As an agency owner, chances are that at some stage you've become fatigued with clients asking what you actually do for their SEO fee. I know I have.
One school of thought would be to dismiss these clients as more hassle than they're worth. But I take the more empathetic view and try to understand why clients keep asking me this.
Unfortunately for SEO professionals, we're in a very technical industry and the jargon we use baffles clients. We try to break projects down into simple business metrics that the client understands, such as keyword rankings, website traffic, leads and revenue.
While these are valuable reporting metrics, you'll still have clients that want to know more.
What are you doing to increase rankings and traffic? What do you actually do for your fee?
For these clients, we bring them into our process a more. We explain our strategies to build the authority of their websites, including manual outreach for link building.
Clients easily put some kind of measure on our outreach. Building links becomes a quantifiable benchmark that they can expect each month.
Outreach and link building is a very clear task that clients understand. Contacting directories, sharing blog content, writing guest posts... these are the high-impact activities that take time and clients quantify as work warranting the SEO fee.
A defining part of the service we provide clients is making marketing campaigns as transparent as possible. Helping clients understand how we're increasing their rankings is a part of this transparency.
That's why we were absolutely delighted when AgencyAnalytics launched the backlink manager tool.
In this article, I will explain to your our step-by-step link building process and how we make link building more transparent for our clients.
Step 1 - Identifying Your Link Targets
The first step of any successful link building campaign is to build a solid list of link targets.
We use quite a few methods for finding targets based on the type of links we're trying to attract. Here I'm going to focus on one of our core processes for link building: identifying competitor links.
One of the simplest ways to identify potential links is to run a backlink analysis on a competitor in your industry. Here I have briefly outlined our strategy and some key advice for building your link target list.
A. Identifying Competitors
When picking competitors to analyse, focus on competitors that are ranking for high search volume keywords that you'd like to rank for -- they'll have more interesting link profiles to look at.
If working with local companies, I have found it helpful to analyse the link profile for both local competitors and competitors in the same industry, but in a different market.
This gives you a more robust list of link opportunities than analysing local competitors alone. Often a competitor in a different city has identified great link opportunities that your local competitors haven't targetted yet. So don't limit yourself to your direct competitors!
To find competitors ranking for different locations, update your search settings to a different location to see who ranks, or enter multiple locations in AgencyAnalytics' rank tracker.
I'll walk through identifying competitors with AgencyAnalytics here:
(In this example, it's an Atlanta business that is ranking. The company isn't ranking in the other locations.)
Once I click the targeted keyword, I can analyse the SERP for that location:
I export the SERP, including the data for each result, for each location I am researching into Excel. Now I have an overview of high-quality websites in my client's industry to begin researching their backlink profiles.
B. Building a Link Opportunity List
At this point, I start my competitive research. For identifying and analysing links, we primarily use Ahrefs.
I start with the link intersect tool to show great link opportunities. Then to view links from a specific competitor, I navigate to their domain explorer.
Next, I will export a list of competitor backlinks and work my way through it to surface opportunities that are achievable and worth pursuing.
As you know, not all links are equal. I filter by the UR & DR and remove any low quality links from the list. Outreach takes time - from finding the contact information to sending the email. I only want to spend time focusing on top opportunities, so filtering out the noise is an essential step.
Step Two - Outreach
Link building campaigns are as much about organization and relationship management, as they are about SEO.
Once you have identified your target links, you will need to find contact information and begin outreach.
For the links that are achievable, find the following about the website owner or content manager:
Hunter.io is my favorite tool for identifying email addresses of websites in bulk. Or, use Hunter.io's chrome extension if you are inspecting each website manually.
When I am on the website, I will also take this opportunity to categorize the website. Is this a directory, blog, review site, etc.? Having a clear organization on type of links will help us prioritize the links we are targeting and filter for opportunities that we may use in the future.
Outreach is a topic in itself. However, here are my top points about outreach that I've found to work better than some of the stuff you'll read online:
Keep pitches short and simple -- I'm talking 1-2 sentences maximum.
Don't go overboard with the flattery, it's cheesy and adds text to your emails for the sake of it
Have something interesting to say: don't just ask if they accept guest posts -- give them an idea of the topic you're thinking of writing about
Remember your ABCs (Always Be Closing) -- a tip that translates from sales, make sure you're asking the right closing questions in every email
Create a template message that works for you and your agency, and then fill in the relevant information to make it personal. Here is a sample of a message we send:
Brian Dean of Backlinko wrote that when doing his manual outreach he has had about an 11% success rate for getting his link on a targeted post. This is a good benchmark to aim for, although 11% may be quite high depending on your industry and content quality.
However, following-up will boost your response rate too. For following-up, Boomerang is an easy Gmail extensions that will send an email back to your inbox after a certain time period if no one responds. When you send your request, set an alert on the email to follow-up. It will help to make sure no opportunity slips through the cracks!
The key is creating a process that you can scale. Nail down your process for finding contact information, an outreach template, and following-up, so you can scale the process for every new client.
For further reading, see Point Blank SEO's article about guest posting - it's worth the read!
Step Three - Monitoring & Reporting
This is where AgencyAnalytics comes in to make you look like a superhero!
As soon as we reach out to a potential link, we add that link to the backlink manager tool under "Unpublished Links".
This way you can quantify your outreach efforts for clients.
Once the new links are published, move the links from "Unpublished" to "Published" so that your clients can see how great you are.
You will also see the Page and Domain authority within the "Published" section to show the high-quality links you are building.
Now save yourself some time and automate your SEO reports. We add report sections in our AgencyAnalytics reports to show clients which sites we've reached out to along with the links that have been published and some details about their domain authority.
The nice thing for you, as a marketer, is that you can then see how many websites you need to reach out to generate X number of good quality links.
Within the same report, you can monitor traffic growth and the other business metrics we discussed earlier.
Being transparent with clients and measuring our results has been a key factor in winning new clients and growing our agency. For further reading, we wrote an article about measuring digital marketing performance.
We used the tactics for one of our clients last month to generate interest for a data protection infographic we created which ended up generating 40 new referring domains, moving them into the top spots for a number of their keywords and spiking traffic as you'd expect.
Switching to AgencyAnalytics saved us hundreds of man-hours per month and means that we can focus on the implementation of marketing strategies for clients instead of reporting. We used to carry out reporting at each level (rankings, traffic, what we'd done for the client and links we'd attempted to acquire) manually, which took too long considering the number of clients we work with on a monthly basis.
As well as this, offering clients an insight into the actual work we're doing for them has led to an increase of 50% in terms of client recommendations. We were recently thanked from what has become our largest client who had grown tired of their existing agency who tried to hide what they were actually doing from them.
We've always found having a transparent approach is best and client's are rarely paying for your time only, they're usually paying for your expertise and the results this brings.
Hopefully with a bit of creativity from your side, you can embed this into most of your link building processes and you'll benefit from having better relationships with your clients as a result.
About the Author
Seb Dean owns Imaginaire Digital, a web design and digital marketing agency based in Nottingham, UK.