We love digital

Call 0845 485 1219

We love digital - Call and say hello - Mon - Fri, 9am - 5pm

An Experiment: Which Elements Affect Rankings in 2012

Michael Rolfe

by Michael Rolfe on 23rd April 2012

Ever wondered which link building methods work best?  I’ve done a little experiment to find out!  Read this post and learn where your link-building time is best spent.

There is a lot of information and advice on link building and SEO in general available online.  Google will never reveal their secrets and people will always want to know how to rank well so there is a mass of often confusing and contradictory advice on what works.  One way to attempt to bring some clarity to the matter is to run some tests…

Origianlly,  I created 3 Squidoo lenses.  Then I spent five minutes building links to each. Each lens had a different type of back-link, either blog comments, social bookmarking or forum profile links.  Over one month later, the results were in!

Such a rudimentary test will never be conclusive and the most obvious criticism was that with only a small amount of link building conducted, the on-page factors could be having more influence on ranking than the off-page ones.  So with that in mind, I made another three lenses, each with different content types, of which the results will be in by next month.

What is a ‘Werewolfs Fireable’?

‘Werewolfs Fireable’ is the topic of the Squidoo lenses and is an old Googlewhack.  A Googlewhack is when you enter a two word query in to Google and only get one result.  (Of course, once you mention this online it is likely that Google will index your mention and then there will be two entries in the search results, destroying the Googlewack).  At the time of writing, there were two results for “Werewolfs Fireable” (in quotes) in Google.co.uk, and two omitted/similar results.  (After linkbuilding, there are many more).

The benefits are that we are fairly sure to see all 3 sites in the SERPs.  The downside is that we will know less accurately how much better one back-link type performs compared to another.  Next time I might find something with 50-100 competing pages for example.  We might find that one link type takes a site to position one while the other’s only make it to page four… Also, in the competitive reality of SEO, a single link type alone is not going to get the top results, so this is a theoretical study for your entertainment – not a recommendation for a comprehensive link building strategy!

Here is the outline of the study:

1)    Created three Squidoo lenses – Same topic, same length of text

2)    Spent five minutes link building to each site with three different methods: Forum profiles,  Social Bookmarks and Blog Comments

3)    Reviewed rankings periodically!

Squidoo Lens Creation Details

Should you wish to recreate the experiment, here’s what I did for the lenses:

  • I created 3 squidoo lenses on a new account
  • In the Poetry; creative writing sub category.
  • No Open Graph, G rated.
  • Tags: vampire, superpowers, writing
  • Money donated to charity :
  • Deleted plain text module
  • Added Video module: searched ‘Werewolfs’ on Youtube, top 3 got added to the Lenses. No text changes.
  • Added Ebay module: Let ebay pick, keyword=’Werewolfs Fireable’
  • Amazon: Let Amazon pick, keyword=’Werewolfs Fireable’
  • Image: a creative commons image licensed for commercial use was selected

Werewolfs Fireable 1 – Forum Profiles

New Forum accounts were created and the profiles completed to a minimal degree for the sake of time keeping.  The key-term ‘Werewolfs Fireable’ was entered in to the available entry fields, and last.fm allowed two links back from the profile description.  Only three links were possible in the time allocated.

  • http://help.com
  • http://www.last.fm
  • https://my.opera.com

Werewolfs Fireable 2 – Social Bookmarking

Social Bookmarking was conducted manually, adding the link to the following social bookmarking sites:

  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • Stumble
  • Google
  • Jumptags

I used the term ‘Werewolfs Fireable’ as the title, description and tags just once and where possible.  This only took 5 minutes, but had the accounts created already.  It would probably take 10 minutes from scratch.

Werewolfs Fireable 3 – Blog Comments
Werewolfs Fireable was the text used as a comment and as the name of the commenter. A generic email address was the only other information submitted. With a five minute benchmark being set by the social bookmarking, there was not enough time to find related blogs that accept comments and add thought provoking insight so the comments were left on un-related auto-approve blogs instead for the purpose of the test.

  • http://jantea.blog.co.uk
  • http://www.nicehomelive.com
  • http://stylishcp.wordpress.com/staff
  • http://www.healthit.gov/buzz-blog
  • http://econsultancy.com/uk/blog
  • http://1000awesomethings.com

Other Details

All sites went live on March 1st 2012.  No squidoo lenses were indexed by 3pm.  I set up a Google Alert for the term to keep tabs on the progress… interestingly it picked up the Econsultancy blog comment first.

March 6th Results!

All three Squidoo lenses were indexed and ranking in Positions 1,2 and 3:

1. http://www.squidoo.com/werewolfs-fireable-2 (Social Bookmarks)

2. http://www.squidoo.com/werewolfs-fireable-1 (Profile Links)

3. http://www.squidoo.com/werewolfs-fireable-3 (Blog Comments)

March 12th Results!

Movement!

1. http://www.squidoo.com/werewolfs-fireable-1 (Profile Links)
2. http://www.squidoo.com/werewolfs-fireable-2 (Social Bookmarks)
3. http://www.squidoo.com/werewolfs-fireable-3 (Blog Comments)

werewolfs fireable

Interesting – the rankings have changed!  All three still outrank everything else, but that’s not surprising – even my links to these lenses pushed the previous no.1 result to the bottom of the Google SERPs as illustrated in the screenshot to the right:

The social bookmarking required the least effort and appears to be more effective than blog commenting.  It would be interesting to see if the results continue to fluctuate.   After collecting the results on the 12th, I immediately thought about how to improve and expand the test so I also created a 4th Squidoo Lens at http://www.squidoo.com/werewolfs-fireable4.

This page received four .edu blog links and as of March 15th, the lens was indexed but not in the top 100 search results.  The pages where the links were dropped do not seem to have been crawled since the links were added so with a little time it would be interesting to see how this lens performs.  Four .edu links were added to the following domains, with one still requiring approval:

  • http://independent.academia.edu/barnesjohn
  • http://blog.mspp.edu/2011/03/25/why-mspp-accepting-your-acceptance-letter/#comment-4601
  • http://www.sa.ucsb.edu/women/blog/post/Welcome-to-BlogEngineNET-1-5.aspx
  • https://artsandlectures.sa.ucsb.edu/BeACritic/post/1541.aspx

April 4th 2012 Update:

The results are now as follows:

1. http://www.squidoo.com/werewolfs-fireable-1 (Profile Links)

2. http://www.squidoo.com/werewolfs-fireable-2 (Social Bookmarks)

3. http://www.squidoo.com/werewolfs-fireable-4 (.Edu Comments)

Werewolfs-fireable-3 has disappeared from the index!  It is still available at Squidoo.com, but highlighting and searching for any of the text on that page in Google brings up no results.  It turns out this lens has now been labelled as a ‘work in progress’ on Squidoo… but it is 58% complete – same as the rest!  Well, we’ll never know because now it’s time to switch up the experiment.

Testing on-page factors:

In this test I’m writing three new Squidoo lenses – one with lots of content, one with lots of media, and one with a mix of both.  We will see which on page factors help contribute to a lens becoming the top ranking result in the Google SERPS for the term ‘werewolfs fireable’!  To save myself writing an essay, i took down to previous lenses and reused the content:

http://www.squidoo.com/werewolfs-fireable

werewolfs fireable squidoo lens

This lens has about 50 words and a bunch of widgets:  Amazon, Youtube, EBay, RSS, Google Maps and a Guestbook.

http://www.squidoo.com/workshop/werewolfs-fireable-b

This lens has around 900 words of content on it, but Squidoo warned that it wont be promoted within Squidoo or submitted to search engines as it thinks it is lacking in content.

http://www.squidoo.com/workshop/werewolfs-fireable-c

This lens has roughly 300 words of content on it, a picture and a video, but Squidoo warned that it wont be promoted within Squidoo or submitted to search engines as it thinks it is lacking in content again.  Therefore, I pinged all three URLs to Google to help ensure they all get indexed.  If it doesn’t get indexed, I will be forced to add more modules.

Which of these new pages will rank the highest?  It’s great that we are given the time to make such experiments to help increase the knowledge for all who are interested in such experiements and read our posts.  If you have anything to contribute or suggest I would love to hear from you.  Digital marketing is forever evolving so there is always more to be done!

Michael Rolfe

Michael Rolfe

Michael has been earning a living online and winning awards for it since 2005. Projects include launching an affiliate network, database driven comparison websites, and Wordpress education seminars as well as devising and implementing the online marketing strategy for a listed blue-chip organisation.

7 Comments

  • Mike Essex

    Mike Essex 23rd April 2012

    Nice experiment Michael, Squidoo is certainly a very quick way to run tests (and rank content quickly).

    It’s a bit daft that they are more likely to promote a post with lots of random widgets over one with good content – probably because they want you to add Amazon affiliate links.

    Reply to this comment

    • Michael Rolfe

      Michael Rolfe 24th April 2012

      Ha they advise 5+ modules – i guess this makes a page varied and interesting and different from a ‘boring’ old article directory.

      Without enough content, visits etc Squidoo dont promote the lenses internally or to the search engines so a little prodding can be required to push a lens on to the net :)

      Reply to this comment

  • Alexander Puschilov 23rd April 2012

    Cool, quick and dirty experiments. It’s a petty that you had to vary the quantity of backlinks created for the three profiles due to the 5 minutes constraint. It would be interesting to see results with an equal number of backlinks build.

    Reply to this comment

    • Michael Rolfe

      Michael Rolfe 24th April 2012

      Thanks for the comment Alexander, yes i agree, just not enough time to cover all the angles! If i get the time and the demand I’ll be sure to continue the experiments!

      Reply to this comment

  • Stephen Logan

    Stephen Logan 24th April 2012

    This is an interesting study Michael; however there may be a few too many variables to take away any significant conclusions with regards to the effectiveness of links.

    For instance, it’s difficult to explore the impact that the content itself has had on rankings. Plus, as Squidoo is a reasonably strong content platform in its own right, this test isn’t starting out on a completely even platform. It would certainly be interesting to see how these performed on new domains and with more links filtering in from the various sources.

    Anyway, looking forward to see how this develops if you track and add elements over the year and if you can come up with any more experiments that might provide a clearer indication of how links impact results – removing content as a potential variable.

    Reply to this comment

  • storm bono 2nd May 2012

    Wow, i do have to read this once or twice over, it does look very effective even for a newbee like me.

    Ive noticed that linkbuilding is pretty hard if your new, luckily there are blogs like these with usefull info..

    Thanx again!

    Reply to this comment

  • Michael Rolfe

    Michael Rolfe 2nd May 2012

    Thanks Storm! It can seem daunting at first to try and understand all the nuances of link building and what your first steps should be.

    If you build links from all types of sources, where users would genuinely be interested in the following the link then you can’t go wrong.

    With so many variables it is very hard to measure which link building method is ‘best’ – I would advise you to spend the time you would of spent researching on actually getting stuck in at the deep and feeling it out for yourself.

    Keep track of your progress and enjoy the ride!

    Reply to this comment

Subscribe To The Koozai Blog