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Managing Link Quantity Expectations

by Dan Petrovic
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This is a guest post from Dan Petrovic at Dejan SEO.

Client: So if I give you $2000 per month, how many links can you make me?

SEO: Erm… Well it’s hard to say, anywhere from five to fifty. It’s not really about numbers you know.

Client: Really? I can make at least 500 links myself. I’m just busy, don’t have time.

SEO: If we make that many they can’t be all that great in quality.

Client: Look, let’s agree on 250 links for $2000 and call it a deal.

SEO: OK, I guess…

Next thing you know your team is in a panic mode, the quality gauge has dropped and you’re on Digital Point swapping links with third-world link farmers and forum spammers. The expected quantity of links counts for the first month too so you got to get busy, no need for research and gradual build-up of contacts and leads. Links must flow – and in great numbers, otherwise you’re losing the deal. Fast-forward six months and the client is getting penalised for their spammy backlink profile. You’re fired and they are out there telling everyone how bad you are.

It doesn’t have to be as bad as this, but it is not uncommon that clients will ask you for deliverables and it is important to be prepared to answer all their questions in order to have a healthy and long-lasting relationship with them. So what can be done?

Brand Placement

Some people look for this:

  • 10 Article Submissions
  • 100 Profile Links
  • 50 Blog Comments (dofollow)
  • 200 Social Bookmarks
  • Price: $200

Ask yourself; is this the right customer for you? Are you prepared to price match cheaper providers who automate and outsource their link building?

Think about how you are branded in the SEO world. Whether you are an SEO freelancer or a company you will need to ensure you’re getting the right type of customer to your site and have the right message on it. You can cut out a lot of unnecessary conversation if your website explains your link building process in enough detail. Avoid creating packages which promise X amount of this and Y amount of that type of link.

Education

Client education starts in the pre-sales activities and continues throughout the sales process but it never ends. I find it best not to hide anything. People are smart about SEO these days and have most likely dealt with several other SEO companies before and may already be looking for somebody transparent and reliable for long-term work. Explain your process in detail and explain how link acquisition will progress over time.

Most importantly set realistic expectations. Go through Open Site Explorer or Majestic SEO, export links and make some nice graphs. Illustrate the competitive landscape visually and explain the main factors that may impact the rankings. Are certain competitors so far ahead they are not even to be considered true competitors? Is it worth going after Amazon for the keyword “books”?

Communication

The first month is critical in for many reasons. Firstly, this is the stage at which you are most likely to extract all the valuable information and goodies needed for the project and arm your link building team with the necessary ammunition to go into battle.

Second thing you want to ensure is regular touch-base, and this doesn’t have to be time-consuming. Just put yourself in the position of your client, you just paid some money or committed to a contract. How would you know if any work is being done if nobody tells you?

Finally, avoid selective hearing and ensure both parties are on the same page.

Example:

What you said:
“We may be able to make you up to 20 links.”

What client remembers:
“I promise you 20 links this month.”

Getting Links

By benchmarking your client’s link profile against their competition you will get a fairly good idea of how many links you need and of what quality. If there’s pressure on you then allocate one link builder to work on low hanging fruit and assign others to focus on proper outreach. If you don’t start this in the first month you will not score any decent links in the second month. You may not get a third month from the client if your links are of a poor quality.

A reasonable way to get lots of links would be through securing and reserving client’s brand name through profile registration. For this you can use service such as Knowem or do it yourself. This will not have a huge impact on the rankings as none of the newly created pages will be indexed at first nor will pass any PageRank. How you use them later on is up to you (e.g. YouTube account engagement).

As I mentioned earlier one of the most important things is to arm your link builders with goodies. I will go through a few key things I find to be of high importance when setting up a new link building campaign.

Project Knowledge

Take time to sit down and do a proper brief explaining how the business works. Go over business relationships, suppliers, providers, customers and write down as many notes as possible about how different groups and stakeholders interact. Explore potential memberships, events relevant to the industry or industry associations which would be valuable to join.

Content

It’s easy to get a link for a page with great content. Ensure that you and your link builders are aware of all linkable assets on the website. A handy way to find out where they may be hiding is by observing Google Webmaster Tools data (most linked pages, top landing pages…etc) and don’t ignore media such as images, videos, PDF documents and spreadsheets. These can be turned into great linkbait material if done properly. Be creative, if there is a great PDF or a template people would appreciate and share why not embed a credit link on it and share it in relevant communities – even torrent.

Content is not just for advanced link building, linkbait and outreach. Too many times I see link builders submit to local directories and joining various organisations to score a profile link and using the same description over and over again. As a result the page does not get into Google’s index (why should it if it’s duplicated?) and you miss out on a link. This is the main problem with quantity-based link building styles. If you are already spending time registering somewhere why not do that extra step and write up a unique description each time?

Remember, if it’s not indexed it doesn’t count!

This post was written by...

Dan Petrovic – who has written 1 posts on Point Blank SEO.

Dan Petrovic+ is a well-known Australian SEO and a managing director of Dejan SEO. He has published numerous research articles in the field of SEO. Follow him on twitter.

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19 Comments
  1. Chris says:

    This is a great follow up to yesterday’s debate around “building 5 links a week”.

    As an SEO I don’t offer any guarantees on numbers of links we will build for a client. We clearly advise the client on our tactics for getting links but importantly our expectations from them e.g. working with the team to give them ideas and help keep us abreast of company news.

    What we do advise as part of our sales meeting is the number of hours/days we will commit to them for the money they are paying as part of any monthly retainer package.

    I have noticed more clients are currently diversifying their projects and seem to be using different agencies for different stages of a project, it seems they are looking at which SEO teams can provide the best on-page work and who can offer the best link builiding services or viral campaigns.

    • Jon Cooper says:

      I totally agree with the hours a day idea; I’m the same way. My methodology is promise nothing, but always over deliver.

      I’ve been seeing that a lot lately too! but I’m surprised it took this long before we started seeing it because of the efficiency this offers.

      Thanks Chris for the comment! I’m really glad I can chat with an awesome SEO such as yourself :)

  2. Neil says:

    “If it’s not indexed it doesn’t count” – I love this comment. But the main method I see for indexing links is to go through social media. My question: does this work for every type of page, and how can you be sure that it’s worked?

    • Jon Cooper says:

      Look at what Jan said below!

    • Dan Petrovic says:

      It will work for any type of content page even PDF, CSV and other formats. However it will probably not be indexed if that page contains exact copy as another. This is more to do with Google’s handling of duplicate content and not so much about how indexation through social media or links works.

      I usually check through page cache or search for a unique sentence and look for my URL.

  3. Aly says:

    Hi Dan – I found your article on Twitter and it caught my attention immediately. As an SEO here in Houston, managing link building expectations is SO difficult. People have a vague notion that lots of links are beneficial, which can be true. Often though, they want them all RIGHT NOW.

    Anyhow, thanks for sharing! – Aly

  4. @Neil you can have every link indexed by refering through social media platforms. Most of the time, just one Tweet is enough to have Google refresh the page in their index.

  5. Keith says:

    As a freelancer, and just starting my own agency, I have never promised X number of links… wait, once I did get 50 links for someone for a nominal fee, but that was the only time. I always concentrate more on rankings and keywords when talking with the client. Links are only ONE aspect of good SEO anyway…

    Just my .02. Good article though Dan :-)

    • Jon Cooper says:

      Agreed – I’m a hardcore link builder, but I always stress to my clients that links are only one piece of the puzzle. It used to be just links for off site SEO, but now social is playing a part, so links are becoming a smaller piece of the pie (although still large).

  6. all this is very helpful especially for myself who just started my own website and have been trying to build my own links…its tough! thank you!

  7. Hi
    I found your article on google plus…very interesting text

  8. To be honest, I can relate much on this post. We have clients like those, and first and foremost I always see to them that we made all agreements clear.

    A balance between the quality and quantity could work somehow but can’t really
    sustain for long term.

  9. Whilst I agree that high quality links are usually the route to go down, it can also depend on the business sector you are link building for, weather you are Targetting localised search or national.

    Low quality links can do a great job in certain circumstances.

    • Jon Cooper says:

      Not always. I think there’s nothing wrong with low quality links, but if you don’t have a decently clean link profile to compliment it with, then they’re in my experience not very helpful.

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