Hiring a Link Builder

As a blogger I can’t tell you how many spammy link requests from “link builders” that I get on an ongoing basis. It’s just way too many. You certainly don’t want to hire the kind of link building firm that sends out such spam link requests using cheap third-world labor. It’s these same sorts of firms responsible for a big percentage of the useless keyword-rich link-containing comments posted all over the blogosphere.

On one end of the link builder spectrum you have the solo operator guru, somebody of the caliber of Eric Ward, to the other end of the spectrum — those link building sweatshops out of India that will spam the hell out of the blogosphere and of webmasters’ email inboxes on your behalf. You’ll want to hire a consultant or firm more towards the former rather than the latter (obviously). At least if you wish to be working with a top-notch link building outsource partner, one that’s really going to “do the business” for you, and not spam in the process.

A good SEO firm should also be a good link building firm but this is not always the case. In fact, it is not often the case. On-page SEO and technical tweaks like rewrites and redirects are a very different animal from the outside-the-box thinking and unbridled creativity required for link building, and link baiting in particular.

A great example of such creativity is the business cards for life contest that we at Netconcepts dreamed up for our client Overnight Prints that involved the Internet celebrity and Technorati Top 100 blogger Jeremy Schoemaker. The contest was to design Jeremy’s business card, with Jeremy serving as the ultimate judge. (Here’s the winning entry, btw. It’s one sweet business card.)

Another great example (not sure which consultancy is behind this one) is A&E’s “Hammer Pants” flash mob stunt:

What are some things to look for when hiring a link building consultant or agency? Here are a few:

  • examples of creative, out-of-the-box thinking (as already explained above)
  • demonstrable success with link bait being well-received by social news and social bookmarking communities
  • the tools necessary to do the job well (e.g. LinkScape, Raven, BuzzStream, SQUID, Enquisite, Internet Marketing Ninjas, SEO Book tools like the Hub Finder, etc.)
  • happy customer references
  • a good reputation in the industry (as judged by mentions on SEO blogs, forums etc.)
  • ideally, evidence of thought leadership (e.g. conference speaking, magazine articles, quotes in mainstream media, a great blog…)

Plus I asked the link mensch himself, Eric Ward, to chime in with some more pointers, which he did. According to Eric, you should ensure that you…

  • are given a rationale as to why they want to pursue any given target
  • have final approval on every target site they contact
  • have final approval before you agree to link back or pay for a link
  • are provided a stated deliverable and you have agreed to it
  • get an expert to review the contract, like me or Stephan. (Paying a few hundred bucks for a deliverable review might be the wisest money you can spend.)
  • are given at least monthly reports of progress

In my most recent Search Engine Land article I wrote about tracking ROI and cost-justifying link building initiatives. It may be helpful to incorporate such metrics into an engagement.

Remember that this is much more like hiring a PR firm than an ad agency. PR firms (and link builders) can influence — but not control — outcomes. Ad agencies can control the number of brand impressions just by simply spending more dollars.

Good luck!

About Stephan Spencer

5 Comments

  • John says:

    Its not only Indian link-builders who spam, but there are many so-called link builders from China and Philippines who are no less expert than Indians. They keep the web bombarding with spammy links which irritates everybody to no ends. :(

  • kry says:

    John, obviously you are an Indian. Look at your self..do you not spam?

  • The important thing is that the comments should be relevant and bring something new to the discussion, then people don’t care if it’s link building or not. People only get irritated if it’s clearly spam. We are blind to what’s right in front of us …

  • Ed says:

    Cool!!!!
    Was Eric Ward happy to help on this post?
    I’d love to interview Eric! Maybe one day, I guess he’s pretty busy nowadays with the release of his new book though hey? BTW @Stephan Spencer Have you read that yet? I’ve bought it but have to wait 3 weeks :( Nice plug Re.enquisite, I’ve not heard of that one before – this redirects to inboundwriter (dot) com now – is it the same service?

  • Ed says:

    I just realised your connection to Eric @ SEL, I guess you’ve known Eric for a while so forget my first daft question – still – did you get a sneak peak at the first draft paperback?

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