What To Ask Of Your Link Builders in 2014

by Wayne Barker January 21st, 2014 

Photo by jcburns

If you own your own business and do online marketing in any capacity then there is a good chance that you are undertaking link building in some capacity. The odds are that this isn't carried out by yourself. You either have someone in house who is doing the work or you are outsourcing to another company.

As Google actually starts to police and enforce the rules that they set out years ago you need to be asking if you know enough.

  • Do you know what your link builders are doing?
  • Do you know what kind of links they are getting you?
  • Do you know what kind of impact they are having or might have?

As with most industries there are loads of companies out there that are willing to take you for a ride - you have to be cautious. Equally there are plenty of companies that haven't kept up with the times - those that are unwilling to accept that things have moved on, those that don't have the skill set to move with the times.

If you have link builders that report to you or an SEO firm that conducts link building for you you need to know what is going on.

Ask For Reports (and Read Them)

You probably get about a million reports. Reports are a time suck. You also probably file most of them without reading them. If you are going to stay on top of your link building this year - if you are going to keep your business safe in Google - you are going to need to see these reports and you are going to need to read them.

You are also going to need to be savvy about what you see in these reports. You should not take the following as acceptable:

  • A raw count of link numbers - last month you had 567 links, this month you have 631 links. This tells you nothing. What is the quality? Where are they placed? What is the intent??
  • A graph that shows your MozRank going up - again, this just isn't enough, you get enough links and it will go up. If you just leave your site without doing any link building it will go up (although very slowly).
  • A spread sheet that just has a list of URL's in it. Sure this is more transparent but do you really have the time to go through all of these? I will answer this for you. No. You don't.

You need to be getting reports that make sense to you - not just the guys that built the links. Ask for clarification and classification. Any link builder worth their money will be happy to spend a little bit of time helping you read the reports. In the long run it will save them time because you will have to ask less questions!

Here is what I suggest you might want to be asking for month on month as a minimum:

  • The URL
  • Classification of the link (organic, paid, guest post - whatever, know what you asked for is what you are getting)
  • PageRank - not that important but important when seen alongside...
  • Secondary domain metric (Moz or Majestic ideally) - ask for this to be displayed alongside PR so that you can see if a sites metrics look dodgy
  • Referral traffic from links built
  • Anchor text for that month and how it effects the overall spread

Over larger periods of time you will want to bring the reports together to see the bigger picture, showing quarter on quarter domain metrics, landing page growth, organic growth and revenue. The links that are built are directly tied in with the your visibility, your growth and revenue. Make sure the reports that you get are as well.

Don't forget that link building doesn't exist in a silo any more and is connected to content, social, technical SEO and more.

Understand The Landscape

Not only do you need to know that you understand the landscape but you need to know that whoever is building your links understands the landscape as well. You need to be asking questions and your link builders need to be able to answer them.

  • Who are your competitors and what is working for them?
  • What is the anchor text distribution across the competitive search results?
  • Who has disappeared in the last year and what were they doing?
  • Who is new and what are they doing?
  • What kind of links are working in the search results that you want to compete in?

Understanding the landscape is no longer something that you do every year or every six months. To stay on top of the game you need to be looking regularly.

It Falls Back To You

The onus no longer lies with only the SEO company and the link builders. You as a business owner, manager or team leader needs to make sure that the link building that is being carried out is not going to get your website or company in hot water.

You need to stay up to date with what is going to work best for your business. If you want to take a risk then that is fine with me, but understand what the consequences might be. If you don't want to take a risk you have to be sure that your link builders aren't taking risks that you don't know about.

You need to keep as up to date with SEO and Google as much as possible. Take an interest, learn and be taught. Too many people are still being taken in. Whichever path you choose for your business make sure that you are knowledgeable and that you are kept in the loop.

Wayne Barker

I work for Boom Online - an Online Marketing and SEO company based in Nottingham, England.

Boom Online

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5 Responses to “What To Ask Of Your Link Builders in 2014”

  1. Mark Ford says:

    Hi Wayne

    I think this has all become way more important in light of Matt Cutts recent statements regarding guest blogging for links.

    This will make it even more difficult for clients to know whether they are receiving the right advice / service.

    • Wayne Barker says:

      Thanks for the comment Mark,

      I think it has been important for some time now. Whether you fall on the side of thinking is spreading FUD with links or not it is incredibly important that business owners invest time in knowing exactly what it is that they are buying.

  2. Barrie Smith says:

    "Do you know what your link builders are doing?
    Do you know what kind of links they are getting you?
    Do you know what kind of impact they are having or might have?"

    Wow, if somebody is outsourcing their link building and don't know what their link builders are doing, I have to ask how they got in this position!

    Monthly reports, weekly (maybe monthly) phone calls are the bare minimum that should be happening between the link builder/account manager and the client. A monthly meeting too.

    I'm interested to know why your suggested reports didn't include conversion (sales) data from Analytics (or any other method), Wayne?? To me, that is the most important part!

    I work for a marketing agency and a lot of our link building clients don't even discuss the links we've built when we're in conversation – the most important thing to them is that sales are going up (which is done by increasing traffic and branding when you're link building).



    • Wayne Barker says:

      Hi there Barrie,

      Thanks for the comment.

      "Wow, if somebody is outsourcing their link building and don't know what their link builders are doing, I have to ask how they got in this position!" I totally agree but this is easy for us to say when we are in the industry. There are many business owners and marketing managers that don't know the consequences of outdated SEO. This post was aimed more at them.

      "I'm interested to know why your suggested reports didn't include conversion (sales) data from Analytics (or any other method), Wayne?? To me, that is the most important part!" I couldnt agree more and we provide those reports. This post was more about giving business owners and idea about the activites that were happening around any link building for their site. It wasnt meant to be a definitive breakdown of what to inlcude in an online marketing report – which would include a lot more detail.

      I think a full report breakdown would be another (or multiple) posts :)

      With regards to your last point: sales, conversions, leads or whatever any campaign is judged on is going to be the most important metric. What I was trying to get at in this post is that being oblivious to the tactics involved in getting there is something business owners have to take an interest in for the sake of longevity in modern SEO.

      Sales or your bottom line are crucial but what if the company you have hired to help you are using tactics that could land you in hot water? If you rely on Google traffic and that suddenly disappears then so do your sales.

      No business wants to be in that position but a lot have faced it in recent years because they have invested in superficial or SEO that isnt sustainable.

      I agree on your points. Maybe I didnt make it clear that the post wasnt meant to be a blueprint for reporting on an online marketing strategy.

  3. Barrie Smith says:

    Thanks for responding to my comment, Wayne :)

    I have certainly noticed a lot of poor SEO/link building work over, even after the Penguin update! Which leads to the complete opposite of making money from your business online, as you pointed out.