We talk to a lot of business owners and marketing departments on a regular basis about their SEO efforts and are often saddened by some of the responses we get when asked about their current campaign. It is human nature to be afraid to ask questions about an unfamiliar subject or one that seems to be very confusing. So we decided to help by creating a series of questions that can help you better understand the value and understand what your SEO company is actually doing on a monthly basis.
Start by asking: “How many link prospects / website outreach am I currently getting with my SEO campaign?”
Here are some answers you might get that should raise some immediate concerns if you hear this from your current or potential SEO company:
- “We believe in organic linkbuilding / We believe if you make the content good enough, people will naturally link to it or Google will find it”
- “We reach out to 25 link prospects (or less)”
- “SEO isn’t really about linkbuilding anymore”
Let’s breakdown each one of those responses.
1) “We believe in organic linkbuilding AND/OR quality content should be found naturally by Google.”
I hear this one a lot from others in the industry and it’s usually because they a) truly believe this or b) they hate linkbuilding so much that they don’t want to do it. Linkbuilding or relationship outreach isn’t the sexiest or even a top 10 most fun SEO activity for most specialists out there – which means it’s usually the first thing that is ignored.
I do believe that some content is compelling enough to gain links/shares/etc. on its own and even rank for keywords that might be currently lacking quality content in the search results. HOWEVER, why in the world leave it to chance? If Ernest Hemingway wrote The Old Man and the Sea and proceeded to bury it in the sands of Key West, insuring that nobody ever had a chance to read it, there’s no way it could ever be considered a masterpiece.
Why hope that 10 of the most influential bloggers out there in your clients’ industry see your great article when you could simply give them a quick note to check it out? And if you’re lucky enough to be in an industry that is lacking competition that where your content will simply rank based on merit from Google, enjoy it. We all know it is an arms race to provide high quality content to keep a website relevant and ranking but sometimes a few authoritative links can make the difference between first page and second.
2) “We reach out to 25 link prospects per month (or less).”
Unless you have the most amazing linkbuilder/relationship builder/SEO Specalist out there, 25 contacted websites a month likely won’t cut it. Typically, most agencies will see between a 7%-15% response rate to their link requests (that’s being generous as many see 5% or less). You might get one live link a month at that rate (which in most competitive industries won’t cut it).
3) “SEO isn’t really about linkbuilding anymore.”
BS. BS. BS. BS. I could go on and on and on about what we’ve seen with our own websites and how we’ve proven that linkbuilding is essential to organic growth but we’d rather have industry leaders speak for us.
- A recent study done by Stone Temple Consulting (Eric Enge) showed that there is almost a near perfect correlation between high rankings and links that point to that page. This was a study done looking at the top 50 results for over 6,000 different queries.
- SearchEngineLand.com has an entire category section dedicated to the subject of linkbuilding. It’s seen 6 articles on the subject for the month of July, 2016.
- A Moz poll of several in the SEO industry (Agencies, Freelancers, Business Owners, etc.) showed that there is still a large focus around linkbuilding by those in the SEO space.
- Andrey Lipattsev (an employee of Google’s webspam team in Ireland) did a Google Hangout (March 2016) and was asked what were the other most important signals besides RankBrain regarding rankings. His response? “It’s content and links pointing to your site”.
- SearchEngineJournal in a February 2016 article: “In the grand scheme of SEO strategies for 2016, link building is, undoubtedly, the most overwhelming tactic.”
Now the SEOers that don’t like to do linkbuilding will say, “SEO isn’t just about linkbuilding, you still have to create quality content”. Duh. The point of this is that any balanced SEO strategy should include outreach/link requests to other relevant websites combined with quality content creation.
4) “Huh?” (or some confusing/convoluted response that doesn’t answer the question)
Many in the industry try to pretend that SEO is some mythical and dark power that can’t (and shouldn’t) really be explained to those not in the industry. If that is how you feel every time you ask your SEO resource a question, they’re likely to give you this kind of answer.
If we’re talking to a business that has a current SEO agency but want to know what else is out there, we will always have that business ask the the agency what deliverables they’re currently receiving. A majority of the time, their answer usually doesn’t include linkbuilding (among other things) and the client ends up running to us when we breakdown our campaign into what they can actually expect to see on a monthly basis.
While SEO is pretty dynamic and is usually in a state of change, there are always two constants to improve rankings:
- Create quality content that serves a purpose.
- Let people know about that quality content through linkbuilding (or outreach/relationship building/whatever you feel comfortable calling it).
Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions. If you get a confusing answer, don’t just accept it under the assumption that “it’s past my technical understanding”. Demand an understanding so you can demand a quality SEO campaign.