Blog networks are among my favorite sources for targeted link-building. There’s no other way in which you can so easily get in-content, anchor-text backlinks from a whole lot of websites all over the Internet.
The question is: which ones of the many available networks should you join? Which ones are worth the investment and which ones should you avoid? And of course, the most important question: which networks provide the most and best backlinks?
That’s what we’re going to find out in this roundup review.
Update: I am keeping this article on the blog for the sake of posterity, but please note that this review is from 2011. Blog networks like the ones tested here are no longer a viable or recommended link building strategy.
Blog Networks in this Review
Here are the candidates that I’m going to compare in this review:
Each of these blog networks are basically the same: you submit articles (usually spun articles) and they get posted out to a whole bunch of blogs in the respective network. I will probably create separate posts with reviews/videos showing the different control-panels and looking at things like user-friendliness for each candidate, but in this post, it’s all about the backlinks!
Let me get one thing out of the way: this test will not be a comparison of ranking results. Even though the ultimate goal is to find the networks that are best at increasing the rankings of your web-pages, it’s not possible to compare the candidates objectively by measuring rankings increases – there are simply too many variables involved, as soon as you compare two different URLs, even if they target the same keyword.
Instead, I will attempt to measure how many backlinks you can get from each of the networks and what the overall quality of the sites in each network is like, as objectively as possible. Here’s an illustration of the test setup:
In the graphic, there are only four blog networks, to save space. In the actual test, a total of eight networks are being compared. I submit 20 highly spun articles to each blog network, each article containing one link. I have also assigned one unique URL to each blog network. What this means is that the 20 article submitted to the first network all contain a link to one specific URL. The 20 articles submitted to the second network all link to a different URL and so on.
I am building no other backlinks and doing no other promotions to any of the unique URLs. The articles will be the same articles submitted to each network, choosing the same categories or categories matching each other as closely as possible. The reason for this is that there are probably certain categories with more matching blogs in a network and other categories with fewer matching blogs. By submitting identical articles to each network, I’m eliminating any unfair bias based on article categories.
For this experiment, I will monitor the following criteria:
- Number of Publishes
I’ll keep track of how many articles are officially published to blogs in each network. This gives us an initial idea of which networks provide the most links.
- Number of Links Picked up by ahrefs
ahrefs is a backlink analysis service. I will be checking in on all the unique URLs to see how many of the published posts are crawled by ahrefs.
- Number of Links Picked up by Majestic
Majestic SEO is another backlink analysis service, with a different index than ahrefs. I’ll also be measuring how many links are crawled by Majestic, just to get a “second opinion”, so to speak.
- Number of Pings
The URLs I’ll be promoting are all from WordPress based websites. As another measure of how many links are being built, I will count the number of pingbacks received for each individual URL.
- PageRank (?) of Blogs in the Networks
Finally, I’ll gather as many of the sites that articles were published to as possible and analyze their link-value. I’ll probably jut check the PageRank of the homepages for each site. Maybe I’ll come up with something else. The point is just to get an idea of how valuable all those links from a network actually are.
This was a long-term test, so below you’ll find data gathered during 90 days after the initial submissions. Some networks do a number of submissions all at once and then stop, others drip out the articles slowly, over time. By keeping track of the links created over a longer period of time, we don’t only see which networks provide the best short-term article “blasts”, but also which networks have the best long-term distribution rates.
Article Directories vs. Blogs
Some of the networks submit articles to both article directories and blogs. There are two major differences between these two types of sites:
- Resource Boxes
Article directories generally allow you to post an article without any links, followed by a “resource box” or “author box”, which is where you can add your backlinks. This is a technical detail and I doubt it makes a significant difference whether your links appear in the middle of the content or towards the end.
- Broad vs. Narrow
The bigger difference is that article directories usually cover a huge range of topics, while blogs accept articles on a specific topic. Articles are usually sent to all article directories in a network, but only to some blogs in a blog network. This means that you can get more links from one submission, from article directories, but your next article will be posted to the exact same set of sites again. With blogs, each submission might reach different blogs in the network, especially if they are on different topics.
Finally, note that blogs have a better chance to provide quality links than article directories, especially since the Panda update, part of which was a “slap” against article directories. Although, realistically, most sites in a network tend to be very low value. One of the goals of this review is to find out which networks are the best maintained, with the highest quality and highest value sites in them.
Ranking Results (After 30 Days)
First, let me address one simple question, which is: do blog networks work? In other words, are the types of backlinks you get from these networks any good and will they help you get your sites/pages ranked? To answer this question, let’s take a look at the rankings of the eight unique URLs promoted in this roundup. At the beginning of the experiment, none of these pages were ranking within the top 100 spots in Google for their target keywords. Here’s how the rankings progressed over 30 days:
You can see that a few days after the articles were added to each network, each of the pages popped up somewhere in the top 30 for it’s target keyword. Most of the pages maintained an upwards trend ever since, five out of the eight pages in the test reached a top-10 position within 30 days and one page reached the top spot for it’s keyword. Only one page is currently still dancing and was not in the top 100 at the end of 30 days (that’s the pale pink line).
Remember that we can’t make a fair comparison and conclude that the highest ranking pages must have been promoted by the best blog networks, because each page has a different target keyword with a different competition level. But I think these results very clearly show that blog network links do indeed help in increasing the ranking position of a page.
Network Reach (30/90 Days)
Next, let’s look at the most straight-forward piece of data, 30 days and 90 days after the articles were fed into each of the networks, which answers the question: how widely is an article distributed in each of the networks?
|Name:||Publishes 30/90 Days:||Publishes/Article:||Ended Within:|
|ArticleRanks||643 / +154||40||90 days
|Authority Link Network||300 / +0||15||30 days
|DistributeYourArticles||2403 / +368||139||60 days|
|My Article Network||646 / +456||55||90+ days
|SEOLinkVine||178 / +96||12||90+ days
||836 / +376||61||90 days
|SpinDistribute||16792 / +0||840||30 days
|Unique Article Wizard||3046 / +0||152||30 days
The second column shows the number of total article publishes for each network according to the network’s own stats. The first number shows the number of publishes during the first 30 day period, the number after the forward-slash shows how many additional publishes happened in the following 60 day period. The third row gives an indication of how many publishes per submitted article you can expect and the final row indicates within what time-frame the submissions stopped.
At first glance, this is pretty simple: more publishes mean more backlinks and the more backlinks, the better. With this in mind, it seems clear that SpinDistribute, Unique Article Wizard and DistributeYourArticles are the big winners, wile Authority Link Network and SEOLinkVine are lagging behind. It’s also clear that article distribution slows down after an initial “burst” on all of the networks.
However, there are a few factors that change this picture. On the one hand, the three networks with the widest submissions all submit to many directories and not just to blogs. This means, for example, that while an article sent to SpinDistribute gets published on over 800 sites, your next article submitted will go out to over 700 of the same sites that your first article was published on already. So, in terms of getting backlinks from unique websites, it’s not as powerful as it may seem.
On the other hand, backlinks are governed by a very strong “quality over quantity” principle. Sure, getting both quality and a large quantity of backlinks is always preferable but the fact is that a single link from a valuable site can do far more for your rankings than thousands or even hundreds of thousands of “crap-links” (e.g. forum profile spam links).
Network Quality (90 Days)
To find out about the actual value of the backlinks provided by each network, let’s get an idea of how many unique sites are in each network, how “indexable” those sites are and how many of the linking sites have some authority of their own. Since most blog networks don’t publish lists of exactly where your articles are posted (to protect the network), we’re left to our own devices.
The following table gives an indication of the amount of links from unique domains created by each network (after 90 days) as well as the “indexability” of those domains:
|Name:||Pings:||ahrefs Backlinks:||Majestic Backlinks:||Majestic Domains:|
|Authority Link Network||178||32||330||144|
|My Article Network||222||103||360||113|
|Unique Article Wizard||147||65||247||79|
The second column (Pings) indicates how many pingbacks from unique domains were picked up by WordPress, for each of the test-pages. The “ahrefs Backlinks” column shows how many total links to each of the pages were picked up by ahrefs, a backlink analysis service. The next column shows how many total links to each of the pages were found by Majestic SEO, also a backlink analysis service. And the final column shows how many unique domains Majestic SEO found, linking back to the respective page.
These numbers are somewhat relevant as indicators of the quality of each network, since both ahrefs and Majestic SEO crawl the web in a similar fashion as a Google-bot would. As an example, you can see that Majestic only picked up links from 27 individual sites, out of the thousands of articles published through SpinDistribute, but it found 144 individual linking sites from only 300 articles published through Authority Link Network. This indicates that the websites in the ALN network are far more visible and more “indexable”. Crawler bots find these pages easily, which means that there are probably some higher-value sites involved. On the other hand, it seems that SpinDistribute is sending massive amounts of articles to “junk-yard-websites” that have no visibility on the web.
Next, I wanted to check for the quality of the linking sites more directly. I did this by looking at two criteria:
- The number of inbound links to each linking domain, according to Majestic SEO.
- The homepage PageRank of each of the linking sites.
It will come as no big surprise that these two factors are highly correlated. The more inbound links a site has, the higher it’s PageRank tends to be. Getting backlinks from a website that itself has many backlinks pointing to it is better than getting backlinks from a site with no backlinks of it’s own. That’s the logic behind this analysis.
Results After 30 Days:
Results After 90 Days:
Each bar indicates how many domains with that respective PageRank were found linking to the test pages for each network. Domains with no PageRank are not included in this graph. In this comparison, the clear winners are Traffic Kaboom, with a record number of PR4 and even PR5 domains, Authority Link network with lots of PR sites and ArticleRanks, which also boasts a decent number of PR domains. In the short term (first diagram), Authority Link Network provides the largest number of higher-quality links and in the longer-term (second diagram), Traffic Kaboom completely trounces the competition in terms of network quality.
Note that this test inherently favors those sites that already did well in the previous test, since the analyzed URLs are those picked up by Majestic SEO. So, if a network is not capable of producing links that get noticed by the Majestic SEO crawlers, it’s automatically disadvantaged in this comparison as well.
Here’s my rundown and recommendations for each of the tested networks:
Important: I am keeping this article on the blog for the sake of posterity, but please note that this review is from 2011. Consider all of these services (if they still exist) as “not recommended” today.
ArticleRanks – Recommended!
ArticleRanks has a good user interface a very reasonable price and produces a decent number of quality backlinks. They keep a close eye on the quality of their network, make sure it’s not over-burdened with spam content and have a credit-system that incentivises users to add sites with PageRank to the network. Overall, a good system that delivers good results.
Authority Link Network – Recommended!
Authority Link Network is free to use (although subsciption plan are also available). By adding domains with PageRank to the network, you earn the right to submit articles of your own. There’s a strict limit to how many articles can be submitted and how often they are published and this is a very good thing, because it keeps the network’s quality in check. ALN rocks and you should use it.
DistributeYourArticles – Not Recommended!
DistributeYourArticles makes it unnecessarily difficult to submit articles. The interface is not great and they reject articles with long paragraphs as well as articles with a double line-space. The problem is that while they seem to care about these irrelevant details, they don’t care about the quality of their network, as indicated by the fact that almost none of the links are to be found.
My Article Network – Not Recommended!
My Article Network is lukewarm in every regard. The user interface is okay but not great, the distribution rate is okay but not great and the quality of the backlinks is below average. It’s not downright bad, but there are better systems to invest in.
SEOLinkVine – Not Recommended!
SEOLinkVine has an extremely slow distribution rate. On average, each article was published only nine times over the course of 30 days. However, they claim that the distributions keep going indefinitely, so we’ll have to see if this network manages to catch up with the others, over time. My worry is that indefinite distribution will deteriorate the quality of the network, as there will be an ever growing number of articles flooding a network that probably isn’t growing that quickly…
Traffic Kaboom – Recommended!
Traffic Kaboom is the clear winner, since it delivers a quality level comparable to Authority Link Network, but has fewer limitation attached (e.g. you can submit up to 10 articles per day without having to add any sites of your own) and it delivers more links in the long-run. It’s user interface is not brilliant, but gets the job done. As an added bonus, Traffic Kaboom also serves as a video distribution platform.
SpinDistribute – Not Recommended!
SpinDistribute allegedly creates massive amounts of backlinks. Unfortunately, it seems that they have pretty much “killed” their network by flooding it with too much content. Neither Majestic SEO nor ahrefs managed to find even one percent of all the links SpinDistribute is supposed to build. The big upside to this network is the “pay as you go” model and since it still managed to increase the rankings of it’s test page, maybe it’s worth using once for each website.
Unique Article Wizard – Not Recommended!
UAW has a terrible user interface. Just wanted to get that out there. Apart from that, I think it has a similar issue as SpinDistribute and DYA: the network consists of too many article directories (a.k.a. content farms) that get flooded with too much content and basically have no visibility on the web. Having said that, it definitely has more punch than either SD or DYA, but it still can’t keep up with the better contestants in this roundup.