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 Joe Davies of TekNET. Thanks Joe!
Joe Davies of TekNET SEO Midlands
Q: How long has your agency offered link building services?
A: 10+ years.
Q: What does your agency do to build links ie: what’s the range of your agency’s link building offerings?
A: Directory submissions, article submissions, social bookmarks, blog comments, link exchange, 3 way links and manual link requests.
Q: How have your link building services changed since you began offering them? Since Panda?
A: Directories have always worked, but since we’ve added different types of links to give clients a varied link profile. We haven’t been affected by Panda across 40+ client sites. I’m not certain it has hit UK as hard as the US. Not yet anyway!
Q: Do you offer link building as a stand alone service? Why/why not?
A: We don’t. I believe that’s a different type of agency, a B2B orientated one. Link building companies will have SEO / Online marketing agencies as their clients, rather than supplying the end user (generally speaking). We’ve always worked direct for the client (B2C) and often outsource to link building companies. It’s something we could look at in the future as we are now building more and more links in house. But I generally feel there is a lot more money in client work, although link building as a service is much easier to sell.
Link Building Campaign Design + Execution
Q: How do you determine what link building techniques/efforts/campaigns to use for a given client?
A: We generally do the same thing for every client to start with, and once we know where we are in terms of how much movement the quick and easy links have caused – we’ll increase the more powerful manual type links until we get to where we want to be.
Q: Can you share how you structure your teams to execute these tactics?
A: We have a dedicated team to do directory submissions, a dedicated team to write articles and submit them, and we run various link building tools in house. We then spend a lot of time in house negotiating link exchanges or 3 way links if and when the client needs it.
Q: How do you find link prospects (sites/pages you engage with) for your clients? How does this change from client to client?
A: We target submissions as much as possible within categories, and when doing manual link exchanges we try and do it with sites that are of a similar theme.
Q: What link building processes do you use for SERP impact? What have you done to make these processes more scalable or repeatable?
A: We see SERP impact in all types of links we build, even the directory submissions. The manual 1 way links have the biggest impact and I have not yet found a way to make this scalable. It’s just a matter of throwing in the hours for each client to find the webmasters with websites they will link from at the moment.
Effective Client Management
Q: What questions do you ask to qualify a prospective client for your link building (or SEO/marketing) services?
A: What’s your budget? We also like the clients to already have a successful website in some shape or form. As in, it sells stuff already. The worst clients are ones with websites that are not certain to convert and they are relying on SEO to make the SALES. When they are getting significant traffic these types of clients tend to blame the SEO for not bringing in the sales. The perfect clients are ones with websites that are already making sales, maybe off PPC or simply brand or referrer traffic. This is where SEO can be a real value to them, these clients usually ‘get it’ a lot more too.
Q: How do you get clients to perform tasks related to link building?
A: First thing is title tags. We ask them to send us any link requests they get, and for some clients who are ‘big’ enough with in house marketing teams and copywriters, we sugest them to add specific pages and content on their site. This is for us to link to or to attract links naturally. We will also advice on any other aspect of the website such as graphics, shopping cart, prices and anything that could imrpove the websites marketing as a whole.
Q: What are your actual, tangible link building deliverables? How have these changed since you began offering services?
A: This is a real hard one. Because we work with a lot of different types of links, and some are ‘submissions’ rather than guaranteed links it’s hard for us to say to a client, we’ll be getting you X amount of links. We work on an hourly basis based on the clients budget and estimate the number of links that will be built in this time.
We used to, up until recently, guarantee page positions and time frames for clients, but now offer no guarantee of either. As search engine experts we look at the site, plan out a link building campaign we think will significantly increase the traffic to the website and then we execute it. We can guesstimate how long it will take to rank, and what kind of levels traffic will increase by, but cannot guarantee anything else but the work we’re doing. We work on a monthly rolling contract so if the client believes we are not adding value they are free to leave any time.
Link Building Tools
Q: What tools does your organization use the most for link building (project management, discovery, etc…)?
A: Raven Tools, this has been by far one of the best tools we have ever bought, and it still remains the most important bit of kit I and the clients use regarding link building and general SEO.
Q: What link building tools – or tool features – don’t exist yet, that should?
A: A tool that built links on real on theme websites at the touch of a button. And those websites my links are on are exclusive to me :)
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: Do you have a definite set of offers/packages? Don’t leave a bottle neck in your company structure where you devise case by case scenarios for each client unless you want to.
What is your ideal client (An SEO agency or direct to end user? – seo agencies are easier to sell to, end users will pay more)
Are you ‘building links’ or helping a company rank? (there is a difference… would you blame a directory submission service if you didn’t rank?)
If I was to start a new link building company I would probably work with SEO agencies who deliver to the client and offer SOLID 1 way links in packages of 10, 20, 30, 50 and 100, and that would be it. No directory submissions, article submissions, profile links or social bookmarks.
Q: How do you learn/find/discover new link building techniques?
A: Keep your finger on the pulse. Explore. Visit forums regularly (people share a lot). Use common sense. Investigate back link profiles. Look for hidden subliminal messages in Matt Cutt’s ‘just create great content’ videos.
Q: How do you arrive at pricing for your link building campaigns?
A: Hard one. Work on cost per link, or hourly basis, or cost per submission… all depending on the links.
If I was building SOLID ONE WAY real links, I would charge at least £30 a link.
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