Google recently revealed what SEO’s have suspected for more than a decade: links are one of the top-3 ranking signals in the Google search ranking algorithm. The other two are: content and RankBrain. With this in mind acquiring inbound links to achieve rankings in the organic search results is more important than ever. A new survey by Nicolas Chimonas, head of research and development at link building firm Page One Power, among 435 link building professionals, also highlights the importance of link building and provides an insight in the link building eco-system. Among the 435 link builders responding to the survey, 41% of identified themselves as agencies, 27% as in-house SEO’s and 12 as consultants/freelancers.
Link building, which was once a spam-laden SEO tactic based on link networks, automated spam postings and other tricks, has transitioned in a much needed reputable and valuable SEO practice. The notion that publishing good content on a website will eliminate the need to actively acquire links because people will automatically link to that content is not true for most sites. Only large high profile enterprise companies or brands are able to acquire many links naturally. Most other sites require active, manual link acquisition through guest posting ‒ writing articles and getting it published on an external site ‒ outreach with bloggers and influencers, submitting business profiles to directories, acquiring in-content citations, promoting infographics and more.
Link Building Teams
Most link builders within an SEO or digital marketing agency or in-house SEO team are wearing multiple hats. Only large enterprise companies or brands with in-house SEO teams may employ full-time dedicated link builders. The survey data reveals that link building is still primarily an agency activity with 41% of the survey respondents identifying themselves as an agency. 27% of survey participants said they worked on an in-house SEO team. Link building is practiced in small teams. The survey data revealed that 8 in 10 respondents work in teams of 5 members or less.
Average Monthly Link Building Budget
According to the survey slightly more than one-third of link building service provider clients (35%) allocate less than $1,000 a month to link building activities. 22% indicated their clients spend between $1,000.00 and $2,500 a month on link building and 21% said their clients’ monthly link building spend ranged from $2,500 to $5,000.
Link Building Pricing
The survey data reveals that nearly one-third (32%) of link building services are charged as part of a larger SEO engagement. Other providers (14%) charge link building services at an hourly rate, while a small percentage of providers (7%) charge per link.
Percentage of SEO Budget and SEO Time Spend on Link Building
Half of link building service provider clients spend on average 40% of their SEO budget on link building and 35% of their SEO time budget.
Client Company Size and Type
Nearly half (49%) of link building service providers service small-to-media-size (SMB’s) businesses with budgets ranging $1,000 – $5,000 a month. 21% of link builders work primarily with enterprise companies and another 15% performs outsourcing work for agencies.
Link Building Tactics
The fact that most link building service providers and in-house SEO’s participating in the survey use a wide range of link building tactics shows that the majority intends to create a diversified link profile. Nearly all (90%) link building service providers and in-house SEO’s use content publication and guest posting ‒ writing articles and getting them published on external websites ‒ as a link building tactic. It is not surprising that this tactic is so widely used because it creates the strongest chance of acquiring in-content links. Slightly less than one-third (29%) use paid links. The top-6 tactics were used by at least 50% of the survey participants.
Most Effective Link Building Tactics
Although nearly 8 in 10 link building service providers and in-house SEO’s rated content publication/promotion and guest posting as their most effective link building tactic, they don’t seem to be sure about the other tactics. Most link building tactics were used by at least 50% of link builders while only 25% of link builders indicated that they were effective.
Not surprisingly Google Analytics/Search Console are widely used tools among link building service providers and in-house SEO’s. 68% of survey participants revealed they are using Google Analytics/Search Console, followed by MOZ (58%) and BuzzStream (48%).
Link Building Integration With Other Marketing Tactics
More than half of link building service providers and in-house SEO’s participating in the survey rated the level of integration of their work with other marketing activities between 5 and 8 on a scale of 10. This indicates that many link builders are still working towards integration of their link building activities with other marketing tactics. Only 15% of survey participants considered their link building work integrated with other digital marketing.
Link Builder Salaries
60% of link builders make on average less than $40,000 annually, according to the survey data. In-house link builders earn slightly higher salaries than those employed at agencies. But at many agencies, and perhaps also at in-house SEO teams, link building is an entry level position with upward potential. Link builders who are proficient with digital communication tools, and write well, can easily grow into many different roles within SEO and digital marketing, including technical SEO, content marketing, social media and web development.