SEO Case Study #3: Rank a Site With One Exact Match Anchor?

The question is: is it possible to rank a website in a competitive niche with only one exact match anchor?

No matter what site or competition level I’m working in, I always keep my exact match anchors below 5%. But I wanted to see if I could rank a site without ever repeating a single keyword-based anchor text.

For Example:
If my website is about puppy toys, then I would link back to my site with “puppy toys” as the anchor text (one time), and nothing but variations such as “dog toys”, “best puppy toys”, and “doggy toys”.

And just to take things up another notch, I decided to conduct this experiment in a very competitive niche.

  • Niche: Pills (Can’t reveal what type or it could compromise things)
  • URL: an exact match .com – no idea how / why this was available!

Although I have an exact match of a very valuable keyword, I’m actually not targeting it quite yet. Instead, I’m going after a product within the niche.

Target Keyword(s):
Main Keyword (product name): 12,100 searches per month
Variations of Main Keyword: 8100, 1900, 1900

There’s obviously a ton of other variations of my main keyword, but I decided to target these four, which equates to around 24,000 searches per month.

Nitty Gritty Details of the Site

I’m extremely fortunate to have found this keyword because it’s the perfect site for emphasizing a problem and offering a solid solution. When the solution is easy, it makes sales easier. So, for this reason, I created content that is not only helpful, but will (almost) solve their problems. Obviously, to completely solve their “problem”, they will need to purchase the product I’m promoting.

Details About the Content:

I haven’t physically written a single article for this site. I have outsourced everything. Each article has costs me around $37 because I want quality content on the site.

  • Homepage: the homepage has a static 1,000-word article broadly talking about the problem (not the product)
  • Review: the product review is about 900 words. It’s a “first person” experience with a relatable story.
  • “Is it Safe” page: this is another page that specifically discusses the safety of the product. More of these will be added to decrease skepticism among the potential buyers. I also added a “Does Have Side Effects?” page.
  • (x6) blog posts: all five of these posts are between 500-600 words. Each article offers advice on the problem as whole, but always incorporates the target product as a solution without being overbearing.

Some Other On-Site Details:

  • I’m using a review theme from My Theme Shop
  • I have a custom logo
  • I have contact, affiliate disclaimer, privacy policy, and terms of service pages

Link Building

Now this is the fun part, but I think you’re going to be really surprised how little it took to actually rank this page.

Here’s what I used to get to the current position:

  • 15 high PR “guest posts”
  • 10 web 2.0s
  • 4 PDFs
  • 20 business listings
  • 1 press release distribution
  • 1 article from GoArticles.com

Here are the metrics for the PR links:
PR 4, PA 37, DA 24, TF 26
PR 4, PA 29, DA 15, TF 19
PR 4, PA 19, DA 6, TF 6 (Bad metrics, but highly relevant)
PR 3, PA 31, DA 19, TF 24
PR 3, PA 29, DA 16, TF 17
PR 3, PA 28, DA 14, TF 12
PR 2, PA 35, DA 24, TF 32
PR 2, PA 30, DA 17, TF 16
PR 2, PA 29, DA 18, TF 6 (Bad TF, but highly relevant)
PR 2, PA 28, DA 14, TF 19
PR 2, PA 23, DA 10, TF 21
PR 1, PA 30, DA 17, TF 3 (Bad TF, but highly relevant)
PR 1, PA 21, DA 14, TF 1 (Bad TF, but highly relevant)

PR = PageRank from Google
PA = Page Authority from Moz
DA = Domain Authority from Moz
TF = Trust Flow from Majestic SEO

Every single link used 100% manually written 400 + word articles.

Anchor Text

Okay, so how did I diversify anchor text with such a small amount of links?

Here’s what I did:

(x10) or almost 50% of the links have variations of the main keyword as the anchor. I literally only used the exact match keyword one time.

All the others have slight variations such as:

  • adding a dash
  • using “pill” instead of “pills”
  • using “try ___”
  • “does ___ work”
  • “___ like __”
  • “where to buy __”

The point is, is that I included a variation of the main keyword in nearly 50% of the anchors. How can I get away with this?

Because I have only used one exact match anchor!

The other 50% or so of my anchors are generic (click here, go here, read this review, etc) and naked links: www.mywebsite.com/product-review/. Although it is about a 50/50 split, I will be diluting the keyword based anchors even more.

In the next few months, it will be more like a 90% (safe anchors) / 10% or less (keyword based anchors). This is a safety measure more than anything.

The truth is, I have been testing this technique on several of my websites and client’s websites over the past couple months and it’s producing insane results.

Not only does it keep your website safe from penalties, but you’re also increasing the amount of keywords that you’re able to rank for. So instead of only ranking for my product name, I’m ranking for almost every variation you can think of.

And the coolest part about never repeating keyword-based anchors, is that when your main keyword is “stuck” around the #2-#5 spots, you can hit it with another exact match anchor and it should shoot it to the top.

Now that you know exactly what I did with this site, what kind of results has 22 links and no repeating anchor text actually gotten me?

How Much Did This Cost?

This started out as a low-cost project because I was testing the water more than anything. But once I saw that it had huge potential, I started investing more money into it. The totals below are for everything on the site, not just the landing page that’s doing really well.

Here’s where my money went:

  • (x29) manually written 400 word articles for link building = $81.20
  • (x5) Premium articles for the website = $325.20
  • (x20) business submissions = $15
  • (x1) press release distribution = $79
  • Custom Logo = $49

$674.73 revenue
– $549.40 investment

= + $125.33 profit

Although I have spent a decent amount of money on the site, my time investment has been very small. In total, I have probably spent about 8 hours on the site. That includes on-page changes and submitting articles for links. I’m very happy with this project and I will be continually updating this case study with progress.

My goal is to get this website up to a steady $1,000 per month and then be able to sell it off for a nice sum.

To quickly conclude the results of this case study, you don’t need to go crazy with exact match anchors!

Treat every exact match anchor like a precious diamond and only use it when absolutely necessary.

I hope you enjoyed this information and please leave any questions you have below in the comment section, and if you saw even a tiny bit of value in this post, please share it :)

P.S. I’m launching the Anchor Text Bible on July 15th. Go sign up for the priority list before it fills up (only accepting the first 200 people).

Where to enter your email: www.anchortextbible.com

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Comments

  1. Stoyanov says

    Hey Gotch, nice case study :) Just a quick question: Did you link to the homepage only with the guest posts, web20s and goarticles?

    • says

      Stoyanov, thanks for the comment!

      The links I listed targeted the landing page for the product review. I have built links to the homepage to rank for broad keywords. I’ll update this post once those are ranking on the first page (they are sitting around #10-#14 right now).

  2. says

    Man I love everything you do. You have inspired me to really test every little thing I do with SEO on my sites. I track it all in a spreadsheet to see what is working. A few questions:

    1. What type of guest posts are these? Is buying $5 high PR guest posts on fiverr any good? I have in the past but once my content goes off of the homepage the PR goes down to 0. I follow your onsite instructions, web 2.0 posts but still have issues getting high pr guest posts. Any help here would be great.

    2. Do you think the exact match helped rank?

    3. Does Google treat the plural of a word the same as the non-plural form? I thought maybe it would treat pills the same as pill.

    4. Why would you sell this site? If I had your skills I would make 10 of these and then retire! :)

    Thanks again for the great post.

    • says

      Stephen,

      thank you for the kind comment!

      1. Whenever I’m talking about “guest posts”, I’m referring to blog network posts. They achieve the same goal and I have complete control. I’ve heard that Rank Hero is pretty good, so you might want to try them. I’ve never used their service, but the quality seems to be at the level I would require for my links. The easiest way to get high PR contextual links is to create a private blog network. There are some diamonds in the rough over at Fiverr, but serious due diligence is necessary.

      2. Yes, it definitely helped and I may use another one if I don’t move from the #4 spot. I’m currently being outranked by a YouTube video, Amazon, and the manufacturers website

      3. I have tested this as well and from my experience, it treats “pills” and “pill” as two separate anchor text. Slight variations can make a huge difference even if it’s just a single letter or word

      4. lol this is good question. Something I’ll have to decide when the time comes :P

      Thanks again for the great comment Stephen!

      • says

        Cool man thanks for the reply.

        When you do blog networks do you set them up similar to the way you do Web 2.0’s? Do you have any blog posts about that?

        If my guest post falls off the homepage and to a lower PR page does it still give the same juice to my site?

        • says

          Stephen, yes it is a similar process, but a little more advanced because you want keep the network safe. My free eBook explains what you need to do to keep the network safe. The longer an article stays on the homepage the better, but letting it fall off the homepage is considered “natural”. I try to keep my “guest posts” on the homepage for at least 30 days – that seems to be the sweet spot

    • says

      I’d love to hear the same. Personally I don’t really care about PR. I’m mainly interested in Moz DA.

      My network mainly has an average of DA30. I feel as if I still need around 5 more DA40+ before I can make any waves.

      Good stuff!

      • says

        hi Scoot, I updated the post with all the metrics of my “guest posts” –

        In my experience, that type of DA isn’t necessary unless you’re trying to rank for something really crazy. It certainly doesn’t hurt, but getting domains with DA 40+ is extremely costly, which I’m sure you have experienced. I go for the low hanging fruits with nice TF, PA, and PR :), OR are relevant to whatever project I’m involved in.

        – Gotch

        • says

          Sweeet! I have domains with pretty similar metrics. Although I’ve been focusing on my offline business lately. At the moment they are all on different ips, but similar hosts. Which is probably why one of my sites is doing so poorly. It seems to just be stuck on the second page.

          Good stuff! Thanks

          • says

            Hi Scott, yeah some people claim it makes a difference… I don’t know if I believe it because I used to have my first couple blogs on SEO hosting and I was still ranking. Never saw “depreciating gains”. I place my sites on separate $1 hosting for safety reasons, but I have to use two different SEO hosting providers as well because I have run out $1 hosts to use :(

            It’s more than likely your blog’s relevancy, the article you’ve used, or the anchor text combinations. OR you’re just in a competitive niche and it takes times. I’ve noticed that is can take up 30 + days for a PR link to really have an effect.

          • says

            I’m not sure actually, i have to run some times. Currently all my high pr domains are on ix web hosting. Meaning, they are with the same host, but different ips. Most likely its a relevancy issue.

            Regardless, I’ve been on the hunt for some DA40+ domains. I plan to treat them like gold lol and put them on unique c class ips.

            Good stuff & thanks

            Scott

  3. says

    Still an useful and interesting article as usual, Nathan. I have some small questions about this 3rd SEO Case Study.
    1. You use guest post to get backlinks to your money-site or your Web 2.0?
    2. Do you increase all your Web 2.0’s PA?
    Thanks Nathan very much!

    • says

      Thanks for the comment Hai,

      1. The guest posts are hitting my site directly
      2. The easiest way to increase PA is with blog network links or high PR dofollow blog comments

      Let me know if you have any other questions, thanks!

      – Gotch

      • says

        Thanks Gotch for replying and answering my questions. Do you share me your way to find HIGH PR DOLLOW BLOGS? I’ve tried some queries that you share in .xls file but the results are almost nofollow.

          • says

            Thanks Nathan very very much. It’s very kind of you. You’ve talked about Social Monkee. Is this tool effect to increase Web 2.0 PA? What do you think about this tool? Is it useful to pay $ for it? Once again, i’m looking forward to your comment :)

          • says

            Hai, yes I do use Social Monkee, but only for link, IP, and anchor text diversity. The links it produces are not very strong, but great for diversity. It’s really cheap, so that’s why I use it for that specific purpose

            – Gotch

          • says

            When you said: “yes I do use Social Monkee, but only for link, IP, and anchor text diversity.” Does this mean you build links with generic, branded and naked anchor texts to your main site? I’m a little confused because this looks like a great way to diversify your main site anchor text percentages but you clearly expressed always build your tier one links manually. Or does this count as manually instead of automatically?

            Thank you!

  4. Martin says

    Nice post Nathan, case studies are always the most interesting. Just wondering a little bit on the details.

    1) Probably an odd question but where are you building the generic anchor links from?

    2) Are the Web 2.0s part of this never ending longtail anchor cycle?

    3) In regards to your “guest posts”; how do you go about your keyword placement in the title and body of the posts on your network?

    Like do you put your exact keyword in the title or do you try and just use a partial match?

    And do you try and get your exact keyword density of 1% in there like any other article or not bother?.

    Im trying to figure out if theres siginificant ranking bonus’s for including exact keyword in title and having a density of 1%, because it obviously makes your network look more obvious.

    Thanks

    • says

      Hi Martin thanks for the comment and good questions.

      1) the generic anchors are coming from the web 2.0s and some PR links

      2) No, I’ve used nothing but naked links and generic anchors with the web 2.0s – I use web 2.0s for relevancy and PR links for juice

      3) People always stress about this, but I always place my target keyword in the title somehow. In fact, I think it’s the most important part. Here’s a title from one of my articles (super basic): “Why You May Need ____ Pills” – as far KW density, I don’t even check. I just place the keyword in the title, first sentence or paragraph, and at the end of the article.

      Let me know if you have more questions Martin, thanks!

      – Gotch

  5. Jack says

    Hey Nathan what was the time frame for all of this?

    Also I don’t know what back alley affiliate program you went into but finding a 12k search term for a health; especially pill related product with untapped competition is insane.

    If you dont mind me asking do you hunt around for lesser known affiliate programs or single site affiliates, or do you commonly stick to the big ones?

    • says

      Hi Jack, yeah I seriously have no idea how this niche is untapped, but I’m not complaining :) honestly, I don’t typically start my research with an affiliate program. I start the search with a problem and then find a relevant affiliate product that I think could solve it. Obviously the solution (affiliate product), needs to be good. I’m using Commission Junction to be apart of the affiliate program for this particular site. Thanks for the comment and let me know if you have anymore questions

      – Gotch

      • says

        Hi Nathan,

        I have the same question as Jack, “what was the time frame for all of this?”

        Did you do a few of the web 2.0’s and guest post links each week? It would be cool to see that breakdown, thanks!

        • says

          Hi Stephen, that’s a good question and I accidentally skipped over it when Jack asked. This was spread out over about two months or so. No particular pattern to link building, which is how I do it with every site I work on. It’s actually really “natural” to link build this way. So, I just building links when I remember to / have time to.

          – Gotch

  6. Dan says

    hi first the study is really helpful i have 1 question
    how or where can i find such high pa guest or blog post sites?

  7. says

    Hi Nathan, thanks for the great post! Reading through your blog today and really enjoying the posts!

    A question: For my company site (phantom hire.com) I’m starting to do some SEO, now in my industry one of the keywords I’m targeting is ‘doggy toys’, which I’m targeting for the homepage, and I’m also targeting all the variations of ‘doggy toys los angeles’ such as ‘puppy toys beverly hills’, ‘dog play toys glendale’, ‘toys for puppies santa monica’ and so on for 20 areas in total. For each different area (and each keyword), I have a different page with around 300-400 words of content. The way I was thinking of doing it was like this: Build 4-5 Web 2.0’s for each keyword, and in each article (on the web 2.0s) have the exact anchor (so for example, for the page ‘doggy toys los angeles’, in the articles the anchor text would be ‘doggy toys los angeles’). So each page will have 4-5 links from different web 2.0’s (which I will also add authority to by building tier 2 links), so for the 20 areas that would be 80-100 links from different web 2.0’s. I will also throw in some high PR links (from my own Pr2+ network) to some of the pages and a few other links to diversify a little. My question/s is this: Is this a good strategy? And would there be any problems with using exact (or near exact) anchors for each page?

    Your help would be appreciated.

    EDITED: I changed your keywords because you should never reveal your money keywords!!!

    • says

      Thank you for the comment Ehsan!

      To answer your question: creating separate landing pages for each city is a very good idea and that’s exactly what I do for my client’s websites. Your strategy is solid, but you need to be careful with exact match anchors. I wouldn’t use more than 5% exact match anchors for any given page. In fact, to be safe, I stay around 1-3%. Use your web 2.0 properties to send relevancy to the pages. Google is smart enough to recognize that an article about “wedding cars” linking to a page about “wedding cars” is an extremely relevant match without you needing to use an exact match anchor. I very rarely use exact match anchors in web 2.0s and usually stick with keyword variations, branded anchors, or co-citations.

      Now, for your PR network, this is where you want to use exact and partial match anchors.

      But all-in-all, don’t crazy with exact match anchors and I highly recommend you read my blog post about anchor text: http://www.gotchseo.com/anchor-text/ – If you understand anchor text, you understand link building.

      Please let me know if you have any other questions, thanks again for the great comment!

      – Gotch

  8. Akram Khan says

    Hey Nathan,

    I was searching for anchor text strategy and found your blog….Man you wrote awesome blogs. Appreciated.

    Found you first time on google and believe me become a fan of yours. All are amazing posts, found very natural writing. Just downloaded the excels. Going to work on those sites.

    Hope to have such wonderful blog updates from you. God bless you :)

    Akram Khan

  9. says

    Dear Nathan!

    I’m wavering between building Webs 2.0 using Blogspot and WordPress and getting backlinks from forums signatures or link exchange.

    I want to have quality backlinks so i built Web 2.0 with your tutorials (Thanks Nathan for these ones). I’m building backlinks for my Webs 2.0 with forum signatures, comments, social bookmarking…My money-site’s main keyword increases ranking. I’m happy!

    But it’s very strange with Google.com.vn (I’m ranking my keyword on this). When i analyse my competitors’ backinks, i find almost their backlinks from irrelevant forums ( with spam signatures/contents) AND websites (using link exchanges).

    BUT their keyword’s positions are very high. A competitor with over 53% exact match anchor text is on the 1st position. They only rank a keyword by spamming on forums (Almost used forums are irrelevant) and exchaging text-links (Also irrelevant). This way only take them at least 1 month to reach tops of Google.

    Why? I focus on content and build Webs 2.0 and the result comes slowly.

    Thanks for your suggestions, Nathan.

    Respect!

    • says

      Hi Hai,

      do not focus your strategy based on what your competitors are doing (especially it’s spam). You need to keep in mind that spam DOES work for ranking in the SHORT term. In fact, websites using spam to rank, can often rank well for 6-8 months before getting hit with a penalty. Focus on producing quality backlinks for your site, so that you can rank in the long term. Slow and steady wins the race when you’re building a quality site.

      – Gotch

      • says

        Thanks Gotch for helping me. You’ve set my mind at rest! I’m building Web 2.0 and it’s fun :) Ah, here is my last question: You said that you’ve had used 8 Webs 2.0. My quesiton is whether you’re using different Web 2.0 service or not. What happen if i only use 8 Web 2.0 from Blogspot or WordPress (Eg: 3 Blogspot and 5 WordPress)? Should i do this?

        • says

          Hai, I like to diversify the web 2.0s as much as possible by posting on unique platforms. There’s nothing wrong with using WordPress or any web 2.0 more than once after you cycle through them all. The main reason why you want to post on different platforms is because of IP and domain diversity. Let me know if you have any other questions, thanks!

          – Gotch

          • says

            At this moment i don’t have any questions, Gotch. I’m doing as what you shared to us. The SEO result make me happy. By using your method, my site’s ranking is on the 17th of Google.com.vn now. It make me happy. This technique is slow to get high ranking but its ranking is very lasting. In GOTCHSEO I trust :)

  10. Joe says

    Hey Nathan I was wondering if you had any knowledge on this:

    I found a small niche ranking for a medium competitive profitable term with nothing else but irrelevant spammy high PR blog comments. Worst of all they even have a 70% exact anchor link profile and yet the site is 1 year old, and ranking well.

    I dug every link up and built a small site, and am planning to reproduce every single link they have to a tee and see if I’ll be able to get the same results.

    1) Would you suggest mimicking their anchor profile of 70% exact with these blog comments, or playing it smart and going for <5%?

    2) Assuming all these spammy PR blog comments aren't enough to rank myself to the top; would then using my personal PBN links be a good or bad idea? Aka would using my PBNs by linking to a money site thats entire link profile consists of about a hundred irrelevent spam blog comments somehow be bad for my PBN? Aka does shit travel backwards?

    3) Do you think this whole idea has a good chance at working?

    I don't typically delve in this type of spammy crap, but its free links and looks like an easy method if it works.

    Thanks

    • says

      Hi Joe, I just answered a similar question for Hai – but it completely depends on what your goals are within that particular niche. Are you looking to rank short or long term? If you’re looking to just rank and bank, then mimic what he’s doing. Obviously, if you’re going for long-term rankings – you’ll want keep things clean.

      And to answer your second question: that’s a valid concern, but I don’t think that’s something you would need to worry about. Unless you own the sites where you’re getting comment links from, then this will have no effect on your network.

      Let me know if you have any other questions or ideas, and thanks for the great comment!

      – Gotch

  11. Martin says

    Hey Gotch,

    As my network grows I’m growing increasingly paranoid about negative seo from my competition. Basically just wondering do you personally block crawlers?

    I have heard opposite arguments vs blocking them being a footprint, vs not blocking them and exposing yourself.

    Not server savvy, and dont particularly like the idea of tinkering with .htaccess. So if you do, just wondering if you block via robots only, robots + .htaccess, or using that spyder spanker plugin?

    Thanks

    • says

      Hi Martin, thanks for the good question. No matter what you do with your network, there’s one thing that you should always abide by: complete randomness. So, to answer your question, you should mix up blocking crawlers on your sites. Think about this way: it’s much more likely that your competitors will be manually snooping through your link profile trying figure out why you’re ranking well, than for Google to be doing that.

      Spyder Spanker will do the job – it’s actually a really good plugin not only for blocking crawlers, but also blocking annoying spam from North Korea, China, and Russia haha

      Let me know if you have any other questions!

      – Gotch

  12. James says

    Hey Nathan,

    This may be a tad off topic, but a few months ago your site really helped me out in learning how to structure a good tier 1 base. To which I made one of my first profitable sites with your help that now earns me 300$ a month. And will very easily grow to 350-500$/month in a few more PR links. This is pretty much 90% of my IM income atm as i’m fairly new to seo/IM.

    The site is a clickbank review site using (productname).net as url. Up until now I’ve had no problems, and a few months back the representative of the vendors affiliate company even emailed to say thanks for affiliating with us.

    However, 4 days ago I got an email from clickbank saying that the vendor wants the site taken down due to trademark infringement. I’ve since mailed the vendor back, too which he says the product “keyword” isnt allowed in the domain as its “proprietary”. Claiming they usually always register every extension of their “product/brand name”, but in this case forgot/didn’t.

    I feel they are doing this now as their product has been out for a few months and is gaining some momentum in popularity. And they want to eliminate the competition in the SERPs because they are ranking poorly.

    I know you’re not a lawyer, and Im sure as hell not gonna get one for a small site like this. However, this is a real kick in the face and just wondering if you ever ran into something like this or how you would personally proceed?

    My biggest fear is clickbank banning my account or something should the vendor complain enough. But I have no idea if they even have enough leverage to do that.

    Thanks

    • says

      Hi James, I swear I saw a thread about this exact topic over on BHW :P – I actually have been in this situation before, and the solution is simple: You’re going to have to change your domain. BUT there is good news. Just 301 redirect your site to a branded website and you’ll be good to go. Your rankings will either stay right at the top or you might bounce around for a week or two. But this route is much less of a headache than trying to go to war with Clickbank, which will ultimately leave you with a banned account.

  13. Stan O says

    Hey Nathan,

    I’ve spent the last two days researching Spyder Spanker or another way to block crawlers like AHRefs, SEOMoz etc. I found your blog through this research and it seems you are still recommended this plugin. The last post I found on Warrior Forum (April 29) said it wasn’t working. Are you still finding Spyder Spanker to work, and does it leave any sort of footprint across blogs?

    Thanks for the info been trying to see if this is worth buying or not.

    • says

      Hi Stan, thanks for the comment – there’s no denying that Spyder Spanker isn’t perfect, but it works very well for blocking Ahrefs and Majestic. It’s not as effective for blocking Open Site Explorer, but it only blocks about half from them. I’m sure it does leave a footprint, but I don’t see the problem with using it. Blocking crawlers from viewing your website isn’t against Google’s TOS, so how could they penalize for it? Like I said in a previous comment, if you’re really worried – then just alternate placing it on your sites.

      Let me know if you have any more questions,

      – Gotch

  14. says

    Hey Nathan, how have you been? It’s been awhile since my last visit on your blog and its still overflowing with awesome content just like this case study. Amazing. Congrats on getting the EMD for the target keyword with the high search volume. I’m pretty sure it will give you back more than what you have spent overtime.

    We’ll be a regular visitor here, please update us about results of this affiliate site of yours. Good luck mate. :)

    • says

      Fervil, good to see you back! I’m glad you enjoyed the case study and I hope you stay around and comment on my next post :)

      Thanks for the comment!

      – Gotch

  15. Jack says

    Hey Nathan I’m gonna spend some time working on a new site that’ll hopefully earn a good 500-1k per month as well. Since my PR links are limited atm, I’m going to follow your case study to a tee. Just had a question for you.

    You said you initially had 50% keyword variation anchors. Since its a product name (say “muscletech weight loss pill”), I am assuming at least one of the words (muscletech) was consistent in every anchor you made of those 50%, while the other words were varied.

    ie: “muscle tech pill”, “muscletech weight loss pill” “the best muscle tech pill”, “where to buy muscle-tech fat burner”, etc.

    I know you said you avoided a penalty by only having one exact anchor, but in your anchor text guide you say:

    “10% keyword variations

    Instead of linking back “cat toys”, I will use “toys for cats”, “these cat toys”, or “check out these cat toys”.

    ** Be careful here. You can still be penalized for “cat toys” even with variations. Keep variations around 10% and you’ll be safe.”

    Doesn’t this still apply? Wouldn’t you get hit on those 50% variations because the main word in the exact anchor is always recurring (in this case its “muscletech”) just like you state in your warning above?

    Thanks

    • says

      Hey Jack, good question. I think you’re analyzing it a little too much, so I’ll keep it simple.

      The site in this case study doesn’t get penalized because:
      A) I have diluted the anchor text and only about 1-3% of my anchors are using keyword-rich anchors.
      B) I got away with 50% variations initially because it was only 10 backlinks – if it was 1,000 keyword-rich anchors, then I would get a penalty.

      I hope that makes sense Jack, but let me know if you need more clarifications

      – Gotch

  16. says

    Hi , just check , how fast you build all your links? You build all the back links at the same time ?

    For a new website , how long need to wait for link building ?

    I am new in this field , hope can get your professional answer.

    • says

      Hello John, thanks for the comment. For this case study, I built links out over about a two or three week period. Pretty much whenever I had free time. I’m all about erratic link building because it’s “natural”.

      – Gotch

  17. says

    I have been very carefully building links. Google panda 4 update increased the website DA by 7 and dropped the rankings. Improvement in DA means good websites are pointing to us. Drop in rankings? I m still not able to figure out what went wrong.

    • says

      Hi Steve, I’m really sorry to hear that. Unfortunately, the Panda update has nothing to do with your with backlinks and everything to do with your on-page SEO. I recommend starting with keyword density and making sure it’s not over-optimized. After, make sure you don’t have duplicate content. Lastly, make sure the pages on your site are providing value to the user except for obvious pages like Privacy Policy, etc. The list goes on-and-on, but I highly recommend reading my on-page SEO guide.

  18. Anubhab says

    Hi Gotch,

    First of all accept my gratitude for the quality of information you are sharing here in your blog. I had some questions regarding the links details that you shared here. The page rank for the High PR Guest posts that you have mentioned, is I believe to be of the root domain PR and not of the page itself. I know I am sounding silly, but I have another question, for you after you enlighten me with this one, which might help other users too.

    -Anubhab

    • says

      Hi Anubhab, thanks for the comment and good question. These links are benefiting from the PR of the site because the “guest posts” are on the homepage where the PR resides for at least 30 days. Hope that makes sense

      – Gotch

      • Anubhab says

        Hi Gotch,

        Thanks for the answer. Now, the thing which I would like to ask is, suppose the same stats are available on a “POST” with a dofollow link from the “Comments”, with low OBL. And provided, the website niche is exactly related to the money site niche.

        Would the type of links you made from the Guest post be still more viable, or the ones I suggested be more potent or they would both be equal.

        It would help me greatly if you could let me know, and others too I feel. Again Thanks!

  19. Faisal imran says

    Hi Gotch,

    some one said today that backlinking mathod changed..
    is there any update from google/panguin ??

  20. says

    Hey Nathan,
    Great case study!

    One question about the web 2.0s, do you build them manually or do you use a software to automate this process?
    Also how deep do you go with the creation of these 2.0s? do you just place the article with the links or do you put some more stuff to make them look legit?

  21. Shay says

    Hey Nathan,
    I’ve noticed that you said the site was an EMD, so what anchor text do you use for brand links?

    I personally don’t like building EMD’s because of the risk of over optimization so I build PMD’s instead…so if I target “dog training” I would use something like planetdogtraining.com

    My question is how would you go about branding a PMD? will it be ok to have 20-30% of the links with the anchor “Planet Dog Training”? after all it’s the website’s brand, isn’t it?
    On the other hand, it still contains the words “dog” and “training” in it so I’m still not sure if it’s safe or not and how google sees this…
    With EMD’s I would just swap the brand links with naked url’s but here I’m not sure…what are your thoughts about this?

    BTW, do you automate some of the links in your tier1? I understand that the web2.0s your building manually but other links like social bookmarks etc…do you try to cut corners with them?

    Other than that I’m shocked that I only discovered your site now. Amazing content! Subscribed to your list.

    • says

      Your approach to EMDs and PMDs should be pretty much the same. Just use a lot of generic anchor text and naked links. For this particular case study, I have only used the brand (EMD) 3-4 times in my anchors. All the rest are variations, generic, and naked.

      I outsource social bookmarks and they are manual submissions

      Thanks for subscribing, I appreciate it!

  22. Martin says

    Hi Nathan

    I enjoy reading your posts, but i have some questions:

    1) Please, can you write a guide how and where to search for expired domains.

    2) Downloaded your excel file with web2.0 and started with building blogs, but i have big problem … all blogs that i have created aren’t indexed in google, sorry except 2 blogs but the backlinks from those 2 blogs aren’t indexed, i checked in webmaster tools, moz, ahrefs, majestic seo … nothing. any suggestion please.

    3) subscribed on Alex becker forum by your suggestion, he has very good videos, I learn something new everyday. Also on quicksprout great videos.

    4) When I buy expired domains how to keep them in life, i meam how to keep their PR? And how to build PA on web2.0? Do you use tools like

    • says

      Martin, thank you for the comment!

      1) Yes sir. I’ll be doing that soon

      2) First, make sure you read this post: How to Get Backlinks Indexed 100% of the Time. Second, tools like Moz, ahrefs, and majestic do not typically pick up web 2.0s. Ahrefs will occasionally after tier two links have been built to the properties

      3) Awesome man, Becker teaches some great stuff

      4) Make sure you buy domains with old link profiles. For example, if a domain has links from articles that were written in 2008, then there’s a good chance that the PR will stick. So in essence, keeping the PR comes down to good research

      • Martin says

        moz used to give me imagine in max. 10min. :) but after the google update something changed, even in webmaster tools i cant find the links. I read your article about indexing. Alex beckes has webinars about expired domains, but it is not good to share them here, it is?

  23. Shay says

    Hey Nathan,
    One more question.

    How do you know what percentage of anchor text distribution you have?
    The more links we have the harder it is to keep track of everything.
    So how do you keep track of all the links in realtime?

    Thanks.

  24. GeorgeLv says

    Hey Nathan, I just came across your site and want to thank you for all the info you are sharing here. Really great stuff I must say!

    Question about this case study site. How did the last panda update affect the rankings? did it go down? up? or unchanged?

    thanks again

    • says

      George, thanks for the comment!

      My rankings increased after the Panda update :)

      I actually have a double listings (homepage + review) for some of the keywords, which is really cool.

      The site will always be safe from Panda because I’m using premium, highly-informative content, and my on-site SEO is solid

      – Gotch

  25. Anson says

    Hi Gotch,

    Thanks for sharing your case study, One quick question, where you do the (x20) business submission for $15,

    thanks

  26. Anne Eveleen says

    Hi Nathan. First of all, thanks for this awesome post. Really full of excellent information..
    Here I have a few questions:
    1) What do u think of using long tail KW as an anchor? For example, my target KWs are top fridge magnet & fridge magnet to sell. If I use anchor text “top fridge magnet to sell”, will I be ranking for both target KW?
    2) For web 2.0, would it be a good or bad idea to link back to your site from the post title?
    For example, i built nathanfridgemagnet.wordpress.com.. Then I build an article with this topic : “Where you can find the top fridge magnet to sell?” and this title will link back to my main site..
    3) I am building niche site with around 15 inner pages. It will takes ages to build backlinks to these inner pages as well.. But wouldn’t that be a red flag if only the homepage gets all the backlinks? What’s your view on this? and any recommendations? Social bookmarks is sufficient for inner page backlinks?

    Thanks Nathan! Glad I found your blog today!

    • says

      Anne, thanks for the great comment!

      1) Yes, that is a good idea for varying things up and it should help you rank for both keywords. However, getting to the top 5, you’ll probably need an exact match anchor or two. Just use the anchor text cycling strategy I write about in my anchor text post and you’ll be good to go.

      2) I have never personally done this because I find placing the link within content gives it more weight than a standalone link.

      3) It’s not a red flag, but you should definitely build some links to the inner pages if you want them to rank. Depending on the competition of the target keywords for your inner pages, social bookmarks will probably not be enough.

      Let me know if you need any clarifications, thanks!

      – Gotch

      • Anne Eveleen says

        Well explained Gotch!

        How do you think of outranking ecommerce site? If you want to compete with these authority/branded site, what’s your strategy? I don’t mind taking a few month to break into top ten..
        I’ve heard some people say that we need to avoid ranking for term where Amazon, bestbuy etc is dominating 1st page results. What your say on this?
        I’ve got a homepage with around 1500+ words, and about 10 inner pages. Yet still not ranked in google for my target KW. just started my backlinking campaign steadily..

        • says

          Hi Anne, it really depends on the niche. You CAN outrank Amazon or other authority sites if the niche isn’t too competitive. If you’re jumping into a semi-competitive niche then your focus should be on using only high PR backlinks from strong domains. Just keeping building links and diversifying your anchor text. If you want, contact me and I’ll let you know what it’s going to take to rank in your niche.

          – Gotch

  27. Martin says

    Hi Nathan

    When we search for expired domains, we should search for domains from same niche as our money site or it doesn’t matter. How much domains you have?

    Thanks

    • says

      Hi Martin, finding relevant domains with relevant link profiles is the best, but this is nearly impossible in most cases. 99.9% of my domains have irrelevant link profiles, but I make the sites relevant to whatever keyword I’m targeting. I’m approaching 100 domains in my network. I started with only three a year ago :P

  28. Jack says

    Hey Nathan,

    Now that you’ve used both single 1$ hosts and one bigger host with multiple C-blocks, what would you recommend?

    I’m going to be getting more expired domains soon, and to this point have been using 1$ hosts. However, they are extremely tedious managing all the details, payments, etc. On top of that the servers tend to be down half the time, and overall its just a very annoying process.

    I’d much prefer one master login, and one bill every month with simply one account for the lot of them. Due to safety reasons though I have exclusively gone with 1$ hosts.

    Would you recommend sticking with 1$ hosts or switching to a bigger host that allows multiple IP’s? Has your experience been okay? If the latter, is their a host you recommend?

    Thanks

  29. says

    Hello Nathan,

    Is it really possible to higher ranking for a highly competitive keyword without making exact match anchor text links.

    One more question.
    Please suggest me some guest posting website with good link metrics.

    Thanks!!!!

    • says

      Hi John, thanks for the comment. It is definitely possible because that’s exactly what I’m doing with the site in this case study. It may not work in every industry because of differentiating competition levels, but I’m getting very good results right now without having to repeat exact match anchors.

      – Gotch

  30. says

    Thanks for sharing the linking strategy that worked for you. Can you pinpoint the ratio of links that went to the home page to the links that went to inner pages.

  31. Haris says

    Dear sir,
    I want to ask a question that i build some backlinks and keyword show ranking.But the main keyword remain stopped at 76 position and other 3 sub-keywords show flactuation.
    Now what i do…??
    How to increase the keyword ranking day by day.
    Thank you

    • says

      Hi Haris, many people are having this problem right now. Google has changed the algorithm so that there is a waiting period for rankings. Just keep building high-quality links, optimize your site correctly, and you’ll be ranking soon (depending the on competition).

      – Gotch

  32. Martin says

    Hey Nathan

    Did you test what happened with new google update? Something they didn’t announce, sandbox. I read about this on many forums.

    • says

      Hi Martin,

      Yeah I’m actually testing now and it is definitely true. It’s taking a longer time to rank and many rankings will just stick no matter what you do. The waiting period seems to be stronger on newer websites with fresh link profiles, and if the website is targeting a very high CPC keyword. It’s had no effect on my client’s aged websites, but I’m noticing the effects with my newest niche sites.

  33. Mark P says

    I’ve been using this exact strategy myself since April and it works awesome. Every single website of mine new or old has gone way up in ranking. They passed the Panda update unscathed and actually doubled their traffic.

  34. Sean says

    This is an interesting case study. You said, this website was surprisingly easy to rank but getting 15 high PR links is not that easy, especially for someone on a tight budget. What about the business listings? Are these just directory links? For a site I’ve recently been working on I used a completely random mix of keywords, mostly variations of my main keyword but approximately 20 variations and it’s been working quite well so far. I just try to keep it as random and diverse as possible as that helps to produce a natural looking link profile rather than worrying about precise ratios.

    • says

      Hi Sean, thanks for the comment. You’re totally right, getting PR links isn’t easy when the budget is tight. As far as the business listings, they are different than traditional directory links. When you sign-up for my list, you’ll receive an excel file with a nice list of highly trusted business directories you can start using ASAP.

      As far as the anchor text, diversity is great. Just be careful with keyword-rich anchors EVEN if they are variations. You need to throw in some branded, naked link, and generic anchors to truly stay safe from Penguin updates.

      • Sean says

        Thanks for the link and good point about the keyword rich anchors in terms of future proofing against Google updates. I forgot to mention I do have a good percentage of branded anchors as well so throwing in a few more generic anchors should help to balance it out.

  35. James says

    Hi, another great post, you’re really providing some valuable information. I just wanted to get your advice on what type of sites to create generic anchor text links on. Do you use Web 2.0 platforms for this or only more low quality links like blog comments? The reason I ask is I need to dilute my anchor text ratio as it is currently heavily weighted torwards keyword rich anchors.

    • says

      Thanks for the comment James! My favorite links for diluting are press releases, web 2.0s, blog comments, and directories. Pretty much anything to be honest. Just avoid low-quality links.

  36. says

    Hi Nathan

    Great site, excellent posts!

    Just to clarify, you make no tier 2 links to the web 2.0s? And I assume to get them indexed you’ve just been using the methods in your indexing post?

    Also, the 4 PDFs are these just PDFs you’ve created and put on PDF sharing websites, which then have a profile link back to the money site?

    Thanks!

    • says

      David, thanks for the comment!

      I do sometimes, but in general, I use the web 2.0s for relevancy not for ranking power. For indexing, I use the exact strategies in that post.

      For the PDFs, I create one PDF with a unique article, submit to the sites, and use a naked link for the anchor. I’ll be writing a more detailed post on how to build PDF backlinks very soon :)

      Thanks!

  37. says

    Hi nathan, nice post and really impressive information for bloggers and webmasters like me. I will consider to implement some of this technique for my business. thanks for sharing such an astounding information.

  38. Rob P. says

    Hey Nathan,

    Incredible info on your blog. I’m absorbing a lot of information and learning a lot. After being burned a few times on the seo for my ecommerce site, I’ve recently decided to tackle it on my own and be highly selective of the linkbuilding being done to my site.

    I’ve recently employed the use of another SEO provider’s PBN, and saw some incredible gains on my targeted keywords initially, but after around the 2nd-3rd month, my site’s rankings for a few of the keywords tanked out of ranking in the top 100 completely for the root domain of my site, while my innerpage is still ranking for those keywords in the 2nd-3rd page. The PBN was originally targeting only links to the root domain.

    I’m 99.9% certain that I hit a penguin algorithmic penalty for overoptimizing for those specific exact match keywords for the root domain, since my site still lacks a diverse profile for raw/branded/generic links. But at the same time since I’ve been cherrypicking very high DA sites and high quality directories to link back to my site, the linkjuice flowing to my site alone is enough to keep me still ranking decently for those same keywords for inner pages (which have no direct linkbuilding done to them). I definitely know it’s not a manual penalty of any sort…no message in WMT.

    My question is this, since you have mentioned several times in your blog comments that once receiving a “penalty” it’s very hard to recover and rank well again for those same keywords that you were penalized for…

    Are you talking about the ability to rank your site for the same keywords after successfully getting a manual penalty revoked? Like your site will have some sort of “stigma” attached to it?

    Or are you talking about hitting a penguin algorithmic penalty, and then even after diluting your profile, and removing excess keyword rich links, it would still be difficult to see positive progress?

    I’m in the process of concentrating on building up my branded links with a quality press release service, and I’ve instructed my current SEO to change all his pbn anchors to branded anchors for the time being. I’m hoping to see positive movement in my tracked keywords soon after google indexes these links, and my hope is that triggering a Penguin algorithmic penalty doesn’t put me in some kind of sandbox or that I need to wait for another penguin refresh to see my site making positive movement.

    I guess that really is the gist of my question. As far as penguin penalties go, do you see improvement after fixing the ratios of your backlink profile? Or do you have to wait an extended period of time for another penguin refresh, or wait out some sort of sandbox period?

    Thanks for your time Nathan, again, you offer quality info, I’m thinking of using your services on a consultation basis, and will contact you directly about it.

    • says

      Rob, thanks for the comment and the great info!

      When I say there’s a “stigma” around your site, I’m really referring to the removal of manual penalties. You can recover your rankings from an algorithmic penalty as long as you can pinpoint the actual problem. For Penguin, it’s almost always anchor text, which seems to be your issue. Personally, I would have probably kept the PBN anchors intact and just hit the site with a ton of new unoptimized anchor text, but changing the anchors will work too.

      Please shoot me over a message and I can analyze your site directly. Thanks!

  39. David Gibson says

    i have a question about the link metrics you listed above, here’s the first one, PR 4, PA 37, DA 24, TF 26. When you speak about adding links to high pr sites, such as the audio sharing sites etc., from my experience, when you add your link, it creates a new page on that domain that is usually 0 pr because its brand new. Is this still considered a high pr link because of the domain strength and pr, even though the pr of your link page is 0.

    • says

      Hi David, good question.

      Those metrics are for a domain from my PBN, so my link is on the homepage where the authority is. For audio sharing sites, web 2.0s, etc, you’re totally right, the PA and PR is zero because it is a completely new pages. That’s why you need to be build tier two links to boost the PA/PR.

  40. devon says

    I HAVE A QUICK QUESTION CONCERNING DOMAINS. WHEN BUILDING LINKS SHOULD WE USE OUR ROOT DOMAIN OR SUBDOMAIN? (IN OTHER WORDS WITH OR WITHOUT THE http://WWW.? THIS QUESTION CAME UP BECAUSE I NOTICED WHILE USING MAJETIC SEO THT MY SUBDOMAIN (WITH WWW.) HAD A HIGHER CF AND TF THAN MY ROOT. PLEASE SHED SOME LIGHT ON THIS TOPIC

  41. Jack says

    Hey Gotch,

    Found a keyword similar to yours here and pretty sure I can rank it but was hoping I could run something by you because I know you have a lot more experience ranking product based keywords.

    Basically the keyword is (product)review and gets 1000 searches per month with a 15$ commission roughly. Anyway I’ve also found a lot of really good secondary keywords with high buyers intent. Such as “cheap (product)”, “where to buy (product)”, is “(product) worth it?” Of course these keywords get 30-70 searches but are very valuable because of their strong buyers intent.

    Now normally if this were an information query I’d abide to good 2014 SEO and stick all these keywords into my main article either in text or h2/h3 tags and hope they get picked up and land somewhere on the first page.

    However, being that these keywords are so important and that the SERP title I believe is the most powerful ranking factor I am wondering if building a page for each query “does (product) work?”, “cheap (product)”, “where to buy (product)” with atleast 400 words each is a good idea or not? I know its against 2014 practice but I’ve never actually tested it to know if its detrimental for ranking or sitewide over optimization by having so many pages containing the same word (product) in it.

    Its very important to get first place position for these secondary keywords which is why I am wondering which practice is better.

    fck sry I intended to make this short but then ranted a bit

    • says

      Hey Jack,

      Glad you found a good niche and thanks for the comment!

      Personally, I would create one massive resource and try to rank for all of those variations with it.

      My META information for the article would look like this:
      Title: “Where to Buy Cheap (Product): Is It Worth It?”
      META Description: “Wondering where you can buy cheap (Product) and even it’s even worth it? Read our review now.”

      This is usually more than enough to rank for all variations of a product based keyword in my experience. The article needs to be solid obviously, but a strong title with the keywords placed naturally is a must.

      Hope that makes sense!

      – Gotch

  42. David Gibson says

    I have been buying links from sponsor pages of some pretty strong sites. Ive noticed that once my link gets placed, my majestic and semrush backlink count jumps up to about 400 hundred links. after investigating, i noticed its just duplicate links from what i’ve been calling mirror pages. Its about a million pages that really link back to the same page. Below is an example of the url’s

    http://blog.Website/?feed=rss2&p=135
    http://blog.website.com/?feed=rss2&p=1364
    http://blog.website.com/?feed=rss2&p=804
    http://blog.website.com/?feed=rss2&p=808

    I replaced the real domain for safety reasons. My question to you is should i be concerned about this. Is google smart enough to count this as one link or am i about to get slapped for overoptimized, unnatural anchor text.

    By the way, Youre a legend in my book, You have been dishing out some great info and im sure everyone greatly appreciates it, not just me. It usaually seems like the more experienced and well rounded seo’s are very hard to reach and get answers from, not with you, thanks.

    • says

      David, thanks for the comment!

      In my experience, Google will count it was one link, but it would definitely stress me out. Any link that has the possibility of being site-wide, I would try to use unoptimized anchors. Shoot me an email and I’ll take a look.

      I really appreciate the kind words and thanks again!

      – Gotch

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