Here’s what you do when choosing an agency for link building. You ask your friends, conduct your own research, and end up with 10 link building agencies to choose one. Next week you’ll have discovery calls to vet them all. But what questions to ask? What answers indicate seasoned specialists? How to identify fluff?
We’ve got you covered! In this piece, we’ll discuss the 19 questions you should ask potential link building providers and what answers to expect.
Read on to choose the right agency and establish a long-lasting partnership.
What to Ask Any Link Building Agency Before You Start Working With Them
The following questions we regularly hear from our clients and ask some of them when hiring link builders in our team. If you don’t know us, DigitalOlympus is a link building agency with over 6 years of experience working with SMB and enterprise-level companies. Get a glimpse behind-the-scenes in the information below and choose your vendor wisely.
Let’s get started, as there’s tons of value!
Question #1: What are their pricing plans?
Let’s be honest. The pricing question bothers all of us. We want to pay less but get more — find the optimum. With link building services, things are tricky here. Opting for cheap packages, you are likely to get spammy links from PBNs or link farms. Cheap links are all under $ 100−150−200.
Link builders usually charge for a link with a particular domain authority/domain rating (DR). Thus, you can expect the following prices:
- A DR 20−30 links range from $ 200 to $ 300
- A DR 30−50 links range from $ 250 to $ 450
- A DR 50−70 links range from $ 300 to $ 600
- A DR 70+ links range from $ 400 to $ 650
Disclaimer: The price range is an average we have noticed within the past several years.
Wrapping up, beware of low prices for white-hat links. It’s nothing but a lie. White hat link building (or so-called ethical link building) requires a great amount of time and resources to land a link. Most times, the cost price of white-hat links is higher than the cheap link offerings.
Question #2: Who have they worked with?
Asking this question, you want a vendor to name niche-related customers, but it doesn’t happen in all cases. To impress you, salespeople usually start boasting by calling big-name companies, which are not always relevant. Well, it might be impressive but then specify your request. Ask whether they have customers in your niche.
Building links for a niche means forming relationships with webmasters. So if they have successful projects that are somewhat relevant to your services, it should result in a high speed of acquiring links for your project.
Question #3: Can they share any case studies?
You ask this to vet their ability to deliver great results in your niche. Case studies usually cover a niche, the number of links built in a given time period, and the type of links. You’ll also see a list of link building tactics, a strategy, and a graph of how link building campaigns influenced rankings.
Credible link building vendors must be fully transparent about their past projects and the delivered results. They will gladly share case studies to prove their expertise.
Antonis Dimitriou also agrees that the absence of case studies, along with some other red flags, shows that you’re dealing with a shady link building vendor:
«You should watch out for the lack of case studies, refusal to provide domains and their metrics, and the lack of transparency around the link building agency’s processes of acquiring backlinks. If the agency values trust, they will have this information laid out.» — Antonis Dimitriou, SEO Strategist at Minuttia.
If they’re reluctant to share this information, cut them off.
Question #4: What differentiates them from the competition?
With that, you aim to get to know them better. Learn their strengths and weaknesses and what they can bring to the table. Everyone builds links, so they need their trump card to beat the competition (it shouldn’t be a low price).
Essentially, a reliable link building agency should have the following strengths:
— Strong understanding of search engine algorithms and other SEO & Link Building trends to create the most relevant, authoritative, and juicy backlinks for their clients that will help to increase their rankings and build strong backlink profiles. The link building landscape is constantly changing, and a reliable agency should be able to adapt to new developments and changing algorithms.
— A trustworthy partner: A reliable link building agency should be transparent and honest to their clients! Always keep communication and reporting at a high level and be supportive.
— Strong communication and project management skills: A reliable link building agency should be able to communicate effectively with its clients and manage projects in a timely and organized manner.
— Strong relationships with publishers and websites: A link building agency should have established relationships with a wide range of publishers and websites, which allows them to secure high-quality links for their clients.
— Be a great employer: A reliable link building agency should have a supportive and positive environment for its employees and always invest in the growth of its team. Besides that, they have to promote employees' work-life balance and support diversity and inclusion in the team. Creating a strong team can be one of the top strengths of the agencies." - Davit S. Nazaretyan, Director of Growth at LinkyJuice.
Question #5: What are their main link building strategies?
This is of paramount importance to ask since you want to ensure getting only white-hat links. Ask what link building tactics will be applied to your project and why those.
We vote for agencies that combine three to five tactics from the beginning. This helps diversify a backlink profile and streamline the link building process. The former is essential as Google detects patterns of link building when too many are built with the same approach, which leads to Google penalties.
Check out link building strategies that hurt your brand and avoid them.
Question #6: Are their strategies aligned with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines?
A «Yes» answer will tell you nothing. Let vendors elaborate. Ask how they ensure your links won’t be recognized as spammy and won’t be considered link schemes.
You can also ask whether they pay webmasters for links or build links from guest posting or PBNs. All of these violate Google guidelines and lead to a site getting penalized.
Question #7: How do they identify link building opportunities?
An answer to this question will give you a complete understanding of the quality of links to expect, and how scrutinized an agency is.
Great link builders will guide you through their link building checklist and tell you what criteria a website must meet to build links. At DigitalOlympus, we evaluate websites by:
- Domain authority
- Topical relevance
- Website’s organic traffic and traffic share by countries
- The top 20 referring pages
- The negative trend of referring domains and organic traffic
- Find more criteria in our link building checklist.
If a site-donor matches all criteria, it will positively influence the client site’s rankings.
Question #8: Can they share samples of past link building campaigns and rankings?
Again, link providers must be transparent about their work and use every opportunity to show their expertise and success stories. Trustworthy vendors willingly share their past achievements with clients.
Question #9: Who’s creating the strategy of their link building campaigns?
Asking this, you want to know about the main person who will be in charge of the overall link building strategy. Be curious about their experience and past projects and results. Ask why they see this person as a perfect fit for your project.
Question #10: Who’s handling their link building efforts?
This is a complementary question to the previous one. You want to learn more about the vendor’s link building team and understand how many seasoned specialists will be working on your project. A typical setup is:
- Junior Link Builder in charge of link prospecting and website evaluation.
- Middle/Senior Link Builder that decides on and designs the overall link building strategy. This person also controls link quality.
- Project Manager who handles communication between a client and an agency. This person is also responsible for meeting deadlines and customer expectations.
Question #11: Do they create personalized link building campaigns?
Mass spammy email outreach is no longer effective. Nowadays, companies build high-quality links thanks to a relationship-based approach, which requires a great deal of personalization and time. Ask potential vendors what tactic they stick to and what they understand by personalization.
An effective email personalization includes:
- Customized opening lines
- FisrtName and CompanyName variables
- Tailored content ideas for guest posts
- A unique value the other party derives from collaborating
Question #12: How do they monitor and keep track of how links perform?
It’s essential for link builders to keep an eye on the statuses of previously built links. Your future service provider must monitor statutes to all acquired links (do-follow, no-follow, removed, etc.). Link builders typically use Ahrefs or Linkody in doing so.
Also, ask vendors if they include the link health report in monthly reporting. What would they do if a link is removed or becomes no-follow? Would they return the money, build a free link, or try to address the issue?
Question #13: How do they monitor and keep track of results?
You want to partner up with an agency that keeps track of results and provides monthly reporting on:
- A DR of built links
- Direct URLs onto where links are placed
- Link status
- Anchor text
- The number of newly acquired links within a reporting period
- The statuses of previously built links
Some agencies can also include keyword rankings tied to your target pages, so you can see the direct impact of link building.
Question #14: Do they build links through guest posting?
The best answer: We use guest blogging for acquiring links, but this is only one tactic among X that will be applied to your project.
Let’s understand why it’s important to ask.
Guest blogging is a white-hat tactic in nature. It’s as simple as writing articles for niche-relevant blogs and linking back to your website. But there’s a catch: Google frowns on large-scale article marketing or guest posting. Meaning search engine algorithms can discern such links and don’t take them into account (=no influence on rankings).
When guest blogging is the main link building method, Google will recognize it right away.
Ensure your vendor uses at least three tactics to get links for you.
Question #15: Do they handle content creation?
Guest blogging, the Skyscraper technique, listicle editing, and other link building tactics require content creation (articles). If your vendor can provide such services, great! — as they take the burden off your shoulders.
On the flip side, you lose control over the content. If you have brand guidelines, a specific tone of voice, and your own content vision, it’s better to undertake content creation in-house.
Read on how to supercharge your content promotion and increase ROI.
Question #16: How do they evaluate how many links a client needs?
«We can allocate $ 3,000 monthly on link building. How many links can you build?» It’s a common request to link building agencies. And the right answer shouldn’t be based on «Here's our prices, so we can build 7 links with a DR of 40+.»
The best way for an agency (and you) to answer is, «We've analyzed how many links your competitors have to XYZ pages; here are the numbers. Considering their rankings by the targeted keywords, you should be ready to build X links per month.»
Next, an agency should advise the best strategy and the number of links for your budget and set the right expectations in terms of outcomes.
Question #17: Can they help you to design the link building strategy?
When you’re just starting out, you want to pay for expertise. In other words, you might want to find a partner who can help you devise a solid link building strategy and bring in their perspectives.
Frankly speaking, a link builder provider who cares about clients' growth will bring their five cents, like it or not. It’s better to consider their point of view as they work with hundreds of clients, see common mistakes, and understand best practices.
Question #18: What defines a successful project?
When you decide to build links, you actually want to improve your site’s rankings and increase organic traffic. Ultimately, you build links for improved ROI.
A successful project for your link building partner should reflect your goals. No, it doesn’t mean link builders are responsible for keyword rankings, but they want to see an increase in rankings as a result of their work.
So, the definition you’re looking for is something like, «Objectively, we’re accounted for the quality and the number of links without any friction and delay. But we’re only happy if we see how the targeted pages grow in the SERPs.»
Such an answer indicates that the vendor will be engrossed in your project.
Question #19: What is their SEO toolkit?
The efficient link building process heavily relies on structured and simple SOPs (aka guidelines, standard operating procedures). It’s merely impossible to streamline link building efforts not having the right SEO toolkit.
Here are what SEO tools we use to manage link building projects for our clients, to name a few:
- Ahrefs — for link prospecting and website evaluation;
- PitchBox — a CRM for handling all outreach activities and monitoring team performance;
- Linkody — for tracking link statuses that you’ve built so far;
- Apollo and Hunter — for finding contact information of link prospects;
- ScrapeBox — for link prospecting.
Open and candid communication is one of the clear indicators of a great partnership. If you feel other parties are invested in your project right off the bat, it’s a good sign. They’ll also demystify complex SEO stuff and share their advice on your strategy.
These 19 questions share one goal — to establish honest communication from the get-go.
Have any questions or concerns about what kind of link building services would best fit your needs?
Contact our team and get a comprehensive look at your project!