How to More Than Double a Website’s Domain Rating in Two Months — and What Comes Next

We all have that friend who keeps buying a more expensive version of the same product…

…and doesn’t listen when we tell them that it’s not the product that’s the issue.

It’s how they’re using it.

Any small business owner should know that good advice is the most valuable currency in an SEO campaign.

That’s why a personal approach to SEO is the foundation of everything we do at OutreachMama.

Today, I’m going to explain how a personalized backlink campaign more than doubled a client’s website DR in just a couple of months and increased their organic traffic by over 50%.

I’ve written this link-building case study because I want you to understand the value of quality over quantity. I want you to know that you don’t always need to spend more — you need to work with an outreach partner who:

  • Listens to your goals
  • Identifies your business’s needs
  • Recommends a solution that demonstrably meets those goals and needs.

Here’s the proof.

Our client is a small law firm looking to expand its digital reach. It specializes in disability law and has an excellent track record, a professional website, and numerous success stories and testimonials.

What it doesn’t have yet is domain authority or a steady stream of organic traffic.

So far, so good — we’ve had excellent results providing SEO for law firms and other professional services.

Local SEO in the legal field is mandatory. Why? Just think about how search behavior works for legal queries.

Before anyone contacts a disability lawyer like our client, they’re going to ask Google. This is true if they’re searching to find out:

  • Whether they’re eligible for disability benefits
  • Whether they’ve been treated unfairly during a claim
  • Whether there are specific disability laws or provisions in their area, state, or country

If you’re not topping the SERPs and answering those questions, who is?

Answer: your competitors.

This isn’t unique to disability law. It applies to all companies needing SEO for professional services — whether your industry is law, finance, real estate, or SaaS.

Establishing yourself as the #1 topical authority in your field takes time. It requires a long-term content marketing strategy and a consistent link-building campaign — and critically, getting the right kind of backlinks.

We’re talking about reputable, vetted host domains. Effective anchors. Realistic pricing.

If you’ve ever tried increasing a new website’s domain authority before, you know that this isn’t an easy combination to find.

Meaningful SEO is a long game, which is why the client chose OutreachMama.

He’s worked with us before on a separate project. He’s still enjoying the benefits.

He knows we’re all about long-term planning. An SEO strategist whose promises are all about short-term gains is lying to you.

That’s not to say you can’t deliver short-term benefits. This case study proves that!

But the purpose of this study is to show that even a short-term achievement like doubling a website’s DR in 2 months should be understood as a milestone in a longer-term strategy.

So — talking of milestones. Let’s take a quick look at the facts and figures.

KPIs in the First Two Months of an SEO Campaign

  • Referring domains: 154
  • Domain rating: 15
  • Organic traffic: 628 (per month)
  • Referring domains: 205
  • Domain rating: 31
  • Organic traffic: 860 (per month)

All analytics are provided by Ahrefs.

Our client had been using guest blog posts to acquire backlinks. However, he hadn’t been seeing the results he expected.

Sound familiar? Thousands of small businesses waste millions of dollars on guest posting — all because of a lack of professional advice.

I arranged a call with him to discuss his campaign so far.

You might not realize it, but that’s probably the single most important step in this entire project.

A long-term SEO strategy is built on getting a lot of small things right for a long time. For that to happen, I need to understand a client’s current problems and their goals.

Talking a project over in person rather than dashing off an email saying “Yes, we can do that” is the difference between an effective SEO campaign and a waste of money.

During our call and in the subsequent analysis phase, I was looking for two things:

  1. A backlink profile that was either too narrow or completely untargeted
  2. An ineffective anchor text portfolio

So many small online businesses don’t realize that these are the hallmarks of their expensive, failing backlinking campaigns.

And the agency you’re working with probably isn’t telling you, either.

Why this project requires a personal approach to building domain authority…

If you see link-building as transactional, you’ve been approaching this all wrong.

Stop me if you’ve seen these selling points from a small business SEO agency before.

  • Huge network of sites
  • Affordable backlinks
  • No-fuss approach

Let me explain why that should be a huge red flag — and the polar opposite of the approach we used to boost our client’s online traffic by over 50% in 2 months.

Okay — so a large network isn’t inherently a bad thing.

But unless that network has been built up over a LONG time and carefully vetted along the way (hint: it hasn’t), you can guarantee that the agency is prioritizing quantity over quality.

This means your backlinks could easily end up on sites with poor reputations. Search engines could suspect you’re part of a PBN and blacklist your website.

In short — more options do not equal better results.

Our team works personally with our partner sites’ webmasters. Again, I can’t stress the importance of these personal relationships enough.

Amongst other things, it means that when we send a guest post to be published, we KNOW when it’s been published. Nothing gets lost in the mail.

We also vet all our partner sites closely — do they have a sketchy reputation? Will our clients face risks if they associate with them? The answer HAS to be no.

This is why I can promise our client that the domains I’m finding for him won’t tank his website’s online reputation.

Who doesn’t love a bargain?

But we’re not talking about discount groceries. Buying cheap backlinks is usually ineffective at best, and at worst, harmful to your website’s DR.

Agencies tend to leverage the size of their network to offer lower prices — but they make up their margins by publishing your links in spammy, poorly constructed posts on sites that may have poor reputations or pass on almost no authority.

Our client’s digital marketing budget is limited. So how do we offer him a competitive rate without compromising on quality?

First, we make it clear that our link-building campaigns are determined by results. That means a tangible ROI rather than purely focusing on the initial price.

Second, we help the client save money because they’re working with us directly.

You may not realize that the agencies you use for link-building often outsource the hard work to other providers. This creates an additional cost. In this case, the client has come directly to the professionals, meaning he’s getting a higher guarantee of quality at a competitive price.

This is why I can promise our client that our work is an investment with a measurable ROI — not a “cheap and cheerful” package.

A critical issue we identified in this client’s past results was that the link anchors weren’t properly optimized.

You’ll see what a difference this made below.

For now, remember that if you’re told that you can simply submit your anchor text, choose your sites, and let the agency handle the rest…

…you’re being set up for failure.

Remember — a successful long-term SEO strategy is about getting the small things right, over and over again, while you work towards a clear end goal.

If your SEO partner doesn’t ask what your goals are, it’s not a long-term strategy.

It’s a cash grab.

Short-term results are absolutely possible in SEO. But even when they happen, they’re a product of a long-term strategy that puts the client’s goals first.

This is why I can promise our client that this is a long-term partnership where we build success on success.

It’s a familiar story, right? The results our client had been seeing before he contacted us are extremely common in link-building for small businesses.

So let me explain what a proper link-building campaign involves — and how we overcame key challenges to ensure that our client’s referring domains were delivering tangible benefits.

On January 21st, 2024, four days after our initial call, our client’s digital presence looked like this:

A domain authority of 15 isn’t going to get you much organic traffic. Sites with this domain rating just don’t appear at the top of SERPs.

The challenge is that domain authority can take a long time to build. We wanted to quickly boost our client to a level where other SEO strategies, such as content marketing, would be made more effective by a higher domain rating.

He had 164 referring domains, but his organic traffic was still at 548 visitors per month. What were these referring domains giving him?

Our SEO specialist took over at this point to audit the client’s backlinks and find out why these referrals weren’t converting into organic traffic and a higher DR.

The fundamental goal of link-building campaigns is to build authority and boost organic traffic with contextually placed backlinks.

This is why placement matters so much. A standard small business SEO agency will offer you a wealth of sites to choose from and fully expect you to pick the cheapest options.

It’ll be cheap. And it’ll do nothing.

And then there’s the choice of anchor. It seems easy, right? You know what a keyword is. You can handle that yourself.

And again: the agency will be happy to let you choose.

That way, they’re not to blame when you don’t see any results.

When we were selecting the best guest post domains for this client, we asked:

  • How is the host domain related to the client’s website?
  • Will search engines consider it meaningful for this site to link to a law firm’s website?
  • Why would a reader follow the link?
  • What other sites are linking to the client’s website already — do we need to diversify?

These questions get asked and answered because we have a personal relationship with both our client and our host domains.

If your professional services SEO agency isn’t involving you in these questions, I have a secret for you:

They don’t care about your success.

I made sure our client was aware and on board with our approach from the start. Here’s how we answered those questions and put his new website on the digital map with a 107% increase in domain authority in two months.

So here’s the main event. The incredible truth. The solution.

In January, we published:

  • 4 links to blog pages with keyword anchors
  • 5 branded anchors directing to the homepage
  • 1 geotargeted anchor link directing to the homepage

In February, we followed this with:

  • 4 links to the client’s homepage with keyword anchors
  • 3 geotargeted anchor links pointing to the homepage
  • 3 links with keyword anchors pointing to blog pages

These were spread strategically across host domains with DRs of 20+ to 50+.

That’s it.

That’s what made the difference.

Yes, okay, there is a little more to it than that.

Our SEO specialist audited the client’s existing backlink profile carefully and saw that his site needed to diversify. We also realized he’d exclusively been using keyword anchors.

This is an extremely common mistake if your goal is to increase organic traffic.

Branded anchors (which use your business’s name as the anchor) are often dismissed in favor of keyword anchors, but they often generate more traffic and are a safe bet if you’re concerned about getting flagged for spam.

Our blogger outreach team then helped the client devise an anchor text roadmap and got to work contacting webmasters to put the campaign into action.

The blogs we linked to besides the homepage were strategic and closely related to the domains we chose. The keyword anchors used natural language and were diversified to avoid being flagged for spam.

This is another frequent problem with DIY link-building strategies. Exact match anchor keywords sound good in theory, but search engines quickly realize what you’re doing. Then you’ve wasted hundreds or even thousands of dollars on links that have done more harm than good.

We ensure our clients don’t fall foul of this.

I’ve found that clients often hold one of two extreme and unrealistic views on how anchors actually work. It’s either:

  1. People will only click the link if they think it’s an authoritative resource and not a brand promotion, or
  2. Nobody actually reads guest posts — this link is only for search engines, which is why keyword anchors are the way to go.

The truth is that branded anchors confer authority and increase traffic both through organic clicks and how they’re perceived by crawling search engines.

A branded anchor targeting the company’s homepage is so straightforward, and so often overlooked: yes, it’s an advert.

But that’s fine! Search engines are fine with honest adverts as long as they’re relevant and transparent — and so are readers!

What they don’t like is when they think you’re trying to be sneaky and cheat the system. That’s why exact match keyword anchors perform poorly, and we optimized the client’s keyword anchors to read as natural language.

Working with a knowledgeable partner saves you thousands of dollars and means your campaigns actually get results. It’s a proven fact.

Speaking of which — let’s unpack what these results mean in real terms…

By March 27th, 2024, our client’s profile looked like this:

Organic traffic describes visitors who arrive at your page through unpaid links.

Of course, links acquired through guest posts are technically “paid,” but they’re considered organic by search engines. They’re differentiated from inorganic traffic acquired through PPC (pay-per-click) ads and other paid ads.

See that the percentage increase in organic traffic is over double the percentage increase in referring domains. While there are numerous factors affecting organic traffic volume (including the increased domain rating), this suggests that the newer referring domains are contributing more in terms of organic traffic than the old ones.

We can attribute this to our strategy of using natural language and branded anchors rather than exact-match keyword anchors. These anchors tend to yield a higher number of clicks — and are also perceived favorably by crawling search engines.

Domain rating is a vital measure of performance — but requires context.

Aiming for the 70s, 80s, and 90s is unrealistic for most businesses — how could a local law firm rank as highly as an international news organization? The scale is completely different.

What’s important is that your domain rating is greater than your competitors.

A study in October 2021 focused on the top-ranking law firms in Austin found that among these high-performing websites, the average domain rating was 35. We can use this as relevant context.

During a two-month campaign, the client’s domain rating grew from 15 to 31. A domain authority of 15 is low-performing — the site would not be prioritized by search engines.

By contrast, a domain authority of 31 is pushing towards the highest-ranking local law firm websites used in the study mentioned above.

That gives blog posts, landing pages, and other local SEO content a far greater chance of appearing at the top of SERPs. It enables a huge range of SEO marketing strategies that would be pointless with a lower DR.

Over the course of two months, we increased the number of referring domains (websites linking back to the client’s website) by 51.

These backlinks confer authority when they’re crawled by search engines. Referring domains that point toward the client’s homepage through branded anchors were especially valuable for contributing to the site’s domain authority in this case.

However, referring domains must be understood qualitatively as well as quantitatively. The qualitative difference can be observed by comparing the percentage increase in referring domains (33%) to the percentage increase in organic traffic (37%).

SEO is a long and exhausting game. It rarely delivers short-term benefits.

However, these results represent what an impact a small change of strategy can have compared to simply throwing money at a problem.

And speaking of money.

Besides the improved website performance, the greatest long-term benefit to the client in this case is a huge saving on ad spending. With results like these, the need for PPC campaigns is vastly reduced.

Plus, the client can be confident that he isn’t wasting money on ineffective link-building strategies. We can show our clients the proof of our services’ success.

These gains only represent one small success in a longer-term SEO strategy that we are continuing to implement for this client. 

Which brings us to — what comes next?

Our mantra is that a consistent campaign delivers consistent results.

We continue to analyze and identify the best outreach opportunities for this client each month. We regularly review and expand his website’s backlink profile to ensure it remains diverse and healthy.

We identify opportunities for contextually relevant backlinks when we acquire new hosting partners. We continue to work closely with the client and with our webmaster partners to deliver strong results through personal service.

Watch this space — if this account yields more teachable moments, I may well post an update on this study in the coming months.

The difference between this client’s website and tens of thousands of underperforming small business websites is that our client had access to professional advice.

However large their networks, however low their prices, this is something you just won’t get from most small business link-building agencies.

I’m here to talk. Literally waiting for your call. And I can promise you the same things we deliver to all our clients:

  • Honest advice
  • Personal service
  • Full transparency
  • A comprehensive blogger outreach program
  • A website pre-approval option
  • Competitive prices

Get some good advice — book your call now.

Note: all statistics used in this case study were compiled AFTER Google’s March 2024 Core Update & Spam Update.

To learn more, visit Google’s Search Status Dashboard.

Article by

7+ years in the SEO industry, I’m an off-page optimization specialist with a track record of helping clients climb the search engine ladder. My focus? Building long-term client relationships founded on great results and customer satisfaction.Off the clock? You’ll find me behind the lens, capturing the world through photography, or catching NBA games (minus any recent All-Star debates) – or maybe even experimenting with new recipes in the kitchen! Let’s chat about SEO, strategy, or maybe even your favorite classic basketball moments.

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