Hiring a link building agency is a step in the right direction towards boosting your company’s online visibility, especially if your company lacks the in-house skills that are needed to implement a successful link building campaign.
But nowadays, choosing the right link building agency isn’t like shooting fish in a barrel since it’s easy to fall for well-presented gimmicks and shortcuts that some agencies will bring your way. And this could be harmful to your business.
In fact, picking out the wrong link building agency could harm your business in a number of ways such as low ranking on search engine result pages (SERPs), a penalty or even worse, being banned, and a low return on investment (ROI).
So how do you choose the right link building agency for your business without getting burned?
Well, that’s what this article is about. So stick with me here.
What You Should Expect from a Good Link Building Agency
Alignment is one is the most important qualities that one should expect from a link building agency.
Quick questions to ask yourself:
- Will this agency’s strategies help me reach my goals?
- How properly do these strategies align with my business model?
- Do their strategies make sense?
Your link building agency should be able to align their strategies with your business model and objectives. So before you write that paycheck to an outside link building agency, you should expect that agency to ask a lot of questions about your goals and objectives particularly at the onset of partnership.
Transparency is especially important when it comes to hiring a link building agency because manipulative tactics can harm your business.
In the 2012 Pre-Penguin era of link building, it was possible to manipulate the search engine algorithms and spam your to the top of search engine result pages by using automation to generate thousands of links to a website.
Nevertheless, Google’s Penguin algorithm has made these tactics completely Irrelevant and even harmful to your site – presently a handful of real and high-quality links wins over boatloads of spam links.
Unfortunately, some link building agencies still employ this old-school link building tactic. Spammy tactics may provide short-term benefits for sites that want a quick boost, but any company that is interested in sustained online growth should opt for white hat link building tactics.
A good link building agency should be able to explain their entire link building process and answer any questions that you may have.
Despite the fact that some experts in the SEO industry prefer working in privacy, it’s essential that you feel comfortable with their link building process.
If they can’t tell you how they will conduct your link building campaign, then you must give it a second thought.
Since you are entrusting a third party with your business site you should feel comfortable asking questions and your link building agency should be transparent about their course of action.
This is a super effective way to ascertain if a link building agency is legit or just a mere scam.
Your link building agency should be able to communicate with you on a regular and consistent basis according to what you two had agreed upon on the onset of partnership.
Ensure that you know:
- How often they will be reporting
- What kind of information they will be reporting
- Who you will be dealing with through the entire campaign
Lulls in communication can be a sneaky way to conceal bad news.
Ideally, if the agency encounters some setbacks during the course of the project, they should be proactive in resolving it and should also reach out to you with a solution already put in place to ensure that the project goes on smoothly.
They shouldn’t try to dodge sharing bad news, but should always provide you with information on what’s going. Hesitation could be an indication of poor campaign management.
Your agency should outline what its next steps will be and let you know if there’s anything they need from you in order to move forward.
You should also look for a company that is willing and eager to Cooperate because nobody knows your brand better than you do. So you should be absolutely involved in your link building campaign.
Any link building agency that is worth its salt will understand that your insights are critical to the success of the campaign and wouldn’t want you to be left out during strategic planning.
The collaboration shouldn’t just end at the beginning of the campaign either. A good link building agency will work with you throughout the entire link building campaign to make sure that the campaign is tailored to fit your brand and ultimately meet your needs.
Similarly, a good link building agency will ensure that you are involved in the big picture processes of your campaign wherever possible so that the project can run as effectively and efficiently as possible.
You don’t want your questions to be left unanswered, and you’ll need to ensure that you respond promptly to any questions that your link building agency may have.
In some ways, every link building campaign is an art as much as it is a science.
Link building and the SEO industry as a whole is a fast-growing industry that is changing day by day. So an effective link building agency must be able to keep up with this change and also employ creative strategies to solve problems in new ways.
In fact, even Matt Cutts (the former head of the webspam team at Google) has described link building as sweat and creativity.
This further explains why creative ability is critical to the success of link building. And if an agency doesn’t have a track record of being creative in their past work or conversation, then you should look elsewhere.
Follow-through is essential not only in the SEO industry but also essential to any partnership success.
Your link building firm must be able to deliver results within the agreed upon timeline and also meet the goals that you set at beginning of the campaign.
Although it may not be so easy to precisely predict the result of the campaign, an effective link building firm should be quick to own up to any campaign underperformance if things don’t go as planned and should also provide you with a plan for what’s next.
Your link building agency should hold themselves to the highest standards and not wait should not wait for you to hold them accountable.
7) Point of view
You’ll agree with me that businesses hire professionals because of their experience and insights, and not because they have a couple dollars to throw away. The same thing applies to link building too.
Your link building agency should provide concrete recommendations and opinions about what strategy will be the best fit for your business model.
They shouldn’t just offer a menu of options and wait for you to choose from but should have a point of view and share it with you.
This is perhaps one of the easiest factors to overlook but is essential to the success of your link building campaign.
Link Building Agency Warning Signs of Trouble to Watch out for
1) They Always Say ‘Yes’
Most people aren’t excellent at everything so be wary of people pleasers who can’t say ‘no’ or are too eager to say ‘yes’.
The same is true to link building firms.
Always pay attention to what they mean when they say yes because they may be opportunists
who just want to close a deal.
So if your agency is hesitant, don’t assume it means they don’t know what they are doing. They may be just exploring feasibility or performing some due diligence first to ensure that they’re spot on with some potential issues or pitfalls that may be encountered during the link building process.
2) They Have a High Turnover Rate
It’s no secret that link building is hard work and it can be challenging for a link building firm to keep its workforce motivated and engaged but that is their problem, so it shouldn’t bother you.
Watch out for agencies that have high turnover because it can ruin relationships not just between you and the agency, but it can also cause your campaign to suffer as work gets shuffled around and needs are lost in the shuffle.
Building positive relationships with audiences and influencers is key when it comes to link building. If a link building agency can’t even maintain a positive relationship with its own team, how, then, can you expect such an agency to drive your own campaign to success?
3) They Communicate Only When They Have Good News
You’ll agree with me that It’s never easy to be the bearer of bad news. But things can go wrong in marketing or at least deviate from plans.
A good agency will report both good and bad news to the client.
If there is bad news, they will not only talk about it but also will also present to you a strategy and timetable for addressing the issue – and not excuses for why it isn’t really their fault.
A good link building agency will not abandon its client because they don’t have the time, tools or resources to come up with a plan for how they’re going to tackle the bad news.
Some link agencies will send only a monthly report. And even then, they will only highlight their wins. This can lead to a haphazard communication that is meant to distract you and conceal bad news.
It’s in your best interest to look for an agency that reports the same set of KPIs at the same interval from cycle to cycle. Transparency here is key. The agency should be able to hold themselves accountable too.
4 Signs It’s Time to Cut Ties With Your Link Building Agency
1) Everything Was Awesome at First
Initially, the relationship between you and your agency was smooth and seamless without any hitches.
They were delivering high-quality links and meeting your goals.
But, during the course of the campaign, both the relationship and the links start to wane.
This is not limited to only an agency you’ve been with for a really long time, it can also happen with an agency you just started working with.
Sometimes you’ve been with an agency for such a long time that they’ve exhausted all of their strategies with you and they’ve run out of creativity. When this happens, then it’s time to get a fresh pair of eyes on your content, links, and performance.
If you feel like the value you’re getting has diminished over time, check in and try to use the lines of communication that you have with your agency and see if you can get back on track.
However, if the problem persists, it’s probably a good time to break up.
2) You Feel You Don’t Have a Partner
Do you feel like you’re all on your own in your agency?
Do your interactions quickly turn negative?
Does your agency try to blame you for their shortcomings?
Well, if you answered yes to all of these questions, then it’s time to move on.
Your ideas and suggestions shouldn’t be thrown over a cliff, they should be considered.
In Fact, you and your agency should be on the same side and be working towards a common goal at every stage of the link building campaign.
Some agencies will try to find faults with your website or content and use that as retrospective excuses for why a campaign is performing poorly when such issues should probably have been addressed on the outset.
In the worst-case scenario, your agency will completely “ghost” you and hang you out to dry.
All these are foolproof reasons to break up.
3) They Don’t Just Get You
Sometimes no matter how hard you try to explain your expectations or needs to your link agency, your agency just doesn’t “get” you.
Ensure that you review those areas where your expectations are not met. Approach your agency with these expectations and gauge how they respond.
This is a step in the right direction towards repairing your current relationship and also ensuring that you have a better one the next time around.
If after multiple attempts and you’re not on the same page or speaking the same language, then you might need to find someone else.
4) The Sales Pitch Didn’t Match the service level
Sometimes the content isn’t as good as you were led to believe, the quality and quantity of links are disappointing, and the result you expected just don’t materialize.
Maybe you expected prompt communication and reply to your queries. Maybe your agency promised you “white-hat” tactics but they are sending spam links to your website.
Well, it’s unfortunate but all these can happen when you choose the wrong link building agency.
So if the reality does not match the sales pitch, then you should probably take your business somewhere else.
How to Hire Your Next Link Building Agency
1) Choose an Agency That Has Diversity In Linking
When looking for link building agency, it’s in your best interest to choose the one that does not put all their eggs in one basket.
Some agencies specialize in directory listings. Some only concentrate specifically on blog posts. Some practice reciprocal linking, while others only distribute articles or press releases.
So, why link diversity?
Diversity in link building is something that many of best SEO experts and publications preach today.
If I had to choose just one thing that our most successful clients have in common, it would be link diversity. – Search Engine Land
Google wants to see, in a link profile, anchors that display diversity in the form of branded anchor texts. – Neil Patel, Quick Sprout
Getting links from a diverse group of domains is extremely important for SEO. – Brian Dean, Backlinko
Anchor text diversity and link relevancy may be two key factors of Penguin, according to more early analysis. – Search Engine Watch
Well, it’s no more news that Google and search engines as a whole are getting smarter as the day goes by.
If you build many links from only one specific anchor text, it will send a signal to Google that you’re artificially building your rank. And if this trend continues, then be prepared to get penalized.
The same thing is true for a brand new website that is getting a ton of backlinks from high domain authority publications like Forbes, Entrepreneur, Huffington Post, and yet has little, if any, backlinks from lower domain websites.
Why would major publications be talking about you if no one else is?
A diverse link profile shows that your links are being built naturally and not from manipulative tactics.
2) Check Out The Agency’s Responsiveness
Will you be able to contact your link building agency after you sign the contract and pay them? If you have any queries about your campaign, will the agency ever respond to you?
Customer service and responsiveness are the key factors that must be considered when outsourcing anything, from link building to SEO as a whole.
Ensure that the agency provides you with the phone number of the manager, the CEO, or customer care representative (anybody in the agency that would be attending to you), an email address, as well as their social media contact.
If they’re not getting back to you or you’re having a hard time contacting them while negotiating the contract, then chances are you’re going to have a communication problem with that agency during the process of your link building campaign.
3) Analyse The Agency’s Connections and Reputation
Where does this company come from? And who have they worked for?
The majority of good SEO agencies have a history and connections. So search for their profile names on google, blogs, and forums they contribute to, or past employment history on LinkedIn.
If they aren’t new in the SEO industry, then their experience should reflect upon their work.
Similarly, if their contributions on blogs and forums are meaningful and thoughtful, then you can be rest assured that they will put equal thought into your link building campaign.
But if they have no positive track record online or a questionable employment history, then you may want to take your business elsewhere.
4) Ask For References
Who have they worked with or worked for in the past?
Although most SEO agencies sign non-disclosure agreements with their clients, some highlight client portfolios on their websites.
Ask the agency for their work history or the list of clients they have worked with in the past. Chances are they will provide you with these details.
One aspect of building trust with your link building agency is based on how much information they reveal to you concerning their previous clients. This means that if they’re disclosing too much information about their previous clients, they may as well share your information with your competitors or other clients subsequently.
So this should tell you how open you can be with this agency about your company.
5) Analyse The Links to Their Own Sites
One way to judge the quality of links that a link building agency will be sending to your website is by doing Backlink checks on their own site. A good link agency will have high-quality backlinks to their site.
Are they linked to from authority domains or social sites? Or do other SEO experts link to them? Or are all their incoming links from non-reputable sites?
Analysing their backlinks can help you gauge the value and worth of a link building agency.
6) Ensure That The Agency Know Their Tools
It’s almost impossible for any link-builder to do his or her job efficiently by using Google advanced searches alone. A large number of the link builders will use a combination of two, three or more tools.
Ask the candidate to list the tools that they use, and what tools will produce the best results if the budget was unlimited.
A good link agency will mention tools like Majestic SEO, ahrefs, buzz stream, open website explorer, link prospector, link research tools, and word tracker.
7) Check Out The Agency’s Link Building Strategies
When choosing to outsource link building, you may come across agencies that will promise you 300% increase within the twinkle of an eye.
Such agencies often employ unethical and black-hat tactics that will cause Google and other search engines to penalize your site. Be wary of agencies that use black-hat tactics that will harm your business site in a long run.
Here are some black-hat link building tactics you should watch out for:
- Paying for backlinks
- Inserting links into another’s site without the editor’s permission
- Sending irrelevant links to your site through spam comments
- Links from spun content
- Invisible text
- Links from lots of foreign language sites
- Links from bad neighbourhoods/hacked sites
- Low-quality directories
- Excessive/ non-Niche relevant reciprocal link building
If you find an agency using any of the strategies mentioned above, then you should look for another agency ASAP in order to save your website from Google penalty.
When searching for the right link acquisition company for your business, doing your due diligence can save your company.
First and foremost, your decision should be based on how a particular company can help you reach your specific marketing goals because your business has unique objectives.
Returns from link building may take a couple of months to be evident so remember to stay patient.
This guide would help you put your company’s best foot forward in searching for a reputable link building agency.