If you thought hiring a third party to conduct a link building campaign on your behalf was a bad idea, think again.
Link building services have received a bad rap as of late, primarily due to the sheer volume of black-hat operators polluting the landscape. If you hire a low-grade SEO hell-bent on taking every possible shortcut to stack up spammy backlinks, you’ll pay a heavy price.
But this doesn’t mean that all professional link building services are to be avoided. Quite the opposite, as backlinks continue to play one of the most important roles in a strategic long-term SEO campaign.
What Is Link Building?
The term ‘link building’ encompasses all efforts geared towards linking third-party websites to your own web pages. Along with funnelling organic traffic your way, these links can significantly boost your SEO clout with the major search engines.
Where a relevant site of quality and authority posts a link to your website, it’s interpreted as a mark of value and credibility. Hence, the more of these high-authority backlinks you have, the bigger the benefits – in terms of SEO and organic traffic alike.
Earning vs Buying Backlinks
The potential value of backlinks spurred the establishment of an entire subsector of the SEO market, dedicated exclusively to this particular strategy. Hundreds of thousands of spammy websites appeared practically overnight, for no reason other than to link to as many other websites as possible for SEO purposes.
Businesses began selling dozens, hundreds or even thousands of backlinks for next to nothing, which for a time had the desired effect.
Today, purchasing backlinks like these doesn’t work. In fact, it has the opposite of the intended effect – websites taking the low road are routinely flagged for spam and penalised in the rankings.
High-value backlinks from authoritative sources, by contrast, remain as impactful and important as ever. These are the kinds of backlinks that cannot be purchased, but instead must be earned.
Earning backlinks means giving the source a reason to link to your website. You can’t pay them to post links to your pages – they have to want to do so of their own accord. This in turn means creating and publishing the highest-quality content, keeping your site up to date and presenting the whole thing as an irresistible prospect.
It also means scouring the web for relevant source sites, reaching out to them and ultimately convincing them to post your links. Something that can be challenging and time consuming in the extreme – particularly for smaller businesses with limited resources.
What Does a Link Building Agency Do?
This is where an established and reputable link building specialist can help. Rather than attempting to buy links and force results through black-hat SEO, a professional link building agency will handle the above-outlined process on your behalf.
They’ll create and curate content of the highest quality, they’ll conduct an extensive outreach campaign to find suitable sources and they’ll pitch your content on your behalf. Often handled by an extensive team of experienced SEO veterans, campaigns like these can deliver bigger and better results faster than any in-house link building strategy.
If you have neither the time nor the resources to commit to such a campaign, hiring an appropriate third party could be the only viable option.
How to Find the Right Link Building Agency
Of course, the last thing you want is to join forces with a link building agency, only to find they’re using tactics that could land you in trouble. As you’d expect, black-hat SEO aren’t typically in the habit of admitting the underhanded tactics they implement to get the job done.
It’s therefore important to ask the right questions ahead of time, while taking notes of all indications of a quality link building specialist. Before agreeing to the services of a link building firm, take the following into consideration and ensure you are completely confident:
1. Communication Quality and Transparency
First up, the provider should be able to provide you with a complete disclosure of what they do, how they do it and why they do it this way. They should also make clear their stance with regard to black-hat SEO and underhanded link building tactics. Communications should be consistently seamless and of the highest quality, meaning instant answers to your questions and informative advice upon request.
2. Realistic Assurances of Results
Even the hardest-fought link building strategy will always take time to reach fruition. The process of finding relevant source sites, reaching out to them and ultimately winning them over with quality content isn’t something that can be rushed. It takes time and effort to make the most of a link building strategy – something any established and reputable specialist will understand and acknowledge. Realistic assurances are far better than false promises, or the kinds of vague estimates that are more or less meaningless.
3. Defined Goals and Objectives
No link building agency or SEO specialist can promise you a specific position in the rankings. It simply isn’t possible, due to the long list of variables that can affect SERP positions. However, an established link building firm can and should be able to provide you with a concrete indication of the number of links they intend to post, where they’ll be posted and around how long it usually takes to get the job done. Goals and objectives must be discussed openly at an early stage, otherwise the campaign has no defined target to strive for.
4. An Unwillingness to Break the Rules
The customer is always right, unless they’re wrong and their requests are unacceptable. That’s more or less the mantra you should be looking for in an SEO, who under no circumstances should be willing to break the rules. This should be made clear in the basic operational policies outlined by the link building specialist you’re considering working with. There should be no allowance for buying or forcing spammy or synthetic backlinks – irrespective of how much the customer is willing to pay for them.
5. Regular Reports and Analysis
A good SEO will not expect the customer to speak the lingo of the search marketing landscape. Instead, they’ll provide regular reports and detailed performance analysis in a simplified format their clients can understand. These performance reports should be both available upon request and provided on a regular basis for the duration of the campaign. Where things haven’t performed quite as positively as planned, the agency should take full responsibility and provide an explanation as to what went wrong, why it went wrong and what they’ll subsequently do to reverse it.
Red Flags and Warning Signs to Watch For
Conversely, there are also countless traits and indications that an SEO may not be right for the job. If you encounter any of the following, take your business and your money elsewhere:
1. Communication Inconsistencies
If you have any difficulties contacting the SEO in the first instance or you’re forced to wait endlessly for replies to your questions, this isn’t a good start to an important business relationship.
2. Unrealistic or Exaggerated Promises
Far too many SEOs completely overstate their own capabilities and make false promises, simply to sell their services. As previously mentioned, guarantees of specific SERP rankings or super-fast turnaround times should be treated with suspicion.
3. Excessive Upfront Payments
Link building is a long-term strategy, which typically means relatively lengthy collaborations with relevant service providers. In which case, there’s no justification for any SEO to demand excessive upfront payments for services that have yet to be provided.
4. Questionable Feedback
Of course, you can also simply use the reviews and recommendations of past and present customers to tell you all you need to know. Any SEO worth doing business with will have an established and admirable track-record, along with plenty of positive reviews to substantiate their promises.
Even from a 2021 perspective, link building continues to play one of the most important roles in a broad and diverse SEO strategy. If anything, the power and positive impact of backlinks has only increased with time. The only thing that’s changed over the years is the value of low-quality backlinks, which nonetheless continue to be bought and sold in huge quantities.
For more information on any of the above or to discuss the potential benefits of link building in more detail, book your obligation-free consultation with Tait Pollack today.