Our Exact Link Building Process

Ghost Marketing

In this post, we are going to outline everything our link building agency does to generate backlinks for our clients. These are the exact strategies and systems we use to generate links. The below systems give you the highest ROI for your link building investment.

With these linking strategies, we are able to deliver services that rival the largest agencies in the country. Outperforming them in most cases.

Our campaigns range from narrow core target pages, utilising our quick wins style link building, where building only 7-12 links can result in a 10X ROI through smart target selection (more about that here). All the way up to full digital PR campaigns with editorial placements, viral marketing campaigns and strategic link building solutions.

Our core goal at the agency is to generate a 10X ROI for our clients within a 6-12 month period.

The Process

We have built this page to be 100% clear in our approach. All links built are 100% white hat and will never result in any penalties.

Although we are successful in what we do, we do not like to take on too many clients. We are still a small business, but growing rapidly with 8 full time team members as of May 2018.

Have a read of the process below, if we sound like a good fit, then feel free to contact us directly on: [email protected], or request a proposal to discuss your needs.

An Introduction to Ghost Marketing

Ghost Marketing is a link building agency based in the UK. We specialise in generating high quality backlinks for our clients, resulting in massive increases in organic rankings, expansion in referral traffic and dramatic growth in revenue.

Our goal 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 were able to systematise white hat link building. In fact this was the #1 aspect agencies and large business owners voted as the most difficult area of SEO. The issue arises in that for competitive keywords, links are really the only determining factor between 1st and page 3.

Link building to increase organic rankings is an extremely high return on investment marketing practice when done correctly. You can read more about our 18 link case study, where 18 links added an extra £12,000 a month to a business. This meant that each link was worth an extra £12,000 a year in business, not a bad ROI!

The short of it is: To generate amazing results, you need real authority and relevant links pointing to your site. The more the better, but it is always quality over quantity.

How We Build High Authority Relevant Inbound 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 and we “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.

Alternatively, for larger companies we can build a persona based on any company email if the CEO, or MD is very well-known.

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, therefore conversions for outreach are a lot higher. So in this strategy, we act on either the business owner’s behalf, or a member of the company. Also, it avoids having dozens of email responses per day through different emails in-agency.

Pre-Launch

There are a couple of tools and questions that we will need access and answered before launching the link building campaign. The 3 most important of these are:

  • Google Analytics.
  • Google Search Console.
  • On-boarding questionnaire.

There are a number of reasons why we need these. The most important is to see where your site is currently fFrom a relevancy, optimisation and traffic point of view. This way we can see what pages currently generate the most traffic. Potentially making you the highest revenue in the future. This is explained in more detail below.

Site & Content Audit

Before starting the campaign, we do a full content audit of your site. This is not a full technical audit, as this is a very time consuming and somewhat ineffective use of marketing funds. Instead, what we do is check the following elements to ensure your site is not over optimised for a specific keyword and does not have any penalties.

Over Optimisation

A very common issue we 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. As a result, they give a slight penalty to the site or page, making it incredibly difficult to rank.

Over optimisation can refer to on-page and too many exatch match anchor text links built. 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.

If you are over-optimised, we will not be able to begin the link building process right away. We will have to resolve this issue, otherwise links will not result in optimal increased organic traffic.

Backlink Anchor Text

Another element to check, that is closely related to over-optimisation, is backlink anchor text. We use a powerful link building tool called Ahrefs to analyse the ratio of your current anchor text. If the text 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. This results in a potential penalty on the horizon.

Good anchor text profile: 

Good Anchor text

Here we can see the majority of the links are branded “bbc”, with the variations of inner page branded “bbc news” “bbc iplayer” and the URL variations also generating a lot of links. This is a very natural and powerful link profile.

Bad anchor text profile: 

Bad Anchor Text

As you can see, not only is the anchor text above spammed, but they also have multiple links with exact match anchors “buy instagram likes”. No real website owner is linking to this site with that exact anchor. Especially not 26, or 15 times… Red flag!

Content Selection

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 one 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.

Note: We have written extensively about how to find the best targets to build inbound links. This is based on the closest ranking keywords and hence potential ROI. You can read about the £12,000 per link case study and exactly how we select targets here.

Content Can Boost ROI

This content does not 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 and/or useful. 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. Consequently, making both our link outreach more difficult and your return on investment lower. So getting perfect content from the start is a must! As we mentioned previously there are two ways to do this.

Edit Existing Content

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.

Create Unique Content

The second option is to build a piece of content that we can use for these campaigns. In the majority of cases, clients do not have a piece of content we can use for outreach, which is totally fine. However, 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 and reverse engineering link opportunities. We can work with you on this to create the right type of content for the most high quality links.

If you have someone in-house who can build this piece, then that is perfect. If not, then we can use one of our content writer contacts to create the ultimate piece need for the campaigns. Although, this will be at additional expense, as these are high quality freelance content writers.

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 two reasons. Firstly, keywords that are close to ranking will likely be attached to good content already that we can potentially use in our link building campaigns. Yet, more importantly, these keywords will give you the quickest ROI.

These are the ones that are already very close to ranking on or at the top page 1. This means that 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. Therefore, taking a lot longer to rank, but are extremely profitable once ranked.

We use both Ahrefs and Google search console for this data. You can see a screenshot from search console below.

Search console data

If you would like more information on reverse engineering target pages and anchors, read our guide here.

Our White Hat Link Building Service

Once the pre-launch process is completed we can begin the link generation campaign.

Potential Link Data Collection

The first step in the link generation campaigns is to collect 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 link building tools have tried to automate this process unsuccessfully in the past 12 months. We have found that doing this using our operators is actually 5 times more effective at generating prospecting results. This is because our trained link building experts understand what to look for, so they can review sites within 10 seconds, rather than filtering through hundreds, or thousands, of results at a later date.

There are thousands of operators we use which we add to your keyword to make a highly specific search query that filters out any irrelevant results.

Our team then collects these results and formats them in a Google sheets doc with the “type”, or query, and the link generation strategy type. We shall discuss this further into our process.

Link Generation Selection

The next step is to decide what specific types of links we are looking to build. All our strategies are 100% white hat and building all link types is advised. Based on the budget and goals for the site, we will select the most effective link strategies for the campaign.

In more “boring” industries, some link types may not be possible, for example influencer marketing and bloggers. 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 instance, influencer marketing vs link building.

Re-placement is a strategic edge we have in our strategies. This is something that has enabled us to open up multiple link building opportunities, even in the narrowest of niches. This technique is also called “bridging”.

Content Management is Vital

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. As a result, we work with freelance content writers directly and advise clients to get invoiced directly from these. If you have a content team inhouse, we can simply send details and titles in the same way to these individuals.

Create the Time-Scaled Strategy

The next stage is to build the strategy. This is the exact specific tasks that will be implemented with the specified dates of completion. Based on the link types selected, we will organise the velocity of outreach, content and 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.

Screenshot of excel link type documents

Link Prospecting

Once we have our link type timescale set-up, it is time to actually find potential link prospects. This process is called link prospecting and has a separate excel document 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 and updated each day.

Guest Post Excel Technique

Personalised Outreach

This is the important bit. This is where the real difference can be made between generating only 1 to 2 links a month, or 10 to 20+, even for smaller clients!

For each prospect, we will send them a personalised email with their name, the website, or post in question. We use our unique scripts that have been tested and tweaked over the past 12 months, 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! Extra free traffic and exposure for the site instantly, as well as good social signals to Google.

Guest Posting Success

The key to successful guest post placements is to offer them something incredible. Generally, we use social influence, email subscribers and content quality as the core selling points. For instance, having a following of 20,000+ on social, or an email list of a couple of thousand means we can then approach opportunities and state any live posts we write get released to our social and email subscribers. Therefore, will generate a lot of traffic. This ends up being a win-win situation and we usually get the post submission placement.

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.

The RESULTS

So now we get to the interesting part, the results!

There are two 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. This is also called referral traffic inside of Google analytics.

2.) Expanded organic rankingsLinks 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 hence increase revenue substantially. This is because these are the type of people already searching for what you are offering! They are already pre-sold on your products, or services!

Organic Search Increase From Link Generation

2.5x Organic Traffic Increase in 4 Months (Highly competitive Financial keywords)

Below is a video outlining our results live for a company called Ecoflor.co.uk. Ecoflor came onboard with a £2,000 per month link building campaign. We have built 14 links so far, showing that this is a quality over quantity game. The results can be seen in the video below. As the leads for these flooring contracts can be worth up to £50,000, the ROI we have generated in just 4 months for Ecoflor has been incredible.

Secondary Benefits

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. These are below.

  • Increased trust and perceived authority of the brand.
  • The ability to adjust relevance for transitioning businesses.
  • Expanded 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 2018.
  • Growth in the percentage of engaged users. Again another ranking factor of its own.

Resulting In

  • Filling your lead pipeline through INBOUND enquires who are already pre-sold on what you are offering.
    • Hence allowing you to save money on other advertising sources.
  • Targeted referral traffic from authority sources.
  • Improved brand mentions across the web.
  • Positive interactions on third party websites.

Expectations

Before building the campaign out, we like to talk about some expectations the client can receive. 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 – Is there any content already created that is generating links.
  • Content requirements in regards to posts on other sites – Do we need named journalists/writers to get accepted.
  • Type of industry – Is the industry unresponsive/highly commercial.
  • Responsiveness of targets – Do these people receive multiple requests or is it a relatively unsaturated market.

Generally speaking, we build at least 5-12 links per month for clients on small packages and 10-25 for clients on larger ones. But as always, the focus is on quality rather than quantity.

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 and can be reviewed at any time.

Screenshot of excel link type documents

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 and traffic statistics for the month.

Investment

Pricing is based on the number of qualified relevant prospects outreached. Campaigns start from £1,000 per month for 250 prospects and pricing scales accordingly. The sweet spot for clients seems to be between 750-1,000 prospects per month. Please get in touch for details.

Request A Proposal Today!

The Kicker – The Reason Why we Built this Business in this Way.

One point we touched on earlier in the post 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 so much more important. Generating TRAFFIC through your links is going to be the determining factor in how Google values links, 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 years 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. Hence, 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 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 like that. 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 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 you will be miles ahead of the competition too.

That is it! That is the exact strategy we use to build our links. Below is a bit more information on specific types of links we build and pros behind why we build each type. This is pretty technical, so if you do not want to get into the nitty gritty, then here is the place to get in touch.

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Our 17 Types of White Hat Links

Below is a list of the core 17 types of links we build and the strategies associated.

1.) Guest Posts

The foundation of a link building campaign. This technique involves finding high authority websites relevant to your industry, or closely related, and reaching out by asking to post on their site. This technique is most common when you do not have a lot of content that can be used for other link generation techniques.

Pros:

  • Bring a lot of traffic through link clicks.
  • Usually additionally shared on social accounts.
  • Builds authority and exposure for the brand outside of an SEO point of view.
  • Powerful contextual links from very high domain authority websites.

2.) Resource page Links

This involves reaching out to pages that link to other relevant sources. These are common in a variety of industries and if we have a relevant resource on our website, then this should be linked from resource pages.

Pros:

  • Hyper relevant as it is usually surrounded by links to other high quality content in the industry.
  • Attracts higher converting traffic, less volume than guest posts, but the quality is usually higher.

3.) Broken Link Building

Used in alignment with resource page links. This involves reaching out to webmasters who already have a resource page created and instead of asking to add our link, we inform them of a link that is broken (404 error, website down).

Pros:

  • Highly scalable – Once we have found a link that is broken, we can reverse engineer this link and add it as a new task in the project management document “search for links pointing to URL.com”.
  • Converting link opportunities – People who are going to go back and change a link if it is already broken are very likely to put your website in, as they are already editing this post on the site.

4.) Cross Vertical Link Outreach

This technique involves reaching out to business owners in industries related to yours, but that are not direct competitors. Phrasing is key here, but as long as you are not direct competitors, it usually converts very highly.

Pros:

  • Very fast, relevant links.
  • For instance, building connections with PR agencies that do not offer SEO.
  • You can also offer simple value exchange here. We will do you a quick technical audit in return for a link.

5.) Link Aggregations

Also known as link roundups. This involves creating a piece of content that links to number pieces that are relevant to the niche. Very similar to top 10 lists.

Pros:

  • Generate a large social impact, resulting in more direct and social traffic.
  • Become known as an industry leader.

6.) University Outreach

The most powerful links you can build. The easiest way to build these links is to reach out to individuals inside the Uni on their blogging platform and with some strategic value exchange, we can generate dozens of powerful links from these sources!

Pros:

  • Insanely powerful links.
  • Relatively cheap to obtain.

7.) Sponsorship, Charity & Event Links

We group these all together as they involve a very similar link generation strategy. These are perfect for gaining locational relevance and when mixed with local value exchange, is all you need in most cases to rank! Sponsoring a sports team, event, or giving money to a charity is a great way to get an inbound link and do a good thing in the process.

Pros:

  • Links from hugely authoritative websites that are trusted by Google.
  • That feel good feeling. Also potentially incentives – e.g. free tickets to sporting events.

8.) Paid Directory Links

Gone are the days where you could pay someone £100 to generate 100 directory links. Google now sees this as complete spam! But there are still around 10 directories that are premium and highly regulated. As a result, Google trusts these and loves businesses that generate links from them. We have a list of 8 premium directories that we recommend to all clients. These range from £40 to £800.

Pros:

  • 90%+ Conversion rate.
  • Great for brand reputation.

9.) Local Value Exchange

In this strategy, we reach out to local businesses and bloggers and offer a value exchange. For example, a tweet or mention on our social accounts in return for a link from their site. There are other value exchange opportunities too, but if the business has a strong social following, this is usually the most effective method.

Pros:

  • Really personal and great for building connections.
  • Add locational relevancy very quickly, something most sites lack.

10.) Non-linking Content

This involves finding locations online where your website is mentioned, but not linked.

Pros:

  • For large businesses and websites there are lots of opportunities for great brand anchor links here.
  • Very easy to find these types of opportunities using specific search operators in Google.

11.) Sponsored Posts

This is essentially guest posts on steroids. You pay to feature on a website. Although these cost money to post, they usually have less stringent guidelines for postings. This means we can talk about our product’s benefits more and essentially pre-sell the products or services.

Pros:

  • Allows us to pre-sell products in content.
  • Higher quality links in most cases, as most cannot afford or do not want to pay to post.

Let Us Get Creative

The above 11 types of links are generally implemented for all clients. The below are more unique techniques where we get creative to generate some of the most effective links.

12.) Conferences & Events

Unlike the conference and event link generation strategy above, this involves HOLDING conferences and events for your business or industry. This is not only a great way to get links from a ton of industrial related websites, but it also helps increase the brand image of your business.

Pros:

  • All of them.

13.) Expert Round-ups

This strategy involves reaching out to industry experts or knowledgeable individuals in a specific area and simply asking what they think about a certain topic. These results are calibrated and formatted on your site. This leads to a nice post you can use for not only content generation later, but something that the individuals featured will usually link to and share.

Pros:

  • Build real connections with industry experts.
  • Always posted through social.

14.) Podcasts/Webinar

Interviewing experts on a podcasting or webinar series is a great way to get some awesome content, as well as links on a very common basis, usually from the individual you interviewed.

This also works the other way too. Take up every podcast or webinar opportunity. This goes for speaking events and conferences too.

Pros:

  • Builds connections, social shares common.
  • Relevant powerful links.

15.) Info-graphic distribution

Creation and distribution of high quality info-graphics. A great example of this was the Coke Infographic campaign that went super viral, which brings me nicely onto my next link type too.

This infographic brought in over 1,000 links from the likes of Huffpost, BBC and a number of other health authorities in their industry. The interesting thing is they continue to earn links to this day, such as the one above. As you can see from the screenshot below, it is clear when they launched the infographic.

Referring domains from one infographic campaign

Pros:

  • Helps diversify link profile with image links that are almost always generic, branded “here”, or “image”.
  • These can also be picked up by larger authorities and then link back to your site later on.

16.) Viral Effect

Building the viral effect can be difficult, but by creating a piece of content that is “on-the-edge” is a great way to do this. This can be in any format, but video and infographics are the most popular. Mixed with other content distribution channels can result in the viral effect and hundreds, if not thousands of links, as per the infographic example above.

Pros:

  • Huge velocity of links.
  • Tons of traffic and social.

17.) Influencer Outreach or Product Reviews

A technique that is more common in relation to general marketing and sales tactics for start-up brands. This strategy involves reaching out to potential influencers in a specific industry and simply asking them to review, or promote the product. There are very specific scripts and strategies we use in this case, but the add-on benefits are huge.

Pros:

  • Links
  • Social

That is all the strategies!

Finally: The #1 Issue With The Google SERPs [Bit of a Rant]

Google’s search results are not proportional. This means if you rank 5th for a specific keyword, you will likely receive around 8% of the traffic for that keyword search. For example, if a keyword gets 1,000 searches per month, you will likely receive around 80 visitors per month. If you rank 1st for a specific keyword, you generally receive around 35% of the traffic. In this case, that would be 350 visitors per month, over 4x increase in traffic.

The sites that rank first for specific keywords have the most authority for that specific keyword in the eyes of Google. To rank 1st, we must increase authority. The most effective way to do this is to build high quality backlinks, but the number of backlinks we need to build is almost always lower than you think. Let us take an example further, this is based on a client in London and the financial niche.

Increase Rankings & Revenue

Ranking 5th for this specific keyword generated the company approximately £18,000 a month in revenue. Which means ranking #1 for this keyword would generate the business around a 4x increase in revenue, approximately £80,000 per month in revenue from one keyword. The client knew this keyword could be highly profitable, but they had invested all their energy into on-page optimisation and creating great content. They could not understand why they were not ranking. One of the marketing members knew a little about SEO and they eventually found their way over to me.

Of course, this keyword was extremely competitive. Yet, when we dived into the competition, we saw that not many of the competitors had a high number of authority links pointing to the site. Instead, they had a lot of overall domain authority, but specifically to the page, not really many links. Think BBC or Wiki inner pages.

4000% ROI Through High Quality Backlinks

2 months and 43 links later, they ranked 1st and generated well over £100,000 in revenue through this keyword every single month.

The ROI of the campaign during these months was over 4000%. A £2,000 monthly investment lead to £80,000 in additional revenue per month!

Needless to say, we are now scaling this campaign and targeting even more competitive keywords with larger budgets. Eventually looking to help this client reach £500,000 in monthly revenue online!

This is what we strive to do. We do not play with on-page, we do not audit, we only build high quality authority links that explode your rankings on Google. This is why we are the #1 ranked link building agency in the UK. If this is something you need, feel free to request a proposal. Or call our CEO Tom directly on: 07766 783396. Alternatively, fill in the form below.

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