I Spent $1,000 At Black Hat World [Case Study]

So I know a lot of people at BHW don't really like me, and I couldn't care less... but after having a pretty detailed discussion with some guys in the BHC Skype group, I thought I'd do a rather big experiment.
i spent $1000
I Spent $1,000 At Black Hat World [Case Study]

It’s normally the first place people ever buy a link package from, it’s got threads that have made millions of dollars and been the success point for some of the biggest software to ever hit the SEO industry, including the famous ScrapeBox, and more infamous GSA.

It’s had it’s dramas, it’s ups, it’s downs and generally dislikes me so I don’t really visit it much.

However, I got to talking to some people in the BHC Skype group and they had a few nice things to say and a few nice examples to give… So, off the back of several of the members recommendations, speaking with 15 different vendors on Skype and spending about an hour crawling the Link Building Marketplace… I thought I’d create a multi-part case study that consists of me spending just over $1,000 in their infamous marketplace and making some rather questionable purchases in the process.

The Setup

So before I paid for ANYTHING off this site, I need to actually setup a number of properties for me to use… And in complete fairness to this process, I decided to purchase 3 fresh domains that were all PMDs of a single keyword that had 140 MS (monthly searches) in the US and a fair amount of competition, the main sites ranking were (in order) –

  1. An Affiliate Page
  2. An Amazon Product
  3. A YouTube Video
  4. Another Affiliate Page
  5. An eBay Listing

And then below that was pages from the brand who make the product, and various other pages as well.

This specific product goes for about $600 on Amazon, which is an average $40 – $50 commission per sale, so it’s relatively good. The keyword isn’t the product keyword, it’s a “product + review” keyword… Meaning buyer intent, so with the amount of MS and it being a buyer intent keyword.. You could probably do a few hundred bucks a month off ranking for this keyword.

I picked up 3 domains over the course of 2 weeks, so they were all registered on different dates and about a week after I’d picked up the final, 3rd domain I bought hosting packages (unique, premium hosts… Being HostGator, DreamHost and MDDHosting) for each of them and setup a default WordPress installation.

I then ordered 3 x 1,000 words of content from a premium writing service (Max Writing) and setup a simple 1 page website with said content on each domain, I decided to use a different theme on each and insert 1 video and various pictures onto each of the sites.

All of the sites had comments enabled, using the Akismet spam protection plugin. I also setup Yoast SEO on each of the domains and installed a few random plugins on each site as well.

The meta data for each homepage had the keyword in it, but was more targeted at each of the partial match keywords I’d used to pick-up the domain with.

Overall, it’s a pretty fair test as the site’s look very similar, have very similar meta data and domain names and have a lot more unique content than most of the pages currently ranking for these keywords. I’ve also allowed a 7 day wait time, after the link report was delivered… I also ran each of the link reports (the ones that I was given anyway) through a premium indexing service, so they’d get indexed quicker.

So, without further ado… Let’s get into the experiment itself.

Case Study #1 (HQ PBN Links) –

For this case study, I used the following 2 services:

Now Leith is a renowned seller, I even interviewed him on God of SEO back when Google penalized his previous network. I don’t know who the other seller is, but have heard good things from customers of his service and thought I’d try it out – It’s also one of the most discussed services in the section, so that doubled down what I was going after.

I ordered both of these services at the exact same time, but I have not renewed Leith’s service for a 2nd month so I only got 30 posts from each.

I thought it’d be slightly difficult to separate the 2 services into indistinguishable networks, so for the branded keywords I input into these 2 services, I used different branded keywords for each:

Example: On Leith’s network I use www.example.com and http://www.example.com where as on Box Shot’s network I used example.com and brand name. This is 2 examples, I didn’t actually use this specifically.

Of course I couldn’t actually distinguish between the 2 when it came to exact match keywords, so my reviews are purely based off the branded anchors I used when ordering.

Also note that neither of these service providers give you an actual URL report, they just give you some example screenshots of where your link is posted – I found these sites via my own methods, as some of them were blocking bots.

My Genesis PBN (Leith) Review:

I managed to locate 7 backlinks (out of the 30 I ordered) that were from this service, all of the domains had a minimum, 10 referring domains (which is a good sign) and fairly low OBL (The highest I found was 15, lowest was 3 but that was on a site that was fairly new) – I did however notice that a lot of the posts on these site were falling off fairly quickly.. Normally the posts would stay on the homepage for about 1 – 2 months, which is pretty normal when it comes to these kinds of services.

The quality of content was ok, but for under $10 a post you aren’t going to get extreme quality… I would of liked to see featured images being used and rich media added in but most were just text posts inserted on drip fed (over a week or so) dates.

The link report was delivered in a fairly timely manner though, I was expecting it to be a lot slower.

My Box Shot PBN (aka sam) Review:

This service took a bit longer to get the report for, even though I didn’t ask for drip feeding – It may just be down to the high order volume they have though, as the thread seemed active with regular customers ordering.

I managed to find another couple of the sites from this service, the domains weren’t as high quality as Leith’s (most had decent DA/PA but lower Majestic metrics and didn’t have THAT great link profiles either) though the sites themselves had been up and indexed a lot longer than Leith’s – Though this is probably due to Leith’s service coming out 2 years after this service.

I also noted that the OBL was higher, most sites had between 8 and 11 OBL, where as Leith’s was more like 5 – 6. It did have the same kind of fall off range as well, though.

Note: Even though Box Shot says they have a coupon ongoing, it currently doesn’t or at least I couldn’t get it to work.

The HQ PBN Service Results: 

Before I’d even got the report for both of these services I’d managed to hit the 5th page, which was a great sign. It fell off a little bit over the next day or so and then bounced back to the 2nd page before finally fluctuating between position #4 and position #18 – It hasn’t really stopped bouncing since, and each day it seems to be in a different spot. So I’ll make sure to update this part in a week or so as to where the final result has landed.

Today (the 18th of April) we’re on #7 –

7

We’ve also managed to get #1 on Yahoo!

Note: I mispelt the keyword when initially putting it in the rank tracker, so had to re-insert it after the order had been placed, hence the #41 start… My bad.

Case Study #2 (Cheap PBN Links @ $259) –

For this case study I decided to go with the 20-20 PBN service, where you get posts for as cheap as $1.50/each and as I bought their top package, I got them at just over that price.

This service seemed to be the most sort after, with the thread blowing up with daily replies from people purchasing it – Though I will say the majority of the more experienced buyers were using this service for diversification and branded link building, rather than using it to directly rank their keywords.

I decided to follow this route and use my main keyword, a partial match keyword and 6 branded keywords.

My 20-20 PBN Service Review:

I found a lot of the PBNs this service was running, most were very poorly put together sites but you can’t really complain for the price… The content was just 1 article spun in a ton of different variations, so the quality was rather poor.

The domains themselves were actually decent though, especially for the price.. As promised all of the domains had minimum metrics and a maximum OBL, though the Max OBL was because the posts fall off the homepage very quickly.

Overall I’d say for the money you spend you get a pretty decent service, though don’t expect to be ranking off the back of this service any time soon. This service is best used for powering up your Tier 1 links, Parasite SEO or diversifying the backlink profile of a churn and burn site.

The 20-20 PBN Results:

I only found a small variety of the 150 links I ordered, so I’m guessing a lot of them weren’t indexed yet… So I may have to wait a few more weeks to see the full results I get from this service.

So far however, I’ve hit the 3rd page settling at position #23 –

23

Though it was on Page #2 for a day last week. Since then, it hasn’t really moved from it’s page 3 spot.

Case Study #3 (Link Package @ $140) –

I decided to have this case study use the most popular service on Black Hat World to date, being the Sherlock Hacks Google service.

It uses a mixture of contextual and non-contextual tier 1 links which are then all powered up by Wiki and Bookmark links. It also runs all it’s links through indexing services (So I didn’t run them through my own indexers for this service) and points various social signals at your site as well.

You get all this for $140, though I did get a $35 discount by using the coupon code they gave in their thread.

My Sherlock Hacks Review:

The contextual links were all just spun off 1 article they had written, from what I could see they didn’t actually use the original spun article on any of the properties which kind of sucked as the spin quality really wasn’t anything special, mostly broken English that didn’t make a lot of sense.

All the links were indexed very quickly, but the tier 1 links quickly fell off the web 2.0 frontpage and the bookmarks were on heavily spammed sites already.

I got the Tweets, no Facebook shares, no Reddit shares and it’s hard to account for all the other signals though I couldn’t find many others excepts some non-niche Pins and some Flickr backlinks.

Overall I think these links would probably be best suited being used for Tier 2 or on Parasites, but I don’t really suggest sending them at your site, as you’ll see from the results below.

The Sherlock Hacks Results:

Initially I saw a decent jump to the 3rd page but it quickly fell off into oblivion. The partial match keyword the domain was associated with has stuck on Page 2 for a while now –

sherlock hacks results

Unfortunately the partial match keyword has pretty much no searches, so it’s likely no one is ever going to see this site… Unless they’re searching on Bing or Yahoo where it shows promising results so far!

Conclusion

Overall, I think if you’re going to use BHW’s link marketplace to rank your sites then you’re going to have to follow a few steps:

  • Don’t go after ridicolous keywords, go after low – medium competition keywords where you won’t encounter much resistance from bigger, authority sites or other SEOs trying to rank.
  • Make sure your site itself is of good quality, don’t throw up 3 page spun content pieces of shit as you’ll need good OnPage and a website that can actually benefit from using these kinds of links.
  • Go with the more expensive, higher quality blog networks on the site and message the vendors on Skype to see examples of the sites in the network and possibly get further discounts.
  • Don’t believe all of the reviews on the site, a lot of these vendors/users are friendly with each other and will write false-positives for each other in order to bump threads and help out their buddies.

Despite what a lot of people think, there are still some good quality services on BHW but there’s also a lot of garbage.. It seems the better the sales thread design, the more sales you’ll get – So don’t be put off if someone is writing their thread using the forum formatting rather than a fancy graphic, it really doesn’t show the level of quality of a service.

I think given some more time, the HQ PBN Service may come out with top #3 rankings that last quite a while – Which means we’ve invested under $500 total to get a site that can make hundreds of dollars a month, which is a good sign – That specific page also ranks highly for the partial match keyword I went after, and (according to Ahrefs position explorer) has popped up for several other longtails I didn’t even go after as well.

Thanks For Reading

I hope you enjoyed this little experiment, and it shed some light on the public link marketplaces you can get links from.

Don’t forget to drop your thoughts below and signup to my 7 day FREE SEO Course.

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