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Alas, we’ve reached one of the most controversial digital marketing tactics for SEOs. 

You’ve got your white hats, grey hats and black hats. Personally, I think all of them are full of shit. The people who are successful at building links don’t talk much. Well, I’ll tell you how we do it. 

I’ve never been hit with a penalty. I’ve never had a project not grow in terms of SERP visibility and luckily, I’ve never worked on a failed project where link building was taken seriously. 

Finally, what I will talk about in this post has nothing to do with the regurgitated topics like guest posts, broken link building, baiting people for links, building links with stolen images etc. You’re just going to get unadulterated advice on what has worked for us. 

Let’s not waste time and get right into it.

Link building budget

If you’ve got a budget of less than $2,000 USD/month, stop reading. I’ve never worked on a project (after 2015) where a small link building budget produced a successful project. We’re talking continuous rankings improvements without being an industry talking head. 

Look, you’ll hear a lot of success stories about how some SEOs increased their rankings with a small or no link building budget. It might be true in some cases but in every single project I’ve worked on the last ten years, I had to spend a significant amount of capital on links. 

Link building cost

This is the cost of just one project and one marketplace. 

We don’t have a link building team nor do we have a network. I’ve tested most of the big guys and found the best sources for you to find and buy links from. I will not mention the bad ones because that’s not what I do. 

If they’re not in this post, they’re trash. Trust me. I’ve tried most of them (if I haven’t tried your services, please reach out to me. I have the budget to work with you). 

Quality of links

Let’s get serious. 

The quality of the links you acquire (pay for) matters. Please stop getting links from irrelevant websites, PBN links (to your money pages), websites with low traffic. 

Of course, you never want to buy links from someone on Facebook, LinkedIn, a cold email, Blackhat world or Twitter. Trust me. I’ve done it all. None of these links work and it can hurt your websites. I’ve been lucky to realize my mistakes early in my career.  

Quality guidelines for acquiring links

I have a checklist I follow for every link we get. Every single point on this checklist must be met or we refuse the work. It’s simple. 

  • Rule #1 – Look at the website architecture. Is it a general blog with a lot of content ideas? Are they blogging about gloves and also talking about pool pumps? You’re probably looking at a PBN. Even if it’s not a PBN, steer clear. It’s not worth it. 

EXAMPLE:

Broad topics with no focus

This website makes me laugh because you’ve got how to wear a suit, marijuana and car insurance. Red flags everywhere. 

  • Rule #2 – Take a look at the navigation and try to see if the topics vary. Technology and tattoos are completely different topics. If you see something like this in the global navigation, steer clear. 

EXAMPLE: 

Broad topics in the navigation

This one is pretty obvious. I don’t know who in their right mind would pay for a link on this website. This one is a skip in my book. 

  • Rule #3 – Checking the backlink profile of the website you’re going to get a link from is time-consuming. I understand. However, it has to be done. Your spending time and money and you have to take the time to ensure the link you’re getting doesn’t have spammy/low quality/irrelevant links. Don’t just look at metrics from Ahrefs. Study the links. 

Example:

Hacked link

In this case, we have a website with malware. It’s linked to a suggested prospect by a link building company I work with. I guess they have some homework to do. Also, be careful with niche edit links because a lot of the companies who propose these links work with hacked websites (not all but some). 

  • Rule #4 – Organic traffic is very important when considering a link. Check if the website has a steep decline in traffic with algorithm updates. If the growth isn’t steady, I would avoid getting the link. 

Example: 

Organic traffic drop

I am not sure you want to get a link from this website. It has clearly been hit with an algorithm update. 

  • Rule #5 – Make sure the about page makes sense. Fake websites are super easy to pick out if you check out the about page. If you don’t see an image of the person who owns the website (make sure you check to see if the image is fake or stolen from somewhere else), I would get weary. Sometimes, you can find information about the owner of the website directly on the homepage. Look around and don’t get tunnel vision. 

EXAMPLE: 

Bad about us page

Here’s a link proposed by a marketplace we get links from sometimes. I don’t think I need to explain anything here. A fake photo and a fake about page. Instant pass! 

  • Rule #6 – Do the organic keywords match what the website is all about? If not, the link might not add any value to your website. 

EXAMPLE: 

Random ranked keywords

What the hell are we looking at here? Nature? Facebook? Sex? Which is it? 

  • Rule #7 – Check the content on the blog and ensure you’re looking at good quality work. If you wouldn’t read it, why would you pay for a link back to your money pages? 
  • Rule #8 – Take a look at the publishing timeline for each post. Are there bursts of content being published at once and then there is nothing for a period of time? This is very suspicious. Google is getting smarter so if you see this, ignore the link.  
  • Rule #9 – Do you see “writer for us”, “guest post” or “contribute”? Hard pass. Google has caught on to this scheme by SEOs. 

EXAMPLE:

Write for us text

That’s right in the global navigation too. Another hard pass! 

  • Rule #10 – My final rule is the location of the website. Is the website from an English speaking country? Where is it hosted? What’s the location of the business/website? It’s not a deal-breaker if the website is from a random country but keep the 80/20 ratio in mind when acquiring links from another country. 

Editorial guideline for links

When I want to pass on the information for a link, I make sure the team and the website which will link back to us understands the topic and how I would like a piece written. 

For example, if a website passes our quality guidelines, I give these instructions:

  1. Please ensure the main topic is on X.
  2. Use this video {YouTube link} somewhere in the post.
  3. Start with topic X, work your way into topic Y and end with topic Z. 
  4. Try to link to these resources (resource links not on our website) 
  5. Use these images (relevant images from our media team). 
  6. Make sure you use these anchor texts.
  7. Place our anchor text in the 2nd and 3rd paragraph. 
  8. We don’t want sponsored or no-follow links. 

My standards are fairly high and because of that, each link will easily cost anywhere between $400-$600. 

Picking our anchor text

I don’t have an anchor text ratio like others have suggested. I try to keep it natural based on the conversations we have with our customers/clients. 

That being said, I do have some strategies for you to try. 

Look in the “Related Searches” section on SERP

At the bottom of each search results page, there are plenty of anchor text variations for you to try to grab. 

Anchor text examples

You can also use an asterisk symbol to discover more keywords (or anchor texts) if you’re looking for more ideas:

Picking anchor text with asterisk

I also use these anchor texts to mix it up:

  • Website
  • Click here
  • Here
  • Your brand name
  • Visit [brand name]
  • New post on 

You get the idea.

I also randomize it as much as possible like mixing up money keywords with our brand name:

  • [keyword] + [brand name] 
  • New [keyword] + products 
  • Click here to see the [keyword] 
  • This post on [brand name] 

Bonus: Please check my post on link velocity and how to run a gap analysis here

Building authority to your links

I’ve written about tiered link building before but a much more powerful way to build natural links is to ask the website owner to link to their own post with your link on it from their other posts. 

I would do the homework ahead of time and propose the idea in a series of three emails. 

In a perfect world, you would ask the editors to do this right away. However, this is not always possible. In that case, I get a VA to send the email string for me. 

Hi [NAME],

I’ve recently acquired a link on your website. You can find the link on [LINK] with the anchor text [ANCHOR TEXT]. 

Would it be possible to get you to link to this blog post on your other blog posts? For example, we can link:

  1. Link 1 
  2. Link 2
  3. Link 3

To your blog post with my link on it. 

I am willing to pay for your time if that’s what it takes and will do the research. 

Thank you, 

You can then follow up with:

Hi [NAME],

Just pushing this email to the top of your inbox. Do you think we can get this done? It’s a win, win for both of us. 

Thank you,

And finally: 

Hi [NAME] 

I know you’re busy but I am going to try one more time to get something worked out. Would you like to meet virtually with our managing director so he can explain everything to you? 

Again, we’re willing to pay for your time to do this. 

Thank you,

Getting links on magazine websites 

Using magazines to get links is underrated in my opinion. 

A publication might cost anywhere between $1000-$5000 but the press is incredible. 

In every industry I work in, I ask our team to find relevant magazines (print and online) to publish a post on. 

You can’t get any more relevant and high-authority than that. They’re very easy to find. 

Getting links on websites that also have a print version of their content is outside the norm. The idea is to be different, isn’t it? This is how you do it. 

Teaming up with a university

There is only one sure-fire way to team up with a university. 

You have to reach out to instructors and ask them if they’re interested in a collaboration video/podcast where you would showcase his/her program in the content. 

The video gets published on your YouTube account, blog, the university’s blog and YouTube channel (if the department heads allow it). 

In one case, we’ve hired the instructors to record instructional videos for a client. They worked out fantastic for the audience we’re targeting. 

It’s expensive to do this. Please consider this before even reaching out. You’ll need a media team, content strategy and a budget to hire the instructor. 

Where I get our links

I’ll get right to it. 

https://nobs.link/ is a great marketplace to find high-quality links. Again, be careful because most of their suggestions would fail my quality guidelines. I would say 15% of their links are worth paying for. 

https://loganix.com/ is definitely a top contender. They offer high-quality but their price tag is above average. 

Again, I’ve used almost all the marketplaces and 3rd-party vendors. These two have been the best with the greatest results. 

Our results

Here are our results from just three projects:

Organic growth example 1

This is a new project with the potential of millions in revenue. Almost there. 

Organic growth example 2

This one website is destroying multi-national and billion-dollar competitors. They are so busy, we’ve actually had to stop working on their project temporarily. 

Organic growth example 3

Here’s another website competing with billion dollar corporations. 

Anything above 40% visibility makes millions in revenue. Keep that in mind with these examples. 

Please also consider the dozens of other campaigns, which help these results. Link building is just one aspect of what we do. 

Final thoughts

If you can do what I am proposing on a tight budget, all the power to you. I haven’t been able to. 

It’s not 2010 anymore and I don’t have time to do all of this manually. We’ve got way too many projects on the go.

If I can hire a link-building agency to do it for me, they have my support. 

I’ve followed this guideline for years and it has worked like a charm. I am 100% sure it will work for you too.

I hope I’ve helped you understand what it takes to take a project and improve its visibility significantly through link building. 

Let me know if you have any questions. Until next time, catch you all on my next post. 

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