Content vs Links: Which Has The Best ROI? (My Results) | Skipblast

Content vs Links: Which Has The Best ROI? (My Results)

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.

Jul 1, 2019 - Jun 30, 2020 analytics

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.

last 12 months analytics

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.

5 thoughts on “Content vs Links: Which Has The Best ROI? (My Results)”

  1. Nice case study Shawna!

    Do you think that huge revenue boost compared to traffic was a result of you just getting a ton of long tail rankings where people are more targeted in their search intent. Also, if your monetization is strictly ads do you think that you were able to trigger higher EPMV’s?

    I look forward to the case study of the fresh domain. There have been a few on reddit which have been so intriguing that I only approach this through a low competition/low volume keyword strategy and my growth has been steady. Since

    I write all my own content and do no link building, the only limitations I have is my own output. But I’m building up my “writer’s stamina” with a goal of 3 posts a day, 3-4k words published. I’m now consistently at 1-2 posts a day, but it’s tough. Challenging and rewarding, but tough….

    Anyways, well done!

    Reply
    • Thanks, Dave.

      I do think the longtail rankings did exactly what you’re asking. This site is a mix of ads and affiliate, at almost a 50% split in terms of revenue. I can confirm that the RPM did increase YoY because as I was adding that new content, I started being smarter about what topics to publish (i.e. ones that lend to higher RPMs). Though, to be fair, I only got smart about it halfway through the experiment.

      I think if you went into this focused on high RPM topics, then you’d do even better with a content focus and zero link building. Of course, a lot of high RPM topics are high competition, so you’d have to find that sweet spot where you can still rank without needing to do heavy link building.

      Reply
  2. Thank you Shawma! As always, the knowledge you’re sharing is invaluable. Your posts reinforce my theory that the best SEO advice is free.
    Just like Dave from the previous comment, I also write my own content (because I enjoy writing) and spend zero money and effort on link building. And my sites are growing slowly but steadily.

    Reply
  3. I discovered your website today and I’m already in love with it.

    This case study is on-point for me since I’m always torn between writing more content and manually building links (I can’t afford those big backlinks).

    My Amazon Affiliate niche website makes me $200 monthly (coming from Africa, that’s good money). I’ve never built a single link to that website but I often feel I’m missing out.

    I’ll be looking forward to your next case study.

    Reply

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