Link building

Case Study: $5 Link Building

It’s 2013. Google’s Penguin Algorithm Update has long been released, established, and written. All of the internet, all the reputable SEO companies and blogs have discussed it in great detail.

Yet there are still legitimate companies that use black hat tactics, either oblivious to Penguin or still thinking they can get around it.

I am in a privileged position, SEO is my job. I keep up to date with the latest news and test things over and over again. I admit that not everyone, especially business owners and those not involved in SEO, are in the same position. But even so, that doesn’t explain the requests and services I see on sites like Fiverr and PeoplePerHour:

10000 guaranteed instant backlinks on Fiverr

10,000 instant backlinks GUARANTEED! Sounds good… won’t get you anywhere unless you have a link popularity contest with one of your friends. But I’m much too old to play child’s games now…
Check out this deal below – “Google Page 1 Guaranteed”:

backlink master

The “master of backlinks” – I love it! At least he admits to being “black hat seo”. Either way, it apparently delivers what it says and has a 97% rating. He just does what he says he’s going to do – the customers are the idiots. How many of them benefited from their $5 purchase? I could probably guess…

In fact, I won’t guess. For the past 8 weeks I have been testing it for myself. I purchased this package and requested that all 10,000 links point to one of my domains.

Fiverr post

To be honest, I didn’t expect to wait 45 days for all my links and was hoping to post this blog in July. But still, I stuck to it. After all, “a rapid increase in Google is guaranteed” – I mean, I could really do with all that traffic to my site appearing much higher in Google than it currently does.

My domain was ranked on page 6 of Google for “women’s underwear online” at the start of this test. And when the links started coming to my domain, near the end of this campaign, I had dropped out of Google for that specific keyword, as reported by Authority Labs below:

Authority Laboratories

At the start of the campaign, I was asked five keywords to target. The keyword above that I listed was the only one at the time to rank in the top 100 of Google.

Fifth Message 2

After submitting 4 more keywords to link to, all linked and mentioned on my website’s homepage, and waiting 45 days for “guaranteed rapid Google rise” – none of these words – keys has never reached the top 100.

So for $5 (£3.43) my website was booted out of Google for any of the terms I was targeting. Fortunately, I was nowhere in sight before. It won’t keep me awake at night.

This is just one of many people selling this type of service. I didn’t want to pick on this particular individual or highlight his work personally – he just happened to have the most appealing offer to me on Fiverr.

But with all these link sellers in the world, many people, webmasters, business owners, lazy link builders are brainwashed into believing that it actually works. I mean, even I was – otherwise I wouldn’t have wasted my hard-earned £3.43 on those 10,000 links 😉

And here is just one example of the millions (and millions) of someone asking for links (directory submissions) for very cheap:

People Directory Submission Request Per Hour

In this example I wonder what is the purpose of being referenced in 25 directories? Again, if it’s for a Simon popularity contest, I don’t think it’s going to do. And if it’s to gain traffic or rank in Google’s SERPs, I’m pretty confident it won’t have the desired effect (don’t worry, I didn’t waste my time or money on test this service).

When does someone, clearly with a low level of SEO knowledge and research, think it would be a good idea to build 10,000 links or 25 directory submissions? I mean, what keyword did they search in Google (or maybe Bing) that told them “you need 10,000 links” or “you need 25 directory submissions”? Or who told them that? Somewhere out there, whether it’s on the internet, in a pub, or at a conference, someone is giving really bad advice.

And I hoped that in 2013 we would see the end of it. Apparently not.

I check hundreds of backlink profiles on a weekly basis. It’s part of my job. It’s part of my learning. And I always come across sites with lots of dodgy links, usually those in uncompetitive or uncompetitive niches to be fair. Fewer and fewer first-page results in competitive niches these days have a black hat backlink profile (payday loans are an exception).

(For the record, I’m not against Fiverr or PayPerHour – in fact, I love Fiverr and use it regularly…but not for work.)

OK, so how does Barrie do it?

I want to show you what you can achieve and what we have achieved using only ethical link building techniques.

Here are the results of a campaign we ran for a client between January 2012 and January 2013 (13 months):

Traffic to website

At the start of the campaign, our client’s website was receiving 60,000 unpaid search visitors (this does not include referral visitors).

A link building and traffic generation campaign takes time – there were a few dodgy links to remove at the start of the campaign, there were content marketing efforts to put in place, there were links to build to start improving traffic levels.

In the sixth month; By July, we had increased traffic to 100,000 visitors (63% increase) on a monthly basis for this campaign. Although at this point we weren’t able to double the traffic, 40,000 additional visitors per month for this client was important for his business.

And in month 12 of our campaign, admittedly now peak season (late November through Christmas), traffic peaked at 175,000 visitors, almost three times the traffic level from January to the start of this year.

After the peak comes the decline, but January 2013 continued to be a strong month with 120,000 visitors – and that was double the number of visitors from the previous year.

But ultimately, what is link building for? Some people, even in August 2013, from the examples I posted at the beginning, still don’t understand the purpose of link building.

In the end, these are really examples of get what you pay for. Spending $5 and £6 really isn’t going to hurt a company’s budget. Chances are, these cheap tactics are hurting your website’s chances of ranking high in Google, as my example shows. Poor quality backlinks can penalize your website and put you at a disadvantage. So why go there in the first place?

Authority Labs Ranking

Building lots of links is not link building. It never should have been and for about 3 years it hasn’t been. At least not for the bright sparks and ethical marketers among us. Link building is all about driving relevant traffic and potential customers to those websites. If the client pays me X amount to do it for him, my minimum requirement is to provide him with much more money than he is paying me. Otherwise it failed. And they’re not going to keep paying me for their services.

And here’s how the sales went:


The chart follows a similar trend, although admittedly January 2013 didn’t quite double January 2012 this time. Although I should point out that phone sales are not tracked in Analytics (feel free to call me a rookie).

So what do you want to get out of your link building? 10,000 cheap backlinks? Or an increase in sales? Talk to me.