Hiring a Link Building Team or Expert

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Is Hiring a Link Building Team or Expert In the Cards For Your Web Business?
It's the single most important part of your success with search engine optimization - inbound links. But a link building initiative can also be one of the most time-consuming tasks one can undertake. However, outsourcing this essential process is possible when you ask some very important questions (and the get the answers you want) of the agency or individual who will be responsible for the project.

Let's look at some general principles for hiring a link builder (researching link building vendors, understanding the link building methods used, and what to look for when analyzing link building reports) and address some important questions to ask before you even think about signing a contract.

What else would you look for when hiring a link building expert? Let Website Magazine readers know by sharing your comment below.

You'll notice that price is not a point of consideration (at least in this article). "You get what you pay for" holds true in this case, so consider these guiding principles first before using cost as a deciding factor.

Researching Link Builders & Existing Clients
You should hire no one but the best of the best when it comes to your business. While lists abound of the top search engine optimization companies on the Web, keep in mind that these are just lists. Doing your due diligence on those appearing frequently on such lists as well as lesser known independent vendors will lessen the chances of hiring someone that might "go rogue" and destroy your current or future rankings.

Performing some basic searches on your preferred search engine will reveal the general attitude of past clients and perhaps even shed some reputation insights into how others perceive their past performance. Conducting some rudimentary research will also show any professional organizations they are a part of (SEMPO, for example) or groups they participate in - are they a member of their local Chamber of Commerce or are they active in the Meetup.com scene? Make sure to ask your prospective link builder about any additional usernames they go by online and to what industry forums they belong and contribute.

Understanding the Process & Method

The manner in which individual, professional link builders will go about their business differs greatly. Understanding the methods that each prospective vendor employs will help you (the one deciding who will get the call) to make the right choice.

Directory Approach

As in pretty much everything online there are white hat, gray hat and of course black hat link builders. The methods some vendors employ need to be monitored closely and scrutinized heavily. For example, are directories an important part of the link building process for one vendor? If so, ask in what type directories your site will appear, and about the vendor's strategy for securing links from more exclusive directories like DMOZ.org. The quality of the sites that will "host" your link matter greatly to your success. Not only do you want to be listed in a good neighborhood of other links, you'll also want a directory listing that will be capable of driving traffic to your website.

Direct Request Approach
Another common link building practice is the direct approach, often achieved by the sending/receiving of e-mail. Should the prospective link builder you are considering use e-mail as a means to acquire links, ask to see a sample of what would be sent and an example site that might be targeted. Everyone who owns a website has received a request for an inbound link, but some are more well-defined and conceived (more targeted, more relevant, etc.) and as a result yield better results. While you want someone that can craft a complete sentence, it's also important that they understand the "big picture" of your site and who would be open to bestowing a link upon your site.

Media Relations Approach
Link building through a well conceived and concerted media relations effort is arguably the most effective way to generate inbound links - but it's not easy. Not only will you need something to say and an innovate product/service to go along with it, you'll need someone who understand the media environment and has a big, friendly list of outlets that are open to covering announcements from you. While many will have a difficult time considering public relations professionals as link builders - they are. And one well-placed news story could yield hundreds of links. Choosing a vendor with a deep familiarity with media in a particular industry is very important.

A subset of the media relations link building approach is the creation of custom content. While outsourcing content creation was addressed in detail in a recent article by Website Magazine's SEO columnist Dante Monteverde, understand that the most important aspect of using content to build links (through guest blogs or article marketing) is that the writer is well-versed in your industry and has a firm grasp of your objectives.

The definition of "media" has evolved. Social media is another outlet where building links is a benefit of full participation. Knowing that your prospective link builder has a good reputation and a large and active network will provide you with more confidence that they are the right vendor for you. Of course, they will be able to use their network for the benefit of your link building campaign.

Analyzing Reports and Measuring Success

Since you're paying for a service when you hire a link builder, do ask to review a sample link building report. These reports should indicate who was contacted or attribute certain acquired links to a specific task (a press release for example). For those vendors that build links from directories, you'll want to see a date of submission, first date of appearance and whether the link was kept after a certain amount of time.

While these are but a few questions to ask a prospective link builder, they are arguably very important ones. When hiring a link builder, make sure the vendor you are considering understands your business model and its objectives, is sensitive to the messaging policies of your organization and is capable of creative thought to the degree that you don't need to provide daily guidance on whether certain links would be good to have. Links are important to how you rank on search results pages, so choose wisely.