Even if you publish the best content on any given content, Google might not rank it.
In fact, they usually don’t.
It takes a lot more than just content to get Google traffic these days.
So what’s required to win?
Sooner or later, you’re going to need high quality links to your content.
There’s lots of grey-area folks in this space. What’s the right way to do it? Are there any good link building companies out there?
They do exist. They’re just hard to find.
And be extra careful with all this. Not only does Google forbid paying for links, the only legitimate long-term strategy is to build links authentically. The right link building companies will help you do this.
Before going any further, always start with your goals.
Know Your Goals and Desired Outcomes
Take a step back and ask yourself: Why do I need to build links to my website?
If you’re like most business people, you’re looking to hire a link-building agency because you heard links drive higher rankings and traffic to your site.
And it’s because the way links work is pretty straightforward: Other sites trust your site for something, and they link to it. Google uses those signals, or ‘vote of confidence,’ to consider your website an authoritative resource.
Higher ranking over your competitors for similar keywords or search phrases
More qualified traffic
Leads and sales
Brand mentions across the internet
These rewards explain why some businesses spend between $10,000 – $50,000 per month on link-building alone.
Yet, the competition for quality links has gotten tough.
Google cracked down on most of the link strategies. And even if you find something that works today, Google gets better at finding inauthentic links every year.
The last thing you want to build a bunch of links that Google starts ignoring in 12 months.
So, before you spray money on a link-building agency, be sure to choose one with experience building quality backlinks.
To get quality backlinks, there are only a few strategies I know you can get them:
Did you notice something in both examples I just shared?
You need something worth linking to—something of high quality, to give other websites the confidence to send backlinks to your site.
And these link-worthy assets are better if they’re in the form of content.
The better your content, the easier it is to get these authentic links that are perfectly legitimate.
Why does any of this matter?
Why not just hire some agency to build links for you?
There’s a lot of shady stuff in the link building space. If you don’t have a specific idea for the type of links you want, you’re going to get a link spammer to build a ton of bad links, charge you a ton, and then walk away. If you do enough of that, Google can penalize your site. It can take years to reverse that kind of thing.
Since link building has so much risk, you want to be in the weeds with any link building agency that you work with. It’s the only way to ensure that they don’t damage your domain.
Here’s some other things to look for in a great link building agency.
6 Characteristics that Make a Great Link Building Agency
Great companies have attributes that define them in general. Great link-building agencies are no exception.
But what characteristics should one lookout for, which makes a link-building agency great?
There are six significant ones I can bet my money on.
1. Content Services
I prefer to keep content and link building closely aligned.
Simply buying a ton of links to a landing page hasn’t worked in Google for ages.
To get good, authentic links, you need good, authentic content.
Many sites don’t have that content. Even if they’ve produced great content in the past, they might not have content that’s linkable enough. Research, stats, studies, and resources all do really well.
If you don’t have that type of content, you’ll need an agency that can spot that gap and get the content produced for you.
2. Firm Link Building Restrictions
Any good link building agency will be deeply familiar with black hat SEO and the dodgy stuff some people do. And they never venture into these areas. It’s just too risky.
The good agencies know precisely where to draw the line.
They believe in building long-term links that Google values.
So they’ve set firm boundaries with their team and their clients on what they won’t do.
Ask them what links they won’t build. And which strategies they don’t use.
It should be a long list.
3. Monthly Link Reviews
Any legitimate link building agency will give you a list of every link that they’ve built.
This is your opportunity to review those links and make sure they’re 100% legitimate.
If an agency attempts to hide the links or drags their feet at all, work with someone else.
When you start working with a new agency, be sure to check all of the links in their first batch. You want to be completely sure that every link looks good. Anyone can check link quality, you don’t need to be an SEO expert.
Look for links on quality pages. Is it a good blog post? Is it a quality site? Does the link make sense?
If anything looks off to you, it’ll also look bad to Google.
4. Great Expectation Setting
The simple fact of link building is that results are never guaranteed. Google doesn’t give out rankings for participation. If you want that #1 slot, you need to outperform everyone else.
No one wins by doing a defined list of requirements, they win by doing more than their competitors.
If you have tough competition, you could be facing an uphill battle the whole way.
Great agencies know how hard some rankings can be. And they don’t overpromise.
Stay away from anyone that promises #1 rankings. And if an agency promises rankings within firm timelines or makes really specific forecasts, consider these redflags.
How to Work with a Link-Building Agency
What’s it like working with a link-building agency?
It’s easiest to describe what a link building isn’t:
Go to the agency’s website.
Pick a link order like you’re on Amazon
Go to checkout and purchase your links
Wait for your links to arrive
Tons of companies offer that sort of thing.
And it’s almost always doomed to fail.
Working with agencies like that will only get your low-quality links. The agency is pursuing a volume game, they can’t give you the attention that you really need.
Look for a real agency that will help get you authentic links.
That process feels more link a real agency:
1. Get your team aligned
Like working with most agencies, you can set them up to succeed or fail.
No agency can perform miracles on their own.
Agencies get results by working closely with your team and using your internal resources when it makes sense.
It’s usually a good idea to get your team aligned before reaching out to an agency in the first place. Then there won’t be any roadblocks once you get started.
Does your content team have bandwidth to work on link-focused content?
Will your tech team be able to make any site improvements if needed?
Have you done a recent SEO audit to clean up any weak sections of your site?
Does the agency “champion” on your team have enough authority to get changes live when needed?
Once your team is ready to go, reach out to an agency that seems promising.
2. Discovery session
Authentic link building strategies are usually custom tailored to each site and business.
Most link building agencies will want to jump on a call with you, get a sense for your market and goals, and ask tons of questions to make sure they’re a good fit.
Expect to get on a discovery call with them.
And if you have a massive website, there might be several discovery calls.
Once you fill out the agency’s contact form, you can expect to get these done within a week or so.
3. Research & strategic recommendations
The really amazing link building agencies will leverage their expertise to research your company, target audience, competitors, and industry.
They won’t blindly offer to start building links.
After all, winning Google is about outplaying your competitors.
If you don’t know the competition, you’ll have a really hard time beating them.
So great agencies figure out that competition. They get a sense for how much work it’s take to get good rankings in your space.
You should see a bunch of deep research on your site and competitors at this point.
That’s how they come up with a set of strategy recommendations for you.
4. A contract with project deliverables
Assuming their recommendations look good, you can move to the proposal stage.
Expect long-term proposals.
Link building takes forever to work, especially if you’re doing it the legit way.
First you need to get a campaign or content built, then you launch it, then you wait for organic links to come in, then you wait for those links to have an impact.
None of this happens quickly.
And link building agencies know this. They only want to work with folks that are truly onboard for the long-term.
5. Client onboarding
Yes, the top link-building agencies have an onboarding process unique to each client’s project, so expect one.
Going through this process is crucial as it sets the stage for working together.
It also clarifies what you’ll need to do to make the partnership successful. Follow up with your team and ensure the agency is getting what they need.
That’s the only way to give the project any chance of success.
How to Find the Right Link Building Agency for You
A link-building agency that’s right for you is one that understands your needs and how getting backlinks would impact your business and SEO strategy in general.