I feel a lot of people are looking for a clear path to follow to start making a living online, especially after all the shenanigans (tomfoolery!) Google has put us all through. In this series I’m going to talk about selling text links on high PR domains, how it has worked and is still working for me and give a bit of a roadmap with some goals so you can start earning through this method. This is Part 1 and details my history in this area (including dollar figures).
Update: Although PBNs still work, they now have a history of being targeted by Google and therefore may not be the safest option. This is why we now focus on creating online businesses that are independent of SEO traffic.
Note: On this blog I have illustrated quite clearly how you can find natural high PR domains for under $10 a piece. So this post won’t get into how to do that, instead I will write about what to do with them once you have them. If you have difficulty finding them using the technique I illustrated, you can also make good ROI by simply buying them on auction or from a private seller, just make sure you do your homework on the domains and/or trust the seller. So without further adieu, here is my 2 year income report on selling text links.
I made my first consistent $1000/mo online selling text links. In fact, I had 4 different avenues that were collectively making over $10,000/mo before I had made even $100 on Adsense. At the time I had devised a technique to hijack high PR freehosts – mainly blogspot, typepad, editme, angelfire and tripod accounts. My first $1000/mo outside of my main moneysites was actually selling links to other SEOs from these freehosts.
I also added those freehosts pages to TextLinkAds (mainly PR5 and PR6). I used TLA because they were the highest paying and were the only brokers to accept freehosts at the time. I forged a relationship with the manager of publishing there and submitted about 50 pages mid-January.
My main goal behind the hijacks was to point links to micro niche sites in the form of spun resumes. I had intended to get the sites to rank – which worked but due to poor keyword targeting they didn’t earn much on Adsense despite being top-ranked across the board. In late June 2011 however there was a tbPR update, and I started getting inquiries from SEOs as they were already dominating their SERPs. I trained one VA to manage these inquiries and to cross-sell inventory with bulk discounts, and immediately started earning about 2k/mo this way (90/10 rule here, literally 1-2 clients /mo would represent 80-90% of the income).
I also submitted nearly 400 sites that were now tbPR 3-5 (mainly 3) to TLA. They were all added to the system by July 15. Within 3 months I was getting over 6k/mo from TLA. Here’s a screenshot of the earnings on that account those first 3 quarters:
So within 9 months of starting this, I was earning over 10k/mo from text links (6.5 from TLA, 2k from people emailing in, another 2k from private sales). Adsense really didn’t hit it big for me until Q1 2012, and though it was a lot of money it was short lived. Text link income continues to grow, however the income dropped a bit from TLA and is now coming from other sources as well.
One major change that forced me to explore more avenues for text links (aside from the Adsense income drop of course) happened in the summer of 2012. Text Link Ads really upped their requirements for getting a site in. I figured out what they wanted and got to a point with my rep where sites were getting instantly accepted again, but then he moved jobs and his spot is yet to be filled (at the moment his boss is doing an understandably poor job filling two roles and isn’t adding my sites fast enough). I didn’t want to go through the standard approval process since it is much harsher and can often have issues with reclaimed domains (something reps will ignore if you have a good relationship), so I started looking for other options.
Backlinks.com was my first choice. I had done a test with about 10 sites previously and had noticed that they had all sold ads. They are MUCH cheaper than TLA, but they also have less strict quality guidelines, more volume, and accept lower PR domains.
Scott and my VA added about 400 PR3 sites, and we were immediately selling about 50 ads per week (and keep in mind these ads are recurring monthly), and the first month (November) paid $450. The next month with the same 400 sites paid $628, and I suspect January will pay around $850. These were only PR3 domains, and didn’t even include subpages. But $2/mo per site is not bad, especially considering how easy it is to either find or create PR3 domains.
This piqued my interest so Scott got on the phone and setup a relationship with a rep. We found out that backlinks.com was owned by NextNetMedia, who also owns authoritybacklinks.com, postlinks.com and several other sites. He said he could get his programmer to setup a script that automatically added our sites to the 3 major platforms, and he should be getting another several hundred sites on a new account by next week. I’ll let you know how that goes on all 3 platforms in the future.
We still haven’t added subpages for our domains, but even without that, based on our first account with 400 PR3 sites, within 3 months we were averaging $2/mo/site on backlinks.com alone. I suspect adding sub-pages will likely increase revenues by 50%, and that they won’t peak until about 6 months at the earliest. Even with $3/month I would be content – that’s an annual ROI of 400% not including all the other forms of potential monetization (private link sales and other backlink networks are the most obvious) , and it is incredibly easy to scale and has proven to be a good long-term business model.
Why is it a good long-term business model? Though individual networks will rise and fall in popularity, the link model Google runs on is not going to change for the foreseeable future. You simply need to adapt to the change in networks and strategies that SEOs use. For example, infographics and guest posting has become much more popular than sidebar links, and networks that promote them are doing well. Price point and quality is also huge, I had noticed that TLA had slowed down in 2012, and I believe a large portion of their volume buyers moved to backlinks and other cheaper options. These are the people who spend 20k/mo on links for a large client, and don’t really care if only 50% of them are helpful, they just need to hit their targets. In my experience these are the whales in link sales, and represent the biggest amount of income and the least amount of work.
The next post in this series will focus on how to find and market to the “Whales”, but before I wrap this post up I need to mention HPBacklinks.com. I am also trying them out , and a rep there has just finished adding nearly 1000 sites. The handful I tested with all sold ads immediately so I’m pretty optimistic. For those that don’t know, HPBacklinks is from the guys that did BuildMyRank.com – the amounts they publish are monthly for an article that is linked to from the homepage. Everything is automatic through a simple plugin.
I hope you enjoyed this post, I will follow up later this week with Part 2!