Experiment to get backlinks that took 9 months and failed

• 4 min read

For about 18 months we had only one major acquisition channel - Quora.

We were living on the edge. We get banned - our business is done.

All that time we were experimenting with other channels but they didn't show significant results. One of them was...

To speed the growth of organic traffic

In the perfect world, every experiment should have started with a problem initiating a hypothesis on how to solve it.

The problem: the organic traffic is not growing fast enough.

The reasons: not enough high-ranking backlinks.

The why: journalists and media don't share the type of content we were create.

The hypothesis: to create an industry report with a lot of stats and cool data, maybe some journalists or content makers will cite it in their content and link to our website.

12 steps, 3 months – easy peasy

Before you jump into any experiment, try to think about it from a step-by-step perspective.

Here’s how our to-do list looked like. I’ve also included our expected vs. real timelines for each step:

We underestimated every step on the process

The next step is to define:

  • how much resources you’ll need for the project
  • how much time will it take to complete the project
  • your budget
  • things you need to do and who will work on them
  • set expectations and think about how you’ll measure the success

We didn’t plan well. There were only a few things on that to-do list we were familiar with in the process, and we guessed them more or less right. Everything else was a massive underestimation.

Since we relied entirely on our in-house team to complete the project, this underestimation also meant inflated budget, our team was busy on this project and didn’t have the capacity to work on better things, and the worst of all — the project was so anticlimactic, we noticed people were starting to burn out.

The Anticlimax

The most difficult part is data collection. We made this task even more complicated for ourselves when we decided that we will be asking C-level executives for their input on quite a massive questionnaire (here’s the link).

Ever tried to get a busy manager who never heard about you ever before to spend at least 20 minutes on something they don’t need?

This is just a sneak peek of all the work our team has done:

Imagine, how demotivating such work can be when you’re doing this for months.

And imagine the disappointment when the time to launch the project came, and it was a flop. We launched this report on ProductHunt, and it turned out to be the quietest and the least upvoted launch we’ve ever had:

The goal was to get more high-ranked backlinks, maybe some media coverage, etc.
But, unfortunately, no one cared about our report, and the team was so tired of the project, the distribution lacked enthusiasm.

The page got less than 2000 visitors in total.


And less than 10 high-ranking links.

The only really really cool thing that resulted from this research was that Statista actually thought that our report was quite good, and that’s how we became their data partner:

Key learnings

This was a great lesson for us about better planning and estimates.

  • We didn’t do enough research before… research.
  • We couldn’t do the right estimates, the budget grew with the salaries of the people who spent more and more time.
  • Working on long-term projects without the real-world feedback is demotivating.
  • We didn’t have the courage to cut our losses when we realized we started spending much more resources than we could have afford.

And one other thing:

  • We got lucky because we had a social science major on our team who did all the survey designing and data analysis. Such projects are impossible to complete without people on your team who know how to do them the right way.

Okay, ready to see the report we made in the end? Here it is:

STARTUPS VS. FREELANCE DEVELOPERS

THE 2020 REPORT

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