We’ve Spent Over $1 Million on Link Building Services (Here Are The Best Vendors)

Link Building Services

Looking for the best link building services in 2019?

I got you covered because Chris Dreyer (founder of Rankings.io) and I have spent well over $1,000,000 on different link building services.

This case study will focus on $140,424 of that spend.

Why not the entire spend?

  1. This is an organic case study (we’ll be updating it).
  2. We’re still gathering data from hundreds of orders.
  3. I felt a level of insanity coming over me after manually analyzing hundreds of links.

Let’s jump right into the findings.

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Top 3 Best Link Building Services (Case Study)

Before I go too deep into this, I want to share the goal of this case study. My goal is not to “bash” any of these services.

Everything I share here is designed to help both buyers and sellers.

Buyers deserve to know what they’re investing in. Sellers deserve to get quality feedback, so they can improve their services.

I’m not going to beat around the bush with my analysis. If the link is bad, I’m going to say it’s bad.

I’ll also explain the right way for buyers to use link building services (80% of buyers aren’t using these services correctly. More on this later.).

Sound good? Cool, let’s get started.

Here’s a high-level overview of the 942 links we analyzed:

As of 6/24/2019, we’ve collected data from 942 different link placements. We have the most data from Fat Joe and Page One Power. This will change as we continue to add more orders to our database.

Total Links

The Hoth and Page One Power had the highest number of unique linking root domains (on average). However, this data isn’t particularly valuable at a high level. I’ll explain why.

Average Referring Domains (DoFollow)

Page One Power and The Hoth also dominated the total organic keywords for their placements. This is a solid metric, but it’s also not 100% reliable because of the reasons I’ll explain.

Total Keywords (Average)

Lastly, link placements from Page One Power and The Hoth dominated the estimated organic search traffic numbers as well.

Estimated Organic Search Traffic (Average)

Here’s how we conducted this link building services case study:

1. We gathered metrics for all link placements using Ahrefs

The KPIs we used for a 30,000-foot view analysis are:

  • Ahrefs Rank
  • Referring Domains (DoFollow)
  • Keywords
  • Traffic

The objective was to see what services faired best at a high-level.

Here’s why high-level metrics (averages) don’t really work:

1. Varying order types

Some links are at a higher price point while others are at a lower price point. As you can imagine, higher priced placements are generally better. This also leads to:

2. Metric inflation

One or two websites with big numbers can inflate the averages. We filtered out super high-authority sites to avoid inflating the averages as much as possible.

3. Total referring domains doesn’t mean much

The only way to truly judge the quality of a website’s link profile is to do a manual analysis. Link-by-link.

That’s why step #2 in this process was critical.

2. I randomly selected 10 link placements from each vendor and did a manual analysis

I’ll be sharing a granular analysis of 2-3 out of the ten link placements for each vendor. My focus will be on placements that received a perfect score of 5, an average score of 3, and a poor score of 1.

Here is the domain-level criteria we used:
  • Is this a legit website or a PBN rebuild?
  • Is this website active?
  • Is this website adding new value or is it just a hub for accepting paid links?
  • Is the website using an SSL certificate?
  • Does the website have a clean history?
  • Is the domain relevant? To score this, we used The Relevancy Pyramid.
  • Does the website explicitly say that it accepts guests posts, sponsored posts, or paid links?
  • Does the business have an external presence on social media?
  • Does the website have organic search traffic? If not, does it have traffic from other sources?
Here is the page-level criteria we used:
  • Is the page hosting the link indexed?
  • Does the article have a legitimate author?
  • Is the article readable?
  • Does the article have a Grammarly score greater than 70?
  • Does the article have relevant, high-quality external links?
  • Does the article have internal links?
  • Is the article thin?
  • Is the article topically relevant?

Based on high-level metrics and manual analysis, these are the top 3 best link building services:

1. Page One Power

Page One PowerIt should come as no surprise that Page One Power had the highest quality links.

I questioned whether or not we should have on this list at all because they aren’t productized service like the others. They have monthly retainers and their service is customized for each client.

That said, they are still a “link building service”.

And I must say, they’re damn good at what they do.

Out of all the services I tested, Page One Power’s link placements were most consistent. But it actually wasn’t just their link placement that impressed me.

It was HOW they built links.

I’ve been preaching this for a long time, but the best way to build links to your site is by creating linkable assets. ALL of Page One Power’s placements do exactly that.

In fact: It’s a requirement.

This the safest and most natural way to build links to your site.

It’s far more natural to acquire links to an informational content asset than a boring transactional page (example: local lead capture page or product page).

Placement #1 (5/5)

Page One Power Link Placement

  • Total cost: $550
  • Domain Rating (DR): 73
  • Ahrefs Rank: 48,167
  • Referring Domains (DoFollow): 3,101
  • Total Keywords: 16,740
  • Estimated Organic Search Traffic/mo: 7,441
  • Domain Relevance: 1/5
  • Content Relevance: 3/5
  • Content Readability: 4/5
  • Grammarly Score: 86%
  • Word Count: 768

I wanted to highlight this link placement because it doesn’t seem like it deserves a 5/5 (on the surface).

But let’s dig a little deeper.

Page One Power was tasked with finding link opportunities in the legal niche. This is a notoriously difficult niche for getting REAL links.

The workaround is to sacrifice domain-level relevance.

Instead, you can build relevance on the content level.

I gave them a 3/5 for content relevance because it was a little broad, but I understand the reasoning (which is to make the placement more natural).

There were three elements that I loved about this link placement.

1. The content is editorial and written by a legit author

Editorial

2. The link profile is beautiful

The domains has DoFollow links from Adobe, The Guardian, Techcrunch, IBM, and Wall Street Journal.

Quality Links

3. They’re linking to a linkable asset

Page One Power linked to a data-driven blog post on the law firm’s site.

Perfect!

This link placement is a great example of why domain-level relevance isn’t always critical. A link can be high-quality as long as it’s placed on website with a strong link profile and the content is somewhat topically relevant.

Placement #2 (3/5)

Site

  • Total cost: $550
  • Domain Rating (DR): 69
  • Ahrefs Rank: 10,8155
  • Referring Domains (DoFollow): 2,411
  • Total Keywords: 7,381
  • Estimated Organic Search Traffic/mo: 995
  • Domain Relevance: 1/5
  • Content Relevance: 5/5
  • Content Readability: 3/5
  • Grammarly Score: 93%
  • Word Count: 626

This link placement had some good qualities such as:

  • It is indexed
  • The content is readable and high-quality
  • The content is linking out to other quality sources and does have internal links
  • It has a legit author

But it also has a few issues.

The website is extremely general and it covers spots, lifestyle, culture, women, money, and pretty much every topic under the sun.

General

The content the link was placed is loosely relevant (and that’s a stretch).

The client is a personal injury lawyer and the article is about “The Best Natural Teeth-Whitening Methods”.

Content Relevance

It is linking to linkable asset about “chemical burns from defective whitening products” on the client’s site.

This is good. But overall, it’s quite the stretch.

However, the biggest issue I found was with the link profile. What I’m about to show you was a common trend among poorly-rated links in this case study.

It is the presence of public blog network links.

Blog Network

I believe that these links are built by the people who paid for the links.

PBN example

I don’t believe the host website built them in most cases. There are always exceptions to the rule.

However, this type of tier two link building is used to increase page authority. Which in theory, makes the link “stronger”.

Placement #3 (1/5)

Remember when I said I would show the good and the bad?

Well, this placement was an example of the bad (but probably not why you think). You see this placement has great metrics, good content, and a solid link profile.

Page One Power - Link Placement

So, what’s missing?

The client’s link was removed!

I’m not sure whether or not this link was replaced by Page One Power.

But if it wasn’t, that’s $550 flushed down the toilet and missed opportunity for a link to age.

This was the only “bad” link I analyzed from Page One Power.

Page One Power Review

Page One Power is the real deal. So, if you have the budget, you should consider working with them. They understand how to build links in a natural and safe way. They clearly vet every link opportunity and they’re doing great work.

My only recommendation for them is to watch out for author footprints.

I noticed that the same author was used for a large percentage of the links they were placing. These leaves a big footprint.

2. Fat Joe

Fat JoeFat Joe offers a popular blogger outreach service. The service is priced based on Domain Authority (DA) from Moz and it ranges from DA 10 – DA 40.

In most cases, I would avoid websites in the DA 10 + range because they’re A) too weak and B) not high-quality.

Hence the reason why they’re low authority. You can, however, use lower authority links to grow the authority of tier one placements.

Link Placement #1 (5/5)

Fat Joe Link Sample

  • Total cost: $253
  • Domain Rating (DR): 16
  • Ahrefs Rank: 10,523,902
  • Referring Domains (DoFollow): 163
  • Total Keywords: 2,518
  • Estimated Organic Search Traffic/mo: 463
  • Domain Relevance: 4/5
  • Content Relevance: 5/5
  • Content Readability: 4/5
  • Grammarly Score: 66%
  • Word Count: 1,351

We purchased a DA 30 + placement and was quite impressed by the quality and results. The link went live around May 3rd:

Fat Joe Results

The target site was in a very linkable niche, but we liked several key parts of this placement.

1. It has a natural and relevant link profile

Link Profile

2. The content was great

The content was long and was filled with quality external and internal links. It also had a strong readability score and was topically relevant to the target site.

Content quality

3. The site is active and relevant

There aren’t many links on our list that received a 4 or 5/5 on site-level relevancy. This one scored a 4. It wasn’t 100% relevant, but it was a closely related niche.

Link Placement #2 (1/5)

  • Total cost: $60
  • Domain Rating (DR): 25
  • Ahrefs Rank: 6,041,323
  • Referring Domains (DoFollow): 398
  • Total Keywords: 237
  • Estimated Organic Search Traffic/mo: 33
  • Domain Relevance: 3/5
  • Content Relevance: 4/5
  • Content Readability: 2/5
  • Grammarly Score: 78%
  • Word Count: 560

Fat Joe Link Placement

This placement received a poor rating for several reasons.

1. The page isn’t indexed

Always copy and paste the page hosting your link into Google. If it doesn’t show up (as long as you give it a few weeks to be crawled), then there’s a problem. If the page isn’t indexed, then your link is worthless.

Plain and simple.

2. The site isn’t secure

It’s a pretty well-known fact that Google cares about security.

Not secure

That’s why they’re labeling websites without SSL certificates as “Not Secure” on Google Chrome.

3. The content has outbound links, but they look like other paid links

I don’t whether this vendor placed these links or the host website did. Either way, it looks like a link farm.

Paid links

4. The site has turned into a hub for paid links

Every new blog post is thin and crammed with paid links. It’s safe to assume that getting a link on this site is practically worthless.

5. The link profile is weak

The link profile has barely (if any) editorial links and is filled with directory, profile and web 2.0 links.

Weak links

Fat Joe Review

Fat Joe is a solid link building service as long as you use it the right way. I would stay away from the DA 10 + on tier one (but it’s probably safe to be used on tier two).

I also recommend upgrading the content length when you order. Most people likely purchase the default word count and this leaves a footprint.

Lastly, promote linkable assets instead of transactional pages.

3. The Hoth

The HothThe Hoth is one of the most well-known link building company’s in our industry.

They have a very successful company, but how’s the quality of their links? Keep reading to find out.

Link Placement #1 (5/5)

  • Total cost: $300
  • Domain Rating (DR): 90
  • Ahrefs Rank: 735
  • Referring Domains (DoFollow): 27,951
  • Total Keywords: 200,828
  • Estimated Organic Search Traffic/mo: 39,414
  • Domain Relevance: 1/5
  • Content Relevance: 5/5
  • Content Readability: 4/5
  • Grammarly Score: 91%
  • Word Count: 630

We ordered from The Hoth GP and for the criteria type we select “Traffic” and 10,000. I know a lot people have opinions about The Hoth, but this placement was excellent.

Not only did it meet our criteria, but it’s actually already producing results.

The Hoth Results

There were a few elements I loved about this placement:

1. It’s on an extremely authoritative website

The metrics on this placement are nutty (as you can see above). This is definitely an over-delivery of what I ordered. That’s a good thing.

For a website to be this authoritative, it’s guaranteed to have a strong link profile.

Quality Link Profile

2. It’s very editorial

The article is topically relevant, professional, and well-edited. The target link is also surrounded by other relevant links.

Link Placement #3 (3/5)

  • Total cost: $180
  • Domain Rating (DR): 34
  • Ahrefs Rank: 2,361,323
  • Referring Domains (DoFollow): 955
  • Total Keywords: 6,349
  • Estimated Organic Search Traffic/mo: 1,110
  • Domain Relevance: 1/5
  • Content Relevance: 3/5
  • Content Readability: 3/5
  • Grammarly Score: 74%
  • Word Count: 596

The Hoth was in a tough situation with this client because they are in the legal space. It would have been much easier for them to land a relevant link if the client was promoting a linkable asset (instead of their homepage).

That said: this link placement was decent, but it had some issues.

The Hoth Link Placement

Here’s the good:

  • The link is indexed
  • The link is surrounded by external and internal links
  • The content is topically relevant
  • The content quality is decent
  • It’s a real website
  • The site has real traffic

It has some quality links:

Link Quality

But the bad part about this link placement is the other part of this site’s link profile. It’s littered with public blog network links:

Network Links

The biggest giveaway of network links is when a website has a ton of homepage links. It’s extremely rare to have homepage links, so when you see it, it’s a red flag.

Here’s what network site looks like:

public blog network site

The other negative side of this placement is that it’s not relevant on the domain side.

Link Placement #3 (1/5)

Where do I start with this one?

The client ordered a link from The Hoth’s guest post service and they received a link on a web 2.0 (Weebly).

Weebly

Just so you’re aware, web 2.0s are not editorial links. Anyone can create a free account on Weebly and create what you see above.

These links worked well several years ago, but now they’re practically worthless.

Plus… that’s not what the client ordered.

The Hoth Review

Everyone in the SEO community has an opinion about The Hoth, but the links I analyzed were pretty solid.

I recommend selecting “traffic” as your criteria when you purchase links from them. And like Fat Joe, avoid low authority placements (DA 10 +).

Honorable Mention (Future Top 3?)

This section is dedicated to link building services that we believe have potential. However, we haven’t invested enough capital to make a fair assessment of their link quality.

RhinoRank

RhinoRankRhinoRank offer two different types of link building services: guest posts and curated links. Their curated links service will get you placements within existing content.

I’ve seen mixed results with their curated links. Some are great, some are really low-quality. I’ll report back soon.

Audience Bloom

Audience bloomAudience Bloom (now SEO.co) was founded by the prolific online writer, Jayson DeMers. They used to only provide link building services, but now they offer a wide array of services.

That said, we have a lot of link data from them and I’ll let you know how they are soon.

Authority Builders

Authority BuildersI’ve tested and analyzed a few links from these guys. It’s a great service because you get to select what website your link will be placed on.

Authority Builders is also operated by a standup guy, Matt Diggity.

Loganix

LoganixMost of my experience with Loganix is with their local services. However, we’re currently testing their links. They let you pre-approve their placements and the company is run by Adam Steele.

Adam deeply cares about customer experience, so I’m sure their services are great. I’ll report back soon.

There are few other services that we’re looking into such as Click Intelligence, Love to Link, and SEO Butler as well.

Big Takeaways

Analyzing these link building services was fun, thought-provoking, and grueling at the same. Through the process, I realized a few things.

1. There are no perfect link building services (and that’s fine)

Getting perfectly relevant links with impeccable link profiles is nearly impossible.

The point of a link building service is to help you offload one of the most time-consuming tasks in SEO.

So, you have to ask yourself:

Is a 4-star link acceptable if you don’t have to think about doing the work?

The answer is “yes” for me personally.

Sure.

In a perfect world, you would only have impeccable links in your profile.

But that’s not even natural.

A “natural” link profile will have a wide array of websites.

Some strong. Some weak. Some amazing. Some terrible.

THAT’S NATURAL.

2. If you’re going to use link building services, then do this:

  • Create and promote linkable assets instead of transactional pages. Watch this:
  • Only invest in higher authority opportunities (generally avoid the DA 10 – DA 19)
  • Less is more
  • Invest more to get deeper content/higher word counts
  • Use natural anchor text
  • Recommend the external links you want your link to be surrounded by

3. Your niche really matters…

You can’t expect to get 100% relevant links when you’re in a narrow niche. That’s why creating linkable assets is so important.

4. You (usually) get what you pay for

More expensive placements are usually better while cheap placements are worse. Common sense here.

That’s All (and What’s Next)

We’re going to continually update this list to keep it fresh. That means that some vendors may fall and others may enter the top 3.

I hope this was helpful and please share it if it was!

Thanks for reading.

Nathan Gotch
Nathan Gotch

Helping over 700 marketers get real SEO results at Gotch SEO Academy.

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