The link graph has always been a core part of Google’s search ranking algorithm. Even though the popularity of its importance led to the growth of web spam, Google still keeps on finding ways to make it more difficult to manipulate search rankings through unnatural linking behaviors.
Penguin updates and the unnatural link manual penalties just prove how important links are (and they’ll probably remain very vital in the future), as it is somehow addressing businesses to finally move on from the old ways of gaming search.
Tip: Don’t build links to rank for a keyword. Build links to improve domain authority and so as to rank for all your targeted keywords.
— Jason Acidre (@jasonacidre) November 20, 2013
Link development is still a valuable process in marketing a website, and knowing how to manage your link building campaigns effectively is still an essential skillset.
In starting a new campaign, it’s best to first understand why do you need links or link building. To give you a few reasons why it’s needed on a holistic digital marketing campaign:
- To mainly improve the site’s domain authority (DA) and the domain’s ranking ability. As higher a domain authority may help the site gain better search visibility for all the keywords (head terms and long-tails) it is targeting.
- To improve referred visitors to the website – through the links acquired from other authority websites in your industry (for marketing and content discovery).
- To improve site indexation, as links can serve as signals that will help crawlers find and index new pages and the continuous changes implemented on the site.
Once you know why you’ll be doing link building, it’ll be much easier for you to establish your campaign’s goals. For instance, to successfully get all the 3 areas mentioned above, you’ll need to:
- Get highly visible links from high DA sites in your industry – to be able to absorb domain authority as well as relevant traffic back to your website.
- Be consistent with progressive link acquisition, based on your primary metrics (authority and relevance).
Your goals will help you determine the actions you need to take. This stage will give you a lot of insights, particularly with what methods to focus on in order to meet your campaign’s objectives.
Further reading: 10 types of links that really matter and how to get them
Minimum Viable Service
This is very similar to the business concept that has been popularized by Eric Ries (minimum viable product), wherein you provide different sets of tasks in the initial stage of the campaign that will not require extensive knowledge about your clients’ product/service/company for you to be able to deliver substantial output on your campaign’s first month.
It will mostly be comprised by tasks that don’t need a lot of effort, but can still offer enormous results. A few samples of activities that you can easily provide as a minimum viable service are (while you’re preparing for the high-value tactics):
- Penalty diagnosis
- Content asset inventory
- Technical SEO audit and recommendations (you can check out Annie Cushing’s audit checklist)
- Easy to acquire links (such as profile pages, web/niche directories, social profiles, etc…).
Including this business strategy in your consulting service’s structure can strongly improve how you head start and handle campaigns as whole, given that these actions can also help you and your clients draw actionable ideas and have a better grasp of the campaign’s path.
Strategy Development and Prioritization
You can then build a strategy or list of actions to implement based on your campaign’s goals and the findings from your initial activities (research phase).
Start by asking yourself what methods you can use to reach your goals.
- What types of links do we need to improve our DA and click-through traffic?
- How do we get them? Can we get them fast?
- Can we expect immediate results (link acquisition, traffic, rankings, revenue, etc…)?
There are so many tactics to choose from, and you can start here.
Breakdown your to-do list based on each method’s level of priorities and difficulty. Start with the ones you know are important, high-value, but not that time consuming.
This will help you create a better and very actionable timeline for your campaign, which is very crucial as you proceed.
Document all the processes that you’ll implement in your link building campaign, for this will help you scale your staff’s training process (and your client can also use this to train their in-house staff).
In creating your documentation, make it as comprehensive (and comprehensible) as it can, like including all the steps they’ll need to do for each listed tactic, and including screenshots if necessary.
What this documentation will normally include are:
- Step by step guide for all the tactics your campaign has to execute.
- Sample email templates for different types of outreach methods.
- Tips on improving or making each technique more efficient.
Task Delegation and Communication
Use project management tools to track everything that’s happening in your campaign. This can most certainly help in organizing your team members’ tasks, gaining insights with your campaign’s current state, or to determine if it’s on the right track and what areas are lacking.
It’s also a good way to collaborate with your clients, and to notify them as well with what’s going on in real-time. We use Trello internally.
Aside from having a better outlook of your campaign, this stage should also help you track your team’s performance, as well as initiative. And it’s imperative to discuss with your team the tasks that need more urgency and consistency.
Reports – the most critical part of a campaign and perhaps one of the main products of any SEO provider. Paddy Moogan shared a really good template for link building reports on his book (The Link Building Book), and I highly suggest checking that one out.
Aspects of a good link building report would usually include:
- Executive summary – which briefly explains and highlights all the notable areas for the month of the campaign.
- Improvements – the things that have improved, which could be increase in organic traffic, referred traffic (through the links you’ve acquired), conversions driven by links (via assisted conversions on GA), increase in domain authority, and there could be a lot more.
- Actions taken – a detailed report of all the tasks you’ve implemented for the entire month, which could also include the list of links successfully acquired, published content, as well as audit findings and recommendations.
- Action plans for the succeeding month – including your campaign’s next steps is definitely a good way to impress your clients, as the more you get to learn and understand their business/industry, the more you can suggest result-oriented approaches to your link building.
Continuous Opportunity Discovery
Always be on the lookout for things that will not just improve your link building campaign, but also for opportunities that can help your client take their business to the next level.
This may come in the form of coming up with content assets that will allow them get more links, rankings, traffic, leads/conversions, or it could also be realizing partnerships that may able to help their product development, branding or even just their link building.