How to Review 5,000 Link Prospects & Collect 1,500 Contacts for $525 with Amazon's Mechanical Turk: Link Building How-Tos Day
By: Ben Wills |

Howdy folks!

In this week's installment of Link Building How-Tos day, I'm going to show you exactly how to use Amazon's Mechanical Turk to take your link building to the next level.

If you don't know what Mechanical Turk is or how it works, here's a link to Amazon's Mechanical Turk tutorial.

For those wondering, this is NOT for contacting sites...you, your company, or your agency should always be the ones starting and building your link relationships.

What you can use Mechanical Turk for is reviewing and categorizing link prospects, as well as gathering contact information.

Here, I'll show you how to have 5,000 URLs categorized and contact information for 1,500 websites collected for a total cost of $525 (plus small Amazon fees).

As well, you'll learn how to leverage Turkers to keep the quality of your results high by holding them accountable to each other, significantly reducing your time cost for reviewing quality and increasing the overall quality of results.

Let me know what I can expand on by commenting below!


How Amazon's Mechanical Turk Works

  1. Create a very simple/basic task in your process.
  2. Create the task in Amazon's Mechanical Turk, called a "HIT."
  3. Choose how much you are willing to pay to have the task completed.
  4. Choose requirements for who may perform the tasks based on language, location, or previous HIT acceptance rates.
  5. Publish your HITs using an interface that is easier to use than WordPress.

If you've watched the video above (or if you really understand how Amazon's Mechanical Turk works, then the following shorthand notes will make sense and you'll be able to get started right away with having Turkers review your link prospects, then gather the contact information for them.

If you haven't watched the video above and are serious about putting this strategy to work for you, I highly recommend that you do so as there are many other tips and pieces of advice that are in the video and not in my notes below.

Reviewing for Relevance: Example 1

  • Capitalization of "WEB SITE" to get feedback on the entire site, not just the URL.
  • (Yes/No) added to the site title to let Turkers know it will be a quick task

  • Very simple design. It's very clear what should be done here.
  • The keywords are the most important peice of this; hence, they are red in order to draw the Turker's eye to it and continually reinforce the topics for review.
  • Multiple keywords are used to encompass a range of possible Turkers' interpretations of what is relevant. (Hint: include keywords that are related to topics, products and services.)
  • "WEB SITE" is in all caps here to have the Turker assess the entire site, not just a URL. We have done separate groups of HITs that are for URLs and specify them in the same way.
  • Very simple language in the radio buttons and reinforcement of the topics.

  • Setting a time allotment of two minutes reinforces that this should be quickly completed. Again, an incentive for Turkers to complete more tasks and get paid more.
  • HIT approval rate of 95% or greater helps to ensure a higher quality of worker for this task.

Reviewing for Relevance: Example 2

  • "Quick & Easy" and Yes/No in the title to communicate that this will be a speedy task for Turkers.
  • "Quickly" as the leading word in the description and "simple" to reinforce that this will be a HIT Turkers can do perform many times in an hour. (and make good money)
  • More "quick" and "easy" and "simple" in the keywords.

  • More geared toward link building questions.
  • This was one of our first HITs. What I woud have done differently is highlight the blurred words in red.
  • I also would have made the questions much more direct and a simple yes/no. That said, the lessons we learned from this HIT, we implemented in the first HIT described before this one.

Getting Contact Information

  • Less reinforcement of "Quick" and "Easy" here. I don't want Turkers speeding through this.
  • Clear and direct description to let Turkers qualify themselves for the task.
  • "Data collection" in the keywords as many outsourced laborers will consider themselves specialists in this area. (simply read a few Virtual Assistant descriptions on oDesk or Elance.)

  • Because the performing this research will likely require visiting multiple pages on a site, the URLs open into a new window.
  • Remind the Turker that they may not find all of the contact information we're looking for...
  • BUT...
  • Their results will be compared to other Turkers' results in order to be compensated.
  • This leverages social constructs and lets your Turkers essentially "manage" each other's performance, reducing your own involvement and increasing the quality of results.
  • Note: Here, we asked for over a dozen different points of contact information, so having a threshold of "three or more pieces of accurate information" seemed reasonable. If you have less data that you are collecting, I would reduce this to "two or more" or even "one or more."

  • Increased time allotment here to 30 minutes to give Turkers enough time to complete the task.



    Your method is going to save me so much time, trouble and money. I've been link building for longer than I care to remember and this is an absolute godsend. Thank you so much.

  1. Great Stuff Here!

    Hi Ben,

    I just found this blog post when looking for tips on outsourcing link building and this is by far one of the best ideas I have come across yet. I am going to head over to Turk and sign up right away and get started.


  1. Contact Information

    Thanks for the great ideas on how to have bidders monitor themselves. Can you give a rough estimate on how much you offered for the Getting Contact Information project (30 mins allotted)?

  1. It depends on the amount of

    It depends on the amount of contact information you're looking for. I believe we paid $0.17/URL for lots of information...email address, contact first and last names, contact form URL, RSS URL, Facebook and Twitter accounts, etc. It was definitely a lot of information.

    What I might recommend is to start at something like $0.03/URL and get first and last names, email addresses, contact form URLs, and Twitter accounts. Just those five things. You'll be able to tell within a few hours if you're charging too little because Turkers won't pick up the task. A few times, we found we were undercharging, canceled the unfinished tasks and paid the finished tasks, increased the price a bit, resubmitted the entire job.

    One thing that will also affect how quickly Turkers pick up your task is how many individual URLs are in your entire job. Turkers look for a single project they can do over and over and over to avoid the time cost of learning a new tasks. For that reason, I recommend doing a few hundred or even a few thousand URLs worth of contact retrieval at once. You'll find that you'll get a handful of Turkers that complete a large portion of those and do them well.

  1. Thank you for the mTurk tips!

    Thank you for posting this. I have just started looking at how we might use mTurk, and I wasn't even quite sure what it was. This video not only helps me understand the specific task it describes, but how else we might apply mTurk to our other needs.

  1. Never heard of this before

    Never heard of this before and followed a link from Twitter to here (via another website).

    Similar system to freelancer I think but will take a look - seems pretty good in using it to build lists.

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