The Zero Link Building Experiment – How To Rank A Site Without Building Links

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The Zero Link Building Experiment – How To Rank A Site Without Building Links

I love experimenting with things when it comes to SEO and the best SEO advice I can give to anyone is that you should never believe anything you read until you have tested it for yourself.

You might not have realised it, but this blog is an experiment…

UPDATE: Track the performance of this experiment here. You’ll be shocked.

You can also read the follow up post – How I Built A Top 100 Blog.

ATTENTION: Unlock My Award Winning Blogging Resources Instantly

The Experiment

I have never really payed much attention to the Google Webmaster Guidelines in my SEO efforts.

That Matt Cutt’s bloke keeps banging on about them so I thought I’d see what all the fuss is about and decided to setup an experiment.

Is it possible to rank a website in Google with nothing but high quality content and zero link building?

To test that theory I have created this SEO blog that does not use SEO to drive traffic.

Yes you read that correctly, my SEO blog about SEO will not use SEO to secure rankings and traffic. Irony ^^

Kind of like how John Chow makes money online by telling people how he make’s money online.

Instead I’m going to focus on sticking to the official Google Webmaster Guidelines as closely as possible. After reading through the guidelines and brushing up my skills via the Webmaster Academy I setup this blog and experiment.

The end game is to create a loyal base of fans and subscribers through E-mail, Social Media & RSS with a steady flow of traffic from Google without any link building or PPC.

The Methods

The methods I’m going to use can be broken down into 2 parts, content creation and promotion.

The Content

Matt Cutts always says that the best way to get links and rankings is by creating great content as that will naturally attract links.

That makes sense to me, but what is great content exactly?

I watched this video for some ideas-

  • Create a blog and establish yourself as an authority
  • Do something that is unique/different/original
  • Create content that is useful/helpful to the community
  • Answers common questions in your niche
  • Publish original research
  • Create videos
  • Publish how to guides and tutorials
  • Create lists of helpful resources

Can you name an SEO blog that does all of that? No one seems to offer anything original; it’s just the same generic around the block advice written in different ways over and over again.

What makes things worse is that a lot of the stuff that gets published as fact is actually just baseless thought and opinion.

Very rarely do I find an SEO blog that has something new, unique or different to offer.

My Content Strategy

With that in mind I’m going to create the ultimate resource for SEO’s that is jam packed with helpful content based on my own research, knowledge and experience.

I’m going to tackle a lot of the common problems SEO’s face through a series of tutorials in the form of videos and blog posts.

I’ve already published a few examples-

  1. The Ultimate Guide To Tiered Link Building
  2. How To Analyse Your Backlink Profile To Fix Current & Future Penalties

The Promotion

I have always relied on SEO to drive traffic to my sites. Although I have experience with other methods, SEO is my bread and butter.

If Matt Cutt’s is right, then publishing high quality content should do the trick when it comes to promotion. As more people discover my content, they will share it/link to it which will allow more people to discover it and so forth.

Ideally I will want to create content that is so good, it will promote itself.

When people read what I have created they should be falling over themselves to subscribe for updates via email, follow me on Twitter, sharing the page on social media and so on.

So how can I get the ball rolling?

My Promotion Strategy

My entire promotional strategy to drive traffic is as simple as-

  1. Posting on forums like TrafficPlanet, WarriorForum & DigitalPoint
  2. Getting involved on Twitter / Facebook (SEO types seem to prefer Twitter)
  3. Commenting on blog posts (with links to my tutorials if related)
  4. Setting up some ninja Google Alerts to find new places to get involved
  5. Asking people to share the page to get access to my exclusive personal resources
  6. Just straight up asking people to share

Seem’s pretty basic and straightforward right? I’m also going to make sure that it is easy for people to share my content, connect with me on social media and subscribe to e-mail updates.

I’m hoping that the combination of those mechanisms with great content will be enough to snowball the blog to success.

The Reporting

Every month I will write a detailed report about the sites progress and tell you exactly what I have done to get it there.

This will be a great resource for myself and readers of the blog. It will help me keep track of progress efficiently while teaching readers what to do and what not to do.

The reports will be classed as ‘great content’ in their own right.

These monthly reports will include key metrics such as-

  • Traffic statistics
  • The number of e-mail sign ups
  • Social media growth
  • Number of affiliate links clicked
  • Income reports
  • All the juicy details of what I have done and how I did it!
  • And a bunch of other stuff

Click Here To View All Of These Reports

Am I Crazy?

Part of me feels like this is experiment is doomed to fail and it really does push me out of my comfort zone completely. I have never created video tutorials before or used my knowledge and experience to teach/help others.

I have always relied on creating links to get rankings and traffic, but now I’m only relying on creating great content to get links to get rankings and traffic. Scary!

On the other hand I believe this could be one of the most rewarding SEO experiments I have ever done. I have a wealth of knowledge and experience to share and I’m hoping that will help out real people like you.

Will You Help Me?

If you want to help me out with this experiment and say thanks for my tutorials then please take 60 seconds to share them.

You can do that by-

  • Posting on SEO & webmaster forums
  • Sharing them with friends on social media
  • Writing about them on your blog
  • Sharing them with your e-mail list
  • Leaving comments & ratings

Be sure to drop me a mail if you share them and I’ll shout you out in the monthly reports!

ATTENTION: Instantly Increase Traffic To Your Blog With My Resources

Over To You

What do you think? Is this experiment setup for success or failure?

Do you have any tips or advice on what I should be doing to make this a success?

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85 Responses

  1. 8.15.2012

    Great post will follow it closely, I already came across some of your shameless promotion on TP, ha and also seen your videos on YT that’s where I first found your site. I’m sure if you keep adding great content like you have been people will do your link building for you. Good luck..

    • August 15th, 2012 at 9:42 am

      Haha unlike most shameless promotion I like to think I actually add some value =D

      Am I reading that right, you found my videos/site via YouTube? Interested how if so. Actually considering self hosting the videos and removing them from YouTube, this could be a bad decision though ^^

      • Rob
        April 23rd, 2013 at 11:28 pm

        Just thought I’d let you know I found you through YT as well. I was looking for something on tiered link building and you came up. Great learning tutorials and waiting for some more now that you’ve wetted my appetite.
        Rob

        • April 25th, 2013 at 9:06 am

          Hi Rob,

          Thanks man :) Guessing you were searching for tiered link building type terms?

          Should take a closer look at how my vids rank on YT itself!

      • August 15th, 2013 at 2:55 pm

        Awesome advice and theory. I am soon going to shadow successful bloggers just like you, and a no backlinking strategy sounds like one of the on going strategies I will apply.

        Have a good one,
        Adrian Boro.

    • August 17th, 2012 at 1:13 pm

      I think i was just searching for "link building" in quotes posts in last week or 24hrs or something on google and your The Ultimate Guide To Tiered Link Building Part 1, oftern do these serches just to find new methods etc. I would defo leave them on youtube, i watched the full video there and then came to your site looking for more content because the video was good even ended up subscribing..

    • August 17th, 2012 at 4:07 pm

      Ahh thats interesting thank you very much ^^

      Why don't you just setup Google Alerts for those searches?

    • August 17th, 2012 at 9:23 pm

      Yeah i use google alerts also but when im sitting doing nothing and feel like a read i put alsorts of search strings in "backlinking guide" "backlink blueprint" "new backlink source" etc etc then search in new posts, often find gold..

    • September 10th, 2012 at 7:05 am
  2. Surfing Hawaii
    8.15.2012

    I'd keep videos on youtube. looking forward to learning from you how to rank sites #1 in google ;).

    • August 15th, 2012 at 10:15 am

      What benefit do you think leaving them on YouTube has?

      If I self host the video-

      1. I dont compete with my self in the SERPS (Google will choose YouTube over my site)
      2. My blog would be the only place to find the content
      3. I have control over everything
      4. It would be easier to convert people into subscribers
      5. Self hosted videos will add to the overall authority/strength of my site

      /headscratch

  3. Surfing Hawaii
    8.15.2012

    It does give you more control to host it yourself. But Google owns YouTube. Countless people search YouTube specifically for tutorials to become a follower. Even Snoop Dogg has his own YouTube channel, and there are many people that I wouldn't have ever found if it wasn't for youtube in a range of interest areas like Health, Fitness.

    • August 16th, 2012 at 7:37 am

      Your right about people using YouTube for tutorials etc, perhaps I should have some of my shorter tutorials over at YouTube and keep the longer/more detailed ones on site, best of both :)

  4. 8.27.2012

    I think it's a noble and potentially worthwhile endeavor! At least it will be good baseline data of what Google "says" you should do, and what actually results.

    • August 28th, 2012 at 4:34 pm

      Well even if Google hates it, user feedback has been great so far!

      Only one way to find out if it works though 😛

  5. 8.28.2012

    Hey, Matthew, I think your experiment will be a smashing success if you continue to provide great and fresh content. Regarding your self hosting vs. youtube dilemma, why not do both? You can upload a nice video on youtube about SEO, explaining something cool, but you just explain a part of your plan and at the end tell the viewer to proceed to your website to see the rest. This is the cliffhanger method, in which you leverage the huge youtube traffic and nonetheless get part of the linkbait when you siphon the viewers to your website. Another thing I would do is transcribe the video content and make a podcast that visitors can hear directly or download, so you profit 3 times from the same content!

    • August 28th, 2012 at 4:33 pm

      Hi Tom,

      They are some great strategies for repurposing the content. I like the idea of having the start of a tutorial on YouTube and then the full tutorial self hosted on the blog. This would definetly help suck people from Youtube into the site.

      I already transcribe the videos but a lot of what I do is visual so turning it into a podcast would be tricky although there are some pieces of content that would be suitable. Podcasting would certainly be putting me well beyond my comfort zone :)

      Thanks for the tips! Will more than likely use the cliffhanger method in future tutorials

    • August 28th, 2012 at 4:36 pm

      I'm glad you liked it and wish you all the best!

  6. 10.9.2012

    I have started making pillar content (good content) to my blog, then posting just a part of that video on YouTube, and saying: "see the rest of the video at " in the Description as well as added to the end of the part-video as a callout (using Camtasia). The benefit of having it on YouTube is that I get a backlink that spiders will follow, and that YT gives the part-vid some authority (and natural traffic). Then when people come to my blog to hear the full article I can add clickable links etc using Easy Video Player that I can't do at YT. That counteracts all your negatives: and adds some positives. And it doesn't take much extra time to do. Also, I put it up on YT first and wait for it to be indexed (helping it along a bit) before adding a link to my blog post with the full video. I think that this might make sure that both get ranked better. (I haven't tested that, though =D).

    Also, when rendering, I will spit out the MP3 too and submit it as a podcast… somewhere… not sure where yet… as mentioned by another commenter. Good call!

    Malc

  7. you said "google alerts" – how are you using them to promote this site?, I have a few running around one of my niche sites and just some generally (on topics I wanted to learn more about).

  8. 2.1.2013

    A big thumbs up from a fellow SEO Matthew.. I recently came across one of your posts and have since added you on Facebook, watched and read various tutorials from you and just now read the ‘thinking behind it all’.. Absolutely fantastic idea and an approach I have not come across before.. Bravo and keep up the good work.

    • February 4th, 2013 at 11:40 am

      Where abouts are you from Aaron?

      Thanks for the kind words!

  9. 2.4.2013

    UK Based in Hertfordshire, yourself? Was actually talking about your approach and experiment only this morning with a colleague. I work for an agency and we are doing more and more SEO work. A unique approach like yours is a breath of fresh air.

    • February 5th, 2013 at 9:59 am

      Ahh I’m in Cheshire! Yeah I tend to find a lot of people have forgotten about ‘internet marketing’ and purely focus on ‘google marketing’

  10. 3.12.2013

    Hi Matthew, yesterday I have run into your blog. Today I am learning a lot from your youtube video and later today I will start over my linkbulding strategy.
    I am new in affiliate, not new in SEO but untill now I have done bussines only in local market (.ro), and I did not earned enough, starting this week I have open an first niche project.

    Thank you!

    P.S: I jut hit all your sharing buttons :)

    • March 13th, 2013 at 11:13 am

      Hi Paul,

      Glad your enjoying it all :) Thanks for the shares that is very kind of you!

  11. SAJID
    3.13.2013

    Hi, Matt
    I found your blog via Google of the comparison of Backlink checking companies comparison and it was excellent, but i am really more than happy to see your blog and enjoyed this post very much. I am also trying to focus on mere content and to stop link building for the better blogging experience of people and to avoid any penalties.

    • March 13th, 2013 at 11:19 am

      Hi,

      Glad you enjoyed it :) The fact you found me from Google proves my experiment is working ^^

  12. Mark cullen
    4.15.2013

    Hi Matt,
    This bog is just so good. Zero back links. Excellent !
    I’ve found inspiration from you. Been thinking of setting my own blog up for some time, now I’ve done it. Thinking-Social.co.uk I’ve dedicated this blog to discovering the influence’s that social signals have on SEO. The launch will be at the end of this month.Could you please take a look and let me know what you think.
    I would love to hear what you have to say on the subject.

    • April 15th, 2013 at 7:11 am

      Hi Mark,

      THanks very much. Your site takes to long to load though so closed it before it did, assume thats because its not launched yet?

      • Mark cullen
        April 15th, 2013 at 8:19 am

        Think I might of been working on the site security when you tried to look. (You get up to early)

  13. 5.5.2013

    Matt,

    Just found your site through Terry Kyle’s Traffic Planet.

    Only one word I can use “Brilliant”

    Really enjoying the content and looking forward to going through the videos this bank holiday weekend.

    Thanks Matt have a good day.

    Steve

    • May 6th, 2013 at 10:46 pm

      Hi Steve,

      Cheers man! Feel free to drop any questions on the posts and I’ll get to them!

  14. 6.4.2013

    I went through the videos and this is just brilliant. Thanks for writing such a great article!

  15. 6.22.2013

    What theme is this blog on? The layout is one of the best…very crisp, unclutteerd & easy to follow.

    Thanks.

  16. Manthiramurthy
    6.27.2013

    Hi there,
    your blog looks very information to newbies like me . Can you also post some content about creating a review website (product or service) or something?. waiting to hear from you.

    Thanks,
    Murthy

    • June 27th, 2013 at 11:42 am

      Hi,

      Take a look at how I structure the reviews here to get an idea of how to do it

  17. Sterling
    7.15.2013

    Your experiment must be working. I found you 3 times while searching. One for article spinning tutorials, on for senuke tutorials, and again for Link Emperor tutorials. Forgot the exact keyphrases, but your blog articles and YT vids are ranking well. Cheers!

  18. minhbim
    8.11.2013

    Hi Matt

    Such a good experiment. However, it may not be applied in all cases. Your blog have a good result in SER because you have created supper content (yes supper). But I’m sure not every one can or be able to do that. Let say a nich with very little thing to say, chance to create a high value and attractive content seem zero. What should we do in that case?

    • August 13th, 2013 at 3:51 pm

      Hi,

      I would say in niches where its difficult to create content, then benchmark for creating awesome content is actually much lower.

      Regardless of the niche you can always be creative with the content. If I can do it for rug pads and s****** phone s** lines anyone can!

      • September 7th, 2013 at 3:47 am

        I agree with you Matt. I have seen some articles which tackles about how to put up a very good content out of a very boring industry/niche. Perhaps those can help. Anyway, its just a matter of practice, hard work and creativity to form a very good page that attracts people and search engine. Thumbs up for you case study. I’m joining your crusade on spreading the word. Good luck!

  19. 10.3.2013

    Dude you are so bad a**!

    I aspire to learn thy Jedi secrets. I have just subscribed.

    I create blogs specifically for income opportunities with factual proof of results, as well as facts about the opportunity.

    Not that same old smoke and mirrors horse doodoo from other marketers claiming the opportunity to be the same as planting a money tree in your backyard. I pimp slap them with my content.

    Anyways, I am very successful in my efforts because the opportunities pay ridiculous commissions, and the products are well worth it.

    But, I get bummed out bc I have a passion for writing and blogging, and I’m only limited to posts about that opportunity, or how to market that opportunity. A site such as yours I want to tackle next. Where you can help the masses and not just those within the income opportunity.

    One thing I do hope that people take notice, other than your all killer no filler content, is how much value you give for free. It’s honestly the key to success.

    Forget about saying crappy affirmations in the bathroom mirror, or attending 10 personal development seminars a year. Just give value, as you do, and thee will be rewarded.

    I know this comment was long, but dude your ish really rocks.

    Peace.

    • October 4th, 2013 at 8:41 am

      Hi Jordan,

      Well I’m sure you can take all of your skills and apply them to other niches – if your doing well perhaps just doing something based around whatever your passion is.

      It is as simple as finding out what people want and giving it to them :)

  20. 2.6.2014

    Wow! I absolutely love this post. And it’s quite challenging too! This is one thing I need to try too. Imagine, rising your PR without doing any backlinking? Wow! I am quite impressed for your guts and the results you had so far.

  21. 3.2.2014

    I read many article on your website. You gave your tired link building videos free of cost :) I appreciate your hard work man you are awesome…..

    I have a little confusion. You are saying zero link building strategy but i found there are 20k backlink of your website in which 14k are do follow. I used ahrefs.

  22. 3.5.2014

    Hey Matthew,

    Your experiment became TOP 100 :)

    BTW why are you not using Adsense or similar PPC ads on your blog?

  23. 6.6.2014

    I Find the info great what I did not like was the fact that a link took me to this thing I DO NOT LIKE. I see it everywhere the 21-step internet marketing , I thought it was something that you posted in here as the other vital info you write here. Hope to see new info always in your site, I will say you have CURIOSITY ON YOUR SIDE. People like me are looking for others that dare to do what we don’t do, “TESTING” and “GIVE AWAY MORE” to hook us in your website. It is just in like my speech class. The beginning of a speech is vital as it is here with your experimentation.

    Keep up the great work!

    • June 7th, 2014 at 2:25 am

      That is part of an upcoming experiment/case study and I’m currently on step 8 myself! Will see how it goes and report back as always!

  24. Rienzi
    6.27.2014

    Hmmm… If you are posting on blogs, forums and other platforms isn’t that optimizing by nature? I mean, your intention is to get real people to consume your content, but the tactics you use are what we call link building or in the IM terms “reaching out”… Or maybe you mean no inorganic link building?

    • June 27th, 2014 at 3:18 pm

      Well its impossible to get people to your site without providing some form of link. But in this example just by posting on 2-3 forusm your only getting links from 2-3 IP’s.

      Having thousands of links from the same site doesn’t offer any more value than having 1 or 2.

  25. 7.16.2014

    Wow! this is very helpful website for building a tiered link system. My Client send me this url to learn tiered link. Now I have learned it and I will create it. Thank you so much for help me.

  26. 7.17.2014

    Hi Matt,

    I came across your blog while searching on ways to increase traffic to my new blog. I actually found this post from another site in an article about 10 SEO experiments. My blog is also focused on an experiment but it’s of another nature, still related to marketing. I figured I wouldn’t mention it here though as I don’t want you to view it as spam  Anyway, I think what I’m doing would be intriguing to some but I’m having a hard time finding forums and blogs that would be beneficial to link building. I’ve tried messaging other successful bloggers to see if they would have any interest in mentioning my blog or having me submit a guest article but have yet to receive a reply from any of them. I’m thinking the problem is that no-one is interested in a guest post from a non-established blogger.
    Do you happen to have any advice to get my blog out there? I can see you’ve been successful with your “experiment” and it’s very inspirational.

    • July 18th, 2014 at 4:16 pm

      What about forums that are beneficial for reaching interested people?

  27. 9.6.2014

    Hey Mat,

    I landed on this “beautiful blog of your’s while searching for KM3 reviews… and I must say that I found much more valuable information about SEO, Link building and Internet Marketing on this blog of yours. I have been greatly impressed by your tiered linking tutorial, and thus I have decided to read alllll the posts on your blog. I hope you will see my comments all around your blog. I hope you will not mind about that. And yes, congratulations for being the only SEO guru who is not afraid of A/B Testing 😀

    Regards,
    Apurva Nagar

  28. 10.27.2014

    i like your posts Matthew Thanks!

  29. 11.5.2014

    I am already following you and shares your article on my personal social accounts. Love to read and share your articles. :)

  30. Alston Antony
    11.12.2014

    Hello Matt,

    Wow! I definitely love this post. And it is fairly challenging also! This Zero back links Strategy is so Exciting & Outstanding ! I’ve discovered inspiration from you. Been pondering of setting my own blog up for a while, now I’ve completed it. Really having fun with the content material and seeking ahead to going through the videos this weekend. I’m already following you and shares your article on my individual social accounts.

    Thanks

  31. Mike Watson
    11.15.2014

    Excellent site mate, lots of information have learnt loads already not even started on your you tube videos, keep up the good work! Thanks

  32. 12.19.2014

    Very good site Matthew. I learn a lot from your post

  33. 2.5.2015

    Thanks Matthew for all your great information. Heard you speak at #ASW15. Learned a lot. Thanks.

  34. Oncactus
    2.24.2015

    So, its just about the high quality content. Much words, much images, much traffics.

  35. 5.12.2015

    I am trying with content and few of the linkbuilding strategies you explained in the blog.Using only content can be taken as a game of high authority sites only with multiple pages of content.

  36. 5.29.2015

    Hey Matthew,

    thanks for a great site, I really enjoy your blogging!

    Coming from Germany we found, that SEO in UK and USA seems to be different. Linkbuilding for our Blog on german beer is far more difficult, than it had been for our main german website… :(

    Do you have some tips for two novices regarding SEO the “English way”?!

    Thanks & Cheers
    Till

    • May 29th, 2015 at 12:37 pm

      I would invest in some PBNs

      • Till
        May 31st, 2015 at 5:14 am

        Thanks, Matthew! I’ll give it a try that way…

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