As the pressure to rank high in search results continues, the majority of digital marketers still turn to link building as the go-to method to increase website traffic and generate new leads. This leaves a lot of businesses in an uncomfortable position where they either have to build an in-house marketing team or outsource link building to a digital agency.
If you are in a similar position and unsure of how to proceed, then you are in the right place as we’re going to cover:
- common reasons for outsourcing link building projects
- how to find a trustworthy marketing agency to outsource to
- some guidelines you can follow to ensure your actions don’t stifle the whole link building process
Now that the formalities are taken care of, let’s get to something more concrete.
When should you look to outsource link building projects
There are a bunch of different reasons why someone could (or should) look to outsource link building campaigns.
Let’s quickly go through the most common ones.
#1 You don’t have enough resources to do it yourself
Link building is a time-consuming process that can eat away at your resources. If you are not doing any link building at all at the moment, the chances are you are going to need to hire an agency or an employee if you want to take care of it in-house.
Both approaches have their advantages or disadvantages. While we think that hiring a content marketing agency is a better approach because it allows you an easier transition to other content marketing methods later down the path, we admit that we could be a bit biased here 🙂
#2 You don’t have enough experience and knowledge in this area of digital marketing
There is no shame in admitting you can’t do something that is so different from your core business.
Digital marketing is a huge field and link building takes a big chunk of it. Choosing the right link building method, finding relevant opportunities interested in sharing or linking to your content, selecting the right person to reach out to, writing an engaging pitch, creating valuable resources…when you dissect the process like this, it is clear how much knowledge and effort has to go into a single outreach link building campaign.
#3 You’re looking to scale your current link building efforts
Going from 2 posts per month to 10 posts per month or trying out a new link building method when you’re barely hitting deadlines for current assignments is not a fun thing for any marketing manager.
Oftentimes, the easiest approach is to outsource link building to a reputable digital marketing/link building agency.
#4 You don’t have access to the top of the line tools
Expertise and experience aside, the main reason why a digital marketing agency like us is able to be efficient at link building is because we have the access to the best tools in the industry.
Some of the best blogger outreach tools and SEO tools can be expensive if used for only one or two campaigns. As you can imagine, that is not a problem for a marketing agency.
By having access to such tools, the process becomes more streamlined (and exponentially faster), which means that outsourcing link building projects has the ability to provide higher ROI compared to you trying to do it alone.
#5 What you’re currently doing doesn’t seem to be working
It looks like you are doing everything right but your response rates are abysmal and your rankings are improving at a snail’s pace.
As much as it is might be hard to admit it, the chances are you are doing something wrong. A great way to find out what’s bottlenecking your growth is to consult with link building experts and outsource some of your link building efforts.
How to find the right marketing agency to outsource to
In the US alone, there are over 13 000 advertising agencies. And that is a conservative number from a few years ago.
In this coliseum of advertisers that are battling for your attention, it is obvious to see how finding the right partner can be extremely difficult. Your best bet is to set certain criteria that will help you eliminate poor digital marketing agencies right from the start.
Here goes a list of things you can use to find the best candidates to outsource link building to.
#1 Ask for samples of previous work
This is your first line of defense. Every respectable agency should be able to show you samples of previous link building campaigns.
Even if they can’t show you an example from your niche, you can still inspect their samples to see the overall quality of their work. That shouldn’t take too long as you only need to focus on two things here:
- quality of the website the posts are on (authority, traffic, relevancy)
- quality of the content itself
If one of these 2 things is lacking, then you are probably looking at an agency that doesn’t deserve any more of your time.
#2 Learn about their workflow and flexibility
Ask them how their link building process works:
- What is the setup process?
- How can you track the progress of the campaign?
- Are they manually inspecting every website?
- How do they personalize their pitches?
- Can you pre-approve things like potential opportunities and content?
Those are the most common questions you want answers to. If you have any special requirements, this would be the time to discuss them too.
#3 Discuss the budget and look for hidden fees
One way to quickly eliminate all agencies you are incompatible with is to look at their pricing.
Before you start your search to outsource link building, define what is the highest you are willing to pay for it. The best way to do that is to define your monthly budget and look at what you can get for it. Different link building methods can mean different pricing options so be sure to discuss this in detail with a potential vendor.
From our experience, most clients are interested in guest blogging. Considering how effective it still is, this is no surprise. The pricing for guest posting usually scales by domain strength. The higher the domain authority, the more work it is required to get a post published there, and in the end, the higher the value you get from that post.
If you too decide to build links through blogger outreach, you can simply check their pricing scale and estimate how many posts (in which authority range) can you get for your monthly budget.
And we almost forgot to discuss hidden fees, which would be kinda ironic 🙂
When it comes to hidden fees, you should look out for things like project setup cost, billed consultation hours, and similar activities that aren’t really focused on link building.
While in certain cases these expenses are justified, they better be discussed upfront. You do not want to see a Game of Thrones type twist in their monthly reports.
#4 Avoid long-term contracts and look for a month-to-month program
No matter how great an agency seems from the examples they send and their communication with you, there is always a chance you have been misled.
Maybe they showed their best examples which quality is far superior to their average work. Maybe they are overconfident in their ability to cover your niche. Maybe they have bigger clients and you will not be a priority even if a major problem pops up.
Those are all things you can’t evaluate without working with an agency for a while and it is the main reason why you should never make a long-term commitment without the ability to test them out first.
#5 Run away from everyone that is offering “cheap links”
If you are interested in clean work, by which we mean quality content published under your name on relevant sites in your industry, then link building can’t be cheap.
Depending on the niche, the production of a quality piece of content can range from $30 to $150. On top of that, you need to count in the time needed to research the target audience, find relevant sites, find the right person and their contact info, and manage all communications (pitch, follow-ups, guidelines discussion…).
So the next time someone offers you a price of $20 or $50 per link, ask yourself where are they cutting corners and how will that impact your business.
General guidelines that will improve the success of outsourced link building campaigns
Many businesses that are looking to outsource link building projects for the first time don’t really know what they can or should expect which makes them extra careful.
Nobody wants to find out several months into the project that they are wasting their time and money.
To minimize the chance of it happening, you need good collaboration. Like it or not, your attitude towards the project and willingness to cooperate will have an impact on end results.
Here are a few tips on how to remove friction and improve collaboration that come directly from a mind of a marketer that had a chance of working on dozens of unique outsourced link building projects.
#1 Set some ground rules
Before the outreach starts, it is always a good idea to define some ground rules that can speed up the process and ensure that the client and the agency are on the same page.
Whenever possible, you should look to define:
- things you want to review before they are used (topics/pitch/content…)
- websites you want to avoid
- best communication channel
- reporting frequency
- are you interested in sponsored content if the opportunity presents itself
- any and all special guidelines/requests you might have
While it is not the end of the world if you miss something, know that the link building project could get delayed while the agency waits for your approval of specific offers.
#2 Adjust your expectations
An added benefit of defining the ground rules is the revelation of what you can expect from the agency you are working with. In other words, during that process, you will see how flexible they are.
But that is not the point of this chapter.
The main problem businesses have is that they want to see the results immediately and want to calculate an exact ROI. That is practically impossible with link building because some links also build brand trust and awareness which is something you can’t put an exact numeric value on.
On top of that, it takes time for link building to influence rankings so don’t try to measure value from a few links you just got. Instead, evaluate the agency you are testing on the quality of their work and their compatibility with your business.
#3 Help out at the beginning of the project
The initial setup of the project is where most of the grunt work happens. The agency you hired has to research your target audience, set up the project in whatever tools they use, connect the e-mail address they are going to use for the outreach, come up with interesting content ideas, find good link building opportunities, and so on.
It is always smart to have a dedicated person that can be in constant contact with the agency and help them out whenever needed.
That is especially important in the beginning as the agency you outsource link building to will often have questions regarding your target audience, competitors, the overall approach to link building, and similar. This is, for example, the reason why we send a short questionnaire to every new client.
#4 Discuss long-term plans
This is optional but recommended if you want to get the most value out of your link building efforts.
If you don’t say anything, in general, you will get links to your homepage in the bio sections and links towards your blog content in the body of your contributed content. While that will raise the overall authority of your domain and get you some good referral traffic, a better idea would be to focus on stronger posts on your site that revolve around a certain keyword you might want to rank for.
This doesn’t really matter if you’re only testing an agency for a month or two, but it is definitely worth discussing when it comes to longer collaborations.
Link building is a long-term strategy and it should be approached that way. Ideally, it should be a part of a well-crafted SEO or content marketing strategy.
Outsource link building today
Hiring an agency to outsource something as sensitive as link building might seem uncomfortable at first, but we hope that the advice given here will help you find the right partner in no time. If you are on the fence, here is some additional insight from CMOs and CEOs on how to work with marketing agencies.
For those that are seriously pondering if they should outsource link building, we invite you to get in touch via email or schedule a call. It can’t hurt to have a casual chat about the future of your marketing efforts.