Choosing a Quality Link Builder

So you’ve got a quality website, a good monetization strategy and superb, constantly updated content. Google sees you, but they don’t see you as nearly relevant enough to rank as high as you’d like in the rankings. Quite simply, Google is telling you that you need to link build.

If you’re like many business owners, you don’t have the time to do research on how to link build, or manually do it yourself. You don’t have a SEO in-house, and even if you do, he’s too busy to spend the sufficient time needed to get your URL air-dropped all over the internet.

You need to hire a link builder, whether in the form of a SEO freelancer or a specific company you’ve targeted. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as throwing a dart at a dartboard, calling your mom, or tying your shoes. There are plenty of mediocre link builders out there who are professing the wrong things or not saying enough of the right ones.

Filtering through the muck and picking the right person, or company, for you, can be the difference between a hugely successful, million-dollar website and a blip on the internet radar. There are a few things to look for and do in your auditing process that will help you identify and differentiate between those who read articles on link building, and those who are link building professionals.

1)    Learn the SEO basics. The first step for SEO evaluator, before hiring an SEO professional, is to learn the basics of the craft itself. SEOMoz’s Beginners Guide to SEO and Aaron Wall’s SEOBook are industry standards for learning the basics of SEO. If you don’t have the basic knowledge to properly evaluate SEO hires, you will inevitably hire sub-par staff that are better at persuasion than the actual SEO fundamentals.

2)    Build a list. Come up with criteria you want in a link builder, do some research and find 3-10 potentials that you can compare and contrast, depending on your website, the industry you’re in, and the amount you’re willing to spend.

3)    Ask for a preliminary SEO audit. Requesting a basic audit of your website is a standard procedure that will immediately help you filter through a good percentage of your potential employees. Look for “red flags”, like outdated recommendations (i.e., recommending a large amount of “nofollow” links, a tactic that is now outdated), and bad keyword research.

If you know your business, you should have a good idea of which words convert and which don’t. When potential hires recommended building for keywords that will either be 1- impossible to rank for or 2- never make you a dime, you know he lacks the wherewithal to be a quality link builder.

An example of this would be trying to rank a local apartment company for “how to choose an apartment”. This keyword has no local relevancy, and little commercial intent. As stupid as this might sound, I’ve seen something equivalent, to worse, be recommended as a potential term to link build for.

4)    Get their past link building credentials. Some link builders are reluctant to fully out their past profile, and they often shouldn’t, for the sake of client protection. However, most will be able to cite one or two profiles, sometimes their own, that they did quality work for. Ask about what type of links they got, how they decided on them, their link evaluation process, and the time it takes them to build a certain quantity of quality links. Most importantly, see how the keywords they link built for rank, but be careful when evaluating their performance.

Ranking first for “Downtown San Jose luxury apartments” isn’t necessarily too impressive. Similarly, ranking fifteenth for “sports” isn’t too bad either. Knowing the fundamentals of SEO detailed in step one is vital for properly evaluating this part of the process.

5)    See through the fluff. Many link builders will cite some brilliant link building tactic that garnered them 50 links once, or the time they submitted a story to Digg that got their website 20,000 hits. However, a one-time success really doesn’t matter.  Many of these social media tactics are increasingly difficult to employ effectively, and will never work for your website. Don’t fall for the grandiose stories of one or two-time successes many link builders will tell you. Instead, listen for the fundamentals and metrics like rankings and their link building process that will truly get you rank. Believe it or not, many link builders are capable of getting you top three rankings without ever making you a cool widget for your website or getting you on the front page of Digg.

6)    Make a choice. Hopefully you have enough hard-data to do a comparative analysis of your potential hires. Depending on the size of the link building operation, putting in a large amount of time in to make the right choice can never be a bad decision. If you don’t feel comfortable with any of the potential hires you’ve evaluated, don’t be afraid to re-assess and go out and find more people that are willing and able to do the job right.

Additional Resources for Hiring a Link Builder:

Link Building Evaluation Guide

Choosing the Right SEO Vendor

Portrait of a Quality Link Builder

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