"Link building is dangerous.” We’ve heard it time and time again.
And they’re not wrong, but they’re also not right.
Link building is as important today as it has ever been. Yet, all too many people claim to be link building experts all while using outdated, risky tactics, giving the industry a bad name. While other reputable partners are sending rankings and traffic soaring, providing tangible ROI.
Asking the right questions (and knowing the right answers) will give you the insight you need to get growing. So let’s dive in!
1. What tactics do you use to build links?
The Worst Answer: We use private blog networks to publish guest posts.
Private Blog Networks (PBNs) are modern-day link farms that provide no (or even NEGATIVE) value. Google no longer rushes to let us know when a site provides neutral or negative authority juice, so scammer link builders can tout a high domain authority (DA) while taking your money (and rankings) with them.
The Best Answer: We use a variety of tactics with manual outreach to ensure a natural-looking backlink profile.
Search engines are incredibly savvy, so outdated shortcuts and homogeneous backlink profiles raise red flags.
Instead, the link building services company should use a combination of guest posting, aged content, broken link building and unlinked brand mentions for in-content building. Other tactics might include local citations, directory listings and comments.
2. How will you choose the keywords and pages should we target for link building?
The Worst Answer: You tell me.
Link building companies that put the burden of keywords and pages on you aren’t taking the time to understand your brand or develop a safe strategy. While they should take your input, ultimately, you want to be hiring an expert.
The Best Answer: We’ll conduct keyword research based on your target audience and look at which pages are high converting and/or natural link magnets.
The key to successful link building is strategy. A reputable link building agency will work with you to understand your target audience and most valuable pages because you’re not link building for the sake of it. You’re investing in organic growth.
3. How many links do I need?
The Worst Answer: How much money do you have?
Granted budget is going to be a factor in the overall strategy, but there is a “right” answer to this question that has nothing to do with how much you’re able to spend.
The Best Answer: Based on your industry and backlink profile, we should build X – Y links per month with a domain authority range of Z – P.
Your agency partner should have the expertise in your industry (and theirs) to narrow down the right number of links for your website. Build too fast and you risk setting off a red flag to search engines. Build too slowly and you won’t be able to outpace your competition.
Don’t be turned off if an agency does ask for a budget. If they’re like us, they’re trying to determine if/what goals are achievable before taking you down an aggressive growth path you cannot afford.
4. Can I buy links on a short-term contract?
The Worst Answer: Yes.
Any agency willing to take on a short-term, one-off link building project only has their own profit in mind.
The Best Answer: No.
Consistency is key to link building success for several reasons. First, if you start and stop link building it sends signals to the search engines that you’re no longer relevant and your rankings will start to slip.
Secondly, publishers have editorial calendars that they work on months in advance. You have to give your agency the runway to secure the best opportunities for you.
5. How do you ensure you’re not placing me on a PBN?
The Worst Answers: We love PBNs! OR, we just know!
Private blog networks run rampant around the web. They masquerade as high-domain authority, valuable sites, but in reality, they might be penalty-inducing. If the agency doesn’t have a method in place to detect and avoid PBNs, it’s highly likely you’ll get placed there someday.
The Best Answer: We have a proprietary tool that detects well-disguised PBNs that we run on each site AND we check manually for any red flags before we conduct our manual outreach.
Checking the ratio of guest blogs to original content, examining anchor text and looking at the domain’s history are all part of the method to avoid PBNs. You want to work with an agency that’s dedicated to fighting this practice and getting you real results, not just vanity metrics.
6. Have you built links for someone in my industry before?
The Worst Answer: No.
This one probably seems pretty obvious, and it’s rare that a scammer wouldn’t be ready with a better answer than that, but allow us to elaborate in the “Best” section.
The Best Answers: Yes, and here are some results and/or publications we have relationships with. OR, No, but we worked with an adjacent industry with a similar problem and here are some results and/or publications we have relationships with.
As we discussed above, link building successfully is highly reliant on experience — you must strike the right balance of volume, domain authority, branded vs. keyword anchor text and tactics. If an agency isn’t willing to share results, it’s probably a bad sign. Don’t be surprised if the results are anonymized, however. Not many brands want their name on a link building case study no matter how good the results or safe the tactics!
7. Can you guarantee keyword rankings?
The Worst Answer: Yes.
That’s not realistic. Algorithms are constantly changing and your competition is probably working their own angles, too. Don’t trust anyone who guarantees a particular spot.
The Best Answer: No. No one can, but here’s where we think we can get you based on your backlink profile, competition and target keywords.
You want an agency that’s done their homework and has their eyes set on a target. Better yet, that agency should be constantly reporting on their progress to that target and tweaking the strategy as the results roll in. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves…
8. How will you report on link building progress?
The Worst Answer: We’ll provide a list of our placements.
This is the most common means of reporting in the link building industry, so don’t be surprised if it’s the answer you get. But what does a list of placements tell you? Not much, that’s for sure.
The Best Answer: We’ll report on keyword rankings tied to our target pages and placement efforts, with insights and strategy tweaks with progress to our goals at the center.
That is the kind of report you need to see whether the money you’re investing in link building is paying off and should be included in your link building service. Shouldn’t your link building partner be just as invested in your business success as they are in scoring links? We think so.
Choose a Partner, Not a Vendor
Let’s face it, picking a link building partner is hard and confusing. So many companies and contributors are saying the same thing. But asking the right questions should help you identify who’s there to make a quick buck off of you and who wants to invest in your growth.
At Thor Social | Digital Marketing Agency, we pride ourselves on our outcomes-focused approach to link building. With nearly 15 years of experience, we are ready to take your business to the next level. If you’re interested in learning more, let’s talk.