Note: This article was updated in February, 2013 and I’ve added a screenshot of the traffic from Jan-Feb, 2013. Traffic stats are below.
I couldn’t wait to write this post because the results I’m about to show you probably go against many of your opinions about search engine optimization today.
If you’ve been following me closely, you already know I’m not a fan of aggressive backlink building.
I’ve always found it to be a tedious task that leads to short term results for the most part.
Having said that, I’m not against SEO and focusing on the right kind of backlink building.
For example, growing your brand and building relationships by writing guest posts on high quality, relevant blogs or any kind of natural link building that abides by Google’s guidelines is fine.
I just personally don’t believe in spending loads of time chasing backlinks.
As a result, a lot of people have criticized my stance on this, stating that I never had to focus on it much because some of my sites are mature and have an advantage.
While having an early start played a tremendous role in my success, I am still finding that today, quality content in the right niche still works for SEO.
I can’t write a post like this without mentioning how risky it is to rely completely on search engine optimization — especially today. So as you read through this, please understand that SEO should only be one part of your traffic plan.
My Little Experiment
In July, 2011 I created a new WordPress authority niche website as an experiment to see how far a website could get today by just writing content and doing absolutely no backlink building whatsoever.
To be honest, I didn’t expect the site to do well and I will reveal the traffic results below.
Some of you are not going to like this part, but I made the decision not to reveal the site to anyone (at least not yet) and my name or any other identifying details (Adsense ID, company name, etc.) are not associated with the website or domain records.
Although, I am using my picture because I just don’t like faceless websites.
Why So Anonymous?
First of all, I don’t want any mentions/links on my sites to skew the results. Second, I am getting tired of seeing my content scraped, copied and plastered all over the place.
Of course this is not going to completely prevent that from happening, but it will cut down a lot of it.
Being transparent has its advantages and I have no regrets because it builds credibility and a loyal following. However, there are obvious disadvantages, and for this experiment I have chosen to keep it hush-hush.
Pat Flynn recently wrote about this same issue on his blog where he decided not to reveal one of his newer websites after so many people tried to duplicate one of his experimental websites. I completely understand where he’s coming from. So I decided to take a leaf out of his book and keep this one quiet — especially while I experiment to keep the results from being skewed.
Even though I won’t reveal the site, I will at least share some statistics you may find interesting. Here is what the traffic looked like for the past month…
Here’s an update from February, 2013. Traffic is still increasing gradually. I’ve added roughly 20 pages since this post was originally published (6 months ag0).
This is not a huge increase by any means, but it’s not bad considering how little time I spend on this site.
For the record, this screenshot was taken from the WordPress.com Stats plugin. That’s what I use to easily access my traffic stats right from the WordPress admin panel.
More Things to Note
- Even though I am not actively/manually building backlinks, the site is earning them naturally through other blogs who link to various articles. So I’m not saying you don’t need backlinks. I’m just saying you don’t have to chase them. Slow, natural and steady is what Google loves.
- The site has about 120 pages and posts combined, and I have no real publishing schedule/pattern. I spend about 2-3 hours on the site per month. Seriously.
- Most of the traffic is from Google, but it also receives quite a few visits from Facebook. Of course, I cannot see the actual referring page on Facebook in my reports (I hate that!), but it’s probably from people sharing the content on their walls. I do not have a Facebook business page for the site.
- I didn’t do much number crunching with keyword research. Most of the search engine traffic is from a variety of longtail phrases instead of competitive keywords.
- The site is not overly optimized. In other words, I don’t go overboard with keyword repetition and I made sure to vary my anchor text (text inside hyperlinks) when linking internally.
- Bing and Yahoo are also drawing more traffic than usual, which I found quite interesting. Perhaps it has to do with the niche and the audience demographic preferring Bing over Google? I have no way of knowing for sure.
- Once again, I’ve taken the tutorial route with my approach to this website. As you know, this has worked so well in the past, and I love teaching. So I continue to use that style as opposed to just posting generic information and re-reporting facts.
- I’ve chosen another niche where I can use my own personal life experience with the subject to educate and inform.
- So far the site has escaped all Panda and Penguin updates.
- I did manually submit to Google and Bing/Yahoo and also created sitemaps for each engine.
- I’m not using AdSense (it’s not a good niche for CPC ads at all) but I am selling sponsor ads and monetizing with affiliate programs.
As I’ve already mentioned, I have just focused on writing content instead of searching for backlinks — which is what I normally do. But what is most surprising to me is the Google traffic I’ve received compared to the minimal number of backlinks I’ve earned.
Right now, there are only a handful of sites linking in according to Google Webmaster Tools, and a couple of sites that are just scraping my RSS feed and displaying my posts.
Why Does Google Love The Site?
Could the mild success and traffic gains be a result of the penalties other sites have incurred from unnatural linking, etc?
I’m not sure.
I haven’t spent too much time observing what my competitors are doing. The traffic growth has been very gradual but steady, and I didn’t see any major jumps in traffic with any algorithm updates.
My main goal was to see how a website would perform in Google today without doing any manual link building.
Google seems to be less concerned about the quantity of your backlinks and more interested in the quality, diversification and how natural your backlink patterns are.
After all, the Penguin update really decreased the SEO influence of many types of backlinks.
To Sum it Up…
Don’t get me wrong. The moral of they story here is not to just focus on SEO to build a business. I was just trying to make a point that you can still receive good traffic from Google without obsessing over backlinks and just focusing on quality content.
There’s nothing wrong with targeting the engines for traffic. I mean… you have to start somewhere, right? As I mentioned, you just need a plan to diversify beyond SEO if you want longevity.
As I continue to emphasize, my overall business is not SEO dependent thanks to my forum, multiple YouTube channels, residual income, social media (especially Facebook), my email list, offline consulting (occasionally) etc. I’ve diversified my income and traffic sources to give myself a great deal of stability.
I hope you are planning to do the same.
Also, finding the right niche and angle is key too. Yes, the Net is incredibly saturated with websites, but a lot of the content out here is poor quality and created with minimal effort.
I don’t exactly buy the “net-is-too-saturated” claim as a reason for failure. This experiment definitely proves that.
So the door is still wide open for high quality, useful websites. The angle you take is what will set you apart and get you going in the right direction.
Never underestimate the power of establishing your unique position in a well-defined niche!