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Lessons Learned From Building $2,000,000 of Digital PR


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Over the last 3 years at Blue Tree, we’ve gotten thousands of incredible media mentions for our clients

On sites like Forbes, Crunchbase, Oracle, FastCompany, Salesforce, and many others…

We’ve learned a lot in that time and made a ton of mistakes. 

We’ve also been through four major algo updates and seen countless sites go bananas, making obscene revenue and then get totally smashed. But we survived… and thrived.


SEO is all about data collection. 

Google is a black box and once you leave the groupthink of Facebook SEO groups, you realize a lot of people have no idea what they are doing. 

Some people get lucky and others lose a huge amount of time and capital. 

In order to know what is actually going on in SEO, we’ve been actively monitoring over 150 sites for performance. We track everything from traffic, to link quality/velocity to performance. 🔎

Combined with our own experience, we’ve seen several recurring patterns for SEO success – with one standing head and shoulders above all others.

Take a Guess at What That Is…

Link quality. 

The Number 1 cause of most of the recent sites that got absolutely spanked by Google is poor link quality. 

But before I show you examples, we need to take a step back to early 2018. 

(Activate time travel machine 🌀)

In mid-2017, big G started cracking down on PBNs, hard. A couple of big networks were exposed and a lot of people quickly realized that PBNs’ days were numbered. 

To add to the decline, a couple of online brokers started pedaling online sites composed almost entirely of PBN links to uneducated buyers, and sold them as normal “guest posts” or “custom outreach.”

Introducing… the New “White Hat Link Building Strategy”

A couple of entrepreneurial SEOs realized there was a big market for buying guest posts. Out of nowhere, many marketplaces popped up offering white hat guest post services and brokering links.

It was a money-making bonanza. Even boss-level 5000 scammers like The Hoth got in on it. 

Everyone was selling crappy guest posts and thought they were safe and secure from Google. 

Unfortunately, this trend has continued mostly unabated since today…

A Race to the Bottom

The problem was that most of these sites which suddenly realized they could make bank selling links, immediately started selling a ton of links.

And sell they did.. Within a few months, they were basically spam sites.

A thousand plus sites with the word “tech” in the URL appeared out of nowhere as a huge industry of overseas-based IP content sites popped up.

And the white hat link peddlers sold them all.

Which brings us to today… 

For the last 24 months, millions have been made buying link liabilities

Links on unnatural low-quality listicles style articles with crowbarred in mentions. 

People thought they were buying assets but they weren’t. Tons of tons of huge liabilities that put their sites and their clients at risk.

And Things Like This Happened…

(Sold for 10m+, despite our warnings to the buyer that they were buying a huge liability. ……… Yes, I said, $10,000,000)

graph showing decrease in traffic

Or how about this one – which had 100s of links from sites like (the ultimate fake high DR spam site).

organic traffic decrease

I could go on, I quite literally have a list of 50+ sites like this. 

Let’s do one more, it’s just too much fun.

Also sold for multiple millions of dollars with equally unimpressive links. 

organic traffic decrease sample

What was the commonality between all of these? 

Latent hidden asymmetrical risk in the form of terrible links. 

Why Asymmetrical?

Having even just a few links from a toxic site that has been identified as a spam site is enough for Google to take notice of what you’re doing and look further under the hood. 

(If you don’t know what/how the link graph works and you’re in SEO. I suggest starting here.)

So we’ve established that buying toxic links is a huge liability even if the site has some traffic. 

Here is the important take-home point: If a site accepts anyone, has low barriers to entry, and sells mentions for $250 or less, it will become absolutely saturated in a very short period of time.

It’s only a matter of time…

You are better off not even buying the link than having this liability sitting on your SEO balance sheet.

Let’s Recap:

  • Sites that sell links eventually trend towards being devalued. Always
  • Having enough links from sites like this increases the likelihood of traffic drop
  • Buyers are way more cautious of links if you’re looking to sell
  • Buying link liabilities always catches up

So What Should You Do Instead?

The answer is pretty simple – but it will take hard work. 

Building systems to get natural mentions is the only way to ensure long-term growth. This means team, great value-adding pitches, original research, great writing, and outreach systems. 

The best links are the sites that are hard to get into. You’ll have to jump through hoops, hire 8-10 cents a word + writers, and jump on phone calls with the content marketing people. 

It’s not easy but what you get is worth it – a link asset, instead of a liability. 

Links on the best sites only increase in value and equity. They allow traffic to remain stable and grow.

Now Time for the Sales Pitch! 😀

At Blue Tree Digital we’ve been building relationships with publications for the last 3 years. We write for over 200 sites as active contributors, using a network of more than 15 expert writers.

Our team consists of a large group of technical writers with deep subject matter expertise, everything from compliance to sales automation.

If you’re a technology startup looking to grow your content and SEO efforts – and you understand the importance of quality over quantity – we’d love to chat.

Please note we are not a suitable agency for pre-seed nor pre-revenue companies or companies without a website or digital presence. But our agency offers digital PR services for companies that want to improve their digital presence.

Interested, or just want to learn more? Please shoot us a message via the contact form.

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Sia Mohajer

Get acquainted with Sia Mohajer, the brain behind some of BlueTree's most successful link-building campaigns. Read, learn, and grow.

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