Like any marketing strategy, a lot goes into a link building campaign. From creating an initial roadmap and defining business objectives to building relationships with website owners and finding the right opportunities, it takes time and effort to get it right.
That’s why so many brands, companies, and individuals that want to increase their online visibility opt to outsource link building. It’s a great way to ensure your campaign strategy is quickly and properly executed without having to devote too many resources.
But even outsourcing requires some effort and an understanding of the process. To help, we’ve created a simple guide to outsourcing link building in 6 easy steps.
Step 1: Determine Your Readiness for Link Building Services
The freelancer or link building agency you hire isn’t a magic bullet for business success. Their success partially depends on whether or not you’re ready for their services.
Before you think about outsourcing link building to an agency, take a step back and analyze your current situation.
If your page isn’t keyword optimized, isn’t the type of content Google wants to see and has poor On-Page SEO, you’ll want to fix these before outsourcing Link Building.
Our agency can help you get your on-page SEO perfect before starting the Link Building phase.
You’ll also want to check out this criteria as well:
You already know how link building fits into your SEO strategy.
SEO and link building go hand-in-hand, but link building is one piece of the puzzle. If you don’t have a baseline understanding of how it fits into your overall objectives, then you may not be ready to outsource.
You might not be an expert on the subject, but I’d recommend having basic knowledge before outsourcing.
You already have the resources to take on the campaign.
If you don’t need to hire an in-house team (most companies can’t, anyways), outsourcing link building services can help free up time and energy for other tasks.
But building links costs thousands of dollars per month, even if you outsource. That’s why it’s essential to assess whether or not your website and marketing strategy are ready to take advantage of link building before you make the investment.
You have content that ranks, but not in the way you want it to.
Content plays a critical role in search engine optimization—without it, you won’t have anything to link to. And without at least a few pieces of solid content, you won’t be able to connect with your audience, even if you have some links.
So, if you already have content that’s ranking and driving organic traffic, but you want to climb up the rankings, outsourcing link building can be a great way to boost your visibility further. And if your content already ranks a few pages down for your target keywords, links may be all you need to get to the top.
Your site has an excellent user experience (UX).
A rich user experience (UX) is essential for SEO success.
If your website has UX issues, such as slow-loading pages, giant walls of text with no media, no table of contents, or a confusing navigation structure, then building links to increase your traffic won’t be enough to improve your rankings—you’ll need to make some on-page changes to address these issues first.
Your web pages are optimized for conversions.
What good is an influx of organic traffic if your site doesn’t convert your new visitors into customers? Even if a backlink building campaign works exactly how it should, it won’t have any return on investment unless your landing pages have been optimized to convert visitors into leads or sales.
To determine whether or not your landing pages are conversion-optimized, evaluate the following elements:
- Copy: Your copy should be clear, concise, and either solve a problem or logically move site visitors through the funnel.
- CTA: The CTA should be compelling enough to encourage visitors to take the desired action.
- Design: The design should be aesthetically pleasing and visually organized in a way that guides visitors to the CTA or the desired information.
- Site Metrics: Bounce rate, conversion rate, and time on page are all important metrics to track to determine if your site is optimized for conversions.
If your web presence falls short in any of these categories, a link building agency might be able to give you suggestions for improvement. But you would still have to address any of the underlying problems on your own.
Your competitors outrank you because they have more links and authority.
If the websites you’re vying against have a higher authority than yours, you could probably benefit from link building. Having less authority doesn’t mean you don’t stand a chance at ranking above them forever—if your content is better or more relevant to what people are searching, you can outrank sites with advantages.
In this case, investing in backlink building for your website will help get it on par with competitors and even the playing field.
Each page’s backlink profile also has an impact. If you’re targeting a specific keyword and all of the pages above yours have more links leading to them, this might be an indication that you need to construct some links to your selected page.
Our article on link building ROI can give you a more in-depth look at how links affect your ranking and how to maximize the return from any link building campaigns you decide to invest in.
Step 2: Learn the Basics of Link Building
You don’t need to be an SEO wizard, that’s our job!
But having a basic understanding of white hat link building tactics, SEO best practices, and how search engine algorithms work will give you some insight into what could make a link building campaign successful. It will also help you weed out the link building services that won’t get you the results you’re looking for.
Link Building 101
- Links from highly authoritative sites are worth more than links from low-authority sites. For example, a link from the Washington Post is worth way more than a link from Joe’s six-month-old blog.
- Contextual relevance is critical. Google’s algorithm reads web pages, and it can tell which ones are relevant to one another. If your link isn’t contextually relevant to the content it’s on, it won’t have much of an effect.
- Having natural-looking links with varied anchor text is essential for organic SEO success. In a healthy link profile, branded keywords (e.g., Linkflow) should be among the most used anchor text, followed by URLs, keywords related to your industry, and variations of those words.
- Easily-earned links usually won’t help your SEO efforts. Anyone can get a link from a directory site or a comment on a blog. That’s why they don’t hold much (if any) weight.
- Avoid toxic backlinks. Although Google mostly ignores links from spam sites, outsourcing link building services just to have them add your site on private blog networks won’t help you return your investment.
- Link building should always follow high-quality content creation. If you don’t have any interesting or useful content on your website, people won’t want to link to it anyway—so focus on creating great content first.
Step 3: Determine Your Budget
An outsourced link building campaign usually costs between $3,000 and $10,000 per month, depending on the number of links you need and the type of website you have. If your budget is in the hundreds of dollars, you can still reach out to a freelancer, but a managed plan probably isn’t for you.
To decide how much to spend, consider the size of your website, the amount of content you can produce in a given time frame, and how aggressive your strategy needs to be.
What goes into the cost of link building?
Although the cost of outsourcing link building might seem high at first, several factors go into the cost of a managed campaign.
- Content Creation: Writing, designing, and producing high-quality content takes time. The more content you create, the higher the cost of a managed link building campaign.
- Outreach Employees: Finding relevant websites that are likely to link to your site takes time and effort. You need experienced SEOs who know their way around the web for an effective campaign.
- Technology: The ability to quickly research competitors and keywords, access hundreds of website owners, monitor campaigns, and create analytics reports doesn’t come for free. The tools needed to manage a link building campaign quickly add up.
- Publication Placements: The cost per link to be featured on a site can be expensive, especially if you want to be featured in a larger publication like Forbes, TechCrunch, or Mashable.
- QA: A professional link building service knows how to monitor its campaigns for quality assurance. This kind of service can help you avoid toxic backlinks and get the most out of your budget.
We have an article that analyzes the costs of link building in-depth to give you a better idea of all the factors that go into the service.
Step 4: Find the Right Link Building Service
There are two main ways to hire link building services:
- Using a freelancer or independent contractor
- Hiring an agency
Neither option is better, per se—you’ll find stellar freelancers and unreliable marketing agencies. But they each offer unique benefits and drawbacks.
Hiring a Freelance Link Builder: Pros and Cons
You can easily find freelancers on job boards, social media platforms, and freelancing sites like Upwork, Fiverr, and Freelancer. You can also find freelancers on niche platforms like MarketerHire and CloudPeeps, which specialize in SEO, digital marketing, writing, and outreach.
When you hire a freelancer, you’re often paying for the individual’s experience and talent. Because freelancers operate with less overhead, their rates are usually cheaper than an agency. But as you can see, their rates also vary wildly.
A great link builder can certainly take your search rankings to the next level, but remember that gauging a freelancer’s quality can be tough.
Many freelancers offer “link placements on Website X with fast turnaround times” without explaining the quality of the website. Often, this indicates that the site is, at worst, a link farm and, at best, a site with lax editorial policies.
Other freelancers claim to be “professionals” at multiple digital services that aren’t necessarily interrelated. And despite their high degree of skill and claim to live in the US, they command low rates.
One quick look at this freelancer’s reviews indicates that their services may be less than adequate.
Social media and freelancer platforms have also been known to have fake profiles. It’s fairly easy to find a stock photo, choose an American-sounding name, sign up for an Upwork account, and start soliciting people for business.
Be sure to vet your freelancer and look at their past work before hiring them. If possible, get on an initial call to ensure that they are who they say they are.
Hiring a Link Building Agency: Pros and Cons
If you’re looking to outsource to an experienced team of professionals to manage your link building campaign, then an agency may be the right choice. An agency typically has more resources at its disposal than a freelancer, like research tools, talent pools, and processes that have been refined over years.
Our team consists of leaders, SEOs, client success managers, and outreach experts who can take a dedicated approach to your link building campaign. That said, hiring an agency costs more than a freelancer—sometimes much more.
Of course, not all agencies will do a good job, either. Make sure you do your due diligence and check out the agency’s portfolio, customer reviews, and past success stories.
Check out their websites as well. If they have content that teaches you something (like ours hopefully does), it’s a good indication that they know what they’re talking about.
Step 5: Choose the Right Service
There are two main types of backlink building services you can outsource:
- Fully-managed link building
- Per-link services
Both freelancers and agencies may or may not offer either of these options.
Managed Link Building
Managed link building is a service that provides an all-in-one package for link building campaigns. It consists of researching, outreach, content production, and link placement services designed to improve your website’s rankings in search engine results pages (SERPs).
Link building agencies often offer this level of service because it requires more resources and manpower than a freelancer can typically provide. But many freelancers have teams of outreach experts, virtual assistants, and other professionals to help with outreach and content production.
Managed services are by far the better option—they give you a comprehensive solution and usually guarantee a certain number of links per month. They’re also much cheaper than hiring an in-house link building team, another cost we break down in our comprehensive guide to link building costs.
A managed plan is the way to go if you’re serious about improving your rankings and growing your business.
Freelancers often provide per-link services and may include link placements, guest posts, or infographic submissions. Since you pay for every link on an individual basis, this service is usually more affordable than a managed link building package from an agency because you’re only paying for a few links here and there.
Some agencies will also offer this service, but the cost of running an agency is much higher, so they usually look for clients with a minimum contract value rather than charging a per-link cost.
Per-link plans also won’t yield the same results as a managed plan would. Since they aren’t as strategic, consistent, or comprehensive, per-link services often don’t provide the same value for your money.
If you don’t have the budget for a managed plan but want to reap a few benefits of a good link building strategy, per-link services are a good start.
Step 6: Vet Your Candidates
We’re all for the “innocent until proven guilty” argument, but that doesn’t apply when there’s money on the line.
When vetting your candidates, look for these main trust signals and red flags.
Trust Signals for Outsourced Link Building Services
- Case Studies: Good link building companies should have case studies readily available either upon request or on their website. Since case studies clearly show growth metrics and success stories, they are the best indicator of a link building service provider’s capabilities.
- Testimonials: Reviews and testimonials from past clients are another great way to validate the quality of work you can expect from a service provider. Most of the time, professionals will have written or video testimonials easily accessible from a website or social media profile.
- Links to Their Homepage: If you’re hiring an agency with a website, examine the links that they have pointing to their home page to get an idea of the links they would provide you with.
- A Consultative Approach: Look for providers that ask you lots of questions about your business and its goals. This is a good sign that their link building process will be tailored to you.
Red Flags to Watch Out For
- Guaranteed Results: We don’t “guarantee” results because link building is an organic process, and neither should any other legitimate link builder. This is a sign they might use black hat SEO tactics or outdated practices.
- Suspiciously Low Prices: Quality link building requires resources and labor, so if someone is offering extremely low rates, it’s likely a scam. Especially if the provider seems to be in a US city with a high cost of living, this should raise some eyebrows.
- Fast Turnaround: Link building takes time. If someone claims to offer high-quality links in a short period, they probably get links from shady sources. The last thing you want is to pay someone to help you build links only to find out they won’t get you results.
Should You Outsource Your Link Building Campaign?
By now, you’ve probably already decided whether you want to outsource your link building campaign or not. And we’ve spent 2,300 words essentially saying, “do it!”.
But if you’re still not sure, here’s a quick summary:
- If you have the budget, hire an agency. You’ll get an experienced team of professionals to manage your campaigns and ensure that their efforts are effective.
- If you don’t have the budget, consider working with a freelancer or trying out a per-link service. You won’t get the same results as you would with an agency, but it’s better than doing nothing.
- If you’re part of a massive company that has the resources for an in-house link builder, then you can consider it. But for most businesses, outsourcing is an excellent option for quickly and affordably improving your rankings and growing your business.
- If your on-page SEO or website is lacking in any way, consider fixing it before investing in link building. You probably won’t get the same ROI from building backlinks without a solid UX and conversion-optimized lead funnels.
Why Outsourcing Link Building Makes Sense
There are plenty of reasons to outsource link building:
Instead of hiring and training an in-house team, you can pay a fraction of the cost for a battle-tested agency that lives and breathes backlinks.
Compared to other forms of marketing, playing the long game and investing in off-page SEO will also help you stay on search engines even after you stop running ads.
Link building projects are time-consuming (trust us). But outsourcing to the right agency frees up your valuable time so you can focus on other areas of your business.
In most cases, a company’s current members don’t have the time or expertise to focus on it, anyways. Outsourcing eliminates the hassle and ensures that it’s done right.
3. Improved Results
If you’re serious about improving your rankings and growing your business, outsourcing is the way to go. A carefully planned backlink strategy will improve your domain authority and help you stay competitive.
4. Money in Your Pocket
When your site gets an influx of new visitors, they’ll find your products or services, connect with your content, and make purchases.
That’s money in your pocket!
If you want to outsource link building, you’ll need to evaluate:
- Your budget, needs, and current business objectives.
- Your current website health and how it can improve.
- The type of link building agency you need (freelancers, per-link services, or full-service agencies).
- Your timeline and expectations for results.
You’ll also want to make sure your website is optimized before investing in backlinks, so you can get the biggest ROI possible.
If you check all the boxes and you’re ready to meet your customers on search results, click here to talk to one of our experts.