Our Exact Approach To Link Building
Ghost Marketing is a link building & digital PR agency based in Cardiff, UK.
As of early 2019, Ghost Marketing is still considered the #1 ranked link building agency in the UK with a strong reputation for building high quality, white hat backlinks for clients worldwide across multiple verticals.
We earned this reputation by generating over 2,000+ high quality links & building an array of 1,000% ROI organic marketing campaigns for clients, all via press placements, referral traffic, and increases in organic visibility.
Founded in 2012, Ghost Marketing develops bespoke link building campaigns for clients with the sole goal of earning a 10X return on investment within 12 months.
In this process page, we’re going to outline our exact, specific approach to building authoritative, relevant links.
Our Link Building Approach
On this page, I’m going to outline everything we do to generate backlinks for our clients.
These are the exact strategies and systems we use to generate links, designed based on years of research and testing to give you the highest possible ROI for your link building investment.
With these linking strategies, we are able to deliver services that rival the largest agencies in the world and in most cases, outperform them.
I’ve built this page to be 100% transparent in our approach. All links built are 100% white hat and will never result in any penalties.
Although we are extremely successful in what we do, we remain a small business with extremely high demand, which is why we only take on a limited group of clients at any one time.
Have a read through our process below.
Ghost Marketing is the #1 link building agency based in the UK.
We specialise in generating high quality backlinks for our clients, resulting in an increase in organic rankings, an increase in traffic and a dramatic increase in revenue.
Our goal with Ghost Marketing is to be the best in a very specific area of digital marketing. There are a number of “good” agencies out there, but very few have ever been able to successfully systematise white hat link building. In fact, this was voted the #1 most difficult aspect of SEO by agencies and large business owners. The issue arises in that for competitive keywords, links are really the only major factor in determining where a site will rank. High quality links are the difference between ranking on the top of page 1 or ranking on page 5. When this is related to traffic and sales there is obviously no doubt that links equal drastically increased revenue.
The short of it is: To generate real results, you need real authoritative, relevant links pointing to your site – and there is nobody better equipped to get these for you than Ghost Marketing.
How We Build High Authority Relevant Links
The first step to the campaign is to build a persona or attractive character model. In most cases this is the owner of the business itself and we simply “borrow” this persona, creating a new email address associated with the business. This is the email that will be used in the outreach portion of the campaign.
The reason behind building this new email is so link prospects do not think the business owner has simply hired someone to do their link building – which means conversions for outreach are a lot higher. So, in this strategy I will be acting on your behalf.
There are a couple of tools and analytics that we will need access to before launching the campaign. The 2 most important of these are:
- Google Analytics
- Google Search Console
There are a number of reasons why we need these. The most important is to see where your site is currently from a relevancy, optimisation & traffic point of view. This way we can see what pages currently generate the most traffic, giving us actionable tips to make you the highest possible revenue in the future.
Before starting the campaign we audit your site. This is not a full technical audit as this is often a very time consuming and somewhat ineffective use of marketing funds. Instead, we check the following elements ensuring that your site is not over optimised for a specific keyword and does not have any penalties.
A very common issue I see nowadays is over-optimisation. When a piece of content is over-optimised for a specific keyword(s) it will not rank. Google knows that the page is only trying to rank for a “benefit in organic traffic” instead of providing value, and as a result they give a slight penalty to the site or page, making it incredibly difficult to rank.
Over optimisation can refer to a.) on-page, for example if you have repeated the same or very similar keywords in the title, H1 and URL of the page (as well as the content.) and b.) Too many exact match anchor text links built.
If you are over-optimised we will not be able to begin the link building process right away as we will have to resolve this issue, otherwise links will not result in the increased organic traffic we are looking for.
Backlink Anchor Text
Another related element to check is backlink anchor text. I use a tool called Ahrefs to analyse the ratio of your current anchor text levels. If these levels are natural it is usually very obvious, you will have a lot of branded, URL and generic anchor text. If this is unnatural (spammed or poorly SEO’d) then there will be a high anchor text ratio for the target keywords, resulting in a potential penalty on the horizon.
The next stage in the audit is to find what pieces of content we can use in our link generation strategies. This is key for 1 main reason – “average” content pieces do not generate powerful backlinks.
As a result, we need to either find something great on your site already or create a piece of content that is link-worthy.
This content doesn’t have to be an article though. We can use almost anything from graphics, tools, quizzes, case studies, how-to guides, tutorials, videos and everything in-between as our core-content piece. The key here is it needs to be extremely valuable. Where there is value there is potential for links. Doing outreach with a piece of content that is only “good” is going to result in very few links, making our link outreach more difficult and your return on investment lower. Because of this, getting perfect content from the start is a must!
As I mentioned previously, there are 2 ways to do this:
The first is to simply use (or tweak) an already existing piece of content. For anyone who has a content team in place or invests their time into building great content pieces, this is usually the option we go with.
The second option is to build a piece of content that we can use for these campaigns. So in the majority of cases clients do not have a piece of content we can use for outreach, which is totally fine. But this means we need to build something from scratch, so before starting the link building campaign our first month will be geared to building this content piece. We can work with you on this to build the right type of content to generate the most high quality links possible.
If you have someone in house who can build this piece then that’s perfect, if not then we have several content contacts who are able give you exactly what you need for a low cost.
Reverse Engineering Content & Keywords
The final stage before beginning the campaign is reverse engineering keywords that are already “close” to ranking.
This is important for 2 reasons:
The first is keywords that are close to ranking will likely be attached to good content already (that we can potentially use in our campaigns).
The second and more important reason is simple:
These keywords will give you the quickest ROI. These are the keywords that are already very close to ranking on page 1 or the top of page 1, meaning a few additional high quality links will push them into the top 3 spots on page 1. This will result in more organic traffic very quickly (weeks) rather than targeting hyper competitive keywords that require a lot more links and hence take a lot longer to rank (but of course are extremely profitable once ranked.)
We use both Ahrefs and Google search console for this data. You can see a screenshot example below from search console.
Our White Hat Link Building Service
Once the pre-launch process is completed, we can begin the link generation campaign itself!
Potential Link Data Collection
The first step in the link generation campaigns is to build a list of potential sites that could link to us. To do this we use search operators and specific search query parameters in Google that help us find relevant link prospects. Note: Many tools have tried to automate this process unsuccessfully in the past 12 months. We’ve found that doing this manually using our operators is actually 5 times more effective at generating prospecting results.
There are thousands of operators we use which we add to your keyword (in this case “flooring” for example) to make a highly specific search query that filters out any irrelevant results.
Our team then collects these results and formats them in a spreadsheet with the “type” of query and the type of link generation strategy used (more on this in a second.)
Link Generation Selection
The next step is to decide what specific types of links we need for the best results. All our strategies are 100% white hat and building all link types is advised. Based on the budget & goals for the site we will select the most effective links for the campaign.
In more “boring” industries some link types may not be possible. As a result we use re-placement techniques that essentially open 10 times more linking opportunities just from positioning your business in a slightly different way. For example; influencer marketing vs link building.
The majority of link types require some sort of content on either your website or the site we are linking FROM. This is why establishing how content is going to be created is incredibly important in keeping the link generation campaign flowing and efficient.
Creating the Time-scaled Strategy
The next stage is to build the strategy. This is the exact list of specific tasks that will be implemented with the ideal dates of completion.
Based on the link types selected we will organise the velocity of outreach, content & link placement to ensure a steady flow of links and avoid spiking link generation all on one day and then having nothing generated for the rest of the month.
Once we have our link type timescale set-up, it’s time to actually find potential link prospects. This process is called link prospecting and has a separate spreadsheet to track exactly what sites we have found. This document is uploaded and can be viewed in real time to see the new link prospects we have found. For example, below is a screenshot from our guest post prospecting. This is then added to the full link type generation prospecting document that you see live updated each day.
This is the most important part!
Personalised outreach is where the real difference can be made between generating only 5/6 links a month or generating 20/30+ even for smaller clients!
For each prospect I will send them a personalised email with their name, the website or post in question and the scripts we have been testing and tweaking over the past several years to give us the highest response rate.
For example, the email script for a guest post is very simple and to the point as this is a service the site owner is looking to promote, whereas the script for a resource link or to a local blogger is very different. When you build this connection not only do you get the valuable link to your site but you also sometimes get a social share to go with it!
This results in extra free traffic and exposure for the site instantly as well as good social signals to Google.
One of the keys to our outreach technique is knowing how and when to follow up. Based on testing and guides we follow up 3-5 times for each email. Doing this triples link placement rates from around 4-6% for resource page links up to around 10-15% in most cases. Follow up is another key to building a successful campaign. We also have software that tracks open rates of emails, meaning we can tweak campaigns as we go along if conversions or response rates are lower than we were expecting.
So now we get to the interesting part, the results!
There are 2 main benefits to our campaigns:
1.) Increased traffic through link clicks – The links we place on other sites will be clicked by real potential customers and clients coming directly to your website!
2.) Increased organic rankings – Links are still Google’s #1 ranking factor. By building more high quality, relevant backlinks to your website you will rank higher in the search engines for your keywords and increase revenue substantially.
After all, these are the type of people already searching for what you are offering, which essentially means they are already pre-sold on your products or services!
2.5x Organic Traffic Increase in 4 Months (Highly competitive financial keywords)
As well as the primary benefits of increased organic rankings and targeted traffic & leads coming through these links, there are a number of secondary benefits that are also extremely valuable. Some of these are listed below:
- Increased Trust & Perceived Authority of the Brand.
- The ability to adjust relevance (for transitioning businesses).
- Increase in the percentage of organic traffic from non-brand related keywords.
- Increase in the percentage of direct traffic (A highly important ranking factor of its own in 2019)
- Increase in the percentage of engaged users (Again another ranking factor of its own.)
The Results Are:
- Filling your lead pipeline through INBOUND enquires who are already pre-sold on what you are offering (allowing you to save money on other advertising sources).
- Targeted referral traffic from authority sources.
- Increased brand mentions across the web.
- Positive interactions on third party websites.
Before building the campaign out I like to talk about the expectations the client should have. This helps manage potential rankings and can also help with the cash flow involved in the project.
These expectations are based on a number of elements for example:
- The content we have to work with.
- Content requirements in regards to posts on other sites.
- Type of industry
- Responsiveness of targets
Generally speaking, we build at least 12 links per month for clients on small packages and 20-25 for clients on larger ones.
Tracking & Reporting
As mentioned previously, once the initial content audit is complete we look to build a live reporting document that you can view at any time to see the live, pending and ongoing elements of the tasks. This will be updated live through Google docs.
Month end reports
Based on the start-date of the campaign you will receive month-end reports specific to these dates. This will be a brief roundup of all live links built & traffic statistics for the month.
The Kicker – The Reason Why we Built this Business in this Way.
One point we touched on earlier is one of the key elements to why we built this entire business. That point was: traffic through links.
To many, this might have just seemed like a passing comment, or a side-benefit of generating links in the way we do. However, it is actually essential to future proofing your rankings. Generating TRAFFIC through your links is going to be the determining factor in how Google values links, and thus RANKS sites in the future.
Authority & Relevance Metrics
Currently, Google uses authority and relevance as metrics for how powerful, or valuable a link is. Back in the day, this used to be measured by something called pagerank, but this was discontinued a decade ago.
Now, Google’s internal tracking and metrics are not revealed. Yet, as Google (more specifically their AI and Rankbrain department) gets smarter, they are getting better and better at spotting fake, or manually generated backlinks.
One of the most common elements of manually generated backlinks is they do not generate referral traffic and do not get any clicks. IF they do generate clicks, the visitors to this site have very low interest in the offering. This of course leads to low user engagement metrics such as high bounce rates and low time on site.
As a result, if Google adds more weight into user experience metrics (which they are doing currently), it will integrate this with traffic metrics generated through links. This could potentially solve a large percentage of manually generated links.
Link Traffic Generation
For example, the links people build on powerful old websites that are extremely relevant and authoritative, but generate very little active readers in the here and now, are currently still very powerful at ranking websites.
BUT, in the future, Google will re-evaluate how they value links, and one of the keys is not going to be social shares or anything along those lines.
We could rant about why it will not be that for hours, but essentially it is down to Google not wanting to give up control of their algorithm to the likes of Twitter and Facebook.
Instead, it is going to be how many of these links are clicked, or put another way – How much traffic a specific link generates.
Authoritative Link Building
This is the reason why we build links the way we do. By doing so, we are not only future proofing our rankings, we are actually improving them when Google does implement these new algorithm updates they have been hinting at for so long. Once the technology is there, this will be a very large part of the ranking algorithm and you will not only be ready, but miles ahead of the competition too.
Quality Matters - How We Determine Link Quality
“We do not use DA!” – Nor do we build links with minimum DA metrics.
This is a question we’re asked on a daily basis from potential clients. The reason we don’t analyse sites using DA is very simple.
DA is a very outdated link metric that in 2019 means very little when it comes to determining the quality of a site. DA is also very easily manipulated, as a result it is not a metric we use for tracking in any way.
We do have minimum metrics for each link that we build and every team member goes through an entire training course dedicated to determining the real quality of a website. Two of the key elements we use here are:
- Ahrefs organic traffic estimates.
- Ahrefs referring domains.
- Website eyeball analysis (is it a legitimate site?).
- Website sponsored analysis – Is it built solely for the purpose of link generation?
- External links – Are external links obviously purchased (exact match anchors, short posts with multiple links etc.)
If any site fails the quality determination test then it is removed from our processes.
Investment & Contracts
Unlike our digital PR processes, the link building process follows a granular approach. This means if you are looking for a smaller campaign, we are able to simply implement a smaller outreach volume. Campaigns start from £1k/month with 6 month contracts.