We all want links. You want them, and your clients definitely want them. They make our websites more visible by helping them climb up the SERPS, and ideally, send qualified traffic. Unfortunately, link building is hard as hell. There are no two ways about.
But alas, we have to have them, our livelihood depends on it. So how do we build a system that consistently generates links at a cost-effective rate? If you don’t plan on building a process in-house, your answer will likely be to find a white label provider.
Why You’re Probably White Labeling in the First Place
As said white label provider, our company executes multiple campaigns every month under this type of arrangement. From talking to our white label clients-who are usually other agencies-they engage us primarily because it’s just tough to build a system that earns unique, high quality, traffic-driving links every month.
Lack of Ranking Movement
One of our most recent clients came to us after performing amazing site optimization but didn’t have a link building plan (or manpower). As good as the on-page optimization was, without both sides of the equation it was going to be impossible to rank in their hyper-competitive niche.
There are a great many talented SEO and digital marketing agencies out there, but that doesn’t mean link building is the main focus of their expertise (in fact, most of the time it’s not). And that’s ok, no one can be an expert in every aspect of online marketing.
Finding the Right Partner
Obviously, this part is critical. Earning the right links can literally make or break a website, so if you aren’t building them yourself, it’s incredibly important that you partner with someone who is not just competent, but ethical. Below are some questions that you should be asking your potential vendors when interviewing them:
- Who builds your links on your team, is it in-house or outsourced?
Having an in-house team ensures that there is direct oversight on the links built and constant communication between the team members themselves. Companies that primarily use outsourced labor generally have lackluster quality, which can create problems that can’t be fixed retroactively.
- How do you measure the value of a link?
This question should shine some light on how they quantify the value of the links that they will be building for you. Are they just wanting to crank out low-quality links, or do they take time to vet their prospects and prioritize caring negotiations on your behalf?
- What is your link placement rate?
A good link building vendor will know this number, a great link building vendor will know it for each campaign they execute. This is essentially a measurement of how often they get links placed per 100 outreach emails sent. Depending on the tactic, the average here should be around 5%.
- What kind of tactics do you use for building links?
This should be an easy one for your prospective vendor (I’ve written more on link building tactics here for more context). Answers will likely include guest posting, broken link building, digital PR, resource page link building, image link building, or even building online tools like this one to earn links. Be wary if they’re answers include directories, social bookmarking, article marketing, etc.
- What are your prices for link building?
This number can vary but should be anywhere between $250 – $600 per link (or linking domain). However, your prospective vendor may not give you a number, but if they give you the impression that you can get the moon and stars for $300/month, you should have a pretty good hint that they’re going to be delivering junk. There is good information online about what certain arrangements costs, like monthly retainers, hourly, packages, and even comparisons.
Notice how there aren’t any real questions about specific metrics on that list. This is because metrics don’t matter NEAR as much as relevance. In fact, metrics don’t really matter at all. The search engines don’t care about what your Domain Authority or Domain Rating is, they care about what’s most relevant to their user. It’s important that you, the agency, don’t get hung up on metrics either. Yes, hold your link building vendor to a high standard, but better indicators would be things like inbound traffic from the links they build and even ranking increases.
Once they have cleared the necessary questions to your satisfaction, give them a test project first. This helps to get a feel for the types of links they can build, as well as what a long-term working relationship would look like.
Working Together, Not Separately
Anytime we’re on the white labeling side of things with an agency, we make it very clear that this isn’t a transactional approach. Instead, it’s a labor of love that involves both parties. For instance, if we’re reaching out to our journalist contacts about including the agency’s client in an upcoming article, the agency needs to be prepared to get a quote from their client. These requests are always time sensitive, so it’s important that the agency gets that information from their client asap so we can send it over to our contact. These can very often be the most valuable links of all, so having the mindset of working together instead of separate, is crucial.
This can also have logistical challenges as well. One example of this is getting the necessary email permissions. Since most outreach is done via email, it’s important to have a domain-specific email for the campaign. Not having a domain-specific email significantly reduces the reply rate, and directly impacts the overall performance of the campaign. As an agency, it can be tricky for you to get this for your link building vendor if it’s a pure while label situation, but can usually still be done.
Measuring in the Results in the Long Term
After figuring out the logistics of a positive working relationship with your vendor, as well as having them complete a successful test case, it’s important that you measure the effectiveness of the work they’re doing for your agency. How you do so depends on you and the end client, but here are some ways that we have been measured in the past:
- Ranking movement
- The relevance of linking domain/content
- Referral traffic from links built
- Revenue from links built
- Metrics like DA, DR (although I try to discourage this, sometimes it’s unavoidable)
All in all, finding a quality white label solution for your digital marketing campaigns can be a worthwhile partnership for all parties involved if done correctly. Above all, make sure that, as the agency hiring the vendor, you’re always focused on receiving quality, relevant links.