How Much Should Link Building Cost?
Give It To Me Straight
Link building is often seen as the most important part of running an SEO campaign. In many ways this is true. Links are still the best way to help your site hit the first page of Google in the shortest amount of time possible. However, due to recent changes to the way Google ranks sites (Panda/Penguin), creating high quality links is now more important than ever. But, the savvy business owner is always quick to look at the bottom line. So, how much should this quality link building and SEO service cost?
Producing high quality content and building the right links take a lot of time. Good content takes expertise, research, and elbow grease. While you can get some quick wins, or might hit the jackpot with a piece that goes viral, in most cases it takes hours of work to gain a single high quality link. If you’re working with an agency for example, your investment will probably be $100+ per link. If you have the expertise to do the work in house, you may be able to earn links for less.
That figure is taken from a survey conducted by SEOmoz, one of the SEO industry’s leading firms, in early 2012. They found that over 50% of firms surveyed in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand charge between $76 and $200 per hour. This range is admittedly very wide, but the main takeaway is that given the fact that a single high quality link (e.g. a guest post on a top blog in your market) can require a minimum time investment of 1.5 hours, it’s easy to see why we put the low end figure at $100.
At this point you may be thinking about that Super Platinum Link Package you saw that promised 99,000 links for $99. It’s true, those packages still exist. It’s also true that you will probably even get more than the promised 99,000 links. However, the #1 most important thing to remember about link building (and all SEO really) is quality trumps quantity every time. Add to that the quantifiable negative effects low quality links have to your rankings and you will start to see why quality is the only way to go.
But Why Does It Cost So Much?
The top 2 questions in the initial phase of most business negotiations are some variation of “How much does it cost” and “Why is it so expensive?” The vast majority of business owners who are thinking about the possibility of hiring an agency or perhaps adding some in-house specialists simply have no idea what goes into sustainable, strategic link building. For most, it’s a simple question of sending a generic email offering to exchange links. Some will say yes, others will say no. If you get enough of them, you will eventually begin to see some results.
That approach may have worked in the early days of SEO, but things have changed considerably since then. Webmasters of quality authority sites (read websites ranking highly for desirable keywords) are often extremely careful about who they link to. Most want more than just a simple reciprocal link, especially if your site doesn’t have much PageRank or traffic. As with any business transaction, they want to know what’s in it for them.
For the sake of brevity, let’s take a look at just one form of quality link building that any business owner, agency, freelance or in-house should be using. The method is called guest posting or guest blogging. It offers a win-win situation for both the person initiating the contact as well as the website that will give them the link. In simple terms, you create a piece of unique content (usually a blog post) with a link or 2 back to your site. The webmaster of the other site then posts that content on their site. You get a link and brand exposure and they get content to help them stay fresh in the search engines while adding value for their readers.
It sounds simple enough, but behind the scenes is a fair bit of work that had to be done for that single, solitary link. At a minimum, one guest post requires the following:
- Outreach Research- you need to compile a list of potential websites/blogs in your market that may be open to the idea of accepting a guest post.
- Outreach Analysis- the compiled list must be analyzed to determine which of the websites are considered high quality guest blogging opportunities to avoid polluting your link profile.
- Target Analysis- once you narrow down the list, you must research the potential blogs to determine what content they already have, the tone/style of the writing, etc.
- Content Brainstorming- before you can contact your list of potential targets, you need to brainstorm ideas for possible content pieces according to the information gathered in #4.
- Outreach- now you need to contact each blog owner with an introductory email outlining your proposal.
- Content Research- once accepted, you need to spend some time researching the topic in order to guarantee that the final draft will be of the highest quality.
- Content Creation- now you can create the content based on your research. Don’t forget to have it proofread for errors.
- Content Submission- time to send it to the webmaster for inclusion on their content calendar.
- Follow-up- once your piece is published, you should link to it from other guest posts, share it on your social media channels, respond to comments from readers, etc.
- Maintain the Relationship- contact the blog owner for feedback on how the post was accepted by their readers, and then ask if they would be interested in further collaboration or if they have any contacts they would be willing to share with you.
That’s 10 over-simplified steps you have to do just for one high quality link. Granted steps 1-4 are time investments that will allow you to perform steps 5-10 with multiple websites at once. But even so, assuming you’re an expert at every phase of the process, 30 minutes per step would be a total of 5 hours of work.
While other linking strategies may take more or less time, any type of quality link is going to require a minimum amount of time commitment (read 1.5+ hours). Compiling lists of potential link partners requires research and creating an offer they will be interested in takes expertise.
But, Does It Have To Be By The Hour?
Once they see how much work is involved, most business owners tend to lean towards contracting per project or on a monthly retainer basis.
In that same SEOmoz survey, around 70% of the agencies/consultancies said that they also offer per project pricing. Since the term project wasn’t really defined as any specific set of tasks, the range here was quite broad. However, 43% of the 490 respondents fell between $1,000 and $7,500 per project:
For most small to medium business owners, a monthly retainer seemed to be the best way to reduce their per link cost. This is especially true when some sort of long term link building strategy is what you’re after. As you can see from the graph below, the prices are also a bit all over the place. However, two ranges stood out as the most popular across the board. 13.8% of the agencies/consultancies charge $251-$500 and 11.3% charge $2,501-$5,000/month:
But, How Much Will It Cost Me?
As mentioned at the beginning of this post, building quality links can begin at $100/link with an agency and perhaps slightly lower if you have a well-trained in-house staff. If you do it yourself, then it will mostly cost you time rather than money. However, if you are considering the latter, you have to ask yourself, “How much is my time worth?”
Whichever link building team you choose, be sure to get every shred of information possible on how they build the links, where the links are coming from and what types of reports they plan to give you to justify the value of the links they build. Not every link is created equal and the same goes for SEO firms. Are you looking to borrow money quickly over the internet? If you have a job, you may qualify for a payday loan. Get a quick decision by applying with us! We are the payday loan lenders. Contact us today!
You can check out the full infographic on the cost of SEO services below:
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