What does it take to rank for credit cards?

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  • January 29, 2008
Patrick Altoft

Patrick Altoft

Director of Strategy

Across the whole keyword spectrum we can observe different levels of competition for the desired terms. From low level competition on long tail keywords to massive link building efforts on big money terms like “credit cards”. This post will focus on analyzing SEO strategies being used on the most competitive terms. We will be using a tool that will make the analysis easier and then hopefully you can use it by analyzing your niche if you want.

Probably no one will argue that credit card terms are big money keywords. We see financial institutions pushing these products through the door everyday and it is just a matter of time before they pump more money into SEO. If you look for credit cards you would expect a mix of results between official bank websites and independent comparisons and reviews. At the present time comparison websites are winning the top spots and banks can’t leverage their brand authority effectively to get more business from search (having ridiculous rules on how to link to a website doesn’t help). Obviously, it’s always more useful (and enjoyable) to watch and follow the winners than losers. We could perform a detailed analysis of bank sites and their backlink profiles but it’s nothing terrific to have a big budget and being on position #9 if you are a Royal Bank of Scotland. Much more interesting may be to analyze the “small guys” that managed to get to the Top 10.

Probably the smallest fish in Top 10 for credit cards is www.cardsense.co.uk . Let’s look at their backlink profile. For the analysis I will be using LinkDiagnosis Firefox extension. This tool gives me the most important information about site backlinks in one report so I don’t have to run multiple queries through Yahoo SiteExplorer.

After couple of minutes we get a report like that. The most interesting part is the backlinks section, where we can also export all the data to CSV for further analysis. The backlinks are sorted by Google Pagerank so we see more important links first.

We can see that there are lots of links that are missing on the pages (and yet still reported by Yahoo), so by clicking on the Link type chart we can hide them.

Now the fun begins and we examine the pages that link to the CardSense website. We immediately see that some links are not from relevant websites and are mostly in the footer.

CardSense uses link exchange Digital Point with anchor text “credit cards”. While this technique certainly works for CardSense at the present, these links may be discounted as DP link exchange is easy to footprint (by looking at image pixel that goes to http://ads.digitalpoint.com).
Also, the links don’t look very natural and often share the same anchor text “credit cards”. One of the latest algorithmic changes, that SEOs named Minus #6 penalty exactly targets sites that have unnatural anchor texts.

By looking at the Most Popular Anchor Texts section, we can see the most used anchor texts. Usually, the most popular anchor text is the name of the site, in this case it’s the “credit cards” and another reason why this site ranks so well for that term.

Other part of the report is Link Types chart and we can see that there is a big chunk of links missing on the pages. That is a side-effect of using Digitalpoint link exchange as links are rotated through the network.

By going through the backlinks we can see other types of links like article submissions and directory submissions. These complement DP links so the backlink profile looks more diverse.

It’s surprising that in 2008 the link exchanges still work in Google and not only for credit cards. Some of the most competitive finance keywords in the UK are still dominated by sites promoted via link exchange. It may be only a matter of time before they go down, but before they go surely they will earn enough cash for the next round against Google with better technique. And that is what it takes to rank for credit cards.

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