Case Study: $5 Link Building

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$5 link building

It’s 2013. Google’s Penguin algorithm update has long since been released, established and written about. The whole internet, every reputable SEO company and blog have discussed it down to its finest details.

Yet, there are still legitimate businesses out there using black hat tactics, either oblivious to Penguin, or still thinking they can bypass it.

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

10000 Gauranteed Instant Backlinks on Fiverr

10,000 GUARANTEED instant backlinks! Sounds great… won’t get you anywhere, unless you are having a link popularity contest with one of your mates. But I’m far too old to play childish games now…
Check out this offer below – “Google Page 1 Guaranteed”:

Master of Backlinks

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

Actually, I won’t guess. Over the past 8 weeks I have tested it for myself. I purchased this package and asked for the 10,000 links to be pointed to a domain of mine.

Fiverr Message

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting a 45 day wait for all of my links and I had been hoping to publish this blog in July. But still, I stuck with it. After all, “rapid increase in Google is guaranteed” – I mean, I could really do with all that traffic from my site appearing much higher in Google than it currently is.

This domain of mine was ranking on page 6 of Google for “womens underwear online” at the start of this test. And as the links started coming in to my domain, towards the end of this campaign, I had dropped out of Google of that specific keyword, as tracked by Authority Labs below:

Authority Labs

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

Fiverr Message 2

After submitting 4 other keywords to build links for, all related to and mentioned on the homepage of my website, and waiting 45 days for “rapid increase in Google is guaranteed” – none of these keywords ever made it into the top 100.

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

This is just one of many people selling this kind of service. I didn’t mean to pick on this particular individual or highlight his work personally – he just happened to have the most attractive offer in my eyes on Fiverr.

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

And here’s just one example of the millions (and millions) of someone requesting links (directory submissions) for very cheap:

People per Hour Directory Submission request

In this example I wonder what the purpose is of being listed in 25 directories? Again, if it’s for a popularity contest Simon, I don’t think that’s going to get it done. And if it’s for gaining traffic, or positioning in Google SERPs, I’m fairly confident it’s not going to have the desired effect (don’t worry – I didn’t waste my time or cash testing this service).

At what point 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 have they searched in Google (or maybe Bing) that has told them “you need 10,000 links” or “you need 25 directory submissions”? Or who has told them this? Somewhere out there, whether it be on the internet or in the pub or at a conference, someone is giving out some very bad advice.

And I was hoping that in 2013 we would see the end of this. 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’m still coming across sites with a lot of dodgy links, usually those in uncompetitive or low competitive niches to be fair. Fewer and fewer results on page one in competitive niches these days have a black hat backlink profile (payday loans is an exception).

(For the record, I am not against Fiverr or PayPerHour – in fact I love Fiverr and use it regularly… just 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 getting 60,000 non-paid search visitors (this doesn’t include referral visitors).

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

By month six; July, we had increased the traffic to 100,000 visitors (63% increase) on a monthly basis for this campaign. Although at this point we have failed to double the traffic, an extra 40,000 visitors a month for this client was substantial to their business.

And come the twelfth month of our campaign, admittedly now at their peak season (end of November up to Christmas), the traffic peaked at 175,000 visitors – nearly three times the levels of traffic in January at the start of that year.

After the peak comes the decline, but January 2013 still continued to be an excellent month with 120,000 visitors – and that was double the visitor levels of the previous year.

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

Ultimately, these really are examples of getting what you pay for. Spending $5 and £6 really isn’t going to hurt any business’ budget. There’s a high chance that these cheap tactics will damage your website’s chances of ever ranking high in Google, as shown in my example. Low quality backlinks run the risk of getting your website penalised and giving yourself a disadvantage. So why go there in the first place?

Authority Labs rankings

Building lots of links is not link building. It never should have been and for the past 3 years or so it hasn’t been. At least not for the bright sparks and ethical marketers amongst us. Link building is about driving relevant traffic and potential customers to these websites. If the client is paying me X amount to do this for them – my minimum requirement is to provide them with a lot more money than they are paying me. Otherwise it’s a fail. And they are not going to continue paying me for their services.

And here is how the sales went:


The graph follows a similar pattern, although, admittedly, January 2013 hasn’t quite doubled January 2012 this time. Although I must point out that telephone 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.

Barrie Smith
Barrie Smith is a Link Building guru at Receptional Ltd and has over 11 years of experience in Digital Marketing. Barrie has worked on several of Receptional’s high-profile clients in a variety of sectors; including travel, fashion, finance, gambling and car insurance. His work has previously been award nominated.
Barrie Smith
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  • Jacob King

    Buy one fiverr gig for some auto approve blog comments as tier 1 links and call that black hat SEO…

    Allow me to correct you. That is not black hat SEO.

    That’s just being an idiot SEO.

    And the site was supposedly dumped?

    If that was actually the case, thanks for preaching white hat SEO while teaching people how to neg SEO sites for $5.

  • Barrie Smith

    Hi Jacob,

    Thank you for your comment.

    “If that was actually the case, thanks for preaching white hat SEO while teaching people how to neg SEO sites for $5.”

    If people want to take down your site there are plenty of techniques out there they can use and there’s a search engine called Google that will give them all the instructions. I’m not sure how many people use Search Engine Journal for that kind of behaviour. The intention of my post was to highlight these techniques that don’t work for people who want to promote their business online.



    • Norm

      I’m actually not convinced that the $5 work you purchased is what caused the drop for the one keyword. There have been a few updates to the algorithm during this time, and historically I see a lot of movement the lower you go. In other words, the top 1 to 3 listings are fairly consistent, 4 to 10 move around more, page 2 to 3 even more, and by the time you get to page 6, you may very well see big swings. Do you have historical ranking results for that one keyword before you started the test?

      Additionally, what kind of backlinks did the site have before you started? And, did you receive any warnings in Google Webmaster Tools?

      A diverse backlink profile can protect you from some negative backlink building. Also, if you didn’t receive a warning, I’m guessing your $5 backlinks were possibly mostly just ignored, rather then negatively impacted you.

      • Barrie Smith

        Hi Norm,

        Thank you for your comment.

        The site had been ranking constantly on page 6 before we purchased the links. As you’d expect it moved up and down from time to time but always on page 6.

        The site had minimal links before the purchase, all of them at least 1+ years old. It was a test site. As of today there have still been no messages in Google WebMaster Tools; “No new messages or recent critical issues.”



  • Chance

    I get clients in the door all the time that bring these $5 link schemes in. Your article proves what we have been saying for years. Thanks Barrie.

  • Jon

    And what exactly is your definition of ‘ethical’ backlinks?

  • sue

    Every time I visit Fiverr I shake my head at those adds and wonder not only of the people buying those gigs after all if they know about backlinks surely they must know better by now but the sellers are a class act. They invested in expensive Backlinking software and by god they are going to use them as long as there are fools that buy the gigs.

    It’s just like the Fiverr traffic of 30,000 real human visitors a month to increase rankings (at least that’s what the add claims) of course things go wrong , they hit your server with 10,000 clicks an hour, (no joke, this has happened to my server with several people buying the same gig at the same time) you can imagine the frustration of the server management .

    What I wonder though is where does Fiverr management stand on these issues do they have duty of care to their customers ? I have noticed the related adds were suspended or halted when an issue like this surfaces. Like you, I’m not against Fiverr, I like the site but every time I see these gigs I think is someone ever going to address this? well thanks for doing that and lets hope some of the link junkies and the misinformed take notice.

    All the best ,


  • 21Development

    Fiverrr can be useful for some, but definitely not for SEO. However, I recently ran a test with oDesk with a freelancer overseas. I was very up-front in stating that we would not allow any Black Hat techniques or “spun test”. Most of what they have provided were press releases, web 2.0 submissions, profile submissions, etc. Not exactly great links, but not really “spammy” either. What I found was surprising. I actually improved rank from approx. page 4, to page 1 in 90 days. Not bad. Can you give me your take on this type of link building?

  • Barrie Smith

    Hi 21Development,

    Thank you for your comment.

    “Can you give me your take on this type of link building?” – “I actually improved rank from approx. page 4, to page 1 in 90 days. ”

    My take is that it worked well in getting you on page 1 🙂 If that’s what you wanted from your link building, it worked for you.



  • Jerry

    Barrie, thanks for your post, you show that most of Fiverr’s link building gigs are BS and I do agree with you. Also you showed the results you got for your client. But I’m sure many SEJ readers including me are curious about another thing: what really works today? What exactly steps, techniques, secrets, whatever you are using to get nice results these days? Thanks in advance for your answer!

  • Barrie Smith

    Thank you for your comment Jerry,

    I think that deserves a blog post in itself! Let’s see what SEJ can come up with…