Hey guys and gals, after thinking about it for the better part of a year, I finally decided to put together a crazy little experiment involving outsourced backlinks to an InfoBarrel article. Over the next 10 weeks I'll be outsourcing one backlink job per week, or until my main keyword hits the number one spot in the Google SERPs, whichever comes first.
I wanted to share my process and experience with ya'll, from start to finish. I won't hold anything back, other than the actual article itself. I'll lay out my entire experimental backlink campaign, including a time line and an explanation of each step. I'll even provide weekly progress updates in terms of cost, SERP positions and even income. I know outsourcing has become a topic of conversation on the InfoBarrel Forums again recently, so hopefully some of you guys will get a kick out of this crazy experiment. Maybe it will even get you motivated to try experiments of your own, or even reproduce mine, if you should so choose.
I'll probably be outsourcing the majority of these backlink jobs to providers on Fiverr.com, but that could change from week to week if I find someone else willing or able to perform quality work at a reasonable price. Speaking of which, my intentions are to find providers who provide a "Quality over Quantity" approach; one million backlinks for $5 sounds like a lot, until you sit down and think about where those links are coming from. I'm going to make every attempt to screen out the junk, but I'm sure I'll make plenty of mistakes as I go along. So bear with me.
(I should note that I put together an article with some decent main keyword competition, so it's very unlikely that I'll hit the top spot in 10 weeks. But the competition isn't impossible either, so we'll see. If I end up in the first page, I'll be a very happy camper considering the search volume).
My 10-Week Backlink Plan
As I put this together, I was trying to think of how a great article would naturally acquire backlinks. Is this a perfect replica of a natural viral backlink spike? Probably not, but it makes sense to me. And as long as I focus on quality at every step, there's always the hope that my article could get read by the right people, who will in turn provide natural backlinks from their own sites, blogs or articles.
Week 1: Press Releases
I'm going to find a provider willing to submit a press release about my awesome (if I do say so myself) article to several high authority press release sites. I haven't decided if I'll write the press release myself or if I'll outsource that, too. Part of me thinks I should save money and take care of this myself, but the other part says it's part of the backlinking process, and thus a justifiable "marketing cost." We'll see.
My logic is that any publishing business would automatically want to spread the world as quickly as possible after they launch a product. Hopefully the search engines will see it this way, and then the following backlinks will appear as if they came as result of the press release boost.
If all goes well, a couple of additional feeder sites will scrape this press release, and thus provide even more backlinks to my article. But the worst case scenario is that I'll get a handful of backlink from trusted press release sites that carry a certain authority with Google and the other search engines. It's really win-win.
I should also note that I won't proceed with this step until my article has been indexed by Google, which I'm pretty sure it already has because most articles index within about 20 minutes or so here on InfoBarrel - so I guess I'm just saying for formality's sake.
Week 2: .Edu and/or .Gov Backlinks
At this point I don't want to start blasting a bunch of links over to a fairly new article, and I'm thinking that colleges, schools and government sites could likely be the first to notice my product after picking up the press release from the week prior. That's my logic, anyway; so if it doesn't make sense, you'll have to excuse my brain.
I'm going to make every attempt to find someone who will leave a handful of links manually, rather than blast out hundreds or thousands using automated software. My thinking is that the automation process could throw up some red flags and cause the site to disapprove my links. Plus, I'll be more than happy to get 10 to 50 QUALITY links at this stage than a massive blast.
Week 3: Social Bookmarks
In my little made up world, it's possible that someone saw my article by means of one of the .edu or .gov links from the week prior, jumped over and gave it a read, then decided it was good enough to share with their online communities. Again I'll be looking for a provider who can submit these manually to some "name brand" social bookmarking sites, like Digg and the such. It's my opinion that a link from a handful of these high PR and trusted sites is worth more than hundreds - or even thousands - from those fly-by-night, made-for-backlinks bookmark sites that have popped up all over the net. And taking the extra time to submit them by hand will hopefully make it more likely that they'll stick.
Again, I could be wrong.
Week 4: Mass Article Distribution
I've been struggling where to fit this step in, as I'm not sure where it would occur in the natural backlinking cycle. One one hand I figure any production company or author would beat the pavement to draw attention to the product via article marketing fairly early, but some of these submission software packages submit to more than 1,000 article sites. Yikes. That would be one heckuva blast on an article that's still fairly new.
If I'm not mistaken, most of the major automated article submission software packages (specifically, Unique Article Wizard and Article Marketing Robot) can be tweaked by the user to only send out so many submissions per day. Such a system would make me very, very happy; not only because it would limit the amount of links pouring in every day, but because it can keep doing so for the duration of the next few weeks. I think that might look a tad bit more natural.
Week 5: Directory Submissions
The web is full of an ungodly amount of random web directories. Some of them probably carry some pretty hefty juice (like Yahoo's paid directory), while others are completely useless for backlinking purposes. I'm guessing I'll be getting a lot more of the latter with a mass directory submission service, but it can't help to spice up the origin of my backlinks.
Besides, in my little world, as the article becomes more and more popular through other means, it's only natural that some of these directories would latch on and include it in their listings.
Week 6: Social Media Blast (Facebook, Twitter, Etc)
In my little make believe world, my article would have eventually found its way to somebody willing to mention it on their Facebook and Twitter accounts. I personally don't have a Twitter, but I do have a Facebook profile, and from time to time I do post random things (and links to those things) that interest me. These usually aren't new when I find them, so I'm thinking waiting about a month is a good idea, just to better mimic reality.
I don't really know how powerful links from these big social sites are, at least in terms of technical SEO stuff; but considering how massive these sites are, I'm guessing that Google notices when a URL is blasted through them, even if the sites are "nofollow."
I might even get lucky and find a visit spike thanks to this. As you probably know, the search engines aren't the only way people find new websites, and in our modern day and age, social media sites like this are huge for this reason. I'll be sticking with Facebook and Twitter rather than some of those less popular sites, but if a provider throws in a few extras, I probably wouldn't complain.
There are quite a few providers on Fiverr.com willing to blast a URL to their followers, which is usually a list of thousands of people. Hard to say what those "people" are; maybe they're just dummy accounts? I'll do a little homework before settling in on a provider because, frankly, I don't know much about the ins and outs of outsourcing this kind of thing.
Week 7: Link Pyramid
To be honest, I'm not sure what to think of these kind of systems, which is why I'm waiting until my article already has a good smearing of Google love before trying one. If you're unfamiliar with a link pyramid, it works like this: Someone creates a handful of properties that link back to your URL, then they create a crazy amount of backlinks to those properties they just created. Sometimes they'll even build even more links to those links. It all adds up to a massive amount of links that are funneled through just a handful of "anchor" sites. Unlike a link pyramid, these properties do not interlink.
It looks kind of like this: My Article <- Anchor sites (few) <- Bulk links <- More Bulk Links.
Week 8: Forum Profiles
Personally, I wouldn't waste my time with these, as I'm fairly certain that they don't carry that much weight in the search engine algorithms anymore. That's based on my own tests, though, so I could be wrong. I think there's plenty of love coming from forum posts, but not so much the links that live exclusively on profile pages.
If it weren't for several Internet Marketers who I take very seriously, I wouldn't even use these. But they seem to think that they still carry some weight, and I'm not so arrogant that I'd ignore the voices of folks who make very handsome livings at this, so I'll give it a shot.
I'm putting it this far down the list because most forum profile blasts include hundreds or thousands of links, and I don't want to swamp the article early. I'm still trying to create that "natural" look, even if it makes absolutely no sense for forum profiles. Seriously, I can't even justify how these would look to a Search Engine, or where it would fit into a natural process. Hopefully I'm not sabotaging my campaign (wow, I'm thinking pretty positive, aren't I?).
Week 9: Blog Comments
I personally think that the search engines love links from blog comments, and my hunch is backed up by the crazy amount of automated software that plugs up my niche blogs' comment boxes on a daily basis. But of course I'd like to avoid guys who use automated software in favor of folks who will leave intelligent comments by hand, and use a real name instead of a keyword (though the name should be hyperlinked to the article). Again, I'm trying to make it look natural not only to Google this time, but to the site owners, as I don't want them to unapprove my comments, which happens all the time with software.
Oh, and I personally don't give a rat's rear end about nofollow tags on blogs, or even if the blog is related to the article itself. If I get five to 10 quality blog comments that stick on blogs ranging from Ancient Paper Pressing to The Mating Cycles Of Canadian Teenagers, I'll be happy.
Week 10: Web 2.0s
Here's my logic: After eight or nine weeks, somebody is going to think highly enough of an awesome article to mention it on their own blog or article. That's what these web 2.0 properties are: Blogs and articles on sites like InfoBarrel. Of course I'll still be looking for a quality provider who will set these up manually rather than use automated software. I know I'm beating a dead horse at this point, but I still contend that a handful of quality links goes much further than a butt-ton of crappy ones.
In the past I've experimented with setting up free Blogger.com and Wordpress.com blogs and pointing various posts at some of my online content (usually niche sites, but occasionally InfoBarrel articles, too). I've been fairly happy with the results, as they seem to give a nice little "bump" to whatever they're pointing at, but nothing drastic. I'm sure they'd work better if I either produced more of them or built some backlinks to these blogs themselves.
If nothing else it will help with the "link diversity" thing.
Why Am I Doing This?
My intentions with this experiment are pretty straight forward. For starters, I'd like to see how far I (or anyone, for that matter) can pump up an InfoBarrel article through off-site SEO regarding a substantially competitive keyword. Secondly, I'm curious about the short and long-term net profit of such a process. If this becomes a profitable model, then why not reproduce it over and over?
... Actually, there's another reason for my publication of this on-going experiment: It will force me to keep with it. I have a very bad habit of bouncing from one idea to another, without really giving any one of them the full-term attention they deserve. So in a way, this article should (hopefully) keep my nose to the grindstone, because I don't want to let any of you guys down, even if you only check in from time to time to laugh at me. Accountability; sheesh.
What Do You Think?
I'd love to hear your comments, thoughts or suggestions. I'm no SEO expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I'm no rookie, either; so I may or may not have an authoritative answer to your questions, but I'll try. At the very least I can justify my own thoughts or opinions.