TJ Kelly

How Google Accidentally Gave Me 300 Backlinks

I published a simple article 6 years ago in response to a Facebook TOS change. Inspired by a friend of mine, I titled the article Facebook Doesn’t Own My Digital Lifestream. Catchy isn’t it? Obviously it didn’t go anywhere, but I fought back against the system, man.

Anyway, I also shortened all my URLs back in those days cuz Twitter. Since it was in 2009—early in the days—the short URL ID is pretty low: As luck would have it, the YouTube channel AsapSCIENCE used Bitly to shorten a URL too, about 5 years later. Their short URL is — and they use it to ask viewers to subscribe to their videos.

AsapSCIENCE has 118 videos, almost all of which contain their a line in the description which says something like “SUBSCRIBE! It’s free:“. My luck really cashed in on their “How Olympians Have Changed” video published in February of 2014. Based on the length of the video description, Google truncates it exactly 3 characters before the end of the subscribe link.

One more piece falls perfectly into place for me and these backlinks: whenever any other YouTube user likes the video, the video thumbnail and description appear on that user’s channel. Google then automatically parses URLs found in the description on these users’ channels and formats them into clickable links. Thus, anytime someone likes AsapSCIENCE’s video, another thumb/description is added to a channel and I get another backlink.


Google 300 Backlinks: Webmaster Tools.

These 300 links are no-followed of course, but there’s still (again?) lots of debate over how much the nofollow attribute matters any more. Every link ever shared on social media platforms is nofollowed and Google needs to index them somehow. I’m betting they’re still followed. And even if not, I still get an extra 300 domain backlinks from a reputable domain. Major win for me, all thanks to luck!


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