It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it.

Most people in the industry know it’s time consuming, and often tedious, but you can’t argue with the results you get from a good link building campaign.

There are so many methods, that it’s difficult to teach, but we’ve put together a link building process flow here:

Link Building Process

It’s a bit like a ‘Choose your own adventure‘, so print it out for each client or website, and mark off the paths you’ve travelled. Repeat paths that are keyword specific for each of your keywords or phrases.

(Right click and rotate to see it the right way round).

  • Very useful, just printed it off for the office wall. Thanks very much.

  • Thanks for this – very useful.

  • No probs, glad you both found it useful!

  • Ben

    Interesting diagram. I would have included searching for keyword in the keyword research bit. Imagine working out your keyword list, writing your content, buying your links and finding out later down the line that all the top 5 results are solid authority sites. I’d be devastated.

    I’d probably have an arrow from submit link request to buy links. I don’t understand why the arrow points from set up email address to buy links. Its makes more sense to ask for a free link then offer to buy one later if its a no.

    Have you any tips for buying and selling links? I find pricing the hardest. How much in dollars is a link worth? Its like asking how long is a piece of string.

  • Thanks Ben, all good points.

    The setting up of an email address is required for both buying and requesting free links – we set these dedicated email addresses up purely for link building because of the immense quantity of spam received (particularly from free link requests).

    When doing keyword research you definitely need an eye for keywords and phrases that you can feasibly rank for. Perhaps this does warrant a step in its own right…
    Love the feedback Ben, thanks for taking the time to review.

    In regards to buying links (can’t comment on the selling aspect I’m afraid), I would suggest asking the company you’re considering using for a link building service for examples of their work and their success – then checking the search rankings for their chosen terms, check the backlinks for quantity, but perhaps more importantly quality and relevance.

    Are the links on relevant sites/pages?
    Are they from sites with a high page rank?
    Are these sites updated regularly?
    Do they scrape content or have spammy content?
    Evaluate the number of other links on their pages – a site with too many links will not be as valuable to you.

    Pricing really is a piece of string issue, and if something looks very cheap there may be a reason for it!

    Hope this helps,

  • Ben
    Buying links is a testy one. We try very much to be proper and above board. Google doesn’t want you to buy links. So we don’t. Then you see sites ranking dominantly with a huge amount of clearly bought links. What are you to do? There’s a really good piece on Blog Storm on paid links and Aaron Wall has a nice piece on link value

  • Making individual requests yourself to sites you choose is perhaps the best way of ensuring quality of links. Depending on your industry and the competitiveness the price you offer will vary.

    If you have a product or service, consider offering a free trial to an established blogger in your industry.

  • Ben

    Thanks Katrina. Some nice general pointers I will use if I ever go down the route of buying links.

    I am actually most interested in the selling aspect. I get the occasional request for a paid link and negotiations are always theoretically tough (in reality if its more than the figure I have in my head, I say yes).

    I just never know who got the better deal. I have used and can a rough idea of some prices. Its just hard to know whether its possible to get more out of this person who has just emailed you. Price too high and they can easily walk away.

    The usual economics go out the window when thinking about putting a dollar amount on a link. The cost of production is zero (ignoring google penalties) so any formula based on cost of production is going to be wrong.

    The value to the buyer is unknown. In aggregate the buyer knows that a good google ranking will probably make more money but thats not a given and its hard to tell the revenue before you are actually ranking. Using adwords helps but its still a best guess. The seller still has to work out the contribution of every link to the google ranking. An impossible job.

    So you have a market, where seller has a zero cost of production but no one knows what the product is worth. Throw in the probability of a google penalty and it makes pricing up links the trickiest problem I have encountered doing SEO.

    To Simon, I think google secretly like paid links but just doesn’t advertise it. The reason there is so much email spam is that the marginal cost of an email is zero. Having companies pay for links makes it harder to spam the google index. Spammers wouldn’t be able to afford the number of links needed to rank for anything worthwhile.

  • Katrina Gallagher

    You’re right, it really is an impossible equation. There’s no known formula for how much each link is worth. Even after testing it you may know how much you gain in direct referrals, but you won’t be able to judge precisely what the benefit to your organic rankings are.

    And without tangible costs and benefits, it depends greatly on how much you value your own work, how concerned you are about advertising, what else you would use the space for, whether you like the site that you would be linking to…