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Mind-Blowing Hack for Competitive Link Research

Peek-a-boo Links

Last week I presented a method for search result hijacking. The story got much coverage in the SEO community, perhaps due to the fact that Rand Fishkin’s authority pages were also compromised as part of our experiment. One thing I did not elaborate on in the original article was the peculiar way Google Webmaster Tools handle document canonicalisation.


You can see somebody else’s links in your Google Webmaster Tools as if you were the authorised user of that site. The process involves creation of identical document copy and the results are visible in about two weeks.

In the following screenshot we see what Google calls “an intermediate” link. An old link which points to our old domain 301’s to our new domain. Nothing unusual about this.


There are other instances of the “intermediate link” in Google Webmaster Tools. One of them is related to document canonicalisation process described in a paper called “Large-scale Incremental Processing Using Distributed Transactions and Notifications” by Daniel Peng and Frank Dabek. This is exactly the same process I used in the result hijack article and the most interesting thing is that it works in reverse! (I’ll get to that later).

Here’s an example of one such case, some of you may remember this website from my hijacking experiment:

Google Webmaster Tools Links

As you can see the “intermediate link” notification suggests that my page above receives a link from Rob’s website but the thing is, it doesn’t. So what’s going on?

Well, the page I created is a replica of the original page on http://www.marketbizz.nl/en/. Google has seen my duplicate version and ‘merged’ it so to speak. Now I not only see the links pointing to my own version but the aggregate list of links for the one canonical/merged document across all applicable domains.

I am seeing the same links the owner of that site would see in their Google Webmaster Tools.

Here’s the interesting part, it works in reverse! You don’t even have to hijack the result for this to work, you can see the results with the ‘loser’ URL. If you create a duplicate page with lower PageRank (not very difficult to do that is it?) of any page on the web, you will be able to see its links in your own Google Webmaster Tools.

To test this concept I copied a PDF from another site and simply got it indexed, in about ten days I saw all its backlinks in webmaster tools, here it is:

Domains Links
doc-txt.com 38
documbase.com 19
pdfqueen.com 7
cmu.edu 6
msra.cn 6
quora.com 5 5
google.com 4
berbatek.com 3
podpdf.com 3
blogspot.com 3
seobythesea.com 3
writingseo.com 3
newyorklastminutetravel.com 2
automotivedigitalmarketing.com 2
123people.com 2
blumenthals.com 2
psu.edu 1
pitt.edu 1 1
52opencourse.com 1
chatmeter.com 1
journalogy.net 1
vebidoo.de 1
c4ads.org 1
ryanmcd.com 1
ebookbrowse.com 1
uic.edu 1
rightnow.com 1
osti.gov 1
informationweek.com 1
christopherpotts.net 1
sdsu.edu 1
keywordspy.com 1
psugeo.org 1
tagwalk.com 1
delib.net 1

Now I can take any page/document from my competitor, place it on a domain of my choice, have it indexed and in a few weeks I’m able to see all their backlinks within Google Webmaster Tools.

It took me exactly 14 days to see the link data of Rob’s website.


Whoa indeed.

Dan Petrovic, the managing director of DEJAN, is Australia’s best-known name in the field of search engine optimisation. Dan is a web author, innovator and a highly regarded search industry event speaker.

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