Puzzled guy at computer

Fancy a backlink from one of the worst sites on the web?

Finding websites that are good backlink prospects is the foundation of any quality link building campaign. But you can’t judge a website or a backlink prospect just by having a quick look. A website that looks good may well be a poor prospect, while a website with some flaws might be an excellent prospect.

To really understand the value of a website you’ve got to dig into their backlink profile, see who’s linking to the site, explore why they’re linking to it, and discover what specific content attracts the most backlinks.

I was presenting a workshop on this topic at SMX London and while doing background research, I came across a list of the worst websites on the web in 2014 on WebPagesThatSuck.com:

Screenshot The worst websites of 2014

Being curious, I wondered if these sites deserved the criticism of being the worst and decided to do a backlink analysis of the sites featured in this ‘anti-talent show’. Among the dross, I came across an absolute gem of an example – PaulGraham.com. Here’s the homepage:

Startup company - Image Clearly spending pots of cash on design over substance is not one of Graham’s weaknesses!

The website looked awful back in 2014 when it ‘won’ the award, it was awful when it was first crawled by the Wayback Machine at archive.org, and now in 2020, the website still looks just as awful.

But when I did a backlink analysis, the quality and the richness of the backlinks that point to this ugly duckling were spectacular. Here’s a screenshot from Majestic.com who specialize in collecting and analyzing backlink data on a huge scale:

Backlink - Search Engine Optimization

A good measure of any website is the number of quality websites and influential people who link to it. In that PaulGraham.com excels. The Majestic analysis shows a high Trust Flow of 74 with over 10,000 backlinks in the fresh index and over 26,000 in the historic index. That’s a really good score. Here are some examples of the backlinks I found:

Paul Graham in the New York Times

Take this article published on the NYTimes.com, A plan in case robots take the jobs. The article looks at the future impact Robots will have on jobs and suggests that giving everyone a basic paycheck may be one option.

Web page - Line

To back up his argument, the writer, Farhad Manjoo cites one of Paul Graham’s essays on Economic Inequality.

Here Manjoo’s aim is to provide additional information, so the reader while enjoying the article can move on and dig deeper into the topic. He clearly sees Graham as an authority in business.

Paul Graham on Forbes Magazine

Kyle Wong is a writer on digital Media and Entrepreneurship. Here in “Forbes” magazine, he covers, “3 Startup Resources For Aspiring Entrepreneurs”.

Web page - Screenshot

Here’s what he says about Graham, “Personally, I love reading Graham’s pieces… he has arguably more data points about what makes companies successful than any other person in the world. He has helped and funded over 800 startups including Dropbox, Airbnb, Stripe, and Reddit.”

He links to four essays by Graham including his personal favorite, “Do Things That Don’t Scale.”

This essay from Graham is packed with great practical advice for startups including, “for a startup to succeed, at least one founder (usually the CEO) will have to spend a lot of time on sales and marketing.”

Wong’s article is recommending top resource sites for entrepreneurs and obviously, it’s important that he only quotes excellent sources.

Paul Graham on Entrepreneur.com

And here’s another example from Entrepreneur Magazine, “Entrepreneurs Are Scheduling Their Days Down to the Minute for Ultimate Success” from VIP Contributor, John Rampton.

Product design - Brand In the article, Rampton explains that when he started his own business, keeping to a regular daily schedule was a real challenge.

As he says, “There are days when you feel you’ve accomplished more than planned. But there are also days when you’re aimlessly running around”.

He realized that to be more productive, he needed more structure. He lists nine ways he achieved that goal, and Paul Graham provided the inspiration for number 4, Build your own maker’s schedule, manager’s schedule.

He says, “Building your own schedule is an idea influenced by Paul Graham where entrepreneurs create two different schedules (or plans) for each day.”

A maker’s schedule that focuses on tasks like problem-solving or building a product, and a manager’s schedule where you set aside time for tasks like marketing, sales, and meetings. Rampton wasn’t just citing a quote from Graham, but basing one of his own pieces of advice on what he learned from Graham.

Paul Graham on SparkToro

And on Rand Fishkin’s new enterprise, SparkToro, a recent essay on ‘How to Write Usefully’ appears 16th in a list of trending articles.

Screenshot SparkToro

Key Takeaways

Here’s what this analysis tells us:

  • You really can’t judge a website by how it looks, you’ve got to dig into the backlink profile to be sure – and you’re sure to find some surprises.
  • Paul Graham publishes multiple quality essays on startups and entrepreneurship – he’s seen as a source of great insights. So much so that he is regularly cited in top publications.
  • Graham’s work and writing are so good that it has inspired others, not only in their writing but in developing and growing their own businesses.

So, that’s the story of one ugly duckling. What about you? Have you found sites that you weren’t sure of in the first place, but later discovered they published great content and would be a quality backlink prospect? If so, please share them in the comments below.