Home » Blog » Office Hours » How Do You Provide Link Building as a Service?
Providing link building as a service can be done in many ways. Here are some of them.
David: So, you were asking about link building and offering it as a service.
Dave: Yeah. So, to me, link-building just seems like it is best done with the client. And here’s why I’m thinking that. It seems like some of the most valuable ones are obviously when you can provide something to this other website so that they would bring you a link back. And so, to me, it almost seems like there are two main phases. One ends up being the initial reach out, which can be offloaded. But then, after that, it’s almost like I’ve got to almost offer up my client and their expertise to, say, be interviewed on a podcast. Or to start exchanging information with somebody. Because if I look at it from the perspective that if I want to have a link, if I’m going to allow a follow link to somebody who asked me to do that, they’ve got to provide something really valuable. I want to have a relationship with that person or that company and not work with another SEO company that’s just doing it. And I see why. Does that make sense? Does that question make sense?
David: Yeah. And in the documentation for link-building on Curious Ants, we talk about a couple of factors. One of them is link building. When we do it, according to Google guidelines, we don’t pay for links. Right? That’s against the rules. We don’t pay for a link. But something of value must be exchanged to get a link. Does that mean that just because there’s no monetary value, it’s within Google’s compliance? Probably not. But, you know, there has to be a reason for someone to take time out of their day to link to us.
David: So, one of the tactics we use frequently is a branded link-building strategy, right? Where we’re looking for who talks about our clients. And if someone mentions our clients, we will contact them and say, “Hey, thank you for mentioning our client. Would you change it to a link?” Well, the answer is, what’s in it for me to take the time to do that? Youssef has developed this conversation of, “Hey, would you help? We think your users would be benefited from changing that to a link.” And when you put it in terms of helping their users, because their users would want to learn more about whoever they’re talking about, then sometimes that’s the value that they get. In this case, a very low effort changing to a link. What would you say about that, Youssef?
Youssef: Well, I’d say this tactic wouldn’t work on every client. I think it depends. Because sometimes… Well, I’m trying not to say names. But for instance, the client we have feels a little bit like they will benefit from linking to our client because their readers would like to know more about them. Because, you know, they were involved in the article.
David: Right. Let’s say the person’s name was integrally involved, so they might want to learn more about that person.
Youssef: Yeah. And another thing is they mentioned them by name. So, it’s easier to link to someone with a name rather than when they mention the whole brand. You know, because if they mentioned the whole brand, they already know the link of the website, so they could have made it to the website if they wanted to. But when they mentioned the name and there is a link for a portfolio for that person on the website, maybe they don’t know. And maybe they wanted to do it, and they didn’t know. This is where I found it to be most successful when doing branded link building. But, when just asking for the website, it’s a bit difficult if you don’t offer something in return.
David: Yeah. When you got started, you would just simply say, “Hey, would you change it to a link?” You got a lot of no answers or ignored.
David: But eventually, when you were able to phrase it in terms of, “Hey, this will help your users learn more. You will have a better experience on your website.” You started getting a better response rate. And then the second stage of good link-building is relationship building. One of our best recent links that we got they were talking about our client, and we said, “Hey, by the way, the next time we talk about this topic, we would love to tell you first and give you.” Like a scoop. And so that sets us up for the next link. And that’s the second principle of link building. The number one principle being money can’t be exchanged, but something has to be of value, right? But number two is building the relationship. People will be much more likely to respond to you if you treat them like human beings.
David: And that second part is why it’s really hard to outsource link building. Right? Because we’re coming and saying, “Hey, would you like us to introduce you to the client? Because we’re not the client that we’re asking for the link for.” “Well, who are you? What is the marketing agency? Wait, I don’t want to help with marketing.” You know, that gets a little dicey.
Youssef: I want to ask something of Dave and Tricia.
Youssef: When we say build the relationship, does that make any sense? Like do you feel like you know the steps to do, or do you think there needs to be an article for this? Like what we mean by making these relationships and maybe some steps on how to make these relationships based on my experiences. Or is it something simple?
Tricia: I suppose that kind of in general, no, but maybe some different tips since you’ve done it and you have some experience. There might be some tips that you have that I wouldn’t have thought of.
Tricia: Since that’s what you actively do is helping with link building.
Dave: What would be really cool, Youssef, is if you could put some data together and say, here’s the way I did it. And I got one out of a hundred. Now that I changed it, I’m up to ten out of a hundred or something like that. Really cool information to share.
Youssef: That’s a good idea.
Dave: And what’s so important about that is to really set expectations. And to start thinking about, well, how much work is it really? You know, it’s going to take all this time. And then the other aspect of it is because I don’t know when you guys are doing link building, how much you get the client involved at all? To me, it almost seems like the best approach would be as an SEO service to point out where would be some of the best links and reach out. That could happen, and then tell the client, “Here’s a script for you. You send it and let us know, and we’ll work together to get that link.”
Youssef: Oh, actually, that’s very smart.
Dave: Yeah. Because I’m thinking, for example, that our client is so knowledgeable about what they do, but you know, maybe there is with one of their best clients, who’s bought like ten custom tarps, have a link back to Verduyn Tarps. But then be like, can we do a podcast interview with you? And put it on our podcast or something like that, you know?
Dave: Yeah, we could write an article. And so anyway, it’s almost like it needs to be a dance between our clients and us and the person they’re trying to get the link from.
David: I agree that the best links you get have client involvement. Just like the best content, you publish on the website has planned involvement. You know, you could write about anything. You could hire a writer to write about anything if you had an unlimited budget. But in some ways, it’s never going to be exactly right unless the client, who is probably more of an expert, at least reviews it.
David: The same thing’s true with link-building opportunities. One of our favorite link-building app opportunities and this is great for companies that don’t have brand mentions yet, is Help A Reporter Out, HARO.
Dave: Yeah. Yeah.
David: It’s basically an email you get three times a day with people who are looking for source material for their articles. And there are some pitfalls in it. But, where we have struggled in using that for link-building, frankly, even though we mention it in Curious Ants and recommend it, we find opportunities for our clients, but we can’t get input from our clients quickly enough because there’s a really quick deadline.
Dave: Yeah. That’s a really, really good point.
David: So, what we’ve tried to do… Here’s how I failed on it in the past. Alright. I’ve asked clients to sign up for HARO, and they’re like, this is a great idea. And they just don’t do it. I’ve tried to weed through them myself or have Youssef weed through them. And then it’s almost, no fault of Youssef, but it’s almost worse if Youssef finds it because Youssef finds it, then Youssef sends it to me, then I send it to the client, and then the client has to find an expert to talk about it, and they’ve got to get back to the client, and the client gets back to me, then I get back to Youssef. Oh Lord, then it’s six hours too late at that point.
Youssef: Yeah, well, we tried to find a solution for that. And I suggested to David if there’s a topic related to marketing and it’s something that’s not too sophisticated, maybe I would just do a little bit of research about it and just write a summary about the question. And, well, I was going to say this tomorrow, but actually, someone replied to one of my pitches while doing this. Well, sadly, they were not really… I don’t know. They were kind of just asking for the link to…
Youssef: Well, actually, that’s a good strategy. They were asking for a link on HARO, they had this page of all these experts talking, and they just said, maybe if we can write for you or something like that. And we will add the reply I gave them to that page with all the experts talking. And the website was not actually that bad. It was good. But yeah, exchanging links is against what we do.
David: Right. We can’t trade links or exchange links. This is just a complicated way of trading links.
David: But one of the ways that we’re trying to experiment, and we’re trying to roll this out to one of our clients, we haven’t been able to do it yet, but the next iteration of this is to have the client sign up for HARO. They don’t have to look at it. Youssef looks at it. And when he finds an opportunity for them, he sends it to them. They, because they’re a subscriber on HARO, can immediately reply to the pitch because that’s one of the really tricky parts of this. You have to be a subscriber of the newsletter in order to send the email to it. So, if it has to go back to Youssef to send and Youssef is not available, he’s eating dinner, he’s sleeping, you know, you said there are other things that his life besides link-building, believe it or not. And he doesn’t get back to them, well, then the client’s missed the window. So, if we ask the client to sign up, and Youssef sends it to them, they can hit the button in reply. It expedites the process. Plus, Youssef has helped them by weeding through all the stuff that is not relevant to them and has basically become their HARO.
Dave: Do you guys, when you’re doing your link building, do you get a client-based email that you can use?
David: That is a best practice. Yeah. That is hard. Because number one, if you’re a new provider, like the damage you could do by having an email address at a domain for our company. Right? They don’t know you to trust you to do that. Second of all, that’s an expense, right? They’re going to pay, even if it’s 15 bucks a month, for that email. Right?
David: So that becomes a challenge in and of itself. There are some circumstances where I have worked on that, and it has been a little bit easier because you can… First of all, I built trust with the client. They know I’m not going to burn them. And second of all, it just greases the wheel. Because that’s the real challenge with link building is that you portray yourself… “What, why are you at Reliable Acorn contacting me on behalf of this client?” “Well, we’re the marketing company.” “Oh, I don’t trust marketing.”
Dave: That’s right.
David: Listen to what we’re saying. We’re trying to help you. No, there’s got to be a catch. Well, yup. You don’t lose anything by linking to us. You don’t lose anything. But people get suspicious. And so, to have the client’s email address, we use it, but I struggled with this. And another way where we’re like, it is your title Youssef? Because I don’t want to say link-building expert in your email signature.
Dave: Yeah. That’s right.
David: Because then it’s like, oh, all they want is a link, and it has such a spammy connotation. But that’s not how we do link building. I forgot what your title is. What we came to as your title.
Youssef: Outreach Expert.
Dave: Outreach Expert, that’s good.
David: So, and he is an expert. So, we’ve heard about a couple of branded tactics. There’s HARO. There’s also competitive research.
Dave: Yeah. Yeah.
David: And that’s the idea. It’s just like branded research, but you’re researching your competitors.
David: Because if they can get a link, you might not want all the links they have, but you might be able to pick the better. Or use that to say, hmm, that’s an interesting strategy I haven’t thought of. We can improve on that.
Youssef: But do you know your competitors?
Dave: Yeah, our client knows their competitors. Yeah.
Dave: Yeah. And in the tool that we use, we’ve got all the keywords that the competitors have and what they’re ranked for. So that’s part of our keyword strategy creation. So, yeah, we do have that.
David: And the other tactic that we use is a guest blogging tactic, which can be a little controversial. But I think the controversy of guest blogging is related to when people use crappy content and don’t offer any additional value. When you publish anybody who would take your article, because they’re just happy to have an article, they don’t have to write. And you’re published alongside people that are irrelevant to what your business does, and you’re not taking time to write something original; that’s bad guest blogging. But if you take time to write something unique and original in a respected industry blog that your client has approved and is willing to put their name on, that’s a good article. And that’s a link that it makes sense to have. At the very least, it’s a byline link to the homepage of the client site.
David: But, better, if you can link to us or our product or service that you have because you’re talking about something that’s not self-promotional in the article.
David: But again, it’s really hard to do that kind of quality when the client’s not involved.
Dave: It is. So, I would think anything that we’re going to do when we offer link building has got to be in concert with the client even more so than anything else that we do.
David: But where we overcome that is our clients are used to approving content before we publish it on their site. And so because they’re used to that process of content approval, this is just another piece of content to approve.
David: And it just happens to be going in another site. And sometimes we have to explain why we would take this thing we took so long to write and not put on our own website. And we sometimes have to explain, okay, well what’s on their website we can’t also publish it on our website. But once they get it, then they get excited about it, and that’s one of the really cool things about doing link building the right way, is that you can be really proud to show the clients the links you’ve built, rather than trying to justify why you put a link on that website. You know, some nefarious link builders will just put a link wherever they can get it. And then, maybe, they might be embarrassed if the client sees it. If that’s your link-building strategy, you need to reconsider.
Dave: That’s helpful.
David: Okay. There was a study, a statistic that just came out a couple of weeks ago, which was just the idea that, to this day, link building is still considered the hardest part of SEO.
Dave: Oh, yeah.
David: And the good news is, ten years ago, links… It was all about the quantity of links. And you take a link wherever you can get it. We’d say a link is a link is a link. I’ll take it where I can get it.
David: And now, if you get one productive link from a good site a month. That might just be what you need. Now, if you’re competitive, you’re going to need more than that. But if you just get started, and even just set the bar that low, you’re going to build momentum, you’re going to learn how to do it; you’re going to have clients learn what’s going on. The client may even be excited about it. You know, and then, you can start to take it a little further. That’s kind of what we’ve done if we’ve started simple. And now we’re taking it to the next level and the next level and the next level and the next level. And as Youssef learned, you know the links are really good. And we can start to see the implications of the links that are built. It’s really fun to see that.
Dave: Yep. Sounds good. Okay. Okay.
Tricia: Yeah. I think that’s a lot with things on SEO, you know, it changes all the time and like what worked five, ten years ago doesn’t work now. Like you said, now it’s quality over quantity for links. And the same is similar for citations. It used to be you could just keep getting more citations, and that would help. Because I think at one point when I was thinking about what I was offering, because I offer citations, but at one point I was thinking, oh, I could do like a monthly service. I’ll add X number of citations a month. And then when I was looking at it, I was like, that’s not helpful anymore. And I actually had people ask me recently… They were considering doing that. And I was like, if this was ten years ago, I’d say yeah, sure. Now, no. It needs to be quality.
David: Yeah. And I mean, even literally, as I’m sitting here talking with you all, I got a Facebook message for one of our clients where someone said, “Hey, would you like to pay us for an article on our website?” Like really? Like really? What year is this?
Tricia: Yeah, exactly. Yeah.
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