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 Julie Joyce of Link Fish Media… Thanks Julie!
Julie Joyce of Link Building Company Link Fish Media
Q: How long has your agency offered link building services?
A: Since October 2007.
Q: What does your agency do to build links ie: what’s the range of your agency’s link building offerings?
A: We buy links (gasp), we write guest posts, we create content and infographics, we do link audits, we reoptimize/cleanup old links, we ask nicely for links, we participate in social media arse-kissing in order to get links, we do SEO audits and site reviews, and we write a lot about links.
Q: How have your link building services changed since you began offering them? Since Panda?
A: They haven’t actually, as we don’t have any affected sites. We make lots of jokes about pandas now though, if that counts.
Q: Do you offer link building as a stand alone service? Why/why not?
A: Yes we do, as it’s basically all we do. We can work with an SEO from another company or SEO firm, or we can work directly with a client. We basically let the clients decide how much control and interaction we will have, as some want to just pay us and get the report at the end of the month, but some want to be fully involved with every aspect.
Link Building Campaign Design + Execution
Q: How do you determine what link building techniques/efforts/campaigns to use for a given client?
A: Some depends on the client’s wishes. Some depends on the money the client has and the client’s desires. If we get a client with loads of money in a very competitive industry, we’re not going to recommend a slow content-driven approach. We’re going to buy links. However, for some sites in really fun niches, we start out with some social media and content creation.
Q: Can you share how you structure your teams to execute these tactics?
A: We have an office manager who oversees all of the links that come in. In addition, we have a content manager, a link trainer, and a design maniac. Then there are our worker bees, the link builders. They know what to do but still, each link or content piece gets checked by the office manager and by either myself or my husband Jay Young, who is our CEO. The content head doles out the writing and social media assignments, the designer does the infographics in conjunction with the content head and myself, and other than that, everyone’s doing the same thing. It’s a fairly flat structure but it works very well.
Q: How do you find link prospects (sites/pages you engage with) for your clients? How does this change from client to client?
A: Manual searching usually, as tedious as it is. We’re using Google alerts and social media to help us find good placements, but by and large we continue to just search the web for good places to build links. The basics are the same for us from client to client unless one requests something like “no blog links.”
Q: What link building processes do you use for SERP impact? What have you done to make these processes more scalable or repeatable?
A: Um, we buy really nice links that aren’t idiotically spammy and irrelevant. We get nice free links. We guest post on relevant sites. It works.
Effective Client Management
Q: What questions do you ask to qualify a prospective client for your link building (or SEO/marketing) services?
A: That’s a great question, as there are definitely some clients that I do not want to deal with for a few reasons. First of all, I make them aware that one of our services is paid links. If I feel that’s the way to go for the niche, I need to know whether the client fully understands what he or she is risking. If a client is uncomfortable with the risk, so am I. If he or she is not, I sometimes will be anyway and will say no. My big thing is getting a general feel for how the client will be to work with though, as I do not have time to respond to 15 emails a day, I do not have the desire to sell myself for weeks before landing the contract, and I do not want to deal with someone who is a total control freak. I also don’t take on clients who are competitors of each other. I don’t want a client who expects results in one month and will fire me if his rankings don’t shoot up with 5 links. Otherwise, unless the niche is hugely offensive, I’m good.
Q: How do you get clients to perform tasks related to link building?
A: Lots don’t want to listen to our recommendations, which is frustrating. We will show them data and perform analysis in order to say hey, you have 10000 links to your homepage and only 5 to subpages and we think this is NOT GOOD. Sometimes they’ll heed our advice but not always. Other than providing recommendations on what to do to help our efforts, we can’t do too much as we’re not in control of the sites.
Q: What are your actual, tangible link building deliverables? How have these changed since you began offering services?
A: Well, we give clients a report listing the links we built. It’s quite simple. We show them where their links are. If we paid for them, we include the price. It’s basic but there’s really no way a client of ours can say we never did any work for them. We have itemized proof, even if it’s not a lovely colored worksheet. We monitor the rankings for our anchor terms and if the client gives us access, we track the traffic.
Link Building Tools
Q: What tools does your organization use the most for link building (project management, discovery, etc…)?
A: I use different ones from my link builders as I am much more focused on analysis. I am absolutely loving Link Research Tools as it does a few things for me that used to take lots of time by hand to figure out. I like free tools a lot, and my interest in one can easily wax and wane. I love Majestic’s Backlink History and I use the Moz tools. We don’t really use any tools for discovery as we do it by hand. For project management, we’ve used Basecamp and no one took to it, so now we just keep it old school with a bit of emailing and office yelling. People are less confused that way actually, at least in my office.
Q: What link building tools – or tool features – don’t exist yet, that should?
A: I think the idea of theme is a very difficult one to gauge, but I’d like to see some free tools nailing that one.
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: I would ask them how honest they are prepared to be, first of all. We take a LOT of crap for admitting to buying links for clients, and I’ve had loads of people tell me how stupid I am to say that publicly. However, I prefer to be honest about it. If you’re uncomfortable admitting what you do, you need to reconsider what you actually want to do. If you are dishonest with a client, or you get on some site and talk about how you never buy links then it turns out you do, that’s worthless in my opinion. The biggest downside to admitting to buying links is that even when we do nothing at all that violates Google’s guidelines, because of the association with us, we can never give information about our client successes. It’s too risky for a client to be lumped in with ones who buy links even if they’re doing only social media with us. Therefore, if you’re going to start out and you will depend upon referrals and testimonials to make your name, don’t do anything that you can’t brag about.
Q: How do you learn/find/discover new link building techniques?
A: I read about link building and SEO all freaking day. I write about it, I research it, and I talk about it. I don’t always get the chance to try new things quickly because I’m not prepared to spend my client’s money on something that might not work well, so I rely on others who do have the ability to test new tactics.
Q: How do you arrive at pricing for your link building campaigns?
A: We have basic rates for paid link labor, and the rest just depends on the niche honestly. Some clients are harder than others, some have much stricter guidelines than we do in-house, so those usually do cost a bit more as we’re spending more time on labor. For some of our higher-end clients, we’re negotiating for days at times, so labor might be a bit more. We’re still learning about how to price what we do though I think, especially as we start to do more than just build links the same way as we have in the past.
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