A couple of years ago I got really obsessed with the people who do zero linkbuilding, like Anne at Yeys, and instead funnel all of their efforts and money towards content.
I’ve always been big on linkbuilding, though to be fair, it’s the way I was doing things when I started to see success … so I just stuck with what was working.
Anyways, ever since learning about the people who have massive success without building links, I’ve always wanted to do a lengthy experiment to see which offers the better ROI.
So, I took an established site of mine that had years of link building done and I spent an entire year building zero links and instead putting all of my time and money towards content for this site.
Interested in how that worked out for me?
I must say that, personally, I was surprised by the outcome.
**And as always, I’m an affiliate marketer and this post contains affiliate links, meaning I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links
The Basics Of The Experiment
This was a relatively simple experiment. The site is well aged with a good existing backlink profile.
For the last 12 months I’ve built zero links to the site. I took the money I’d normally spend on links and put it towards content instead.
Prior to the last 12 months, the site was getting regular content and backlinks.
So, the only changes were a boost in the amount of monthly content published and a complete halt on linkbuilding.
Though I don’t have the details on how much I spent on links prior to the last 12 months, I can tell you that I spent almost $10,000 on content for the site during the last 12 months.
This included two months of zero spent on content as a result of my international move back to the United States.
Here’s what the difference in newly published content looked like:
- Last 12 months: 236 newly published articles
- Prior 12 months: 130 newly published articles
So, for the last 12 months, I published 106 more articles than for the previous 12 months.
And here are the uncontrolled variables of this experiment:
- Some natural links did come in during the last 12 months
- The site does have a Pinterest account and I have no way of knowing if that affected the traffic growth during the last 12 months
- COVID-19 affected most niches, including this one
How It Started
As I said above, this site was a well established site when I started this experiment, so it already had some traffic and was growing on it’s own.
With a mixture of links and content, this site saw a 180% boost in traffic for the period Jul 1, 2019 – Jun 30, 2020.
As you can see, this site was already doing well in terms of growth YoY.
So, the links and fresh content combo did show good returns as far as traffic growth.
How It’s Going
As you might expect, the fresh content boost just helped to propel the growth of this site.
The upward growth trajectory continued, albeit at a slower pace than the prior 12 months.
This might lead you to conclude that links are more powerful.
However, traffic growth is really only part of the equation here.
Revenue is what really matters.
Just because traffic grew by a smaller percentage doesn’t mean that revenue saw a similar trajectory – or does it?
The Almost 1000% ROI
If you recall from above, I spent a total of just under $10,000 on content for the site in the last 12 months.
That content expenditure resulted in an income boost of almost $2,500 monthly.
When you assume a 40x multiple on a site sale, that $2,500/mo is an additional $100,000 on the sales price.
That’s basically a 1,000% ROI on the content expense.
And some of that $10,000 was in June 2021, which means those articles haven’t really had much time to show their true ROI yet.
The prior 12 months expenditure on links and content (primarily links) resulted in an income boost of just over $900 monthly.
As I mentioned, I don’t know how much I spent on content and links in the prior 12-month period, but a $900/mo increase only results in an additional $36,000 on the sales price.
I do want to point out that there likely is some credit due to the argument that the older links and content are at least a bit responsible for the $2,500 monthly income boost.
However, the site was still getting content and links for the period before the prior 12-month period (July 1, 2018 – June 30, 2019), so that shows that it couldn’t have that much of an effect.
What Does This Mean?
While I only have a sample size of one, I think that running this experiment over the course of 24 months does make it a solid experiment.
Of course, since it was an existing site, the data is not clean.
I have started another experiment just like this one, though with a freshly registered domain. But, I have another year of gathering data on that one.
For me, the obvious conclusion here is that it’s better to spend on content instead of links.
That being said, there are some niches where you must build links to get any traction at all.
When I run experiments like this or do testing with my sites that I have just for testing purposes, I have one goal — what I can take away from this to make smarter business decisions?
For me, the takeaway is that I’ll probably get a better ROI from content expenditures than link expenditures.
On average, I’d guess that I spend at least $250 per link when I’m buying links. Assuming that same $10,000 investment, that would net 40 links to a site.
That’s a respectable amount of links.
But how many of those links will still be live in a year? Two years?
In my experience, a lot of those paid guest post links end up removed. HARO links are the best for sticking around.
How many of the new articles will still be live and earning? All of them, unless you delete them for some reason.
Now, how can I take this new knowledge and work it the Team Lazy way for maximum ROI?
An aged domain from Odys (<– you get a $100 credit with that link) or SerpNames + only spending on content and zero link spending.
If you hate link building and want the best ROI for your investments into your site, then I think this is the smartest play.
Hey, I’m Shawna. I make a living working from my laptop in places like London, Sydney, Dubai, Rome, Oslo, Bangkok, Las Vegas, Barcelona, and Amsterdam. I share how I do some of that on this website.