Scaling Your Link Building Team: How To Build Quality Links For $5.85 Average Cost
Hello Link Builders! My name is Gary Wilson. I run a link outreach service called Get Me Links where I work with some pretty big brands, a wide range of affiliate websites & agencies around the world, and I also run a blog over at GaryWilsy.com. I have been scaling outreach link building since early 2017.
My link building journey started with my first agency, Jump Online in 2016. At that time, I had naively undercharged some of my first clients and as a result, didn’t have a big enough budget to produce the backlinks necessary to achieve the results that we both wanted! Instead of going back to my client with my humble apologies, I felt compelled to find a way of getting links economically, as using PBNs for my “link juice” was not an option.
I had heard Ryan Stewart speak on stage at an OMG Machines conference that year and he had mentioned that he had been building outreach links at scale for his clients. This sparked my curiosity and after realising that I could scale building links from REAL websites with active traffic, I was all in.
I had to figure this out and it took me around 1 year to properly perfect my understanding of link outreach while working on my client websites and an e-commerce venture that I owned.
I started to have some scaling issues and at this point, began speaking with Michael Geneles from Pitchbox. He was able to give me the processes and tools that I needed in order to do things much more efficiently. Long story short, things went pretty well…
As of the time that I’m writing this post, I actively build approximately 800 outreach links each month.
Well, actually, I lied… a little…….
I personally build 0 links per month, but my team builds around 800 links each month.
Over the last year, due to client demand, I have had to learn to properly scale. In this post, I’m going to share how I managed to grow and scale from a one-man-band link builder into a global team of remote workers and management staff. I’ll be talking about some of the lessons that you need to keep firmly in your mind when scaling along with some simple tricks and metrics that you should look at when scaling link outreach.
So, how do I get links for an insane $5.85? I promise you, I’m not click baiting. I’ll get to it.
It comes from great processes, management, and ultimately the use of outsourcing.
I see so many companies and agencies that use local UK/US members of staff for everything related to their link outreach, including basic data entry, and it drives me crazy. Why would you pay a good link builder in London around £3,500 per month (source) and have them reviewing data? My staff cost me on average $480 per month and they’re just as productive with these types of tasks, I promise.
If you’re struggling with the concept of outsourcing then you should reach out to some experts and begin learning fast. I recommend that you check out Adam and Daisy from Remote Staff Seeker, they wrote a great post on outsourcing to the Philippines. Mads Singers has also been instrumental in my growth, you can check out his site here.
So, I’m going to do some quick math for you.
With my current processes, my Link Outreachers build on average 82 links per month each:
$480 per month / 82 links = $5.85 per link built
Obviously this doesn’t include my costs for content, tools, etc.. But not bad, eh?
Business 101 – Get Great Link Outreach SOPs
You need to get your SOPs on point or you’re going to seriously struggle with scaling…
Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are one of those corporate terms that make you sound more ‘fancy’ than you are, but the premise of having a very clear and simple step by step process that is easily replicable and trainable is going to be the difference between success and failure.
I recommend that if you’re scaling up that you use a tool where everything is all in one place: Prospecting, Negotiating, and your Link Database. It makes things a million times easier for your staff and these tools — although they cost slightly more than other solutions — will become very much worth it, as at scale, they will save your staff so much time.
Once you have a great process organized, I recommend shooting a video series. Here’s a screenshot of mine (no, I won’t share this with you. Make your own 😉).
These videos are the lifeblood of my business and they took me a good few months to shoot and make into a perfect work of art. But now, we can hire and put people through our video series. From there, we know exactly how many links they should have built within 2 weeks, as compared to all of the other members of staff that have been through the course.
We can hire quickly as we don’t need to manually train individual people in all of our processes and we can fire quickly as well because we can easily figure out if our new team members are just lazy. Knowing your metrics and what to look at can tell you a lot about a new team member — we’ll discuss more about this later.
The great thing about videos too is when any of our staff have questions, I just make a video and chuck it into the training course. It means that I won’t ever get asked that same question again. 20 minutes of work now could save me hours of time in the future arranging calls, going into meetings, and explaining the same thing over and over again.
My internal training starts by teaching the basics of link outreach using manual methods. After building the foundations, we work our staff into using our preferred tool, Pitchbox. Pitchbox has by far been our favorite tool that we’ve used to easily manage our staff and scale our link building efforts. This leads me to my next point nicely…
Having Your Tools In One Place Helps A TON
Training your staff (whether in-house or remote) to use a wide range of tools can be tough due to the complexity and differences of so many tools. It can lead to a lot of scaling issues.
I’d highly recommend to anyone that’s looking to scale up their Link Building efforts to have everything from Prospecting to Negotiating in one place. It just makes things much less of a headache to teach.
Here’s My Link Outreach Process That’s Allowed Me To Scale
So, unlike many other Link Outreach companies, when we receive a new order, we pretty much always create fresh campaigns for that client. Real outreach doesn’t come from lists that have been rinsed around and sold by thousands of other SEOs, it comes from sending fresh emails and getting some of the cleanest sites out there.
First, we create outreach campaigns. We know our numbers, so we know approximately how many emails to send based on the number of links that we have in that order. These numbers will vary for you based on the level of personalization that you have in your emails. We name the campaign within Pitchbox with our internal order IDs so that we can easily find it later. This part of the process is internally due within 2 days.
Our favorite type of campaign for scaling is the Blogger Outreach campaign. At a basic level, it generates a list of relevant blogs and websites based on your keywords. It’s also a very quick contact finder that works in the background, allowing our staff to work on other things instead of having to manually search for contacts as campaigns are being run.
Here’s a top tip, when picking keywords for your Blogger Outreach campaigns – make sure that you use targeted long-tail keywords. You can use the suggestion tool within Pitchbox and that normally does the trick very well. Put in a root keyword and it’ll spit out longer tail ideas.
However, sometimes we need more initial ideas for niche keywords, so we use a tool like AnswerThePublic.com to help us with that. It’s important to remember that you don’t always have to pick keywords that are directly associated with what you’re building links for. For example, if we received an order from a national roofing company, we’d probably want to get that client placed on home improvement websites, so we would search for keywords around that main topic instead of just the root keyword ‘roofing’. If you just scrape roofing terms, chances are you’ll mostly just be outreaching to roofing companies which probably won’t work too well. Here’s an example of some keywords that we might use for that client:
Once we have our list, the team quickly evaluates the sites and enters personalization fields. I’m going to skip the workflow details for the sake of time, and maybe save that for another post.
After a campaign has started sending, we’ll then come back around a week later and take a look at the responses. We just keep our email schedules to send every day. From here, our staff will begin to line up the sites for that client’s order. If we manage to find enough good sites for that order, we’ll just stop/pause the outreach campaign. Many other tools don’t allow you to do this which is frustrating as it uses valuable daily email limits. You can pause the whole project, one or more campaigns, or specific opportunities.
Very often, we won’t have managed to have enough emails lined up by week 1, so we keep our campaigns rolling with an automated follow-up email 6 days later. We’ve found that around 60% of our responses come from that follow-up, so they’re very important!
Pitchbox allows up to 3 attempts, but depending on the situation, you may not need to go above 2 email attempts unless you’re very keen on getting a placement from a specific website.
For our negotiations, our staff can easily filter their Inbox to only show the responses from a specific campaign, this is something that doing things manually doesn’t allow you to do and it also allows staff to segment their work into individual projects, reducing stress and keeping things much more organized.
We also train our team to use the Milestones feature within Pitchbox which helps them to easily see where they’re at with prospects and it allows us to see how that individual is coping from the management end. More on this soon.
The milestones that we use are as follows:
Lost – If someone makes it clear that they don’t want to work with us.
Got a Reply – This lets our staff know that they have replies that have not been dealt with.
Negotiation – This is when we are working out a deal with the website, very often sites will have guidelines and requirements that you must adhere to in order to get placements.
Almost There (Waiting Placement) – We use this only when we’ve sent content to the website and we’re literally waiting on them getting back with a live link.
Won – When we have our beloved link placed. ❤️
Once the links have been placed, we have our staff deliver through an internal system built through Google Sheets.
Pretty simple, right?
We scale well by cutting out a lot of the BS that many SEOs talk about. Experience allows you to learn what works best for you. I know many people in this business that do things very differently from how I do them, but they still have great thriving outreach businesses.
Don’t look at what I have said here and try to replicate it exactly.You should take some of the ideas that I’ve mentioned within my process and test them out within your own business.
Staff Metrics Matter
Okay, so you’ve got your process down, things should be easy from here, right?
Well not quite, I was completely shooting in the dark when I first hired staff and didn’t properly understand how to tell who on the team was performing well and who was not. The staff that remained with me were building good links, but I didn’t fully understand what I needed to look at to tell good from bad.
It was my management consultant Mads Singers (mentioned above), who told me what to start looking at and it completely changed everything and it allowed me to take my business to the next level.
Put simply, if you have a Link Outreach team – you want to directly look at how many suitable links they are building within a given time frame and how much that costs you as calculated by what you pay them.
I don’t care if my staff don’t follow my processes down to the nut or if they took a Monday off when they shouldn’t have: If they’re building the right kinds of links at a very low cost, as compared to the rest of my team, then I’m happy to give them more freedom and I can relax more in my management with them.
However, this isn’t always the reality. Even the best of staff will struggle when they start out with your processes; some people will even just get lazy over time. To not worry about this, I just keep on top of the weekly links that they produce and if I see a drop in those numbers then I know that I need to step in and look into things further.
Here are the main things that I look into if my staff are not producing links at a suitable enough level…
One of the first things we look at is how many emails have been sent. If the individual staff member hasn’t built enough links in that week, then we’ll take a look to see if they actually sent enough emails. Very often, our new members of staff will misjudge how many emails they need to send in order to reach their target link goals.
To do this, we use the Team Performance report within Pitchbox.
Shit happens. Your staff can stumble along the way and you may need to help them better understand some areas of your process. Milestones allow us to easily see what went wrong. Here are the 2 most common ‘stumbly’ scenarios:
Fail Scenario 1:
They went wrong with the initial outreach campaigns: If we have a higher amount than normal “Lost” milestone campaigns, then it can sometimes mean that the quality of the responses aren’t the best. Maybe they’ve not targeted relevant enough keywords? Maybe they’ve picked keywords that are not long-tail enough? Looking into each outreach response here can solve a serious scaling issue for each member of your team.
Fail Scenario 2:
They seek websites that are too relevant: We train our staff to really focus on finding relevant website opportunities for our clients, those relevant placements keep our clients happy and it brings in a lot of repeat orders. However, sometimes our staff will focus on this too much. They’ll try to find keywords in domain names instead of just being pleased with a site with great metrics and a relevant surrounding topic.
Summing Things Up
I hope this guide was insightful. I’d like to sum up this post by sharing the third video of my three-part “Over the Outreach Link Building from scratch” series where I go over scaling link building through manual methods in depth. This covers some of Pitchbox features and shares a visual version of many of the points that I made within this post.
I want to give a personal thanks to Michael Geneles who has allowed me the opportunity to write here. I have been a supporter of Pitchbox for a number of years now. It’s amazing to reflect and see where I’ve come from, to now sharing my story on the Pitchbox blog. Hopefully more content to come!
If you enjoyed this, I’d super appreciate it if you could share it around too.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Pitchbox.