Link building techniques, tactics, theories and practices dominate the minds of content creators in our industry… in less than three weeks I logged over 160 link building how-to resources (here and here). While link building techniques are important for marketers to follow, I find that the nuts and bolts of link building campaign design and execution – especially at the agency level – gets short shrift.
To start some dialogue I recently invited agency-side link builders to share how they design link building campaigns, manage clients, their favorite tools and how they design and price their services. Here are answers from Jason Walker of Performics Marketing. Thanks Jason!
Jason Walker of Performics Link Building Services
Q: How long has your agency offered link building services?
A: Directly for approximately one year; previously offered as part of SEO consulting services.
Q: What does your agency do to build links ie: what’s the range of your agency’s link building offerings?
A: Our core offering consists of organic, merit-based link building services to major clients in a variety of industries. For content-challenged client sites, we can and do perform content creation (both for on-site placement and off-site distribution). A number of our other agency offerings touch on link building as well, such as social, mobile, local, etc.
Q: How have your link building services changed since you began offering them? Since Panda?
A: The Panda update, in addition to the recent news about certain major retailers, brought attention to shady link building practices and weak content. It was a direct vindication of the practice of high-quality, merit-based link building that has been Performics’ specialty since day one. Because we avoid pages with shallow or copied content, our links have only increased in comparative value with the Panda update.
Q: Do you offer link building as a stand alone service? Why/why not?
A: In cases where the client has on-page SEO, social and other tasks handled internally or with another agency, we can offer link building as the missing piece. Link building is not a panacea for an un-optimized site or low quality content – in fact, link building simply won’t be effective if these issues aren’t handled first. It’s fine if we’re not the agency providing these services, as long as they’re covered.
Link Building Campaign Design + Execution
Q: How do you determine what link building techniques/efforts/campaigns to use for a given client?
A: We perform a complete discovery about the client and the competitive landscape, including a complete audit of their existing links and those of their competitors. We then talk with the client about their goals, past successes/failures, budget, timeframe, what they bring to the table in terms of content, offline initiatives such as contests, promotions, partnerships, etc. After assessing all these factors, we propose an overall strategy and outline specific tactics.
Q: Can you share how you structure your teams to execute these tactics?
A: We have a close-knit team of five talented link building specialists. All of them can perform the various tasks involved, including analysis, strategy, targeting, research, outreach and follow-up. Efforts are coordinated in Raven’s Link Manager and discussed frequently in team meetings, and with the Client Services team and SEO team more broadly.
Q: How do you find link prospects (sites/pages you engage with) for your clients? How does this change from client to client?
A: Targeting is based completely on the client, their content, their industry and the type of audience(s). Thus there cannot be a “one size fits all” targeting strategy, or off-the-shelf tactics that apply to everyone. Our willingness to customize our approach is one of our major differentiators in the marketplace.
Q: What link building processes do you use for SERP impact? What have you done to make these processes more scalable or repeatable?
A: Our philosophy is to target pages which embody the twin pillars of relevance and authority, and to do so in a way that is 100% compliant with search engine terms of service. Therefore, our processes are what could be called “old school” link building: manually assessing the quality and relevance of individual target pages and performing one-to-one outreach. We have made this repeatable by instituting consistent procedures and quality standards, and increased scalability through judicious use of an expanding technological toolset.
Effective Client Management
Q: What questions do you ask to qualify a prospective client for your link building (or SEO/marketing) services?
A: We perform a deep discovery process prior to agreeing to a link building campaign. This involves a variety of questions around the client’s site, its contents, keywords, past link building efforts, future plans, their audience, the industry and more. These questions not only qualify the client, but ultimately help to shape the link building strategy.
Q: How do you get clients to perform tasks related to link building?
A: By making the case with hard data and educating the client on the need involved. In order to make site changes or devote time to link-related tasks, our clients need to present a business case internally. We give them the data they need and the analysis that will explain the return on their efforts, and help them explain the situation to decision-makers as needed.
Q: What are your actual, tangible link building deliverables? How have these changed since you began offering services?
A: Competitive Link Portfolio Analysis (complete link audit versus SERP competitors) and Link Building Strategic Brief (project plan for link building engagement). Both have become more comprehensive over time. Ad hoc deliverables are produced upon request, often seeking to gain additional insight into newer competitors, odd SERP results, or unique client situations. Regular reporting (usually monthly) tracks the actual link building progress, including new targets requested as well as active links.
Link Building Tools
Q: What tools does your organization use the most for link building (project management, discovery, etc…)?
A: Raven, Open Site Explorer, Majestic SEO, advanced search engine operators, and proprietary tools.
Q: What link building tools – or tool features – don’t exist yet, that should?
A: Most existing tools are not optimized for reporting across an entire team, which makes efficiency and scalability challenging. Also, a bulk PageRank checker would be handy, but is not essential. Otherwise, when we find the need for a tool that doesn’t exist, we build it.
Q: If you were advising a new agency on developing a link building offering, what questions would you ask them? What advice would you give them?
A: Questions: How much patience do you have? Are you willing to bring in experts to consult instead of re-inventing the wheel? What will be your code of ethics?
Advice: Think long term. Learn from the best. Have integrity.
Q: How do you learn/find/discover new link building techniques?
A: Data analysis, tool development, experimentation, discussion with clients about what has/hasn’t worked for them in the past, return on our own efforts, team brainstorming, attending conferences, consulting with industry experts, reading relevant sites religiously.
Q: How do you arrive at pricing for your link building campaigns?
A: Estimated value of projected traffic/conversion increases, value of keywords in PPC, overall size and duration of SEO program, other factors.
More Answers from Agency Link Builders
MorePro’s 16 SEO Agency Link Building Survey Responses
A LOOK INTO LINK BUILDING AT THUNDER SEO from Gary Magnone
Link Building Agency Interview: Julie Joyce of Link Fish Media
Link Building Agency Interview: Jason Walker of Performics
Link Building Agency Interview: Joe Davies of TekNet
Link Building Agency Interview: Peter Attia