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.