Chatting to a friend who also works in digital marketing a couple of months back, we got to talking about link building. 30 minutes into the conversation, I realized I was outlining a strategy for his business, and he was nodding and telling me he’d love to hire us – which was quite the opposite of the point I was trying to make.
It quickly got me thinking – is link building really that difficult, or that boring, or just plain complicated? Why do people seem to dislike it so much?
Actually – since we’ve started offering white label link building services, I really had the chance to talk to agency owners and discuss the subject – and while I did anticipate some of their concerns and was ready to respond, some of them caught me completely by surprise.
Being the nerd that I am – I needed to compile all this data someplace and ponder on it some more. Welcome to that place.
What is Link Building REALLY like?
Admittedly, I had to cross the hall to talk to our link building team about this. I caught them in the act of researching the application of big data in medical research (don’t even want to know what they are doing with that post), and our chat came as a welcome distraction.
An hour later, I walked away with several facts on my notepad:
- Building good links takes time
This was undoubtedly the first point we could all agree on – and this is a generally-known fact. If you want to build good links, you do need to put in the actual hours. In some mysterious way, we managed to calculate that one proper link requires at least two hours of research, three hours of writing, and one hour on the back and forth with emails and communication in general. That’s six hours, for one link!
- Chatting to bloggers and webmasters takes skill and a certain something
Not everyone can do it, either. I remember a colleague who used to (and still does) do the most amazing technical stuff with a server, can write in-depth posts that will have your mind boiling, but can’t compose an outreach email to save his life. People who are good at outreach need to be a very special kind of outgoing personality, and need to be able to play make-believe a lot – not everyone’s cup of tea.
- It is often very stressful
The simple fact is that to build a link, you depend on someone else – who may or may not keep their word and publish the post at the agreed-upon time. There are simply too many moving parts, and since you only control a handful of them, you can blow a gasket sometimes, while waiting for the links to roll in. And there is nothing you can do about it. A certain fatalism often comes in handy.
- You can’t always do it well
And this is a fact – there are days when no one will be replying to your emails, when people simply won’t be interested, and when you can’t seal a single deal. We’ve all had that month. The only thing you can do is try to improve on your tactics, and weather the storm.
- A good piece of content can open any door
Finally – we came to the conclusion that a really well researched and written piece of content can be your ticket to publication in the most important and most read websites in any niche. But crafting that piece can take time, resources, induce sleep deprivation and caffeine addiction. Which is often not a bad bargain, when you come to think about it.
Do you NEED to Build Links?
Even after having said all that – and to answer the question above – yes, of course you need to build links. The good thing is you don’t actually need to build them yourself.
While having an in-house SEO team is a solution most digital marketing agencies strive for, you can just about guess how much it will cost you. If you want to build your team from the ground up, you will not see actual results any time soon, more likely than not. Bringing in someone who knows what they are doing can be costly – as experts can demand rather high salaries. There goes a client’s marketing budget right there.
To be able to scale your business and focus on growth and building a sound system, a killer team, and a steady client base – outsourcing some of your tasks and deliverables can be a lifesaver.
Let me give you a personal example. There was a time when I used to do all of the link building for all of my clients (this was at a time when they were still in the single digits, and there was only me in the company). Not to mention I used to do everything else. But that meant the company would never grow, and I was about to suffer a breakdown from sheer exhaustion.
Then there were two of us. And while this worked much better, and we did start working with more clients – we still couldn’t grow our own business, not really. Double the manpower does not necessarily mean double the clients.
Then we built the team, and now we are not only right on track where we want to be as a business, we are able to offer white label services to other agencies, who are struggling with the same issues we once faced.
I know you might be afraid that the agency you contact will in turn reach out to another agency, and not do the work themselves. I know you are questioning the quality of the work that will get done. I know just how much rubbish is out there.
But, I also know that to be able to grow as a business, you need to take off the training wheels, and delegate. Finding another agency you can partner with can lead to unforeseen opportunities, increased revenues, much less stress, a good night’s sleep, and career opportunities you never thought of while you were buried under the pile of work you had taken on.
While there may be a lot of details to work out – working them out on time enables scalability and facilitates growth. After all, and now we are truly getting down to brass tacks, it can be much more affordable to outsource building links, than building a link building team. Don’t get me wrong – we decided to build one, but that’s us and our business plan. If hundreds of links per month (which translates to thousands of hours on content production and outreach and research) don’t fit into yours, don’t try to force the matter.
When I was starting out, I had this dream about collaboration – and I hated being the only person working at my own company. First of all, I had no one to listen to my ideas, and tell me when I was losing it. There was also nothing fresh coming in, and things were not likely to change.
Today, not only has the conversation been started, but we are also able to help other agencies large and small work out their own processes, and improve our own, through simple cooperation. I know just how much digital marketing is competitive – but that does not mean we all need to turn into shells living on small digital islands, only opening up to receive payment.
Take the time to evaluate your strategies, and see how partnership can help you upgrade them.