Considering that majority of enterprises today have limited SEO skills in-house, it’s understandable why most opt to outsource all or part of their SEO planning and execution.
These companies often let their agency partners have full reins on their link building efforts due to the fact that this SEO tactic is regarded as the most difficult to execute.
If your company is looking to hire an SEO or link building agency, or you’re already partnering with one, you need to be cautious.
Outsourcing your SEO needs is a good solution, especially when you don’t have the in-house expertise to implement it. However, it can also cause a major headache when you tie up with the wrong agency.
So, how do you know whether you’re with the right agency?
This post will guide you on how to evaluate a link building agency. You’ll also find out what questions and elements you need to consider when looking for the right agency, what red flags to look for, and how you and your agency should deal with problems that might arise.
What You Need to Do Before Hiring a Link Building Agency
Before anything else, identify what your goals are and why you want to gain links in the first place. You should be aware of what you want to accomplish and why you need to achieve it.
- Why do I need links?
- What’s the process of getting links?
- Does my company have the expertise to do this?
Answering these questions can help you determine whether you really need to hire a link building agency, manage your expectations, and keep your future partnership on the right track.
Now that you know why you need to get links for your website, looking for a link building agency is up next. Finding the right one can be difficult in a crowd of vendors, agencies, and service providers that all offer seemingly enticing solutions for your needs.
To find the right fit, the first thing you need is to understand that each agency varies on how they build links, what strategies and tactics they implement, and which pages they target.
The following are the elements you should consider when vetting a link building agency:
Is this agency going to be honest with you? If what they are saying sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.
If you’re talking to an agency and they are offering you thousands of links, loads of traffic, and a big boost in rankings in a short amount of time, then they’re probably lying. In instances like this, you should probe and ask more questions.
A good link building agency will be truthful in assessing your goals and offering you real solutions to your pain points.
You want an agency that is willing to show you what they are doing and how they do it. You’ll know there’s something wrong if your agency is leaving you in the dark regarding their process or if they are making excuses when you want to see results.
When you’re investigating, ask the agency:
- Do you have a clear link building process?
- Are you able to show your tactics and targets?
- Can you show me the results you’re producing?
- Will we know what you’re doing?
There’s nothing more frustrating than working with an agency that is unavailable. Prior to closing the deal, they’ll call you every day, make themselves available and be with you every step of the way – but when the contract is signed they become unresponsive and difficult to reach.
Before hiring a link building agency, make sure to inquire about their availability. You should know how available they will be if you have questions and who you can talk to when you have concerns.
Does the Agency’s Message Reflect Your Values as a Company?
It’s best to partner with an agency whose message is aligned to the values you have as an organization. Check out their website and you’ll learn a lot what the agency’s proposition is.
Ask the Right Questions
Knowing what questions to ask will help you identify the right link building partner. Below is a great list of questions to ask:
- What is your experience in the SEO/link building industry?
- What tactics do you use to secure links?
- Who dictates strategy during a campaign?
- Which tactics will work best for my situation? Why?
- Who will be doing the actual work to secure links for my project?
- What is your process for outreach?
- What tools do you use to help you secure links?
- How do you monitor and report results?
- When should I expect to see results from my project?
- How do your tactics align with Google’s webmaster guidelines?
- How will you represent my brand online?
- How do you find link opportunities?
- How do you evaluate potential linking sites?
- How do you define a successful project?
What You Need to Do Once You’ve Partnered with an Agency
Even when you’ve chosen the best agency and signed the contract, your active involvement shouldn’t end there. Remember that regular and timely communication between both parties is a must.
How your agency communicates the work that they’re doing is also important. In their accomplishment reports, you may want to look at the following things:
- Are the results clear to both you and your agency?
- Do they speak to those goals?
- Do their reports reflect those goals?
- Are they even meeting the goals?
In the course of your partnership, you should watch out for red flags so you can prevent agency disasters before they can ever begin. When you encounter any of the following things with your agency, it’s time to have a conversation with them.
- Missed meetings.
- Will not show you the work.
- Lack of communication.
- Constant excuses.
- Not doing what they said they will.
- Focus only on one metric.
Dealing with Problems
No agency is perfect. Knowing how to tackle common partnership challenges will help you and your agency achieve long-term success.
The key is to solve and work through the problems. Just because there are red flags doesn’t mean that there are no solutions.
Here are things to keep in mind when you come across red flags:
Assume the Best
When you feel like there are problems with your agency, you can just start off by assuming the best. Try to give them the benefit of the doubt. Assume that they didn’t mean to mess up the report or that the mistake they made was unintentional.
Having this disposition will help you talk through things with your link building agency in a healthy manner.
Pick up the Phone
If you’re upset with something your agency did or did not do, avoid sending an email. Instead, pick up the phone and call. You’ll be able to resolve issues better when you talk to them.
Is This a Tension to Manage or a Problem to Solve?
Determine whether the issue at hand is a tension that needs to be managed or a problem that should be solved then work it out accordingly. A good link building agency should always be willing to manage any tension and solve problems.
The Right Link Building Agency Can Help You Achieve Your SEO Goals
There will always be hurdles to overcome in any partnership. Now that you know what kinds of problems to look out for and how you can work together to overcome them, you will be able to achieve long-term success for you and your agency partner.
Link building is challenging. It takes time. In order to get the best possible results, you need to manage your expectations, communicate with your agency partner, and be patient in dealing with issues.
You Might Be Working with a Bad Link Building Company If… [Webinar]
This post is based on a sponsored SEJThinkTank webinar presented by Joe Oliver, Director of Marketing at Page One Power.
Watch the video recap of the webinar presentation and Q&A below.
Here’s the SlideShare of the presentation as well.
Join Us for Our Next Webinar!
Register now for the next sponsored Search Engine Journal webinar. Paxton Gray, CEO at 97th Floor, will discuss the keys to building a productive relationship with your marketing agency, as well as some of the warning signs to look out for when hiring one.