Why Link Building Is Still The Fastest Way To Rank Websites – A Case Study

While there has been much debate in recent weeks pertaining to SEO and recent de-indexing of many private blog networks by Google, I felt it was time to bring the topic of link building up for discussion and demonstrate (with evidence) why links continue to be the fastest and most effective way to rank websites regardless of their content and quality.

This is mainly because links are still fundamental to how search engines currently work and rank webpages and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future. Yes, there has been a paradigm shift in how these links are valued, with focus now purely and squarely on relevance and quality (or so they say!), there is no doubt that link building still is and will continue to be the holy grail of success for anyone looking to make money with niche marketing, AdSense or affiliate marketing.

All of this obviously doesn’t apply to you if you possess the magical ability to write truly exceptional content which will make your website an overnight viral success like what happened to Peep Laja from conversionXL receiving thousands of visitors to his blog mainly through Twitter and social media.

Although still speculative to some extent, we can present a fairly accurate assessment of how Google (which still boasts the most sophisticated and advanced search algorithm), values or devalues links.

It can be narrowed down to the following factors:

1. Link Diversity
2. Link Relevance
3. Link Trust

Or does it?

To prove the above assumption wrong I will take an example of a brand new niche site I launched around mid-January this year targeting a relatively competitive keyword in the automobile niche with a search volume of approximately 5600 exact match global searches/month.

Since this was a relatively new site, we can easily discount domain trust and authority as being the influencing factors in how this site got to #5 in Google SERPS in just over two months! and now makes a significant number of affiliate sales for me on Amazon given the nature of this niche.

Without revealing the exact domain (in case Matt Cutts happens to visit my blog;)) I have used a series of authentic screenshots from the ranktracker software below as evidence of the progress of this site since the private blog slaying Panda 3.3 update from Google which was rolled out in late February.

As you can see that this site was ranked at #36 on March 6 and started to make its way up in SERPS around March 9th, finally settling at #5 earlier this month.

link building

Let’s now analyze and dispel some of the link building myths that have propped up recently.

Link Diversity

So, what did I change in my link building strategy for this site to achieve a successful result despite all the changes rolled out by Google to crush manipulative link building?

The answer is nothing, zero, nada! I used mass article directory submission as my primary and only source for building links to this website. No “white hat” links, no forum profiles, no blog comments, no edu or gov links and definitely no social bookmarks.

So is link diversity important? Definitely yes. But, judging this example, it is not an universal law that applies to every successful link building campaign.

Link Relevance

Here is the most controversial part of my link building campaign for this site. As you are probably aware that in order to build article links you need to create unique content which you can then submit to various blog network sites and article directories with embedded links to your money site using anchor text (most commonly your keyword).

In most cases you will take your original content, spin it with 50-70% uniqueness and use that as your link building content. The SPUN content helps you avoid the duplicate content penalty from search engines.

However, in this case I used a random, completely unrelated pre-spun article from a service called Simply PLR to submit my articles for backlinks. Simply PLR subscription costs around $50/month and gives you access to 100’s of articles every month in a variety of niches and are ideal for SEO and link building.

There has been much debate around how Google now has the ability to scan content surrounding the anchor text to analyze how relevant source links are to the beneficiary site.

But is it really important? Once again, judging by the example of my own site, I am not 100% convinced that backlinks from unrelated sources have been completely devalued by Google.

Link Authority

This is the last and final factor in our assessment of backlinks I used to rank my website. Obviously the key question here is, how much emphasis does Google has on the authority of sites linking to your money site, when valuing link juice?

Once again in the case of my own site, the incoming links almost have no significant authority, as most of them come from numerous blogs within the article directory networks and probably does not fit the real definition of authority as described in my authority blog post here.

So, is authority the key driving factor in how Google values links? The answer would be a yes and no, links from authority sites would absolutely have more value attached to them but I am still not able to see real evidence to suggest that all non authority links cannot help you achieve top search engine rankings.

Finally, here are some tips to help you continue to achieve results with your link building campaigns regardless of which method you choose to use:

1. Vary your anchor text

I have talked about the importance of using varied anchor text on Nichesense on many occasions before but it is absolutely critical now since the Panda 3.3 and Panda 3.4 (over optimization penalty) updates. Use a good mix of exact (laptop computers), phrase (best notebook computers) and junk anchor texts (click here, buy now).

If you need any further evidence of why this is important, here is a great blog post on why J.C. Penney was manually de-ranked by Google for using manipulative link building tactics and anchor text.

2. Build your links slowly

If you choose your keywords carefully, then you will most likely never need to build more than 50-100 links for top rankings. For brand new sites, make sure to keep this process as natural as possible.

Ideally, you would want to start building links around second week from your site launch and spread the process over 3-4 weeks (or more if needed).

3. Make sure your backlinks are indexed

A frightening number of backlinks are never indexed by Google as they are simply never crawled! Make sure you keep track of all your backlinks as much as possible and (very) slowly drip feed them to the search engines using a service like linklicious.

Ideally, this should be done at least 5-6 weeks following your site launch.

Last not but least, create great content and make sure you enable social sharing on all your sites. This can be done through a variety of free wordpress plugins like sharebar or sharethis. Premium AdSense themes like Heatmap Pro offer in-built functionality for enabling social buttons on all your posts.

What about you? Do you think link building still works? Please leave your comments below!


  1. chris April 11, 2012 at 1:32 am #

    Great post. I have had some difficulty ranking some of my micro niche sites. I did extensive keyword analysis, and yet using both MAN and UAW as my primary link building strategy I am still not ranking most of my sites anywhere close where I believe they could be. Each site has around 120-300 indexed backlinks (using Google Webmaster Tools).

    Just starting this week I am reverting back to a much more diversified link building strategy. I not only believe this will help my rankings, but I also think that it will help my sites survive in the long run. My plan is loosely based upon Pat Flynn’s link building strategy.

    One thing I don’t have on any of my sites are social sharing options for people. I haven’t put any of them on my sites because I try to keep the amount of WordPress plugins as low as possible, but I have been seriously rethinking this.

    Do you have a social sharing plugin you might recommend?


    • Anshul April 11, 2012 at 8:23 am #

      Hi Chris, how are you using your anchor text? The MAN/UAW strategy was very effective just before Panda 3.3 but needs some more fine tuning since the update to get results. I would focus on mixing up your anchor text, using content closely related to your chosen niche for SEO and definitely enable social sharing.

      This could be of help: http://sharethis.com/


      • chris April 12, 2012 at 1:52 am #

        I definately varied my anchor text, but for sure the spun content I was submitting through UAW and MAN were not related close enough to my niche.

        I had a bunch of heavily spun PLR content I wanted to use up.


      • chris April 12, 2012 at 1:53 am #

        And thank you for the sharethis.com link. That is exactly what I was looking for. I couldn’t figure out how to get a Like button on my page without setting up a brand new Facebook page for every single one of my sites.



        • Anshul April 12, 2012 at 6:48 am #

          You are welcome Chris:)


  2. Sarah April 11, 2012 at 9:25 am #

    how did you think about SimplePLR, is it like a blog networks site, google recently seemed to find a way to detect links from blog netwroks. Build My Rank has been shut down due to this, what’s your thought on this, and the Simple PLR is now $67/month, how did you manage to get $50/month? Thanks.


    • Anshul April 11, 2012 at 2:17 pm #

      Hi Sarah, Simply PLR is not a blog network like BMR. It simply provides you with a bunch of PLR articles you can use for article submissions (manual & automated) & these are updated monthly. I took advantage of a special they had a while back to get the $47/month price which it seems is no longer available. You do get a good selection and volume of pre-spun articles which will save you time & money on spinning articles yourself so it is worth considering.


  3. Rema April 12, 2012 at 6:13 am #

    Hi Anshul,

    Excellent post as always. Can’t thank you enough for all the great information you are sharing with your readers. I use Brad Callen’s free tool Rankerizer for checking the website rank but it doesn’t show the SERP date-wise as shown in this post but the current position as on any date. I think it is a wonderful tool.

    As for link building strategies, I believe in diverse links as we are anytime safer in the eyes of the Big G. Socialadr.com is a very good social bookmarking site in my opinion and I feel that it has helped me a great deal in improving rankings because it is a natural link building tool.

    Thanks again Anshul.


    • Anshul April 12, 2012 at 9:05 am #

      You are very welcome Rema and thanks for sharing that tool. I agree on choosing a diverse link building strategy, it is a lot harder to achieve but you can always document all the steps for your VA’s to follow later down the track. Watch out for my next post on finding great link building opportunities through search queries.

      Yep, social ADR is fantastic for submitting social bookmarks to a diverse range of sites at a truly affordable price.


  4. Rema April 13, 2012 at 6:42 am #

    Every time I post a comment here, I have to bookmark the page and then come back later to see your response. Is there anything like the ‘follow’ (or ’email me when a reply is posted’) button that you can add to the page so that I receive an email when you post a reply? Like the notifications on facebook. Just a suggestion.


    • Anshul April 13, 2012 at 3:08 pm #

      Thanks for pointing that out Rema. We didn’t add that option deliberately due to spam concerns, but a few readers have requested it in the past few days so now it’s available.


  5. Amol Wagh April 15, 2012 at 5:45 am #

    Hey Anshul,

    Really thankful to everything you put in this post about ‘Challenging new age fears of link building’

    I would also like add an point that as Niche Sites or Money sites are very powerful with their domain names being a keyword itself or with an added word, Any linkbuilding strategy become ground 10 times powerful with it.

    And yes, many old linkbuilding methods are still working very well if you are using them smartly. Not just for niche sites but for my recent SEO clients as well, who do not have keyword advantage ended up well with the techniques you mentioned in this post.



    • Anshul April 15, 2012 at 3:39 pm #

      Thanks for the comment Amol and you do make a very good point about keyword rich domains. Contrary to popular belief, these domains, in particular exact match domains can still add a significant advantage to any SEO campaign.


  6. adrien April 28, 2012 at 10:05 pm #

    Hi Anshul,

    I have found your site yesterday and read your ultimate link building strategy and this post today. I have to say your site is very informative and case studies like this make it as good as Pat’s SPI!

    I have a few questions:

    So you mean now you only do 9 MAN submissions for each site without any other link building like social bookmarking, Pat’s Two Tier strategy, Press Release, etc.?

    Also is there a submission rate for MAN? If yes, how fast will you choose?

    I am not quite sure about the anchor text part in your video. (It is a bit blur…) So you mean each post you put three anchor texts linking to three different urls. And you will do the same process for 9 times. Will you do it simultaneously?

    For the 9 times, how many times will you choose to use EXACT, PHRASE & RANDOM keywords respectively?

    Thanks for the information you provided!


    • Anshul April 29, 2012 at 10:28 am #

      Hi Adrien, thanks for the comment and compliment, although, I still have a long way to go before I can catchup with what Pat is doing:) Yes, 9 MAN submissions in total divided across 3 niche sites and then another 3 UAW submissions using the same principle. The anchor text is divided across 3 sites so each site gets at least 1 exact, 1 phrase and 1 random in every one of the 9 submissions. Remember, MAN only allows 3 links/submission and UAW allows two links per resource box. Also, if you are using UAW, make sure to spin your resource box along with varying your anchor text. I normally create at least 9 variations of the resource box for every submissions. Just use the default submission rate with MAN is they normally dont publish more than 3-4 artciles/day.


  7. adrien April 28, 2012 at 10:09 pm #

    Also, you have mentioned to index the links in this post. But for the MAN submissions, will we be able to find those links?

    Finally, do you mind showing us the SEO matrix of 5600 keyword you shown in this post? Please do so to make your post more convincing. You can hide the search results URL and just show us the last few columns, like PR, BLP, etc..



    • Anshul April 29, 2012 at 10:35 am #

      Here is exactly what I look for in a keyword. I analyze this across the top 10 search results for my competition sites. Minimum search 1000 exact in the country you are targeting (in my case US), no keyword in title tags for at least 3 sites, at least 2 sites with PR less than 1 (or 0) and less than 10 juice links, at least 50% of the search results are not top level domains. If you are using SE Cockpit, then all of this analysis is a piece of cake but you can still do it with free tools and a little extra effort. This works for me in 90% of the cases.


  8. adrien April 29, 2012 at 12:11 am #

    This is the keyword I am targeting. Is it more or less competitive than the one you used in this example?



  9. Adrien April 29, 2012 at 10:27 pm #

    Thanks for your detailed answer! Two more questions:

    1. You said that we should spread the link building process to 3-4 weeks. Also you mentioned that you would submit to MAN 9 times. So that is around 2-3 submissions a week right?

    2. I don’t quite understand the service of Linklicious. It seems that we have to give them a list of links to ping, right? But can we find the URL of our links built by MAN?

    Thank you!


    • Anshul April 30, 2012 at 5:09 pm #

      No need to spread your link building, just do all 9 submissions in a single hit. Yes, you will not be able to get your links for MAN submissions but most of them are automatically pinged to the search engines anyway so not a huge deal. Linklicious is useful for drip feeding UAW article links.


  10. adrien April 30, 2012 at 6:32 pm #

    Thanks Anshul! Looking forward to your next post!


  11. katkat May 2, 2012 at 3:49 am #


    Are you guys talking about this one? I was about to do some link building manually. And as i read that topic. I think link building should be stop?


    • Anshul May 2, 2012 at 8:49 am #

      Hi Katkat, the over optimization penalty if specifically targeted towards aggressive and “spammy” SEO practices. There are many ways to build quality links but the bottom line is that you need to build links to rank websites in the foreseeable future.

      I would suggest finding a good balance of manual and automated links supported by quality content.


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  13. Thomas July 20, 2012 at 10:44 am #

    Hi Anshul,

    Thanks again for all the great information. Being in the process of setting up my first niche site, your website + many others have been great informational tools to myself.

    Can I just take a few steps backwards, and bring it back to basics as I have been reading all about this but still cannot get a 100% exact answer for myself.

    I understand what you are doing with Simply PLR and the MAN etc. but if i was to do the article marketing by myself with no help form paid services, only outsourcing the article spinning this one time, can you please just confirm for me, am I able to submit 1 ‘spun’ article to multiple article directories (Ezine, Goarticles etc) and not be penalized by google? (This has been the only point I have been unsure of and that I could just like 100% clarification to give me peace of mind knowing what I would be doing for the first time, would be an accepted method).

    My plan is to have a 3 week article marketing campaign where I would have a particular task to do each day for the 21 days.

    Thanks for your help!



  14. Thomas July 20, 2012 at 3:45 pm #

    Hi Anshul,

    Please delete the comment above ^. I have now schooled myself on how directories work. It’s hard work being the newbie. Thanks 🙂

    P.S. Thanks again for your link building information. It’s been very useful.



    • Anshul July 20, 2012 at 7:16 pm #

      No worries Tom. It’s always good to answer your own question:-) by the way make sure you use a good mix of anchor texts especially when building a new site to avoid raising red flag with Google.


  15. Thomas July 20, 2012 at 10:04 pm #

    Is Unique Article Wizard still effective? I’ve been reading various reports, some saying that they provide a lot less links now, and others saying yes that this is true, but those links that they do provide are in effect are very valuable.



    • Thomas July 20, 2012 at 11:37 pm #

      I’d also like to know if your latest link building strategy is effective in the long term. eg. 8-12 months.


    • Anshul July 21, 2012 at 10:31 am #

      Hey Tom, My personal experience with UAW has generally been good even after the penguin update although I can’t say the same about My Article Network (I think they have suspended operations anyway), but they key is to build a diverse link profile using manual and automated article submissions, social bookmarking with Social ADR and also a good mix of do follow and no follow blog comments and do not go overboard with your on page SEO (like excessive keyword stuffing and anchor texts.)


  16. Thomas July 21, 2012 at 10:36 am #

    Awesome, thanks for the update Anshul!


  17. Thomas August 18, 2012 at 11:44 am #

    Hi Anshul,

    When using UAW and linking directly to your small niche websites, how many submissions are you telling UAW to make for you per day? Are you using less than the recommended 50, maybe 5-10 to avoid any penalties?
    How many different article versions are you creating inside UAW? (do you use Pat Flynns method and make 3 different versions of all paragraphs?)

    Have any of your niche websites been flagged by Google for to many incoming/unnatural backlinks or is the 5-10 submissions a day starting from the second week of your website being indexed perfectly safe?

    I appreciate your help.




    • Anshul August 20, 2012 at 9:58 pm #

      Yeah about 20 is a good number.


  18. Thomas August 18, 2012 at 12:34 pm #

    Hi Anshul,

    Ha second time doing this now. Some-what answering my own question.

    So using Simple PLR you take 3 different articles, which do not necessarily relate to your own niche/money site, load them into UAW with varying links/anchor texts etc and then link them straight to your money site? Is this somewhat correct?

    Could you please still answer the Google penalization question.

    Thanks again Anshul.



    • Anshul August 20, 2012 at 9:57 pm #

      Hey Tom,

      Yes that is correct but as I have said before, make sure you use a good mix up of anchor texts as using exact anchor text in all your submissions will definitely raise alarm bells with Google:-)


      • Thomas August 20, 2012 at 11:09 pm #

        But of course. Thanks again!


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