A common conversation we have with prospective clients is that they have a new website and they understand the value of backlinks but they’re not sure how quickly to build these links. They want to start getting traffic and catching up with their competitors ASAP but they don’t want to jeopardise the long term success of the website by building too quickly. Most of them have heard that there is an upper limit to link velocity but it’s not exactly, clearly defined.
But we should probably take a step back and first define what link velocity is, this is from our article which looks into link velocity as whole which you can find here.
When I talk about link velocity I am talking about the net gain or loss of referring domains linking to your website – if you gain 100 links but lose 50 in a month your link velocity for that month is 50 links.
Link velocity is the rate of link growth over time.
This is a very simplistic overview but we will go into more detail in this article on other factors that need to be considered.
Note: When we’re talking about links, within this article we also are talking about the amount of referring domains, rather than the amount of backlinks. The reason we use referring domains over backlink count is that after the first link is built from a domain there is a large diminishing returns from an SEO perspective.
In this article we’re going to look at what is the upper limit of link velocity when working with a new domain and if there is one, as well as the factors that need to be taken into account when deciding upon your initial link velocity.
To do this we’re going to find a few examples of domains which had huge initial link velocities and look at their success (or lack thereof).
I do want to say as with everything in SEO there’s going to be a lot of “it depends” as there are so many factors at play.
A referring domain is not a referring domain.
When we’re looking at link velocity the type of referring domains is going to play a key part in their value to your website. When using tools like Ahrefs, many people have noticed that they are picking up much more Web 2.0s and image links.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it really makes it hard to analyse the amount of valuable referring domains.
Web 2.0s, Directory & Scraper Sites
These types of links typically aren’t going to pass much, if any value to your site so we want to remove these from the analysis as much as possible.
Above are some image examples showing these types of sites, the second image shows how many blogspots are being picked up by Ahrefs in a short time period which can obviously skew the link velocity dramatically. This particular website has 390 blogspots picked up in the last 30 days alone.
Dofollow Links From Sites With Authority
The most valuable links that we’re going to be able to pick up are dofollow, backlinks from high(er) authority sites. These are like your typical guest posts or editorial links.
To try to target these links specifically we’re going to use Ahref’s referring domains 2.0 to only include links that have a domain rating (DR) of 20 and above. Choosing 20 is an arbitrary number and there are certainly links with lower DRs that are valuable but this is a range that a lot of link builders like to use when doing outreach, so we’re going to use this as well.
This isn’t perfect by any means as you might notice that quite a few of the directory sites are over DR20 but it clears out a lot of the lower quality ones.
A Note Before The Case Studies
Finding websites with high link velocities from the start of their website, was actually a lot harder than I thought most of the examples I could find would be websites like Tesla.com
Which would be a great example but when you look at the keywords it’s ranking for, it only really ranks for branded keywords. This is where the traffic comes from.
I tried to find the best examples I could find but there wasn’t a perfect example. I was hoping to find a website like The Wirecutter that had launched with a large link velocity and targeted a broad range of keywords but after going through hundreds of affiliate domains I couldn’t find one.
This is made even harder by the fact that sometimes Ahrefs isn’t the most accurate with the dates that it picks up the links. So in some examples I would find links that should have been attributed to a different time period but manually sorting this would have taken up a lot of time.
If you have any examples that you think might work please drop a comment below and I will happily add it into this article. I know there are examples out there but they’re not the easiest to find.
Case Study 1: monogramcompany.com
If you’re not familiar with Monogram Company, you’re not alone. I had no clue until I started researching for this article. It caught my eye in Ahref’s content explorer because this article had 123 referring domains pointing at it and it was a relatively recent content piece.
So as you can see above, Monogram is a cannabis brand launched by Jay Z.
Not only is the site horribly designed, the SEO optimisation is terrible which causes some issues for this case study which we’ll touch on shortly.
P.S. Jay Z if you’re reading this, email me we’ll help sort your site out 😅
But the good news is that when you’re a name like Jay Z you have a huge amount of coverage on whatever you do.
With this coverage comes, links.
If we take a look at Monogram on Ahrefs you will see that they’ve had a huge spike in links since October 2020.
So just how quickly did Monogram obtain links?
From the 22nd of October 2020 through to the 22nd of May 2021 (a 6 month time span) Monogram went from 0 referring domains all the way up to 836 referring domains. Giving the domain an insane link velocity of just over 139 referring domains per month.
When we take into consideration authoritative DR20+ dofollow links, Monogram obtained 238 referring domains. Giving a link velocity of 40 referring domains per month that are DR20+ and dofollow. The peak velocity was achieved in October 2020 with 57 DR20+ dofollow domains linking to Monogram. The average DR was 50 and the average traffic was 534,034 (although this was thanks to some huge editorial domains – the median was DR 49 and 11,749 traffic).
Given this was a brand new site this is a huge amount of links to be building.
But did it hurt Monogram?
I would venture to say no but due to the SEO of the site it’s hard to say.
One thing we can say is that it hasn’t destroyed the domain with a manual penalty, the site is receiving a healthy amount of traffic, even if it is for brand related sites. Some SEOs might suggest that building with an initial link velocity so aggressive that you would be at a high risk of a manual penalty, which this site hasn’t run into.
What makes it hard to say how much it has benefited the site’s current site isn’t really SEO optimised. They aren’t attempting to rank the site for competitive keywords with high search volume and competition. It’s a brand focused store.
The site is only 21 pages, there is no topical authority. The content isn’t optimised for keywords.
I mean the site is probably more successful than most thanks to the brand being linked to Jay Z and the link profile I imagine would be a great base to build out an authoritative site on it but the site is more designed for a brand story book than an organic traffic focused site. As you can see below.
Case Study 2: glideapps.com
Most people know how to use Google Sheets but would have no clue how to create an application for mobile and tablet devices. This is where Glide Apps comes in, it is a tool which lets you build an application for mobile devices using just Google Sheets. It’s very simple to use and has a huge range of templates that you can use to start making your first app.
Glide looks pretty impressive on Ahrefs.
Glide Apps Link Velocity
During the 6 month time span Glide Apps grew from a measly 5 referring domains up to 698 referring domains. 693 referring domains in a 6 month period is a pretty impressive link velocity, averaging out to 116 links per month. That being said the growth during this time frame wasn’t linear with 213 of these referring domains happening in the first month of this timeframe.
That being said, when we apply the filter of DR20+ and Dofollow, during this time period there are only 68 links during this time period. This means that the link velocity of DR20+ dofollow links was around 12 links per month. This might not sound like a lot but for a site with no traffic and no ranking keywords this is quite an aggressive velocity.
Did it hurt Glide Apps?
From what I can see this had no negative impact on Glide at all. If anything the site started to take off during this time period. It went from an estimated 1 traffic on Ahrefs at the start in February to 4398 in August.
The problem with this example is that the majority of traffic comes from branded keywords, so you would expect for the website to rank for these keywords.
It’s All About Justifying
So as you can see high link velocities can be used without harming the site. But this doesn’t mean that there aren’t other factors that are at play.
When it comes to link velocity it’s very hard to find an example of a site that you can clearly tell there was an issue due to the link velocity.
But when you find sites that have had a high link velocity and it has paid off there is one thing in common, the links are justified.
How can you justify links?
There’s lots of ways, think how do businesses naturally generate a lot of links without building them themselves.
Viral social media content
This could be anything from a Facebook post by the business themselves through to a Reddit post mentioning the company and it reaching the homepage of the site, this can drive some serious traffic. The images below are from when Global Owls reached the front page of Reddit.
TV advertising campaigns can drive huge traffic, especially when the commercial gets shared by people on social media after watching it as well. The Super Bowl is a prime example of this, every year there is commentary on the adverts, which were peoples favourites and which were the worst, which means that if you have a Super Bowl advert you’re probably going to see a fair increase in links thanks to this coverage. A similar thing happens around Christmas time as well.
Sometimes, this can be for the wrong reasons, remember when the Gillette Super Bowl advert received heavy criticism?
Well it attracted a lot of eyeballs which led to a lot of links, but at what cost but it shows the power of TV advertising campaigns
Pay Per Click (PPC) Advertising
Pay per click advertising can of course drive a lot of traffic without having any SEO requirements. That being said, in my personal experience the amount of links that this will drive are minimal unless there is a level of virality to the advert or you use PPC in a particular way like Ahrefs explains in this video using statistics pages.
I have a site that has $378,208 in Facebook ad spend and has zero links from it. One good thing that PPC does a lot is generate branded searches which I think 100% helps your page to rank versus not having these searches.
Funding Rounds / Industry Events
This one isn’t really as available to most SEO’s but it’s still a legitimate way to justify links. If your company features at an industry event or gets funding these can generate a huge amount of press / editorial attention.
Every year Y Combinator has a demo day where their latest startups are able to present their start up. The brands which have the most success are included in a ton of write ups, which generate links for these startups.
The other way, funding rounds, often generate a lot of press attention, which of course can generate links. The example below is from Cannabis website Leafly, with a site like leafly the increase in referring domains won’t be so dramatic because they already have a huge backlink profile so a lot are repeat links. But for a new startup that has just received funding this can lead to a huge increase.
What Do These All Have In Common?
So there’s a few actions at play here but one recurring theme is they all receive traffic.
I’m sure that the type of traffic probably comes into play here but to what extent I’m really not sure. For example referral traffic from TikTok is probably less likely to generate links when compared to traffic from funding rounds and industry events.
All of these likely contribute to these as well
- Branded searches
- Brand mentions on various platforms
- User metrics from the traffic
- Social shares
So when it comes to justifying the links this is what you should try to replicate.
If your website is brand new and there’s none of these factors you shouldn’t hammer your site with hundreds of referring domains straight away.
Why Building A Business Not A Website Pays Off
Ultimately, treating your website like a real business rather than just an SEO project pays dividends in the long term. It doesn’t just diversify your traffic source which reduces your reliance on SEO, I also believe that it has benefits for your SEO overall.
I’ve seen it myself with sites that only run paid advertising ranking for terms that they “shouldn’t” rank for when looking at their site overall from an on and off-page perspective.
A site I was following for Facebook ad inspiration had N/A DR and UR with 1 referring domain at the time was ranking on the first for this product manufacturing related keyword, 1 position behind their supplier who was spending heavily on SEO.
Since this time they have stopped Facebook advertising and they have dropped down to the third page.
While there are exceptions to the rule, those sites with strong brand presence across multiple platforms seem to have resilience to the Google algorithm updates which are happening more frequently.
So when building your new websites, if possible don’t just limit yourself to SEO. If you have the time and resources, certain niches lend themselves to podcasts, others to Facebook groups, others paid ads, others can drive some serious traffic from Pinterest.
Being able to send traffic to your new pages allows you to justify the links that you’re going to build to these pages thanks to the user metrics going through these pages. I also think it helps you rank higher to begin with even if you don’t build links, as long as your page is high quality and passes high quality user metrics to match. Meaning that when you do start your link building campaign the results overall will be better.
There probably isn’t a maximum link velocity as long as the links are justified
- Justifying links comes down to a multitude of factors, but all of these factors increase traffic
- All of the methods mention will likely increase Branded searches / Brand mentions on various platforms / User metrics from the traffic / Social shares, not just traffic so should be considered
- The type of traffic probably determines how many links can be sent but to what extent I’m not sure (e.g. referral traffic from TikTok versus traffic from industry events)
- Building a multi-channel business rather than a website for SEO will help you justify more links. If you have an active email list, referral traffic from social media, paid advertising and other brand exposure opportunities like industry events, podcasts and interviews you will be able to build more links. But that being said, this isn’t something that everyone has the resources to do.