"Some of us will do our jobs well and some will not, but we will all be judged on one thing: the result." " V. Lombardi
Any websites link building campaign is designed to do one thing. Either to drive relevant traffic to your website or to improving your rankings. In most cases, it is likely to be a combination of the two.
As someone who works as a link builder in an SEO team, for one of the longest running digital marketing agencys here in the UK, my role is to do just that " improve the traffic, sales and brand searches for each of my clients.
Something I enjoy. And something, as modest as I can be, I have been doing a very good job of over the last 8 years.
But how is your link building agency doing? Here are three things to consider when it comes to evaluating them:
What Questions Should I Ask?
i) What methods are you using?
If you know a thing or two about SEO and are up-to-date with the news in the industry, its good to ask what methods your link building agency is using. Preferably before you sign the contract in all honesty. Anything out-of-date or at risk of getting you penalised is a no-no " you do not want to step foot near an agency like this.
ii) Which keywords are you concentrating on/why?
I like to work closely with the client on this area at the very start of a contract. After seeing their Analytics data, and learning what products convert best for them, both online and offline. Even knowing the profit margins will give you a better idea of which keywords to target, and which will give your client the best return on investment.
They may have terms that convert well on a Pay-per-Click campaign, or even organically when theyre ranking in position 5 for example and could be boosted further by moving up a couple of places.
iii) How do you measure the quality of a link?
This question deserves a blog post on its own. There are a number of variable factors in this. To keep it brief, you want your agency to be telling you things along the lines of potential relevant traffic from those links, links on relevant sites, links from relevant sites pointing to the site youre getting a link from, their Majestic SEO Flow Metrics scores (or Moz Domain/Page Authority if you prefer). Google PageRank is out-of-date in the year 2013 in my opinion. Dont side with someone who uses that as the main or even sole quality check.
iv) Which links will give me ROI?
I started this blog post with a quote from the great Vince Lombardi about being judged on results. At the end of the day thats what it comes down too " making more money for the client than you are charging them for your services.
With that in mind, its a reasonable question to ask your agency which links are the ones theyre expecting to generate money from directly. Which ones are likely to send them potential customers again and again. The answer may be that these links are helping to rank your site higher in Google for the relevant terms - thats still a good answer. Provided those links do the job.
What Stats Should I See?
From experience, companies will either outsource their link building work to us because they either a) dont have the skills/understanding b) dont have the time or c) dont have the budget to take someone on in-house.
Knowing why the client is outsourcing to us gives us a better idea what they like in the report. Asking directly what theyd like to see in their report will get you the answers straight away. Some like a breakdown of all the links, how we got them etc. Some perhaps dont have the time to read an in-depth report and rather just see the traffic and sales details.
Here you want to see the chart going in one direction: up. A chart that is static for a number of months consecutively means not much is happening. A chart that is declining is a warning sign. You have to take into account peak seasons, when and what sales you had on your site etc. but generally you should be expecting this chart to increase over time. Something like this:
(Data for June is not a full month at the time of the screenshot!)
The most important stat from your website, right? How many sales you have made this month (or week, or day). More important than the traffic levels rising is the number of sales rising. Make sure you have conversion tracking and goals setup correctly on your website as this is the most crucial part of your online strategy (see Anna Lewis: How to Set Up Google Analytics Goals).
Knowing what is converting, and where those conversions are coming from is so important. It means you know what to focus on. You can also see what is not working and make adjustments.
A list of links in a spreadsheet would be nice; after all, thats what youre paying for. Additional extras include the anchor text (to save you time clicking on each URL and searching around the page to find your link and the text used), and the amount of traffic and conversions these provided directly are more useful stats you may ask your agency to provide.
Not so important these days due to Googles personalised search, is ranking data. What I see at the top of Google when Im logged into my Google account is different to what your agency sees when shes searched in, whilst logged into her account. And we all have a Google account these days!
That said, its handy to see roughly where you are in Google for certain keywords.
How Do I Know They Wont Get Me Penguind?
The easiest way to avoid being hit by the Google Penguin is to follow their guidelines.
To copy and paste from Google, avoid:
- Buying or selling links that pass PageRank. This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a free product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link
- Excessive link exchanging ("Link to me and I'll link to you")
- Linking to web spammers or unrelated sites with the intent to manipulate PageRank
- Building partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking
- Using automated programs or services to create links to your site
Examples of these that violate Googles guidelines:
Text advertisements that pass PageRank
Links that are inserted into articles with little coherence, for example:
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Low-quality directory or bookmark site links
Links embedded in widgets that are distributed across various sites, for example:
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Widely distributed links in the footers of various sites
Forum comments with optimized links in the post or signature, for example:
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Therefore, make sure to check with your link building agency that they are not undertaking any of these link building methods.
Does your link building agency have the answers to the questions youve been asking?