Just like a backlink, not all link building services are made equally
As someone who has come from an agency background as a buyer of backlinks and also as someone who sells link building services, I’m absolutely no stranger to how these services work, and what ‘good’ looks like.
Because I’ve been in the SEO game for a while I also know what ‘bad’ looks like when it comes to link building service providers, and believe me, there are some absolutely shocking ones out there.
Before I get into the list of recommended providers, let’s outline what you should be looking for in actually choosing a service that you can trust.
What to look for in a link building service
Bespoke outreach & no recycling of a link list
This is a big one for me, as some of the service I’ve used very clearly just had a set list that they would work through whenever they took a new client on.
One of them even just used the same sites as the start of a new order, so it was obvious they weren’t even randomising the list of sites, or even pretending that they were doing bespoke outreach… I just checked the first batch of links from my initial site order, and they were exactly the same for the second site. Talk about a clear footprint for search engines…
I’m not naive to the fact that service providers will no doubt have their preferred bloggers or publishers based on certain niches, which if they’ve cultivated genuine relationships with these people and they’re thoroughly vetted, is nowhere near as bad as just using the same handful of sites over and over again.
But, the problem with working on a list of a segment of favourite sites is that not only can they grow stale and leave a footprint, but these sites placing the links are naturally going to leave more and more of an external link gap over time. What I mean by this is, if you’re going to the same sites daily to place links, search engines are going to suss that these sites are just link farms. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll wend up with a manual penalty if you get a link on these sites, just that the overall value of the link is much less than on a site that doesn’t say ‘yes’ to any link request that comes their way, or has a partnership with a link building service provider to publish every guest post the send them.
Opt for a provider that does bespoke outreach each time based on the order. Yes, it will likely take longer for your link to go live, but you can rest assured your site is not just getting a link from the same old batch of sites they use for every other person who places an order.
Avoidance of PBN’s and expired domains
Do private blog networks work? Yes, they do. And, if one is done really well, is there a way for most website owners to know? Well, if it’s a very small network then naturally it might be harder to spot. And you could always argue that a legitimate blogger could have multiple sites, so technically isn’t that a PBN?
Anyway, what I mean here is that you don’t want to choose a link building service who opt for very obvious PBN sites. This could be aspects such as an expired domain that has been reinstated for the purpose of selling links, or simply a site that has multiple IP’s on its server that all internally link to each other and have a very obvious footprint.
Either way, site owners for poor PBN’s usually aren’t bothered about how long they last, or who they link to. It’s all about quick money for them, so don’t get caught up with falling for them as it’s just not worth the risk when these sites inevitably get whacked by Google in the future.
Minimum traffic requirements and set metrics
Most link building services already do this anyway, and will price based on domain rating or estimated traffic from an external analysis tool.
The thing you want to avoid is if they don’t tell you what the DR i and traffic is inline with your order, especially if you can’t check for yourself.
For example, I always monitor traffic and DR for every site I outreach to, and if they change below the required minimum during the order process, I will always replace. This shouldn’t be something you should have to worry about, it’s on the service provider to check and replace inline with your order requirements and minimums.
They don’t get backlinks from anyone who will sell a link to whoever lands in their inbox
This ties in with the PBN section, but some seemingly legitimate bloggers are just as guilt of this.
For example, bloggers will often share the email of someone looking for guest posts with a group of bloggers on Facebook, and you can then get bombarded by publishers who will give you a link for a fee.
What’s worrying is that they often won’t ask about your site first, or state that they have requirements for a guest post… Again, it’s all about the money for them. And just like the PBN sites, you have to wonder about:
- Whether they’re already on the radar of search engines, or how long it’s going to take their site to suffer if they’re just selling links to anyone
- If they’re emailing you, who else are they emailing? What quality guidelines and safeguards do they have, if any?
- Their outbound to inbound link ratio. If they’re selling links to anyone, then that’s a lot of potential external links going out to potentially low-quality sites each day. Do you really want a link from a site like that?
I’m not saying that you should never buy a backlink. Many industry websites charge a publishing fee and it’s all perfectly above board. What I’m stressing is the point that you can guarantee these types of sites are selling links to anyone, and it’s only going to damage their authority (and by virtue of the links, yours too) over time.
They are as transparent as possible
This is the main one that you shouldn’t compromise on. You want to work with a service provider who lets you pre-approve links and content that get sent to publishers. If it’s a link insertion, then you should again be able to approve the site beforehand.
The only time it tends to get tricky is with a HARO link building service, where pre-approval can potentially lead to a delay and missed opportnity due to journalist turnaround times. But they should at least log all replies in a spreadsheet for you to see.
The SEO industry in general is plagued with smoke and mirror agencies and providers who purposely keep their processes under lock and key, and it only serves to cover them, rather than give you the involvement that you deserve for activities relating to your website. And link building is no different. Transparency should be a service standard, not something you should have to struggle to get!
An example of a link building service provider is my agency, Complete White Label
Originally created as a service just for other SEO agencies who wanted to outsource specific aspects of their campaigns, Complete White Label has grown to become a provider of bespoke link building services for businesses of all kinds, not just agencies in a white label capacity.
Link building services are split between two main categories:
Blogger Outreach / Guest Posts
- Pre-approval on all orders, regardless of Ahrefs DR
- This includes pre-approval of the backlinks, and of the content sent to the sites
- Bespoke outreach for each order based on a broad competitor analysis as well as manual reviews e.g. analysing the inbound links of competitors, looking at what their referring sites rank for in terms of traffic driving keywords, then analysing the sites that also dominate the SERP but may not link to competitors
- Traffic minimums based on DR
- Batch of 5 orders
- Only backlinks which are follow with an Ahrefs DR50+ are ‘counted’. This means that a DR90+ press link that is nofollow would be classed as a free backlink
- Initial pre-approval offered on responses
- Use of HARO and its alternatives
- All replies logged in a shared spreadsheet for full transparency
Our link building offer is something I’m incredibly proud of, and between our blogger outreach and HARO link building services, is something that we continually evolve to ensure that we stay ahead of the curve.
Want to get a discount to try us out? Message me to let me know whether you have a specific approach in mind and I will send you over a custom discount code, or if you don’t know where to start I’d be happy to point you in the right direction.
Questions to ask a potential link building service provider
Do you report on the links you build for me each month?
I wouldn’t say you need to ask for a monthly report, as a link building agency or service is just looking after one aspect of your SEO strategy. However, you should expect a log of the links provided for your order at the very least.
Can you show me an example link building campaign you’ve worked on?
A lot of services are under NDA due to working in a white label capacity, but there will no doubt be one or two sites they can show you. They will also no doubt be link building for their own site, so that’s as good a case study as any to showcase!
Do you always pay for backlinks?
You don’t want to hear a resounding ‘yes’ here. We have to face facts that certain types of link building approaches will require a budget e.g. working with bloggers and industry publishers, many of which will charge a fee for the publishing of the content itself. Okay, fine. But if it’s a resounding ‘yes’ to buying any and all backlinks, then you might want to steer clear…
Is there a certain industry that you excel in building links for?
Link building services can often be particular to a certain industry or sector due to the relationships that the service owners have built over the years.
Things link indirect link exchanges and blogger collaborations are rife in all industries, so if you can partner with a service that already has an upper hand in your industry then that’s a win-win for both parties.
There you have it. From someone who has worked with link building services and founded my own (and continue to provide link building services for both commercial and white label clients), those are the aspects I’d look at for judging the trustworthiness of any link building operation that you might get involved with.
Ask your questions, don’t take a lack of transparency as an option, and find a provider that really works for you out of the box.