No refunds! No guarantees! And no reports when the work is done. You’re just going to have to believe me!
Oh, what’s the job, you ask? I will skyrocket your SEO (duh)!
Get massive rankings with this exclusive link building service! Gonna be $160, please.
If there was a PayPal button here, would you buy this?
Besides, I’m joking anyway.
Or am I?
Well, believe it or not, these sort of link building services are EVERYWHERE in the SEO world. In particular, on SEO forums. In particular-ier, on SEO black hat forums.
And they’re quite popular. Actually, quite isn’t the word. Massively - that’s the one.
A certain thread on BlackHatWorld.com (BHW) - the all-time most popular thread on the forum in fact - has gathered over 7,100 responses across 160 pages (and counting). More than that, according to my math, it has sold 4,200+ individual services.
This puts the revenue on the merchant’s side at around $420,000 - $588,000 (there are different versions of the service, each at a different price point + occasional discounts).
Just … wow!
But hold on, that merchant doesn’t have just one thread. There are at least a dozen of them in his portfolio - each with HUNDREDS of responses and sales.
All of those services look quite similar, at least in their sales material.
There’s always an uber-cool-looking sales graphic (and I truly mean it). The graphics are long, custom made, original, and they’re just nice to look at even if you don’t intend to buy anything.
Check for yourself:
The seller really has to invest a lot in creating those things!
This is perhaps only the tip of the iceberg. It’s just one seller, on one SEO forum. But there are more agencies/SEOs/consultants following suit in other places.
The market for this kind of SEO service seems to be huuuuuge.
And… honestly speaking… why wouldn’t it be?
Let’s look at it from a buyer’s perspective:
Why people buy SEO services on black hat forums
SEO is frustrating.
It just is.
And particularly if you’re not a pro. By “pro” I mean someone for whom SEO is their business.
For a normal business person, SEO is but a tool. It’s something you use alongside other elements to make your business grow.
But it just so happens that SEO changes a lot. One week something is a-okay. Another week it’s a no-no.
This is unheard of anywhere else. A hammer doesn’t stop being a hammer on a weekly basis. Hammering a nail has been the same process for decades.
So in that landscape, no wonder people just want SEO taken care of.
Hiring an SEO expert on a monthly basis is an option. But you won’t get much for sub $500 / month.
Easier solution? Get a ready-made “productized” service - something that’s well-described, something that’s convincing, something that tells you exactly what’s going to be done, how it’s going to be done, and at what price.
In come SEO services from (arguably) black hat forums. By all accounts, people want those services. They need them!
But, do they work?
Aha! That’s a topic for another time, which we will possibly cover. I did buy one of those services, pointed it to my under-performing site, hooked it up to Ahrefs, and waited to see what happens. So the data is here, only needs to be put to
paper screen. If you want to see that, please make yourself heard in the comments.
The question we’re going to answer today is different:
How profitable it can be to offer this kind of link building service as an SEO?
Disclaimer. I’m in no way encouraging you to (a) copy anyone’s services/products and try selling them as your own, or (b) offer black/grey hat link building services not considering the possible damage you’re doing. The way I look at those forum services is purely as a source of inspiration on how to present your own SEO service (sales-wise) and how you could organize it from a workload and delivery perspective.
For this part, I’m going to focus on the service awesomely named “SHERLOCK HACKS GOOGLE” (I’m going to call it SHG going forward). I’ve chosen it because it’s supposedly the most popular thread in the history of BHW, people who bought it are seemingly very happy with their results, and you get a full report when the service is done.
In short, I can see what each individual part of the service actually is (when stripped down from all the marketing talk).
That being said, keep in mind that all such things need to be taken with a grain of salt. There are no guarantees regarding the actual quality of the service or its long-term effects. Even though there are a lot of great reviews, it’s not the first time someone has pushed an offer on BHW that turned out to be a complete scam.
Okay, let’s get started.
We have our basic data - 4,200+ sales made in total, worth around $420,000 - $588,000.
Depending on the package a customer chooses, SHG is $140, $120, or $100 a piece.
Each tier offers a different number of individual sub-services. I’m going to use the top one - called “The Lion’s Mane” - when doing my math here and figuring out what’s the possible profit per single service.
(By the way, if you’re offering an SEO service, why not give it a cool name?)
Here’s each task broken down one by one and the estimated cost associated with them all:
Getting original articles written
Okay, so the core of SHG is written content. As part of the deal, you get 4 original articles. Each one is 300-500 words.
They’re okay. I mean, probably written by a content mill of some kind. They don’t provide any actual insight into the topic at hand. They’re just content for content’s sake.
- If you go to Fiverr, you can get an article service like that for $5 a piece. But there are also article bundles available. For instance, two 400-word articles for $5. This would put the price of 4 articles at just $10.
Spinning the articles
Each article gets spun before it’s resubmitted multiple times to multiple websites.
And the spinning is really really reaaaalllyyy brutal. I mean, brutal to the point that the post basically stops making sense.
Actual example; original sentence:
It is not easy when someone keeps calling your phone and you do not have a recollection of whom they are.
It is not interesting when someone phone calls you all enough time and you will not have their particulars and it gets annoying when they’re prank calls.
Obviously, it’s more or less automatic.
- Spinning software is anything from $50-$150 a year or as one-time investment. Assuming that spinning is indeed done on autopilot, I’m going to say that the cost of generating a new spun article is $0.
- However, if you want to create a good spin syntax file, it’s going to take around 30 minutes per article. So 4 articles that’s 2 hours. Multiply by your hourly rate.
Web 2.0 submissions
One of the key elements of the service is web 2.0 submissions. The “web 2.0” umbrella basically means any website that gives the user the option to launch either a complete website or a landing page of some kind.
Examples: Tumblr, LiveJournal, Weebly, Blog.com, Blogs.ru, WordPress.com, etc.
The blueprint is this: take an article > spin it > add links > submit.
Looking through my SHG report, I can see that some of those web 2.0 mini-sites were created for me specifically, while most of them were actually already existing. On those previously existing sites, there are tens of other posts about multiple unrelated topics. In other words, they are classic SEO network sites that hold a bunch of content and link to a bunch of random stuff.
Two possible approaches here (this is going to be a reoccurring theme throughout the post!):
- A) SHG calls for 24 submissions. So if you have your pre-existing network of web 2.0 sites, you only need to create around 1-2 new ones. I estimate that it takes around 1 minute to publish a new post/page on an existing site, and 5 minutes to create a completely new one. In total, 2 new sites = 10 minutes, and 22 posts on existing sites = 25 minutes to round things up. That’s 35 minutes if you’re doing it manually. If you have automated software at your disposal, you can have all that done in 10-15 minutes tops. What’s commonly in use:
- Magic Submitter (magicsubmitter.com - $5 / month),
- GSA Search Engine Ranker (search-engine-ranker.gsa-online.de - $99 one time payment),
- SEnuke (www.senuke.com/xcr - $147 / month).
- B) You can get all this done via Fiverr. There’s a load of various submission services available there. You can get everything from .EDU links, to web 2.0, to article directories. All for $5 a piece.
Another important piece of the puzzle. There are actually 90 article submissions as part of SHG… so, a lot.
The process is still the same: take an article > spin it > add a link > submit to an article directory of your choice.
Personally, I didn’t think that article directories were still a thing, but apparently they are. However, the domains in my report are something I see for the first time in my life! There’s no EzineArticles here -mostly no-name sites.
- A) With an auto submitter, you just press play and the whole process can be done in minutes. Again, Magic Submitter, SEnuke, GSA.
- B) Through Fiverr, $5 will get you even over 1000 article submissions.
This one’s interesting. The service promises at least 15 .EDU links from quality domains.
Technically, it delivers. The links do come from .EDU sites… but those are actually forum profile links that just happen to be sitting on .EDU domains. No actual high quality links from reliable sources/domains.
The how-to is even simpler this time. You don’t even need spun articles. Just find a site, create a profile, add your link.
- A) SEnuke, Magic Submitter, GSA, still work here.
- B) Through Fiverr, $5 will get you “30 Manual PR9 Edu Safe Backlinks.” You be the judge.
“Top bookmarks to money site”
The next item on the list with SHG is labeled “90 top bookmarks to money site.” And, as I believe, “top” is the keyword here.
However, in practice, those are mostly links from a network of bookmarking sites of rather sub-par quality. You won’t find Delicious.com there. From what I can see, the majority of the sites run the same software script and they are probably launched by the service provider and for their own use (or maybe they’re part of a bigger thing, but you get the point).
- A) SEnuke, Magic Submitter, GSA, can still help you with this.
- B) A tool named BookmarkingDemon (bookmarkingdemon.com - $147 one-time payment). It’s another automatic submitter. You basically click “play” and the thing runs on autopilot.
- C) You can get anything from 100 to 900 social bookmarks from a single $5 gig on Fiverr.
“High PR” forum profiles
The idea behind this type of link building is very straightforward. Pick a forum, register an account, and put a link to your site in the profile. Repeat 1000 times or so…
Since the web is a huge place, you can still find tens of thousands of forums that have public profiles and offer do-follow links. Now, what we’re talking about aren’t top-notch forums with genuine readers/conversations. This is more about dead forums or blank forums.
Because of this, it’s one of those tasks that’s nearly impossible to do by hand. At least it wouldn’t make economic sense to do it by hand.
- A) You can submit to forums with SEnuke, Magic Submitter, and GSA.
- B) Unsurprisingly, Fiverr has something to offer as well. What is surprising, though, is the volume. Just $5 gets you as much as 5,000 forum profile links!
Second tier links
At this point, we’re getting into second tier links. This step is meant to build some links to the pages that were built in the first tier - everything that was described above.
What’s offered here is:
- 5000 (!) Wiki links to something (not part of the report I got back).
- 10 bookmarks of the Tumblr post.
- 10 bookmarks of the Weebly post.
- 240 bookmarks of other web 2.0 posts/pages (10 per page).
The quality of all those bookmarks isn’t higher than the quality of the “top bookmarks” described above. Mostly, more of the same.
- A) Again, SEnuke, Magic Submitter, GSA, or BookmarkingDemon.
- B) When it comes to Wiki links, you can get 2,000+ of those via Fiverr. Bookmarking multiple URLs is also possible (the service I found offers to submit multiple URLs to 200 different bookmarking sites). So in total, $10.
Social shares are our second to last element of SHG. Like you would expect, this is about sharing your main money site through various social platforms and networks.
The good news is that here you do get shares via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, plus a handful of other mainstream platforms.
Interestingly, the promised number of shares isn’t that high - just 2 per platform. In total, you get around 40+ shares, so nothing stunning compared to, say, 300+ bookmarks.
Looking at my report, those aren’t impressive social shares. No retweets, no re-shares, no likes. Just a social share on its own, unnoticed by anyone.
- A) Like with most things, all of our submitters can do the job: SEnuke, Magic Submitter, and GSA.
- B) Fiverr is a bit tricky here. There are multiple various gigs available, but you have to read the descriptions in detail, as they all provide slightly different outcomes. For example, some will offer you a handful of social shares along with retweets/re-shares. Others will offer just raw shares, and etc. In the end, it’s a matter of finding the right gig provider. Nevertheless, you can have the whole task done for $5.
After all this link building, the only thing that’s left now is to have the links indexed. Right?
SHG offers to take care of that by using other, third-party tools/services on your behalf. So, what you get is indexing via:
- Linklicious.co (get it yourself for $57 / month).
- Lindexed.com (from $14.97 / month).
- OneHourIndexing.co (from $17 / month).
- BacklinksIndexer.com (from $14.97 / month).
- InstantLinkIndexer.com (from $13.77 / month).
Most of the indexing services listed above will allow you to process hundreds or even thousands of links per day, so working with them directly will only be worth it if you really want to go crazy with your link building efforts.
For smaller operations, Fiverr is still a viable solution. As always, $5 gets the job done.
Total cost summed up vs. possible profits
As you can see, most of the sub-services can be done either via Fiverr or via third-party tools.
One approach vs another brings different kinds of cost with itself:
- Tools like SEnuke, Magic Submitter, GSA, require an investment in setting up an infrastructure and building a good process. Alternatively, hiring some help is a solution too, but that’s a whole other story.
- Choosing Fiverr as the main outsourcing market means higher costs. But on the flip side, it saves you time and also opens the doors to building long-term relationships with the service providers, thus making the whole operation more effective with time.
Starting from the top, I would divide this complete SEO service into a couple of main sections cost-wise:
- Getting the articles written.
- Getting them spun.
- Getting them distributed + all the link building tasks.
Re 1: Writing the articles on your own is pointless. As it turns out, the article is only a tool, and it’s not ground-breaking in any way. The most efficient solution is to outsource it to Fiverr. In total, the cost is $10.
Re 2: To spin the articles, you need software that costs around $100. Doing a high-quality spin by hand takes around 2 hours for 4 articles. Generating the spin automatically takes 2 minutes. Your call.
Keep in mind, though, that this is where the quality of the final articles - and what follows, the quality of the whole service - will be shown. So get this wrong and the whole work looks silly. Of course, you can get your articles spun via Fiverr too - 4 articles will be $10-$20.
Re 3: Here is where the main choice has to be made. Fiverr or working with the tools?
- Doing everything in Fiverr will cost around $45 based on the calculations above.
- Doing it with tools is around $250. But this is a one-time or monthly investment vs. per-service-done investment, which is the case with Fiverr.
Summing it all together, getting the whole big service done by outsourcing everything to Fiverr will cost around $70+. The asking price is $140. That’s a nice 100% ROI.
Doing the math for the other path - tools - isn’t as easy. It all depends on the number of services you’re able to sell in a month. Many of those tools are subscription-based or they limit the number of actions you can perform.
However, common sense would dictate that investing in the individual tools and mastering them should still have a higher return rate over the long haul.
Is providing a service like that worth it?
Like I said at the beginning, I don’t think that this level of SEO service quality is what you should do.
We should probably aim higher and give our clients some real, genuine work that has the potential to bring results over the long term, and not just “until Google gets up to speed and shuts us down.”
That being said, I really admire the sales page and the amount of work that went into designing, writing copy, and overall presenting this whole service on BHW. The creativity and the design of the thing is really something.
And apparently, it works like hell!
With more than 4,200+ sales it’s hard to point fingers and say that it’s anything less than exceptional marketing.
In fact, there’s probably some marketing takeaways for most of us here, and perhaps we should consider adapting some of his ideas into our own offers. Again, I’m just talking about learning from the marketing side of it, and maybe not from the actual product itself.
At the end of the day, though, if you don’t want Google’s webspam team knocking on your door one day to hand you your a** on a plate then offering this kind of service isn’t for you.
But. It surely is damn profitable! That 100% ROI means that the seller made around $210,000 - $294,000 pure profit on this.
So whether or not he has really ‘hacked Google’, Sherlock has definitely discovered a great way to make money…
What do you think about these kind of ready-made link building services? Do you offer anything like that and want to share your story? We’re all ears.