Its especially important in SEO, as it has such a bad rep and in some cases, can be hard to measure or understand exactly what you’re getting for your money.
When it comes to something like link building, it may seem pretty straightforward enough right? How many links are you getting, and how much does it cost me?
There are still questions that need to be asked. And here are just some of the most important ones.
How do you assess where to get links from?
You may get a very simple answer. But as long as it’s a sound way of making an assessment, then all is good. How exactly are they building lists of sites where they’d like to get you a link on? If the lists are pre-built, this may be a warning sign that they are buying links or have some kind of link network.
Do you employ manual outreach?
Not to say that automated email outreach doesn’t work, however, in order to gain the best quality links possible, there will need to be some manual input from an actual human being at some point. They will need to make some kind of personal connection with the decision maker on the other end, and no amount of sophisticated tools/software is going to automate a white hat link building service.
Will the links be unique links in the body of the content?
The links should all come on unique referring domain. If you continually get links which originate from the same domain, it just won’t have the same “link juice” effect of the same number of links from unique domains. Thats why you can’t outperform competitor purely with the volume of links.
Will the links be relevant?
Relevancy has to be a key point at the forefront of any link building campaign. Both that it ranks for the correct keywords and drives relevant traffic. Many in the industry do employ the use of metrics to assess the ranking ability of a site (e.g. Domain Authority, Trust Flow, etc) – but all this is meaningless if the site or the page the link is situated on is not relevant in any way. And if its not relevant, that begs the questions – how exactly did they get it placed?
What kind of link types will you aim for?
There are a huge variety of link types and what is best for you, will depend on your industry, your service/product and your content. If they are aiming to get you guest post opportunities, be aware that it’ll require you to have articles written for each spot. If it’s a product-based business, they may try and get you some review posts with industry influencers – that may mean having to send your product or product samples to the influencer.
Will you help with content/ideation?
A key point and in fact, the link builder themselves should bring up the topic of content. If not, I’d probably wonder how they expect to actually build links..
It’s a huge part of link building. And (like myself) the vast majority will probably not create all the content for you – but they could (and should) help you come up with ideas for the type of content that will increase your chances of bagging the best links. Having said that, if you are an expert in your own field, or know your customer base inside out , you are probably best placed to know the type of content you need. However, it would be prudent not to consult with a link builder who is on top of their game, and bounce ideas around on the content you should be creating.
How will I know what work is being done?
This is precisely why a lot of people are turned off by any kind of SEO work – they don’t know exactly what is being done. At least with link building, there’s no reason why it can’t be fully transparent. You’ll want to see perhaps the kinds of website’s that the team or freelancer is reaching out to, which targets are looking promising and if there are any guest posts which have been agreed or links which have gone live.
How many links do you expect during this campaign?
Probably one of the first questions you’ll have in mind. But, there is a warning attached to this. If you’re going through a list of link builders and someone guarantees you a larger number than everyone else – that doesn’t necessarily mean you should go with them! In fact, offering a 100% guarantee (especially if it’s a high number) should be viewed with caution…
It’s all dependent on the content you have, your particular industry and how the targets react to the content, which determine how many links you’ll get. How well the link builder performs in their outreach is also key, but no matter how good the link builder, they can’t extract any number of links from badly made content. So, the link builder will bear this in mind when asked this type of question. Having said that, having a reasonable guarantee of 5-10 links is sensible. As, even if they’re not able to guarantee they can meet that quota with direct links – they could still get you some guest post spots. Of course, you’ll need to write the article’s in order to get the links.
Do you utilise paid links?
This is a much disputed area. But I’ll lay out my philosophy. It is against Google’s ToS. And I would say any service or facility online which sells links without discrimination, to anyone and anywhere, and/or advertises this fact openly, is pretty much a no-go area with regards to white hat link building. If they’ll link out to anyone who gives them money, without assessing their content or the value of what they have to offer, that probably means you’ll be sharing the same link space as some very spammy, questionable sites.
However, in the instance where you have manually reached out to someone, talked to the editor/owner of the site and after assessing your content or guest post – they agree to link out to you, but only after you pay out a fee – I wouldn’t tar this with the same brush. In some industries, it is just a necessary part of getting links, and there may not be much scope for getting free links (e.g. gambling sector). But, the right link builder should be happy to discuss this particular area in advance with you, so you can make an informed decision about whether you want paid links or not.
Is there a risk/guarantees from your work?
Needless to say, if all the previous questions hit the right notes, there shouldn’t be any reason not to go ahead and hire them. But… you really do want to clarify if they personally think any of their work could possibly put you at risk. And if they do think there is some inherent risk – alarms bell should be ringing!
Similarly, if there any guarantees – whether there’s a guarantee of a minimum amount of traffic increase, number of links, etc. However, bear in mind factors such as traffic increase and especially sales, can be hard to predict – so don’t be surprised if you struggle to find a link builder who can guarantee these things. Remember, there are so many other factors which affect sales or revenue such as your on-page conversion rate, how well your team/company can close sales, etc.