No refunds! No guarantees! And no reports when the work is done. You’re just going to have to believe me! Oh, what’s the job, you ask? I will skyrocket your SEO (duh)! Get massive rankings with this exclusive link building service! Gonna be $160, please.
If there was a PayPal button here, would you buy this?
Besides, I’m joking anyway.
Or am I?
Well, believe it or not, these sort of link telemarketing list building services are EVERYWHERE in the SEO world. In particular, on SEO forums. In particular-ier, on SEO black hat forums.
And they’re quite popular. Actually, quite isn’t the word. Massively - that’s the one.
A certain thread on BlackHatWorld.com (BHW) - the all-time most popular thread on the forum in fact - has gathered over 7,100 responses across 160 pages (and counting). More than that, according to my math, it has sold 4,200+ individual services.
This puts the revenue on the merchant’s side at around $420,000 - $588,000 (there are different versions of the service, each at a different price point + occasional discounts).
Just … wow!
But hold on, that merchant doesn’t have just one thread. There are at least a dozen of them in his portfolio - each with HUNDREDS of responses and sales.
All of those services look quite similar, at least in their sales material.
There’s always an uber-cool-looking sales graphic (and I truly mean it). The graphics are long, custom made, original, and they’re just nice to look at even if you don’t intend to buy anything.
Check for yourself:
The seller really has to invest a lot in creating those things!
This is perhaps only the tip of the iceberg. It’s just one seller, on one SEO forum. But there are more agencies/SEOs/consultants following suit in other places.
The market for this kind of SEO service seems to be huuuuuge.
And… honestly speaking… why wouldn’t it be?
Let’s look at it from a buyer’s perspective:
Why people buy SEO services on black hat forums
SEO is frustrating.
It just is.
And particularly if you’re not a pro. By “pro” I mean someone for whom SEO is their business.
For a normal business person, SEO is but a tool. It’s something you use alongside other elements to make your business grow.
But it just so happens that SEO changes a lot. One week something is a-okay. Another week it’s a no-no.
This is unheard of anywhere else. A hammer doesn’t stop being a hammer on a weekly basis. Hammering a nail has been the same process for decades.
So in that landscape, no wonder people just want SEO taken care of.
Hiring an SEO expert on a monthly basis is an option. But you won’t get much for sub $500 / month.
Easier solution? Get a ready-made “productized” service - something that’s well-described, something that’s convincing, something that tells you exactly what’s going to be done, how it’s going to be done, and at what price.
In come SEO services from (arguably) black hat forums. By all accounts, people want those services. They need them!
But, do they work?
Aha! That’s a topic for another time, which we will possibly cover. I did buy one of those services, pointed it to my under-performing site, hooked it up to Ahrefs, and waited to see what happens. So the data is here, only needs to be put to paper screen. If you want to see that, please make yourself heard in the comments.
The question we’re going to answer today is different:
How profitable it can be to offer this kind of link building service as an SEO?
Disclaimer. I’m in no way encouraging you to (a) copy anyone’s services/products and try selling them as your own, or (b) offer black/grey hat link building services not considering the possible damage you’re doing. The way I look at those forum services is purely as a source of inspiration on how to present your own SEO service (sales-wise) and how you could organize it from a workload and delivery perspective.
For this part, I’m going to focus on the service awesomely named “SHERLOCK HACKS GOOGLE” (I’m going to call it SHG going forward). I’ve chosen it because it’s supposedly the most popular thread in the history of BHW, people who bought it are seemingly very happy with their results, and you get a full report when the service is done.
In short, I can see what each individual part of the service actually is (when stripped down from all the marketing talk).
That being said, keep in mind that all such things need to be taken with a grain of salt. There are no guarantees regarding the actual quality of the service or its long-term effects. Even though there are a lot of great reviews, it’s not the first time someone has pushed an offer on BHW that turned out to be a complete scam.