Link building

How to Choose the Right Link Building Agency

Hiring a link building agency is a good option if your business does not have the in-house skills to implement a link building campaign.

But choosing the right link building agency to partner with isn’t always as easy as it seems.

The world of link building can be a shady place. Ghosting, deception, “quality” spam, zero tracking: these are just some of the problems you could face if you partner with the wrong agency.

So how do you sort out who is legit and who isn’t?

On February 21, I hosted a sponsored SEJThinkTank webinar presented by Nicole DeLeon and Andrea Pretorian of North Star Inbound.

DeLeon and Pretorian shared their thoughts on what to look for when verifying and working with a link building agency.

Here is a recap of the webinar presentation.

What to expect from a good link building agency

As a client, you have the right to set reasonable expectations of your link building agency.

Here are some of the things you should agree on.


Alignment is probably the most important thing you can expect from your agency. They should spend time trying to align with your goals – understanding and defining your link building goals upfront and throughout the partnership.

They need to understand how you will define success internally for yourself and your stakeholders, especially key metrics like rankings, referral traffic, authority, and social shares.

Ask yourself:

  • Does it make sense that agency strategies help you achieve these goals?
  • Will they be able to do it in the time frame you expect?
  • How do you line up?

Everything else will fall back to alignment.


Does your link building agency answer all your questions about their process where nothing is forbidden?

You should always feel comfortable and understand their link building strategies.

Sometimes, some practitioners in the SEO industry prefer to work in secrecy. They don’t like to open up and show you all their secrets. But nowadays you should feel comfortable with the way they do what they do.

You have every right to ask them about their approach and if you sense hesitation from the other side, that’s not what you should expect these days.

Feel free to research the level of transparency you want in the process, and your agency should be transparent enough to tell you exactly what they are doing.


Your agency must communicate with you on a regular and consistent basis with the same KPIs and the same interval as you initially agreed.

Lack of regular and consistent communication is a clever way to hide bad news.

You will also need a high level of responsiveness to your questions and concerns. When a problem arises, you should be able to get answers right away and it shouldn’t feel like you’re chasing them just to get one.

Ideally, they should be proactive in handling any issues and you shouldn’t even have to ask, as they’ve already reached out to you with a solution in place.

When making calls, there should always be action items defined on both sides. Your agency should take the lead in doing this, ensuring next steps and clarifying what specifics they need from you, if any, so they can continue their work.


Your link building agency must deliver results within the agreed upon time frame, holding them accountable for alignment, transparency, and communication.

When things don’t go as planned, they need to quickly recognize campaign underperformance and provide you with a plan for moving forward.

Point of view

Your agency should have a solid understanding and opinion on which strategy will best serve you in your particular situation.

You pay for their expertise because they have a unique perspective and have served many different clients in a variety of industries.

They should bring that expertise to the mission, and if they don’t, maybe they don’t have it.

Warning signs of trouble

It is important to keep a close eye out for the warning signs that indicate a link building agency in trouble.

They always say “yes”

Most agencies aren’t great at everything, so watch out for people who appeal to people who are eager to say yes or too scared to say no.

Always pay attention to what they mean when they say yes.

What supporting evidence or caveats do they provide that can be very indicative of their expertise or experience in your vertical?

If your agency is hesitant, don’t necessarily assume that means they don’t know what they’re doing. Some agencies like to do their due diligence first and want to make sure they are aware of some potential issues and pitfalls.

They provide perfect anchor text links to the page you want

There are only a handful of ways to do this, and they all violate Google’s guidelines.

It’s okay if that’s the risk you want to take, but you should at least work with an agency that’s transparent about this potential risk.

They don’t have a roadmap

For the most part, links are what link building agencies report, but they are an indicator of activity.

Internally, your agency should have a better idea of ​​how long they can promote one piece of content and when they should move on to creating another piece.

So beyond the report you receive, if you ask them when they’re creating the next content and your agency doesn’t know, that could be a warning sign because they should have an idea.

It’s very telling when an agency takes a long time to answer your questions. If they have a solid track record, part of that should be keeping their finger on the pulse of the campaigns.

They have a high turnover

Link building is hard work and it can be difficult for an agency to keep their staff motivated and engaged, but that’s their problem, it shouldn’t be your problem.

However, high turnover can also be a problem for clients as it can not only ruin the relationship between the agency and the client, but also harm your campaign.

For this reason, this is probably the biggest warning sign. If they can’t even maintain positive relationships within their own team, how can you expect them to run your campaign successfully?

They only communicate when they have good news

No one wants to be the bearer of bad news, but bad things can happen in marketing.

A good agency will often communicate with good news and bad news.

If there is bad news, not only will they talk to the customer, but they will have a plan on how they intend to resolve the issue and the timeline for it. They will quickly iron out bad news.

A good agency won’t run away from the client because they don’t have the time, energy, or space to come up with a plan on how they’re going to fix it. They also won’t come up with a series of excuses as to why it really isn’t their fault.

Some agencies will only send a monthly report and even then they will only highlight the earnings. This can lead to a random report style that is not the same from cycle to cycle.

It is important that the agency reports exactly the same KPIs at the scheduled interval.

Look for an agency that transparently reports to you and holds itself accountable, not one that uses reports to distract you from what they might be hiding.

When to cut ties with your link building agency

You know it’s time to part ways with your agency if:

Everything was great at first

Initially, you and your agency had a great relationship. They were providing fantastic links and results.

But, as the campaign progresses, the quality and frequency of links begin to decline.

This can happen with an agency you just started working with. It can also happen when you have been with an agency for a very long time.

Sometimes they lack creativity for you and it’s time to go take a fresh look at your content, links and performance.

If you feel things are diminishing over time, check and try to use the lines of communication you have with your agency. However, if you notice it persisting, it’s probably a good time to break up.

You don’t feel like you have a partner

Do you feel like you don’t have a partner in your agency?

When discussing campaign ideas or issues, do you feel defensive?

Do interactions quickly turn negative?

Are you now suddenly blamed for gaps in campaign performance?

Sometimes issues, such as details about your site or its content, will surface much later and be used as excuses when they probably should have been resolved initially.

At the start of the campaign, concerns should be voiced.

The worst example is if your agency ghosts you directly. It’s definitely a good time to break up.

They just don’t understand you

If your agency doesn’t understand you, no matter how you try to explain your point of view, there’s no point.

How to Hire Your Next Link Building Agency

Here are the kinds of questions you should ask yourself before hiring a new agency:

  • Do they guide you through their entire process, from ideation to promotion?
  • Are they trying to get to know your business goals and sensitivities?
  • Do they work with you to establish clear campaign metrics that align with your goals?
  • Can they provide examples of previous work?
  • Does their communication advance accountability?
  • When will you have the opportunity to give your opinion?

If you cover these six questions, you will end up with a great relationship with your next link building agency.

Video Recap: How to Choose the Right Link Building Agency

Watch the video recap of the webinar presentation and Q&A below.

Here is also the SlideShare of the presentation.

Join us for our next webinar!

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