In this post I’m 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 are designed to give you the highest ROI for your link building investment.
With these linking strategies I am able to deliver services that rival the largest agencies in the country and outperforms 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.
I’ve 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 at a time as we are still a small business but growingly rapidly with 8 full time team members as of May 2018.
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, increases in referral traffic and a dramatic increase 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, meaning each link was worth an extra £12,000 a year in business, not a bad ROI!
The short of it is: To generate real results, you need real authority, relevant links pointing to your site. The more the better but it’s always quality over quantity.
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.
Alternatively for larger companies we can simply 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 and hence conversions for outreach are a lot higher. So in this strategy we act on either the business owners behalf or a member of the company. Also it avoids having dozens of email responses per day through different emails in-agency.
There are a couple of tools and questions that we will need access and answered to before launching the campaign. The 3 most important of these are:
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 and potentially could make you the highest revenue in the future, this is explained in more detail below.
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 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.
Another element to check that is closely related to over-optimisation 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.
Good anchor text profile:
Here we can see the majority of the links are branded “bbc” and the variations are inner page branded “bbc news” “bbc iplayer” with the URL variations also generating a lot of links. This is a very natural and hence powerful link profile.
Bad anchor text profile:
As you can see not only is the anchor text above spammed but also they 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!
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.
Note: I’ve written extensively about how to find the best targets to build links to, 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.
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 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, making both our link outreach more difficult and your return on investment lower. So 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 and reverse engineering link opportunities. We can work with you on this to build the right type of content to generate the most high quality links.
If you have someone in-house who can build this piece then that’s perfect, if not then we can use one of our content contacts that can give us exactly what we need for the campaigns, although this will be at additional expense as these are high quality freelance content writers.
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.) and more importantly these keywords will give you the quickest ROI.
These are the ones 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, resulting 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.
If you’d like more information on reverse engineering target pages and anchors read our guide here.
So once the pre-launch process is completed we can begin the link generation campaign itself.
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 tools have tried to automate this process unsuccessfully in the past 12 months, we’ve found that doing this using our operators is actually 5 times more effective at generating prospecting results as our trained link building experts understand what to look for so 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 type of link generation strategy used (more on this in a second.)
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 & 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/bloggers etc). 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.
Re-placement is a strategic edge we have in our strategies, something that’s enabled us to open up multiple link building opportunities even in the narrowest of niches. This technique is also called “bridging”.
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 advice 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.
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 & 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 its 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 updated each day.
This is the important bit. This is where the real difference can be made between generating only 1/2 links a month or generating 10-20+ 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 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.
The key to successful guest post placements is to offer them something incredible. Usually we use social influence, email subscribers and content quality as the core selling points. For example 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 (so they’ll 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.
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. This is also called referral traffic inside of Google analytics.
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 hence increase revenue substantially as these are the type of people already searching for what you are offering! They are already pre-sold on your products or services!
Below is 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’ve built 14 links so far (shows that this is a quality over quantity game) and the results can be seen in the video. As the leads for these flooring contracts can be worth up to £50,000, the ROI we’ve generated in just 4 months for Ecoflor has been incredible.
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.
Before building the campaign out I 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:
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.
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.
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.
Pricing is based on the number of qualified relevant prospects outreached. Campaigns starts 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.
One point I touched on earlier in the post is one of the key elements to why we built this entire business the way we did and 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 but it is actually so much more important. Generating TRAFFIC through your links is going to be the determining factor in how Google values links (and hence RANKS sites in the future.)
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 aren’t revealed. But as Google and 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 element 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 and hence low user engagement metrics (high bounce rates, low time on site etc.) As a result if Google adds more and more weight into user experience metrics (which they are doing currently) and integrates this with traffic metrics generated through links they could potential solve a large percentage of manually generated links.
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 isn’t going to be social shares or anything like that (I could rant about why it won’t be that for hours but essentially its down to Google not wanting to give up control of their algorithm to twitter, facebook etc) instead its going to be how many of these links are clicked or put another way – How much traffic a specific link generates.
This is the reason why we build links the way we do, because in 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’s it. That’s 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 don’t want to get into the nitty gritty then here’s the place to get in touch, click the request a proposal link below and get in touch.
Below is a list of the core 17 types of links we build and the strategies associated.
The foundation of a link building campaign. This technique involves finding high authority websites relevant to your industry (or closely related) and reaching out 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.
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.
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, instead we inform them of a link that is broken (404 error, website down etc).
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.
Also known as link roundups. This involves creating a piece of content that links to a number pieces that are relevant to the niche. Very similar to top 10 lists.
The most powerful links you can build. The easiest way to build these links is to reach out to individuals inside the Uni itself on their blogging platform and with some strategic value exchange we can generate dozens of powerful links from these sources!
I group these all together as they involve a very similar link generation strategy. These are perfect for gaining locational relevance and 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 in return for a link is a great way to get a link and do a good thing in the process.
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.
In this strategy we reach out to local businesses and bloggers and offer a value exchange. For example a tweet/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.
This involves finding locations online where your website is mentioned but not linked.
This is essentially guest posts on steroids. This involves actually paying to be featured on a website. Although these cost money to post they usually have less stringent guidelines for postings. This means we can talk about our products benefits more and essentially pre-sell the products or services.
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.
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.
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. “Add their opinion” – These results are then calibrated and formatted on your site. Leading to a nice post you can use for not only content generation later on but something that the individuals featured will usually link to and share.
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. If you are ever asked to go on podcasts or webinars then take up those opportunities. This goes for speaking events and conferences too.
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 and 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’s clear when they launched the infographic.
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 without content distribution channels can result in the viral effect and hundreds if not thousands of links, as per the infographic example above.
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.
That’s all the strategies!
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’ll 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 (an over 4x increase in traffic.)
The sites that rank first for a specific keywords has 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’s take the example above a step further (this is based on a client in London and the financial niche)
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 and couldn’t understand why they weren’t 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 but 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)
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, looking to help this client reach £500,000 in monthly revenue online!
This is what we strive to do. We don’t focus on on-page, we don’t 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 me directly on: 07766 783396, or alternatively fill in the form below.