Today I’ll show you a new site that’s gaining huge traction in the SERPs from the low quality churn and burns style link building that many people seem to mistakenly think is dead following the recent Panda 4.0 release.
After the new era of the Panda algorithm was released, many SEOs have been reporting difficulties ranking new sites with the churn and burn tactics they’ve been using recently, with a lot of chatter within the community about the suspected introduction of a new “sandbox” style feature being introduced.
This post will lift the lid on a new site that’s ranking right now using these exact churn and burn tactics.
Just Before We Get Any Deeper, Please, Know This…
The idea is not to expose the site or the people behind it, and it’s certainly not my intention to cause them any undue ranking problems as a result. Although naturally I’ll have to accept that as a potential consequence of this post.
In reality it’s difficult to know where to draw the line, and I guess that’s a subjective call that everyone has to make before writing a post like this. All I can say here is that my intention is, and always will be, to educate my readers rather than to “out” those websites who are innovative and on the ball enough to know and utilise the very tactics that most people think are “dead” or are too slow to discover.
The niche which is the subject of todays case study is not one I’m involved in commercially. I have no affiliate or directly commercial interest in these keywords whatsoever, and as such I have nothing to gain by writing this post other than fulfilling the blogs core purpose – to help people learn, understand and practice successful digital marketing strategies.
What I really hope is that these blog posts spark a discussion and get people thinking. And, more importantly, that they get people to question what they’re hearing out there. Testing this stuff for yourself is the only way you’re going to keep on top of your game and keep a finger on what works in SEO and what doesn’t.
So, now that we’re clear on that much, let’s get into the details.
There’s no way that I can write this post and prove that what I’m saying is correct without at some point telling you the domain that forms the basis of the case study. So we might as well get that out of the way first off. Here’s a couple of screenshots to show you the incredible rankings that I’m talking about:
There’s probably a bunch more keywords that the jumpstartseo.me.uk domain is ranking for too, but I don’t think I need to go any further into their rankings for the purposes of this post. I’m sure you’re all more than capable of doing your own further research if you want to find more of their target keywords.
OK, so an SEO agency are ranking for terms like “SEO agency”…no shit, Matt.
Well, what if I told you that that site was, I believe, only around a month old? That puts it well and truly in danger of being sandboxed, if recent reports are anything to go by.
Let’s do a little more digging to show you how I came to this conclusion first of all, and then we’ll take a more detailed look into the exact tactics being used and how the site may have bipassed the widely reported 30 day sandbox and avoided being placed in the dreaded holding pattern.
That domain name was registered on May 10th of this year, around 2 and a half months prior to writing this blog post.
It was only registered for 1 year, which makes me think that its owner(s) registered it specifically with the intention of running the site as a churn and burn project (we’ll cover more on this later).
So we know the site can only be a maximum of 2 and a half months old right now. But I suspect it’s actually a fair bit younger than that…
I’m having trouble pinning down the exact date in June when the site was launched, but it seems from various exports I’ve done on SEMRush that the 15th of June is the first day where the site was indexed and found under any relevant keywords. I could well be wrong on this, and if any of you can shed more light on it then let me know.
Jumping over to SEMRush to check the history of the domain, we can instantly see that the last 30 days have yielded some very impressive gains for the site:
And now take a look at their estimated daily organic search traffic.
More importantly…take a look at how much that traffic would have cost them if they had been forced to bid for it in the ads:
That’s why this type of SEO still has legs, and why it’s not going away any time soon. There’s just too much money on the table for churn and burn SEO campaigns not to be profitable if done correctly.
Links Are Still The Be All And End All
I’m not saying that having great quality content isn’t important. Of course it is.
But good quality content is only important because of its ability to attract good quality links.
The links are still the end game.
And this case study is just another example of why.
Looking at the above anchor text ratios and their corresponding rankings is probably enough to make you want to hang up your white hat and retire.
But the fact is that links are still the easiest and most powerful way to really move the needle on your rankings.
You can write massive amounts of super indepth content until your fingers fall off and you’re left with nothing but bloody stumps bashing away on the keyboard, you’re just not going to be able to compete against links like that. Or not in the short term at least.
(I say “short term” because obviously these projects are high risk, and those who are running churn and burn style projects don’t expect them to last very long – hence only registering the domain name for 1 year.)
Taking a closer look at the rate of link acquisition, we can see a very sudden and rapid increase in inbound links for the site:
June 24th was when ahrefs first picked up on any links pointing to the domain.
Since then, the site has accumulated 372 referring domains and 503 backlinks. Virtually all of those, have highly optimised anchors. Anchors which the site is currently enjoying top spot rankings for.
I’m not going to go any deeper into the kind of links that are powering the site, as I feel that would be bringing unnecessary heat onto the site owners. I’m sure anyone who’s keen to find out more about the types of links being used can easily head over to ahrefs and check it out for themselves. It wouldn’t take you very long to uncover what’s going on there.
Avoiding The Sandbox
Since the release of the new Panda 4.0 algo on May 19th, there has been a lot of talk in the SEO community of the suspected return of the Google Sandbox.
The theory here is that new sites, or new pages on an existing domain, would have their rankings ‘held back’ until the page is old enough to be allowed into the wild.
The thinking is that the sandbox is Googles attempt to stop churn and burn SEO, by placing rankings into a holding pattern for a set period of time. In that way, no matter how many links you throw at the domain/page, it just will not get past page 2-3 until its time in the sandbox expires.
I know there are a lot of SEOs investing a lot of time and resources into testing this out as we speak, but I have yet to see definitive proof that this holding pattern exists.
I’m not saying it’s not real. Just that I’m yet to be convinced one way or the other with the data I’ve seen.
In any case, there’s an easy way around it.
Or at least, there is if you pay careful attention to the above example.
If the sandbox really does exist then you’ve got to think that either jumpstartseo.me.uk somehow slipped through the net, or the guys found a way to beat it. Either way, emulating their formula probably isn’t a bad way to go ;)
Key Takeaways On The Case Study:
- Stuff didn’t really start happening with that site until just over a month after the domain was registered.
- After that, the flood gates were opened on the links and it was churn and burn business as usual.
- What would really help at this point is if we knew the date when the site was first indexed by Google. Then we could look at what delay was used inbetween Google first discovering the site and the link building work commencing. Unfortunately though, we don’t have that data available.
Are you running your own sandbox testing / experiments? Let me know your findings in the comments!
UPDATE – 04/08/2014
As of yesterday the site is seemingly nowhere to be seen in the SERPs. A search on the site command suggests the domain has now been deindexed entirely:
Bad times for the owners, as I’m sure they would have had the leads flooding in when they were rinsing those top spots.
Let’s see if they can take what they did with jumpstartseo.me.uk and put it into action again to get back up there.
My mate Colin Docherty also sent me over a screenshot from the sites Search Metrics report.
Check that out for some rapid growth…
We can also see that the site didn’t have any presence in the SERPs whatsoever until the end of June, which fits in with the kind of timeline we talked about above.