Competitor analysis of one of my clients operating in the replacement windows area in London has shown that at least 2 sites of the top 10 sites (ranking 1st and 2nd for for “sash windows london”) in search engine results on google.co.uk with what may in my view be considered low quality or spammy backlink profiles are still able to rank well on Google in 2016 for competitive & popular phrases. This possibly indicates that 'replacement windows' is still after the Google 'Panda' and 'Penguin' algorithm updates in general a 'spammy' sector on GOOG. Quelle surprise!
By 'spammy' I mean the some of the websites that are appearing may violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines by using now declared 'black-hat SEO' techniques to increase artificially the ranking of a webpage by manipulating the number of links pointing to the page in question. Such tactics are commonly known as 'link schemes'.
Quelle surprise encore!
Put simply, the sites ranking may be considered “the best of a bad bunch” - Google wants to give at least 10 'organic' results to sell ads alongside. It's worth noting that these sites may have links hidden from backlink tools which are helping them rank - these also would likely be considered 'link schemes' by GOOG.
http://sashwindows. london (I've broken the URL and not hyperlinked deliberately) ranks 2nd for “sash windows london” (for which there are around 1,000 searches monthly for this exact phrase alone on Google UK) and 8th for “sash windows” (for which there are around 6,600 searches monthly for this exact phrase alone on Google UK) at time of writing (April 2016) .
The graph below on the right shows a backlink profile of http://sashwindows. london with sculpted 'money' keywords e.g. “london box sash windows” in the anchor text (the visible, clickable text in a hyperlink) of the link (you would expect a website to have more bare URL type links e.g. the web address of http://sashwindows .london) :
Based on previous experience in this area working on sites with ranking drops & one with a formal Google penalty (wasn't involved beforehand with the latter site), I might expect a site with such a backlink profile to potentially have an Unnatural Link Penalty (and associated ranking drop) from Google. It is possible this has already been given and lifted by Google after a disavowal (but this is extremely unlikely in my view as there's no ranking drop in the data / it's a new site registered in late 2014 and launched mid 2015 according to semrush.com).
It seems in my assessment that Google considers these links' anchor text to refer to the brand / domain name (Google's artificial intelligence may 'understand' that this is a 'navigational' search for the company name and not the product) and thus is not spammy to Google – the site is also ranking for other phrases e.g. “soundproof windows london”. See ballpark, approximate data from semrush.com on the number of phrases http://sashwindows .london is ranking in the top 20 results on google.co.uk (this changed to the top 100 around Jan 2016):
The above data shows it's a new site which has ranked quickly and easily.
The site ranking first for “sash windows london” is londonsash .com (I've broken the URL) only has links from 10 domains according to majestic.com (but this does include http://www.fensa.org.uk).