My Niche Site Experiment: Building or Earning Backlinks?

backlinks [Don’t forget to bookmark the landing page for this experiment so you can keep up.]

So it’s about 5 weeks post launch of my niche site experiment and as many of you have stated in previous updates, I’m going to need some backlinks to rank for any competitive keywords.

I stayed on Page 3 of Google for my target keyword for about 2 weeks, then completely disappeared and re-appeared on page 7 last week.

This fluctuation is to be expected with a new site that has no quality backlinks.

Plus, I realize this is not 2011, so sitting and waiting for Google to push me up the rankings by only writing content is unrealistic today.

So I wanted to dedicate this entire post to backlinks and go over what I will and won’t do.

To all the newbies, a backlink is simply a website that links to yours.  Google relies on these to help rank websites and they like to see a more natural build up of backlinks over time.  The more relevant and quality those links are, the more they will help you.

The Beauty of Playing in Different Niches

One advantage of having websites in different niches, is it teaches you that you cannot apply a one-size-fits-all analysis for a website’s rank.

You may remember my 2011 experimental site that ranked organically without me manually acquiring backlinks.  A lot of you thought I was saying I earned those rankings without backlinks.

Not at all.

It’s just that they were earned slowly and naturally over time.

And what’s interesting is that Google is still not showing any backlinks in Google Webmaster Tools.  So I guess the backlinks are not significant enough for Google to list them.

That site also taught me that you don’t really need a lot of backlinks if you are in a niche that is not overly competitive.

That’s why so many people emphasize the importance of doing keyword research in the beginning.

Having said that, I didn’t really do much research for the previous experiment site at all.

I got lucky in that I happened to choose a niche that didn’t have much tough competition, yet there were enough searches for less competitive (long tail) keywords that I was able to rank for.

Plus, that was two years ago and times have changed.  I’m not sure if I would have those same results if starting today.

Backlinks — What I Will and Won’t Do

OK, so let’s get back to my new experiment.

I’ve made it no secret that I hate keyword research.  Well, if there’s one thing I hate even worse than that is backlink building.

Not only are many of the strategies monotonous (yawn) and not guaranteed to work anymore — but if you overdo it, you can ruin your site’s reputation with Google forever.

So when it comes to backlinks, there are basically three options for obtaining them:

Option 1) Build them manually by outsourcing a link building service

Option 2) Build them manually through article marketing, guest posts, link wheels, link exchanges, forums, blog commenting, buying expired domains and linking them to your site, etc.

Option 3) Earn them naturally and slowly over time by building relationships via social media, etc.

Option 1 will definitely get you ranked faster, but if you get too aggressive you can get penalized by Google.

But wait…

I already know what some of you are thinking.  Yes, some of the “black hat” strategies like buying links still work.

ViperChill proved it in this post and shows people are still finding ways to game the algorithm and getting tons of traffic.  And I do understand his frustration.  If nothing else, it proves why traffic diversification is key.

Option 2 is considered to be more safe, but even some of these tactics can get you into trouble.  For example, having too many guest posts or blog comments with the same anchor text (the text inside the link) can send up red flags.

Plus, Matt Cutts even admitted the Google algorithm has been adjusted, and you no longer get as much of a backlink benefit as you would before.

Option 3 is obviously the ideal way to build links because it’s more natural, but it’s also the hardest and takes the longest — which is why so many people end up resorting to options 1 or 2.

The other thing you need to watch out for is link velocity — meaning if you gain links too fast, that looks unnatural so you could be penalized for that.

The tricky part is no one really knows what the correct velocity is for gaining links, and there are even link building services (sorry, no recommendations here) that will drip feed your links over time to make your link building look natural.

By the way, Google recently added a “Manual Penalty” section to Google Webmaster Tools so you will know if you you’ve been penalized or not.

Well, I don’t plan on buying any links or participating in linking schemes. So option 1 is out.

Yes, I know this can still work, but I want to spend more time on option 3 and earn links through relationships or trying creative strategies I’ve never done before.

In the past, I would typically get organic traffic first and then start expanding into other areas (social media, etc.) later.  However, different times call for different measures.

Plus, I welcome the challenge.  So bring it on! :)

I will probably do some strategies in option 2 (commenting, a guest post or two) but not too much.

I really want to think outside of the box this time.  And even if this takes a lot more time, I’m OK with that.

Starting to Work The Social Media Scene

Last week I began networking with people on Twitter and started experimenting with Pinterest.

Yes, Pinterest links are nofollow (meaning they have little impact on rankings), however you can still use it for traffic and exposure.  Some even believe that nofollow links can still have a minimal impact.

As you can see from last Thursday’s traffic (week 4 of the experiment), Pinterest brought in the most traffic…


I really love Pinterest because you can come up with creative ways to use images to share content.

An infographic I created and posted on my hair site last month received 3,000+ Pins so far and sends traffic daily.  This is the ideal social media site for a niche that’s very visual.


Last month Pinterest sent my hair site 835 visitors and that’s mostly from 3 infographics that were created over the span of 6 months.  So imagine if I replicate that tactic more often.


Now, I do believe that Pinterest works better for some niches over others.  Also, the QUALITY of traffic is more important than quantity.

So I will hold off on going into much detail with what I’ve done with the new site.  I want to keep testing to see if this strategy is even worth my time for the experimental site.

That’s the other reason I’m doing things in phases so I can see what works and what doesn’t.

Phase II Has Officially Begun

Even though I’m still building content for the new site, I’m now starting to focus more on marketing and engaging PEOPLE  instead of just bots.

If you’re not going to buy links or participate in many of the older link building methods, you have to get creative and try new things.

Yes, it’s hard work and takes longer, but the long-term rewards are much more stable.

I just want to clarify that I am by no means suggesting you build a business around Google traffic.  I’m just doing this experiment for the challenge to see what it takes to rank a brand new site today.

So it may be a while before my next update, but I definitely wanted to dedicate a post to backlinks since that is such a hot topic with regards to ranking a website.

That’s all for this update ladies and gents!  Now the REAL work begins. :)

Name: Email:


  1. says

    Hi Lisa,
    So it looks like your site was doing a little Google dance there for awhile. Party over here!! lol

    One thing you haven’t mentioned with this experiment is email marketing. Are you planning on doing any or did I miss something?

    Nice work. Thanks for the updates and have a wonderful week ahead!

    • says

      Hi Lisa…
      I agree with you.. Option 2 is the best option so far.. It is working for me… I started my blog from Jun` 13 and today (79 days old) my Alexa Ranking is 2,035,780… with 30 quality backlinks (Including your site Ileane`s Site.. :) )… As per as my Excel list of approved Backlinks, it is showing I have total 82 links and waiting for listing by Webmaster tool and Alexa…
      Now I know, Option 2 will take time to give you the results… I have no issues with that. I believe in building a strong base… :)

      @ Ileane: After doing some research… I am finally satisfied with your recommended “Screencast O Matic ” for my videos… Thanks for the Tutorial… :)

      By the way Ileane, I am NOT able to understand, why you have 2 commenting facilities at your site… CommentLuv and G comment… What are the benefits ???…

      From my point of view, I am getting confused about, which one to use ????.. :(



      • says

        Hi Karmakar,
        I appreciate the feedback on Screencast-o-matic.
        I don’t want to hijack the comments section over hear on Lisa’s blog. Do you mind reaching out to me with these questions/comments over on my blog or on your social media platform of choice (Google , Twitter, Facebook, etc.).


    • says

      LOL! Right about the dance. :)

      It’s funny that you mention that because at first I wasn’t because I didn’t want to do email just to have a list. I wanted to have a plan for what I was going to do with it. But now that I have an idea for what I want to do, I probably will. :)

      Have a great week!

      • says

        Hi Lisa
        nice article backlinks are very important for any website. i think website must want not a quantity of backlinks but quality of backlinks. thanks for sharing.

  2. says

    the backlinks are one of the good way for the publicity of the website and sending our views to the others in lesser time. but where to how to find the right way of doing that . thanks to your post that helped me a lot in this matter and got a good response.

  3. says

    Great info.. we’re using option 3 just because we’re newbies at this and don’t want to get overwhelmed with focusing on links/SEO etc and not content.

  4. says

    Great article Lisa, your articles always address my issues at the right time with applicable solutions… I am trying to drive more traffic to my site as well through backlinks.


  5. says

    Hi, stranger!
    I came to this post from the link in your Google post. Another great post, by the way. I’ve got two niche sites going (no money yet, but I am building up content) and another in the early planning stages.
    I thought I’d mention that a great source of traffic, for some niches, is a podcast. You can get traffic from Google’s arch-nemesis, Apple, that way. I started a podcast a few weeks ago and the plan is to use it to drive traffic to our – wait for it – niche site.
    Bonus: while reviewing this post, I went ahead and ordered The Beginner’s Guide to Creating a Niche Website.
    Your pal,

    • says

      Hey Mitch!

      Thanks for ordering my ebook.

      Yes, podcasts are a great tool. I’ve just never really tapped into that strategy…. perhaps one day.

      Hope to see you at one of the WordPress meet-ups soon! I’ve been slacking on my attendance. :)

  6. says

    Superb post! I just love to read your write-ups. Feel like reading on and on and on :)

    I am into building backlinks now too. I think option 2 would be good for me. Even option 3 seems nice. I’ve started using Pinterest as well. But I never monitored what it’s producing. Let’s see.

    • says

      Yes, I really need to watch myself with Pinterest and make sure I’m not spending more time there than it’s worth. I really enjoy the creative side of it but as I said, I have to make sure it makes sense for this experiment.

  7. says

    Thanks for this very informative article, Lisa. I’ve been blogging for a few months now and can vouch for the benefits of guest posting and thanks to your article, I’ll definitely need to seek out more of these opportunities. Thanks for explaining “no follow” and the benefits of infographics on traffic generation.

  8. Julena says

    Hi Lisa,

    I love the post was wondering if you could help with what is the best social sharing plugin for blogs? I was looking for one like the one in your picture that has the share option with facebook, twitter, and pinterest at the top of the article! do you know where we can find that for our blogs?

    Thanks for your time!

  9. says

    Good Day to You Lisa,

    I find social media sites too “busy” for me. I should start visiting Website Babble again. I’ve just been off trying to find my own way and trying to get past the tech pitfalls that I seem destined to fall into.

    I’m very old school (Windows 3.1) and miss the simpler help structures. You know, the ones that didn’t have the “FAQs” or even “Search”. I’m an old find it through the alphabetical index kind of guy.

    Is there any hope for someone like me? I stumble with my Facebook account and find the help files difficult to navigate (even though they are “user friendly”). Are there any “plan text” or “alphabetical” instructions with the old style Table of Contents and Index any more, that are worth referring to for social media?

    I see the value in them. For a long time the fear of lack of security kept me away, but that seems to be better handled these days by the social sites (not counting poor choices in sharing).

    Your experiments always seem to make good learning and teaching tools. You are so good at that! No wonder I can’t stay away!

    My compliments!

    • says

      Hey Arth!

      Yeah you should come back to for sure! We would welcome you with open arms. :)

      Social media definitely helps and I know it’s not for everyone, but believe it or not, it is still not a necessity to rank a website. I’ve ready plenty of case studies over the past year where people have ranked without using them. However if you don’t, it really does put you at a disadvantage.

      So what about this process do you enjoy the most? I always like to start there.

      • says

        That’s a great question Lisa,

        I’m happy being of useful service to people as a customer service representative. I intend to continue sharing my insights into finding those kinds of resources. It is necessary to supplement my retirement income 2 years, 3 months from now. I’d like to do both, but need to grow myself beyond my current level. No wonder I can’t help paying attention to you! Yes, I do plan to return to Website Babble (the member is still there).

  10. says

    I’m keenly watching your posts on this experiment. Having started a site at the same time (by chance), I am very curious to see how you go, especially as my own start has been slower than a herd of snails travelling through peanut butter!

    Unfortunately, I didn’t do the keyword research and landed myself in an area with numerous “heavy hitters” – but I knew it would be like that as I put my site together with one thing in mind “to help people”. In hind sight, some keyword research would have been handy in order to reach people.

    Thanks for your dedication to the little people.

  11. says

    nice post ,i am making a blog on single keyword and want to know thing that can rank me in google first page.
    thaks for shareing your ways of building backlink.

  12. says

    Hi Lisa, hope all is well, and great to see the experiment is going to plan. I still believe pinterest back links have worth, though it is stated no-follow. According to my Google webmaster tool, I have 804 links from Pinterest to my Halloween site. Now, I’m still unsure if these have any worth but like to think they do.

  13. Ash says

    Hey Lisa, as a newbie to all this but pretty well educated i.e I havent ranked any sites of my own. I was under the illusion less backlinks were needed now- right? I thought Google knew that the majority of people got backlinks artificially with social bookmarking sites, link wheels, web 2.0 or that stuff and that was stuff of the past.

    • says

      Hi Ash,

      I think there are two kinds of backlinks. The kind you earn and the kind you build. It seems that some are assuming when I say “you need backlinks” that means you go out and gather a bunch of artifical links like people did in the past. While ViperChill’s blog proves this still works, that’s not the kind of backlink building I’m talking about here.

      I’m talking about getting social with people in your niche and gradually earning them over time. And I think that how many backlinks you need depends on how competitive your niche is, the quality of the ones you have and how many other social signals exist to help your rank.

      SEO is more complex today and I think what you “need” depends on the things I mentioned above. But I think the best way to get backlinks is to not really focus on them at all. Build relationships with people and have them grow naturally. Now this strategy is slow and not as sexy as some of the faster methods, but it’s more stable.

  14. says


    Two questions:

    1) Okay, so I’ve been reading TGC for a few months now and haven’t gotten to every article yet (but I will… everything that Ana puts out is densely packed with info so I bookmark and RE-read a lot), but I’m new to 2BAW. I want to build a niche website but things are SOOO different than in 2002 when I made my first. WHAT should I do today, and what resources are available on your site and others to help me get there.

    2) A niche I am looking to explore is “How to do 100 pushups”. As the owner of a martial arts studio I came up with a method for getting both men AND women to this level of performance in about 6-8 weeks. Unfortunately, the fella at the top of the Google result has got tens of thousands of backlinks. Does it make sense for me to try and compete, or should I move on to a longer-tail kind of endeavor?

    Appreciate this article, Lisa. The game has changed so much and you seem to be at the top of your game, while I am playing catch-up. Don’t judge… been kickin’ it with my local bizzes… but if I’m going to be good with IM again there is a lot to learn. Thanks for what you’re posting here for free.

    • says

      Hi Kurt

      One of the reasons I’m doing this experiment is the old SEO methods no longer work as well so I want to challenge myself in a Post Panda/Penguin world. As far as resources. I’m hardly an SEO expert and I know that will be harder today. The only resource I’ve purchased for this experiment is “Long Tail Pro.” It’s a keyword research software program that helps you find the best “long tail phrases” to target.

      Looking at your competition is definitely a first step but what about the other 9 sites? Are they just as competitive? Also, does that guy have video? That sounds like a perfect niche to exploit YouTube. Remember you can also build up your popularity by doing other things (podcasts, youtube, etc.) So as you build a following you can earn links from getting exposure in those areas.

      Now if the top 10 results are all extremely competitive, I may consider changing my keyword, but look more at the big picture instead of just the guy at top. Remember, even if you rank #4, you can still get a ton of traffic. And you will also probably rank for other keywords you weren’t really targeting. 80% of my SE traffic comes from related keywords in my niche.

      You can follow all the content for this experiment here

  15. says

    I stay well clear of outsourcing my linkbuilding duties, because I have received so many emails over the past couple of years from companies asking me to remove links from posts and comments that were put there by people they outsourced their linkbuilding to and now Google has slapped them.

  16. says

    Great post and I’m glad I’m not the only one who hates keyword research :) – I’ve always used Option 3 and it’s served me well although, as you mentioned, the delivery of results takes much longer. What it does offer, though, is permanency and relevance of results and apart from the drudgery of building links, I’ve actually come across some great content and entrepreneurs in the process. Definitely the way forward!

  17. says

    A great way to gain niche-relevant backlinks is through blog comments. The problem is often that this takes a huge amount of time. Build a list of blog posts, write the comments and monitor the posts, to see which comments are approved.

    I was tired of doing this, so I built NicheOutreach, which automates everything except for actually writing the comment (the only part of the process that needs human thought). This has saved me huge amounts of time and effort, and given me nice direct traffic as well.

    I hope you and your readers will try it and I wish you every success!

  18. says

    Hi Lisa

    Do you have an opinion or thoughts on Glenn’s (Viperchill) comments regarding the “freshness” issue he discusses in his post? I am wondering how this will impact larger sites as their content my slowly lose their rankings in the serps to be replaced by fresher content, despite the fact this newer content may be less in quality and word count.

    Curious as to your thoughts on this.

    Lisa, thanks!


    • says

      Hi Chris,

      I definitely notice a slight boost when I update a lot of pages. It’s nothing major but it’s clear freshness plays a role. So if you are a major brand and you keep pumping out fresh content you have two big advantages today. I’ve even seen larger brands now creating “mini niche” sites to capitalize on the advantage they now have. It really is a win-win for them.

      But I don’t think it’s just fresh content by itself. You still need links, social proof, etc. If that was the case my new site would be ranking well already. There are definitely other factors besides date, but as Glenn said, a lot of people have figured out how to “game the system” with backlinks and freshness dates.

  19. collins emeka says

    Hey lisa,
    Thank you for everything you have done, you may not know me but If not your ideals, things would have been difficult here in Lagos Nigeria.

  20. Max says

    Good tips on how to get traffic via natural link building…. I like the idea of inverted model
    where you write the summary first. In
    fact, it makes a lot of sense since most
    people skim though the blog post then
    decide if they want to read further or hit the back button.

  21. says

    Hi, these are really nice tips on natural link building and I particularly liked the concept of doing it in offbeat niches. Another thing that works is working on keywords with high demand and low competition.

  22. says

    This is a good article. As you told pinterest gives a lot of traffic towards the website. Waiting for your post about backlinks. It is better to build the backliks naturally.

  23. says

    Hi Lisa,

    Since Feb I was working on only adding content to my site. I got no where than just getting about 100 unique visitors a day. I got 150 content and still can’t find a way other than building links, which I hate as well. So option 3, is not working for me the way I wanted. Option 2 is the only stable way that seems to guarantee a result. Eagerly waiting for your post on link building. Lot of things have changed, so your take on link building is going to be valuable for all of us.



  24. says

    Appreciate the tips. Will look forward to follow them accordingly.
    I had a question, Is email marketing a healthy way to get traffic for blogs. Will it be considered Spam and give a negative effect to my blog? A resourceful reply is highly anticipated.

  25. says

    Great Post Lisa,
    Its been a while that I visited here. Manual Backlinks works best especially from high PR sites and I love the idea of link wheels, am currently doing it for some clients sites.

  26. says

    Hi Lisa,

    Love the process you are sharing here (and I hate the tediousness of keyword search, too).

    Have you thought about Youtube videos as backlinks. By putting your domain name in the info box, it is a great tool to drive traffic.

    Looking forward to the next edition!

    Theresa 8-)

  27. says

    Hi lisa the thing I am trying to understand is once you get a link from like facebook is that not seen as 1 link from I have read articles in the past that suggest getting people from facebook to share you articles I just don’t know how that would help with link building. Also have they got rid of Google Keyword research tool? What else is there we can use?

  28. says

    Lisa, I commend you on yet another great article. Your experiments & their results are so useful & unique. No wonder you are so successful. The Pinterest idea is quite compelling. I appreciate your work, and help to all of us, thank you so much.

  29. says

    Hi Lisa,

    Interesting post – these days I think it’s becoming more about giving the people what they want. If what you provide is actually useful to someone there’s a much bigger chance of it being shared, and I really think that social is becoming more and more important, and not just because of the signals it sends to the search engines, but because it offers another sustainable traffic source, and one that is not controlled by Google ;)

  30. says

    My strategy with the new niche site I’m building:
    1. Keep adding new content regulary and share it on social media and social bookmarking sites.
    2. Manually build non-themed backlinks only by blog commenting in the first month.
    3. Start adding themed text links from high PR websites AFTER I got some 60-80 non-themed backlinks. For this I intend to use a good quality, reliable service. (Any recommendations? :) )

  31. says

    I have used many different SEO companies throughout the years with minimal success or no success. Over the past few months I have been doing my own SEO. My current strategies are continuing to add quality content, share on FB and Twitter, guest blogging and forum commenting, PR, as well as asking those link to my competitors for back links.

    I have seen my site moved from 62 to 27 within the past week.

  32. says

    Hi Lisa, thanks for providing us another great info here. For a person like me who have some extra time to spend, I would go for option 2, I agree with you that it is the most safest way. So far I am doing good, even though it might take some times. and thanks to you to, today I know what is PinInterest. Just signed up and can’t wait to explore more about it. thanks!

  33. says

    Thank you Lisa… Your post was very helpful for us newbies.. I was able to set up my own WordPress blog that easy… Looking forward for another insightful resources…

    More Powers!

  34. Mike says

    Hi Lisa,

    Great post…but I have sort of a general question: How did you get so popular? It’s sort of a massively broad question, especially since your website has been around for so many years.

    But I’m just curious–is there anything you particularly attribute it to? Did you go and network at blogging conventions? Is it that you pumped out lots of quality YouTube videos every two weeks or two months throughout the years? Is it Facebook or even a little advertising?

    I know it’s never ONE thing, but if you had to say one or two things you think you did that helped you grow in popularity and get a strong fan base, what would it be? I especially ask because, while I’m not doing Internet Marketing, I know it’s a niche that’s highly competitive, so I’m curious what you did to stand out from the crowd and gain a lot of eyeballs that over the years have kept readers coming back?

    Thanks and have a great day!

    • says

      Hi Mike

      I honestly think it has everything to do with getting started early and using YouTube. YouTube got me a lot of exposure back in the day and that was key. You have to be consistent in the early days and constantly pump out content and be authentic. That’s what people crave.

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