprocal links to each other, usually without considering the content. For example, web pages are linked with anchor text that may not have anything to do with the content of the page, but anchor text is used in an attempt to rank for specific keywords.
While blog networks generated fast, short-term rankings in the past, those days are over. Blog networks have been deemed illegal because they junk up the search results (if they rank), don’t provide long-term SEO benefits, and don’t offer value to visitors.
Link farms aren’t worth much, if anything, and search engines quickly blacklist websites that appear to be part of a link farm. Link wheel creation, on the other hand, might be part of a blog network, but that blog network is not black hat. The distinction lies in the quality of the content created and how the backlinks are connected.
Not all blog networks are black hat
The truth is that blog networks aren’t inherently black hat. Black hat blog networks exist solely to create backlinks and will publish any content, often automatically, without editorial review. White hat blog networks are groups of high-quality websites or blogs that provide genuine value to visitors. Link wheel fall into the “white hat” category.
Although link wheel can be categorized as “white hat” blog networks, they’re still technically blog networks. They don’t automatically get a high level of respect from search engines. Not because it’s impossible, but because of the time and effort required to earn a high-ranking status for one website.
When you have a link wheel with, say, ten websites, you have to put in the time and effort equal to developing ten high-ranking websites. Almost nobody has time for that, which makes most link wheels poor quality. This is why link wheel creation aren’t recommended as a primary SEO strategy.
High-quality link wheels require extensive time and effort to create. In fact, link wheel require far more time and effort than building one authoritative website. Essentially, Link wheel creation requires creating and maintaining multiple, individual high-quality authoritative websites. In the end, those websites link to one another, but with specific purpose and intention.
Link wheels can be a legitimate, strategic, long-term strategy
Although the legitimacy of link wheels is hotly debated, the term “link wheel” only refers to the pattern of linking between websites and says nothing about the quality of the content. There’s no evidence that link wheels with high-quality content don’t work.
In fact, if all the sites in a link wheel independently rank high in the search engines, Google won’t penalize those sites for being owned by the same person.
There are plenty of websites that publish content that links to each other’s content on a regular basis. Those websites aren’t part of a link wheel – they’re just high-ranking, high-quality sites with amazing resources that people reference on a regular basis. With that said, it’s hard to establish a link wheel creation of that caliber. However, it’s not impossible.
Building a link wheel? Prepare for plenty of hard work
If you’re going to create a link wheel, be prepared to put in plenty of hard work, time, and money. Link wheels aren’t free or effortless to create. You can’t just pay someone to create your links and content and call it a day. If you pay someone to do work for you, you’ll need to do the planning.
Effective link wheels require careful planning and strategic execution beyond what you can do on your days off. If you decide to create one, you’re looking at a full-time job for at least a year or more.
Technically, an effective link wheel creation is no different from creating a series of phenomenal websites in the same niche. Although, you can’t just make a bunch of websites and expect results. You’ll need to build each website from the ground up as its own entity with its own market, audience, design, content, link building strategy and purpose.
In other words, embarking on the task of creating a link wheel is the same as committing yourself to creating multiple, independent, full-scale website projects. You can benefit from a link wheel, but only when you go all out with each website as its own project. Once each site is established, your backlinks will hold more value.
Creating your own link wheel vs. joining an existing link wheel
If you’ve been offered the opportunity to participate in an existing link wheel, you might be tempted to pursue that offer. However, unless you can verify the quality of content within that wheel, participating might do more harm than good. That’s bad news if you don’t have time to create your own. However, you can’t afford to take any chances that might get your entire domain name blacklisted from the search engines.
The best way to benefit from a link wheel is to create a link wheel from scratch. You’ll control all of the content and quality, and as long as you stick to legal SEO, you won’t have to worry about getting penalized by the search engines.
7 benefits you’ll get from building a link wheel
There are many benefits of building a link wheel; here are several.
1. You’ll save money on SEO services
Hiring an SEO specialist to generate your entire backlink profile will cost money on a regular, long-term basis. You’ll need a monthly budget to create an effective SEO campaign of any size.
Whether you build your own backlinks or pay an agency, it will cost money. If you want your site to rank in the Search Engine Results pages (SERPs), you can’t get around building backlinks, but you can save money by building a link wheel.
If you’re not sure how to get started building a link wheel, you can always hire someone to create one for you to get the ball rolling. Once your link wheel is established you can create your own content, links, and go the DIY SEO route. As long as you understand SEO and can put in the time, a DIY link wheel project should yield some results.
2. You can drop most of your social media efforts
Are you trying to work social media to generate traffic? Social media is more of a lead generating tool than a method to generate traffic or sales. To get traffic and sales you need to capture and hold attention. That’s not easy to do within a social media application. Most people are highly distracted when using social media; they’re not usually giving their full attention to what they’re interacting with, even messages from friends.
An article published on Computer World details the high level of distraction faced by mobile users. One of the studies discussed in the article came out of Florida State University. This particular study found that people become distracted just by hearing smartphone notifications in their pocket. What the article doesn’t point out is that most of those notifications are from social media apps.
Attention spans are shorter today than ever before. You’re never going to turn social media into a traffic-generating machine. It’s just not built to work that way. When you build a link wheel, you can drop most of your social media efforts; a link wheel will prove to be a better resource to generate long-term, organic, targeted traffic.
3. White hat link wheels won’t get penalized
Perhaps the best benefit of building a legitimate link wheel is that you won’t get penalized. Google, Bing, and other search engines don’t care who owns a website. You could own 100 websites or even 500 websites for all they care.
No matter how many websites you own, you won’t get penalized for playing by the rules. As long as all of your sites provide valuable content and use only white hat SEO link building strategies to generate backlinks, you’re golden. However, search engine algorithms can pick up on the relationship between websites based on reciprocal links. Too many reciprocal links can tank your efforts.
4. You’ll start ranking multiple sites for low competition keywords
With a link wheel, you’ll start ranking your individual sites for low competition keywords in Search Engine Results pages (SERPs) . Depending on the price point of whatever you’re selling, this can mean massive income simply because of the number of sites you run.
For example, if you’re selling an item for $100, and low competition keywords bring you 100 visitors per day, that would be $5 per day at a 5% conversion rate. That’s around $150 per month per site. If you can replicate those results for, say, 20 websites, that’s $3,000 per month.
Imagine what you can accomplish once you start generating even more targeted traffic for additional keywords and phrases.
5. Link wheels can generate link power
Whether you call it link power, link juice, or link equity, link wheel can increase the power of your backlinks. As long as you’re continually working to increase each site’s ranking in the Search Engine Results pages (SERPs), every site will benefit.
This benefit will always be smaller compared to other link building strategies like content marketing, but it’s fairly useful.
6. You’ll have multiple opportunities to monetize your efforts
A link wheel provides multiple opportunities to generate revenue. When you can rank multiple sites in the search engines for the same keywords, you’ll generate more traffic and more sales.
Each website in your link wheel is an opportunity to generate additional income. Whether you’re soliciting sales directly or getting people to join your email list, a link wheel multiplies your efforts. You don’t need to have separate email lists if your sites are all related to the same subject. That’s something to think about before you get started. The more sites you can build around the same product, the easier it will be to manage.
You can create as many websites as you want to be part of your link wheel. It’s a good idea to limit the number to what you can manage, but if you have a large budget you can hire out all of your work.
7. You’ll generate organic, targeted traffic
Having a link wheel with sites that rank will help you generate targeted, organic traffic. The best part is that generating organic, targeted traffic also helps improve search engine ranking. The more traffic a site gets, the higher it will rank (at least in Google). The higher your ranking, the more traffic you’ll get.
5 Reasons not to create a link wheel
While there are clear benefits to creating a link wheel, here are 5 reasons not to build a link wheel.
1. The return isn’t worth the effort
If you’ve ever built a website, you know how much time and effort it takes to create and populate a site with great content. Add Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to your task list and you’ve got a full-time job.
The amount of effort required to build a white hat link wheel far exceeds the return you’ll get from your efforts. Unless you can build about 10 high authority websites on the level of top sites in your niche, backlinks from the websites in your link wheel won’t help you rank all that much.
2. You’ll be stuck with long-term upkeep
Maintaining a website often requires more effort than it took to create the site in the first place. You’ll need to maintain every site within your link wheel, which includes:
- Installing software patches
- Installing software updates
- Installing plugin updates
- Troubleshooting technical errors
- Tracking the traffic for each site
- Creating fresh content periodically
- Building backlinks to each site outside of your link wheel (you can’t just rely on your link wheel for your backlink profile)
Managing the above tasks for one website is hard enough. Are you willing to do this for multiple sites? If not, you shouldn’t build a link wheel.
3. Google might consider your wheel a private blog network
There’s no telling when or how Google will penalize your sites for being part of a link wheel. Google has advanced algorithms that can detect illegal SEO tactics. If you give a search engine any reason to flag your site(s) as part of a private blog network, all of your efforts will be in vain.
4. It’s hard to create unique content for multiple sites in the same niche
Longer content outperforms short content in the search engines. When Neil Patel published an 18,000-word guide, people stayed on the page 40% longer compared to the average duration. Visitors also clicked around the site and viewed 25% more pages than the average visitor.
You don’t need to create 18,000-word pieces of content, but you’ll want to aim for at least 2,000-word pieces. How much time do you have to write 2,000-word articles? Can you write long pieces for all of your websites on a regular basis? If not, do you have the budget to pay professional writers to create that content for you? If not, then you’ll be getting in over your head with a link wheel.
5. You’ll increase your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) workload exponentially
Even though a link wheel will help you build backlinks, you can’t rely on a link wheel for your backlink profile. If you have ten sites in your link wheel, you’ll need to perform standard Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tasks for all of those sites. This requirement will increase your workload exponentially.
First, your workload will be multiplied by the number of sites in your link wheel. Then, since all of your sites are interconnected, your workload will increase exponentially and become more complicated with each site in the link wheel.
Are you up for the challenge?
Maybe you realize that building a link wheel is a daunting task, but you’re still up for the challenge. If so, here are some tips for building a link wheel that works.
How to create an effective link wheel in 10 steps
If you’ve never built a website before, you’ll have an easier time building a link wheel when you hire a professional to set up the framework for all of your websites. However, if you’re willing to spend time learning, you could accomplish the task yourself using WordPress.
Either way, here are the basics for how to create a link wheel.
1. Create each website in your wheel with a unique visual design
It’s tempting to use the same website theme for all of your websites. It’s cheaper, faster, and once you get to know a theme’s back-end it’s hard to imagine learning multiple additional themes.
The problem with using the same design is that all of your sites will look the same and it might become obvious that your sites are connected. If you’re producing valuable content, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about. However, it might diminish your visitors’ trust. Or worse, if someone reports you to Google, they might penalize your websites without a thorough investigation.
One way around this is to use a WordPress theme that comes with a variety of pre-made templates that all look different. For example, themes like U-Design and Newspaper X can be configured in a variety of designs. Once you learn the back end, you can crank out new sites with unique looks using the same theme.
If you use the same theme for all of your sites, make sure to purchase a license for each website to respect the theme creator’s hard work.
2. Avoid anything that might be considered “black hat”
When building your link wheel, avoid using any tactics that might be considered black hat tactics. For example, don’t use automated tools to create content and avoid using article spinners. Black hat tactics include:
- Plugins that generate internal links. Using a plugin to automatically create internal links based on pre-set keywords isn’t inherently black hat. However, if your settings aren’t correct, you could end up with too many internal links that will make your site appear spammy to the search engines.
- Paid links. Purchased links are almost always going to get your site penalized to some degree. Major corporations have been penalized by Google, so nobody is immune. The irony is that Google committed an infraction with their own Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and penalized their own content. As Hubspot explains in the article linked above, a ‘follow’ link was included in a sponsored post about Chrome. That’s not allowed.
The webspam team penalized the page on www.google.com/chrome, dropping its Pagerank for two months. For those two months, Google Chrome stopped ranking high for the search term “browser.” If Google penalizes their own content, nobody can circumvent the rules.
- Link exchanges. You might meet someone else with a link wheel and want to do a link exchange. There’s nothing wrong with a reciprocal link when both links provide value to visitors. However, a purposeless exchange isn’t advised. Having one or two reciprocal links is okay, but having a large quantity of reciprocal links will make search engines think you’re gaming the system.
- Keyword stuffing. Keyword stuffing never helps anyone and has no place in a link wheel. It takes time to do keyword research and create content. Building a link wheel is a long-term commitment to building multiple websites. Don’t rush it by trying to rank your sites using this black hat tactic. Any results you get will be short-lived.
- Redirects. It might be tempting to create thin content that ranks and then redirects to your main website. With redirects, you won’t have to work as hard to create content for a bunch of websites. However, that’s not the proper way to build a link wheel. All of your websites in your wheel need to be high-quality websites that stand on their own.
The most important aspect of link wheel Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is to be extremely selective with the backlinks you acquire for your sites. Often, the damage from poor link building is next to impossible to repair.
3. Set strict rules for anchor text
Your anchor text matters immensely. There’s no faster way to make your sites look like a black hat blog network than to use a plethora of exact match keywords for anchor text. For example:
- Buy cheap laptops
- Buy wool socks
- Discount patio furniture
- Cheap used cars
Avoid using exact match anchor text for your targeted keywords. Back in the day it made sense to use anchor text like “buy wool socks” and “discount patio furniture.” However, today, that sends signals to the search engines that you’re either buying links or you’re trying to game the system.
It doesn’t work anymore because search engines have been programmed to identify exact match anchor text. Search engines want your anchor text to be natural, which means it needs to be part of the content and not just a random directive to buy a cheap product. When anchor text is included in a more natural way, it’s an indication that it was written for visitors and the link is a helpful resource.
Whether you create your own content or outsource Search Engine Optimization (SEO) content production, be strict with anchor text. Instead of using exact match phrases, create anchor text that will make human visitors want to click. Instead of “buy wool socks,” use anchor text like “wool socks will keep your feet warm.” Instead of “discount patio furniture,” use anchor text like, “patio furniture is affordable.”
Write your content for your visitors first, then add your anchor text. If you don’t use this approach, and you have 10+ websites that are all connected to each other using exact match anchor text, Google will start to see all of your sites as a black hat link farm.
4. Work with others who have similar goals and ethics
Building a link wheel is easier when you have multiple people working together. However, it’s critical to be highly selective when working with others. Only work with people who hold high standards and ethics for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices.
Don’t get involved in a link wheel project with a group of strangers on the internet. If you do, it’s guaranteed to become a black hat blog network. If that happens, all of your hard work will be wasted. If the damage is too deep, you may need to abandon your domain names and start over.
Choose to work with one or two people you consider trustworthy enough to be your business partner. You should probably stick to people you can work with in person. You have to be absolutely certain that only white hat tactics will be used with the link wheel. It would be a shame to waste your time, money, energy, and resources to create a link wheel only to discover your partner(s) have done something that gets your domains penalized or blacklisted from Google.
It’s possible to recover from a Google penalty, but it’s not easy. If multiple sites get penalized, you’re just going to increase your workload for recovery.
5. Plan out all of your “spokes” before starting
Before diving into setting up your websites, plan out every component of your link wheel. Create a master plan that diagrams your main website and each website that will be part of the wheel. Document how the sites will be connected.
Take your planning as far as possible by documenting a list of articles you’ll write for each website and determine which page(s) from the other sites will get linked in each article. Planning this level of detail will ensure that you don’t create too many links to one site over all the others.
Once your link wheel is up and running, create and follow a plan for publishing regular content. For example, you might publish one article per week per site. Or, you might publish 3 articles per week per site.
While you don’t necessarily need to follow a specific content publishing schedule for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) , schedules are beneficial because they get you in the habit of creating content regularly.
6. Consider creating multiple smaller link wheels
You may want to use an advanced link wheel method where you create multiple, smaller wheels that are all connected. Some people have said that this method works better, however, there’s no data to support those claims.
Whether you create one main link wheel or multiple smaller link wheels also depends on your content. Creating smaller link wheels is a great idea if your websites aren’t all directly related. That way, you can keep your main backlinks 100% relevant and then create general content to link loosely-related websites together.
7. Don’t accept guest posts
Accepting guest posts sounds like a great way to generate content fast without any effort. However, there’s a downside. When you open yourself up to guest posts, you can’t control what people submit. There will always be people who won’t read your submission guidelines and you might start getting automated submissions from bots.
There are definite guest posting standards that, when followed, keep content relevant and high-quality, but not everyone will follow these rules. Many people out there are looking for free, cheap, and easy ways to get their backlinks on other people’s websites.
If you start accepting guest posts, you’ll be opening up the floodgates for spam, nonsense submissions, and it will take more time to reject submissions than you think. Even if you don’t reply to rejected submissions, you still have to read the submissions and that takes time.
If you want to accept guest posts, you need to set up some barriers. For example, require people to pitch their idea in 300 words or less in an email. Hire someone to monitor that email address and forward you any ideas that meet your pre-defined criteria. If you aren’t getting the kind of ideas you want, stop accepting pitches.
Are link wheels worth creating? Not really
At the end of the day, link wheels sound great in theory, but require far too much time and effort to create, maintain, and rank. Remember, your backlinks won’t be useful unless all of the sites in your link wheel rank high in the search engines. If you’re not prepared to spend the time and money ranking multiple websites, a link wheel won’t do much for you.
Need a strong, time-tested, effective Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy? SEO.co can help
Instead of focusing on SEO strategies with a low return on your efforts, it makes more sense to connect with a professional SEO agency that can get you results. You don’t need ten mediocre websites connected in a link wheel when you have a team of professional SEO experts working on your main website.
If you want your site to rank higher in the search engines and generate more traffic, sales, and leads, contact SEO.co today. We’ll help you earn top spots in the search engines with high-level SEO link building strategies to get results you won’t get from a link wheel creation with our SEO service.