Experts Blog

Link Wheels: The Poor Man’s Link Building Tool

By Casey Markee on Feb 18, 2012 - 01:48 PM

If you are a link builder or a site owner who has experience with link building you've probably heard the term Link Wheel. Link wheels are not new and during the Wild West SEO days of the late 2000's link wheels were a widely used and relatively valid approach to drive traffic, links and higher rankings to target sites.

Link wheels work through the creation of multiple web properties, called hub sites or "spokes," that are arranged around a central main or "wheel" site. These sites would in-turn share various linking interconnections that would provide the appearance (really illusion) that the main wheel site was an authority it its niche. An example of a link wheel, for the uninitiated, would look like this:


The most common application of a link wheel today is through the use of various Web 2.0 properties (i.e. HubPages, Squidoo, Wordpress, Tumblr blogs/sites), or other relatively easy-to-generate platform links that could be quickly and effortlessly arrayed around one central site.

Most users of link wheels follow a replicated approach that looks like this:

  • Create 5-10 Web 2.0 or blogging platform spoke sites using default templates and shared hosting.
  • Populate the spoke sites with niche-related content that is usually in the form of spun articles and contains very little individualized attention.
  • Interlink the spoke sites together through a staggered content strategy or through the use of footer or blogroll links.
  • Use these spoke sites to add anchor text-rich links back to the main or wheel site to boost authority and traffic levels.

Advocates of link wheels almost uniformly use the same "pitch" when they contact me by email to sell me their incredible, will-not-fail, link wheeling strategies. It goes something like this:

"Link wheels are a POWERFUL white hat link building strategy that Google loves because it imitates the kind of natural linking patterns that search engines like to reward."

That ladies and gentleman is complete and utter horse crap!

So before you spend $800 or more from the next SEO who tries to sell you on the incredible benefits of the link wheel consider the following:

  • 1. Google doesn't like link wheels! Link wheels fall clearly under Google's definition of link schemes in that they are used specifically by webmasters to create partner sites and pages for the exclusive purpose of cross-linking and rank manipulation. They are not white hat, not a sound SEO strategy, and for the most part require a time machine with access to 2009 to be similarly effective.
  • 2. Google Panda has made link wheels obsolete! Google Panda, the content-based algorithmic adjustment that first made waves a year ago, is now a rolling update. It will continually reward sites with strong, unique, varied content and bury the average link wheel site that is solely populated with thin affiliate or spun content and marked by excessive cross-linking. I've personally seen a ton of links wheels be completely decimated of their existing PageRank and ranking authority just in the last year.
  • 3. Your time and money is best spent elsewhere! The majority of link wheels require a day and very little money to set-up (and that's if you are doing this yourself and NOT paying some guy $800 to do it for you). Owners don't build links into the spoke sites, never update them regularly with new content, and put the sites up SOLELY to create the illusion of backlinks to their target site. In that time you could be putting up a BLOG on your own domain or updating Twitter or Facebook accounts to actually engage your customers and build real value for your brand.

As you can see I'm not a big fan of link wheels as they are usually formatted and used above. However, what I am a fan of is setting up quality, constantly updated, highly engaged social profiles or sites that can be used to promote yourself and your brand. Take a look at my Google Plus page:


Notice how I have links to my Facebook business and personal pages, my Twitter account, and even my Linkedin and Klout (feel free to +K me, no pressure) profiles. Each of these accounts in turn also link to my main site and most, to each other. That would seem to be a link wheel, right? I never really viewed it as a link wheel and my guess is Google doesn't either.

Why? Because, link wheels and thus link schemes are all about INTENT. Sure, these profile links and the social signals and content I drive through them probably do help me algorithmically and they definitely help in branding but I don't have these profiles there to help me rank better for anything specific. They are there to ENGAGE with my audience, communicate with clients, and contribute unique content.

If you are considering link wheels as a link building strategy for yourself or your clients OR have been approached by an SEO trying to sell you on this technique, consider the above. Your time and money would probably be best spent building out your current social profiles and using them and your blog to engage your customer base more effectively.

Finally, don't forget the value of link bait as a natural link building method that will PULL IN LINKS in droves. Link baiting is really the 21st century alternative to the link wheel, only with better content and with Google actually approving. That's a win-win in my book.Planet Ocean article end