Finding and hiring the right link building agency is a crucial step in your overall SEO strategy.
Link building is an expert art that blends creativity and data with effective targeting. Not only is the science and application of link building a mystery to most that are not deeply involved in the digital world of SEO, but there are also some majorly problematic black hat techniques and link schemes that can earn your site a brutal penalty and manual action that could take days, weeks, or months to recover from.
If your business does not have the internal power to manage and carry out a successful link building campaign, it is time to choose a white hat link building agency partner to support you in meeting your goals with the right techniques. This guide provides everything you need to know to hire the best link building agency, with definitions and examples of what to look for and what to avoid, so you can maintain the health of your site and focus on the growth of your business.
Professional Link Building: What is a Link Building Agency?
A link building agency provides the service of building links earned with good content to pages of your website. Even if you create the greatest piece of content—valuable, authentic, unique, and compelling content— there is a lot of competition out there for visibility. The estimated size of the web is shaped daily, but as of January 2023, the indexed web contained a minimum of 3.14 billion pages, making your fantastic and worthy page a simple drop in the bucket.
With so much competition and noise on the web, your website and content need links to act as votes of confidence that point to your site. These links not only tell search engines that your page or site is “valuable enough” that someone else was willing to point to you but also creates additional pathways for search engine crawlers to travel to your site—via the link.
Because links are so important for road mapping the web and impacting rankings and visibility, Google is cautious of qualifying links and has created quality guidelines that need to be strictly adhered to—which is why hiring an expert link building agency that utilizes white hat techniques is so important. While it may seem enticing to purchase cheap black hat link building that over-promises on delivery, in reality, the links will likely not get you long-term and sustainable results. Furthermore, black hat links may cause a significant manual action that you will need to spend time and money to recover from.
How Do Agencies Build Links for Clients?
A few of the top link building strategies for white hat link building agencies include:
- Building relationships within your niche and leveraging those connections to earn relevant backlinks with a value exchange.
- White hat guest posting creates the opportunity to approach sites and offer them a unique and valuable piece of content that includes a backlink to a page on your site.
- Replacing broken links on a site by offering worthy and outstanding replacement content.
- Press mentions that demonstrate your niche expertise with interviews with news sites, blogs, and podcasts.
- Link reclamation by finding and fixing lost or broken links to your site so you can regain the value of that hard-earned link.
A Few Examples of Quality Link Building
Examples of incredible link building techniques in action include:
- Guest posting and a “give first” mentality with linkable content marketing include creating a high-value asset and offering it for free for another site to publish.
- Generating resource pages and offering their value: Resource pages are highly valuable assets that include helpful and essential information, tools, or resources for a specific niche. This content is posted on your website, and your hired link building agency will find opportunities to pitch the resource to high-value sites that may accept your submission for a link.
- Creating link bait assets: While typically time and resource intensive with the required expertise and advanced skill, this link building strategy is a long-term investment for earning necessary natural backlinks. The link building agency you hire should provide insight into choosing a compelling topic relevant to your site that resonates with your audience and positions your domain as an authority on the topic. The asset is then promoted to relevant media outlets. Again, providing an exchange of value—your asset provides value to the media, and in return, you earn a valuable link (or multiple links!).
What to Expect From the Best White Hat Link Building Agencies
The link building agency you hire should demonstrate a few essential attributes with their services. If you want to hire the best link building agency that uses white hat techniques, look for the following characteristics in how they work with you and operate as your partner.
A Blended Content Marketing Link Building Agency
Content is important for any SEO endeavor, and before any links can be built to your site or target pages, the content on those pages must be worthy of earning that link. Therefore, the best link building agency you can hire should provide both link building and content marketing services to ensure that your site is optimized and has diverse assets to link to. Content marketing services may include:
- Overall content optimization and strategy services that can provide a report or produce targeted, user-focused content, on-brand with your business, and includes essential on-page optimization.
- Advanced keyword research to ensure your site is well-established in your topical niche.
- SEO strategic consulting and competitor analysis to track, monitor, and create a roadmap for the content you may be missing and need to create and include on your site.
An SEO Linking Strategy That Aligns With Your Goals
The SEO link building agency that you hire should strive to align with your goals, and your goals should have key metrics and KPIs for success that is agreed upon by all partners. This includes, but is not limited to, metric goals such as:
- Higher domain authority.
- Increase in rankings for keywords and phrases.
- Increased qualified traffic.
- Increased leads and sales.
- Increase in brand mentions
You may also need to align with other campaign objectives at large—does the strategy they want to deploy make sense and align with your business model and niche—is the timeframe reasonable, and does it meet your expectations?
Additionally, as your relationship with the link building agency you hired grows and the link building campaign matures, your strategies should continue to evolve and change throughout the partnership. SEO is a fast-paced and quickly evolving industry, but it’s also a marathon game that takes time for backlinks and optimizations to be realized by search engines and work.
Finally, the strategies that worked yesterday may not work today or may need a simple pivot to be as effective as possible. The web is constantly expanding with new content, websites, and competitors. Google consistently updates their algorithm— like the July 2021 Link Spam Update—to keep up with user needs alongside the evolution of the web. Algorithm updates directly sway the evolution of the content development and link building strategies you need for peak performance of your website. So, it is essential to ensure that your partnership aligns with your goals now and continuously in the future.
Consistent Communication Throughout the Link Building Campaign
Consistent communication is a key aspect of any working relationship and should be championed by the link building agency you choose. Communication should occur regularly, and the agency should cater to you with a high level of response for any questions or concerns you may have.
It is essential to have a consistent scheduling of calls and monthly meetings to track and update the status of the link building campaign and efforts. Each call should include a discussion of proactively handling any issues that may arise, as well as well-defined action items on both sides that clarify the next steps and/or any needs the agency may have from you to complete their work. Moreso, you should have a designated point of contact that is responsible for relaying information, providing answers to your questions, and keeping track of the campaign at large.
Full Transparency About Strategies, Timelines, Success, and Tools
Transparency is also key to the success of your relationship. While many SEO companies and link building agencies may want to hold on to and covet the “secret ingredient” to their strategy, there should be no barriers to your understanding of how the campaign is designed to work and how it is performing. They should be able to provide an exhaustive list of every link they have built for your campaign, as well as the agreed-upon KPIs and metrics used to measure the value of each link.
In addition, quality link building agencies should also have an arsenal of link building tools and resources at their disposal to follow through on the strategy and roadmap of your campaign. They should be able to readily explain each step of the process and point to the tools, data, and resources used to earn your links.
“No news is good news” does not apply to link building agencies. Suppose you are not receiving regular communication with transparent updates on your link building campaign. In that case, it is likely a red flag that something is off with your link building agency or that your goals are not being honored or met. For example, some link building efforts may take more time to realize fully, and your link building agency partner should provide explanations rather than ignoring you and hiding the bad news. “Honesty is the best policy” does and should apply to the best link building agencies for communication and transparency.
Proper Expectations and Accountability
As in any other industry, you should be wary of any partnerships that are ready to promise you the moon without providing a roadmap of how they intend to get you there. The expectations of your campaign should be reasonable—on both sides, and the link building agency you choose should provide you with a clear and transparent view of the strategy they will deploy to meet your goals.
The link building agency should also showcase accountability to your agreed upon expectations and deliver the results you hired them for within the agreed upon timeline—without you needing to hold them accountable. As mentioned, SEO and link building is complicated and nuanced, and results from link building campaigns can be difficult to predict. However, if a strategized campaign is underperforming or things are not going as planned, the link building agency you hire should be the first to reach out and notify you with a remedy or plan for the next steps.
Moreso, a white hat link building agency should transparently provide you with link building restrictions to guide your expectations and what they are accountable for. For example, there may be some types of links that can, cannot, or won’t be built to your site. In addition, the agency should have a list of strategies they use and specific types of black hat links and strategies (PBNs, spammy blog comments, extremely low-quality hosts, unnatural links, etc.) that they do not provide.
Tips for Finding the Best White Hat Link Building Agency
If all the above expectations sound just like the link building services you are looking for, use the following tips to find and vet your options to ensure you hire the best link building agency to suit your needs.
Look for Diverse Link Building Services
Some link building agencies may specialize in specific link services such as blog posts, directory listings, or press releases. However, a natural and organic backlink profile should include a diversity of links, from a diversity of sources, with a diversity of optimized anchor text. A healthy diversity of links is more likely to be rewarded by search engines and less likely to be penalized for appearing to use scammy black hat link building tactics.
When in the early stages of considering which link building agency to hire, feel free to directly ask the agency about their link building strategies and tactics and if they can provide you with multiple sources and types of backlinks to create a natural and organic backlink profile. Their answer should showcase their transparency and ability to meet and align with your goals.
Check for Responsive Customer Service
In the initial stages of communicating and negotiating a contract, consider how responsive the link building agency is to your questions and needs. Here are a few simple questions that can assist you in considering their responsiveness and customer service:
- Did the link building agency provide you with a point of contact to direct any questions or further communication?
- Did the agency respond to your outreach in a reasonable time frame?
- Is the agency creating a communication plan or check-ins to continue to move the conversation?
- Did the agency provide you with a roadmap for its process and timelines?
- Can the agency provide you with examples of previous work or case studies?
- Are your questions being answered transparently and honestly?
- Is the agency listening and aligning with your goals and objectives?
- If there are any issues with strategizing your goals, is the agency providing valuable feedback or with an effective alternative plan?
Analyze their Reputation and Look at the Backlinks to Their Site
As with any partnership, it is always important to get a good understanding of the agency’s connections, reputation, and past performance. The best white hat link building agencies will have a good online presence and reputation. Look at what other businesses say about their experience working with the agency and consider how that would apply to your partnership. You can also look at their employment history with job boards and LinkedIn to see if they are a company that operates effectively with guaranteed experts.
You can also look at the backlink profile of the agency site to see if they are putting their link building tactics to work for themselves as a positive track record for their work. When analyzing their backlink profile, consider the following:
- Is their backlink profile diverse?
- Do they have high quality backlinks?
- What type of domains is linking to them?
- Do they have expert mentions or thought leadership pieces that other SEO companies link to?
Granted, this doesn’t mean that smaller start-up link building companies should be eliminated from the candidate pool for lack of historical data, records, and relationships. Still, perhaps it means that you should ask detailed questions about their strategic plans to ensure that your goals will be met through the campaign and partnership.
Red Flags to Avoid Black Hat Link Building Agencies
In addition to looking for the good things a white hat link building agency provides, you should also keep a few “red flags” in mind to ensure that you avoid partnering with an agency that operates with black hat techniques or poor customer service. Consider the following red flags for black hat link building services and agencies:
- They say “yes” to everything or overpromise on deliverables. If an agency promises to deliver a massive amount of links or extremely increase your DA in a significantly short period of time, likely, they will not be able to follow through. Or, if they do follow through, they may use shady and dangerous black hat techniques to get you there.
- They need to share their strategies or have a roadmap for your campaign. Your partner should easily be able to provide you with the strategies they employ to earn links for your site. They should also have a roadmap for the next steps of your campaign. If an agency is unwilling to share their process with you, it could be hiding unsavory tactics you would do better to avoid.
- They promise to deliver perfectly optimized anchor text links to whatever page on your site. Unfortunately, while some perfectly optimized anchor text links can be built appropriately, doing so on a mass scale with no link diversity is likely to occur from black hat link building techniques.
- The agency has a high turnover. High turnover can indicate myriad issues that could affect your link building campaign. Not to mention, link building efforts often require building real and organic relationships. Therefore, the agency’s inability to manage its internal relationships may indicate other future issues.
- They only report when they have good news. Communication should be sustainable and regular—reporting both the good news and the bad, to hold themselves accountable and look for the opportunities they need to meet your goals.
- They use the following specific black hat techniques:
- Adding a link to a site without the webmaster’s or editor’s permission.
- Spam comment links.
- Using link schemes such as private blog networks.
- Invisible or hidden links.
- Sneaky redirects.
- Low-quality directory or bookmark site links.
Link building is a crucial part of a holistic and healthy SEO strategy and is essential to meeting your SEO goals. The first step to building and earning links to your site is ensuring that your content is worthy and linkable. The second is finding and hiring the best link building agency that closely partners with you to ensure that your link building campaign operates as efficiently and effectively as possible.