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Link Building for Agencies

Lindsay Halsey

Lindsay Halsey is a co-founder of Pathfinder SEO. She has over 10 years of experience working in SEO with small to large businesses. Lindsay focuses on teaching site owners, freelancers, and agencies how to get found on Google via a guided approach to SEO. Stay in touch on Twitter - @linds_halsey.

As a digital agency owner, you may have encountered experiences like this:

You created a great website for your client! It’s user-friendly, content-rich, and lightning-fast. So why can’t people find it on Google?
Your client’s blog posts are far better than similar posts on other websites. So why does it rank so poorly?

Ultimately, the answer often comes down to off-site SEO. More specifically, the need to build a domain’s authority via backlinks.

For many agencies, building links for clients can be overwhelming. We know we need to help our clients create a high-quality backlink network to help grow their authority, but how?

In this post, you’ll learn how to weave link building into your SEO services offering. Which, if done right, can ease the overwhelm of the task. And help your client achieve the domain authority they need to effectively compete in their desired search results.

Let’s start from the beginning.

What is Link Building?

Link building is an effort to increase the number and quality of links to a website from external websites. The goal is to increase the visibility of your client’s online presence, which, in turn, will help them get more traffic and increase sales.

A link is valuable when it comes from a topically relevant, high-quality website. Our goal with link building is to focus on quality over quantity.

Next, let’s discuss link building from the agency’s perspective.

Link Building Starts in the Sales Process

When pitching SEO services, it’s important to note that the client will participate in the SEO campaign. Collaboration in this regard is crucial and an expectation of our clients.

Often, that collaboration comes in the form of reviewing monthly results via a call and approving content for blog posts.
You can quantify this for your customers with a percentage in the sales process. For example, “Our agency can do 80% of the SEO for you. But we’ll request your participation in the other 20%”.

By setting the expectation of collaboration, we better prepare our customers for success.

Set the Stage with an Authority Assessment

A great place to assess your client’s domain authority is during the SEO Assessment or Set-Up. We do this in Pathfinder SEO using the Authority tool. Simply add your client’s top three competitors in the Campaign Settings, and we’ll collect their Rankability score.

Rankability is a metric that predicts how likely a site is to rank in the search results based on the domain’s authority from its backlink network.

Once you have that data, you can put this into context for a client on the next call or via email. The goal is to introduce your client to the notion that there is more to SEO than just the website and to give them a sense of whether their current authority is a strength or a weakness. If it’s a weakness, then you can communicate to them that this is an area you’ll focus on in monthly SEO and that you’ll request their participation in.

At Pathfinder SEO, have email templates that can help you communicate this as well.

Here’s a sample email:

Subject: An Introduction to Link Building & SEO

Hi [Name],

Now that we’ve completed technical SEO, content strategy, and on-site optimization, your website’s SEO foundation for your website is nearly complete. The last component we need to address is off-site SEO. Google relies on other websites to determine your website’s authority; a website with strong authority gets more traffic from Google.

We use a metric called Rankability to measure your website’s authority. [URL] currently has a Rankability score of [x/100]. This is calculated based on links like this one — [example of a current backlink]. What’s considered a “good Rankability score” varies and depends on your unique competitive space.

Here are the current Rankability scores for a few of your competitors:

  • [Competitor 1 — x/100]
  • [Competitor 2 — y/100]
  • [Competitor 3 — z/100]

As you can see, [statement about how their website measures up against the competition].

In the coming months, we’ll work to increase your site’s authority by acquiring backlinks in an organic way. During our next call, let’s discuss this more in-depth so that you are aware of easy, real-world marketing tactics we can employ.

Our next call is scheduled for [date]. Talk soon.

[Your Name]

Your client should walk away from this email understanding if authority is a strength or a weakness for their website.

Identify Applicable Link Building Strategies

There are a lot of strategies to build backlinks. In need of examples? Backlinko references 170+ ideas. What’s most important, though, is to identify those strategies that apply to your client’s business.

Let’s say you are working with a therapist who is an industry expert with a podcast. The most natural way to build links would be to amplify what the therapist is already doing by sharing their expertise. One idea would be to invest in guest podcasting, whereby the therapist pitches ideas to be a guest speaker on others' podcasts. Or suggest the therapist start speaking at conferences and events.

If you were to suggest guest podcasting and speaking at events to a client, not in the world of speaking as a backlink strategy, you’d likely be met with a stare of confusion. This is further evidence that these strategies should be customized to each client's industry.

Let’s look at a local business like a florist. Most florists don’t have a podcast and don’t act as thought leaders in their industries. Instead, we can look to link building strategies that leverage existing partnerships. A florist likely works with wedding planners, event coordinators, or maybe even realtors staging open houses. Each of these real-world business partnerships is ripe for a link exchange. The florist could also join the local chamber of commerce to pick up a link via a listing.

Identify the link building strategies that fit your client’s strengths.

Schedule a Brainstorming Session

By this point, the client has been primed via previous emails or conversations to understand the context of why link building matters. Additionally, they should be aware of where they currently stand in relation to their competitors.

Now, it’s time to dive deeper into the topic during one of your monthly calls. Ask your client questions to draw out link building opportunities that act as low-hanging fruit to begin implementing this strategy.

Here are examples:

  • Do you refer business to companies in adjacent industries? Do you get referrals from other businesses?
  • Do you participate in podcasts or other online training?
  • Do you participate in industry conferences? If so, as attendees, speakers, or sponsors?
  • Are you involved in non-profit organizations in your community or beyond?

Knowing your client’s business in this context is a great way to draw out link building opportunities.

Provide Resources

Once you have a list of opportunities, it’s time to provide resources to help the client take action. For example, you may write an email template they can use to pitch guest blog post opportunities, plus give them a list of those sites you think they should pitch. The goal is to put some action items in the client’s court to follow up on, as they already have the relationships surrounding their business.

Keep Talking about Link Building

Link building is part of ongoing SEO. Because of this, it’s something that adds value to the client. By continuing to talk about it, you inadvertently give your client the courage to take action within their networks.

This style of holistic, collaborative link building can have its limits. Mainly, it requires client participation, and not all clients are great at that.

What Can Agencies Do To Build Links on our Client’s Behalf Independently?

First, we can leverage citation building for businesses with a physical location. That’s an easy link building strategy that can be mostly outsourced to platforms like Bright Local.

Then, we can consider paid link building strategies like blogger outreach. With this, you outsource link building services. The outsourced provider finds high-quality websites where publisher relationships have been secured. That way, when a guest blog post is written and published on that site, it’s accompanied by a link to your client.

These blogger outreach services are gray areas of SEO. They aren’t building links at scale, which is a good thing. Otherwise, it would clearly violate Google’s terms of service, but they are paid link building strategies. They aren’t nearly as valuable, however, as the more holistic strategies that require client participation.

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Lindsay Halsey

Lindsay Halsey is a co-founder of Pathfinder SEO. She has over 10 years of experience working in SEO with small to large businesses. Lindsay focuses on teaching site owners, freelancers, and agencies how to get found on Google via a guided approach to SEO. Stay in touch on Twitter - @linds_halsey.
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