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How to Hire a Link Building Agency: A Step-by-Step Guide



How to Hire a Link Building Agency: A Step-by-Step Guide

We all know that link building is an integral part of any SEO strategy. But acquiring top-notch links is not as easy as it looks. It takes a lot of experience, skill, and time to do it well. So what if you can’t manage link building yourself but still want the best results?

If you don’t have the experience to find high-quality link prospects or can’t spare hours doing outreach, now may be the time to hire a link building agency. A quality one can get the results you need without the headaches.

But with so many agencies out there claiming to be the best in the business, it can be challenging to know who’s legit. In this article, we will look at how to hire a link building agency, including the qualities and red flags to look out for. 

What is a link building agency and why should you hire one?

Link building, when done well, is a full-time job. It takes skill to assess a site and come up with a strategy and roadmap, produce quality content that brands want to publish, and build long-lasting relationships with businesses and journalists. 

Even if you have all of the skills required to build exceptional links that will move the needle, doing so takes a lot of time. If you’re already an SEO or a business owner, the likelihood is you don’t have the time needed to land killer links. 

A link building agency has a dedicated expert team set up specifically to build links for their clients on a full-time basis. A high-quality agency will take care of everything you need—from strategy and planning to execution—and keep you updated as it progresses. 

The best link building agencies are made up of expert writers, SEOs, PR executives, and experienced managers to deliver a successful service seamlessly. This means you can get the results you need without the headaches and simply check in with them for updates on your campaign. 

Outsourcing to an agency vs. building an in-house team

If you’re at the point where you know you need help with link building, you may want to take a moment to consider whether the best option is to hire a link building agency or build your own in-house team.

Obviously, hiring an agency has several benefits. You’re paying for years of experience, a fully functional, coordinated team with pre-built relationships, and systems in place. Especially in the short term, this all makes link building easy (and one less thing to manage).

However, link building agencies have high business costs. To turn a profit, link building agencies usually charge higher prices, which often take up a huge portion of your SEO budget. Meaning, using an agency to build links at scale long term may not be the best option. 

If you’re building up your own business, either as an independent SEO consultant or building digital assets like a niche site, it may be more beneficial (especially in the long term) to build your own in-house team. 

First, this will be more cost-efficient. And if you have link building experience yourself and just need additional hands to help scale, you can train an in-house team with your own standard operating procedures (SOPs) to work exactly how you want. 

Pros and cons of hiring a link building agency vs. building an in-house team

How to find the right link building agency for you?

So now we have established why you may need a link building agency, the question is, “How do you find a high-quality agency that will actually get results?”

It’s easy to pick up any old rubbish from Fiverr or a list from a Linkedin outreach warrior. But acquiring backlinks that move the needle from big businesses like HubSpot or Monday takes more than a cold email from a random SEO “expert.”  

To set you up for success, we’re going to look at the traits of a quality link building agency.

1. Great communication

Great communication is a key factor for success in any business. With link building agencies, responsiveness and transparency can be key indicators for quality. 

Although you should always allow a reasonable amount of time for a busy agency to respond (keeping in mind that an agency may be in a different time zone to you and have different working days), expecting a response within 24 hours during working hours is standard. 

Link building agency assuring customers are connected to it 24/7 on its website
An example of great communication: USerp’s communication process detailed on its website.

An agency should also offer transparency into how it intends to work and what can be expected of it. It’s standard practice for a quality agency to have an onboarding process for new clients, walking you through exactly how things will go. 

If an agency is reluctant to communicate or share its methods, timelines, etc., that should be a big red flag, and you’ll probably want to look elsewhere. 

2. Creates realistic timelines and goals

Anyone who tells you they can acquire 762 links in 30 days probably sold snake oil in a former life. 

High-quality link building takes time and, depending on the link building services you choose, may even take months to start seeing results. 

Services like digital PR and HARO link building require time. After all, it takes a while to build relationships with journalists and see placements as articles are published. It’s not an overnight process. A good agency will be up front about realistic timelines, many stating what to expect on their websites.

Link building timelines explained
An example of timelines for HARO link building explained in the FAQ section of Authority Builders.

If an agency gives you unrealistic metrics (either the number of links it can acquire or the time frame it expects), it will likely use black-hat methods to acquire links or simply let you down. 

3. Holds itself accountable

Here’s the thing about great link building: It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution! 

Quality link building agencies must adapt their strategy on a client-by-client basis. In order to get the best results, they need to understand what your site needs and consider many factors, such as niche and business type. 

Often, this can mean trial and error as they develop a client’s individual plan. On occasion, this can mean things go wrong. 

An agency that can hold itself accountable for mistakes and offer reassurance on how it can rectify the issue and get back on track is necessary for a long-term, successful partnership. 

4. Continuously updates you with progress

Being updated on the progress of your account is essential, especially for link building services that take slightly longer to fulfill. 

This helps ensure you have the reassurance the work you paid for is being done and you can coordinate other parts of your SEO strategy and campaigns alongside ongoing link building efforts.

Most large, well-established agencies these days will have some form of client dashboard where you can monitor the ongoing progress of your campaigns. But even small agencies with limited staff should pre-arrange regular progress check-ins as part of the service. 

Link building agency's website stating it provides a customer dashboard
An example of a link building agency detailing its tracking progress on its website.

5. Methods and tools

A professional link building agency will have specific methods for acquiring links (depending on the types of links) that it should be willing to share with you. 

Although it may not want to share every insider secret that makes it more successful than other competitors, it should give you a brief overview of its process during client onboarding. 

Agencies that are reluctant to share their processes are something to be wary of. Often, they work from a list of guest post providers or use techniques that can land you a Google penalty, like buying links. 

But a professional agency will utilize many professional tools to run competitor analyses, audit backlinks, find link prospects, liaise with journalists, run outreach campaigns, and track results. An agency should be happy to share which tools it uses and why. 

6. Reputation

You should always be able to ask a prospective agency for testimonials from satisfied customers. In fact, the majority will have testimonials listed on their websites. 

However, anyone can write a fake testimonial from never-heard-of-before Joe Bloggs about how fabulous they are. On the other hand, recommendations from well-known industry professionals add a layer of confidence that an agency knows what it is doing and gets results. 

Testimonials from well-known industry professionals
An example of testimonials from well-known industry professionals from Get Me Links.

Moreover, well-established link building agencies will have additional information available alongside testimonials, adding to their credibility. Examples include detailed case studies and any awards they have won. These are all things to look out for. 

Case study example
Example of a case study with a well-known brand from USerp’s website.
List of awards won by an agency
An example of Rise at Seven’s awards detailed on its website. 

You can also go one step further than what an agency promotes on its website (let’s face it, that is always going to be positive). Do some digging and check out reviews on social media, Reddit, and even from previous employees on Glassdoor. 

Employee review on Glassdoor

7. Pricing

I think it is important to say here that expensive doesn’t always mean better. Paying someone $300 an hour doesn’t necessarily mean you will get the best results possible.

There are high-quality agencies worldwide, and those working from countries where the cost of living and running a business are cheaper will often have lower prices than those in the U.K. or U.S. 

With that said, there has to be a happy medium. Any high-quality link building agency has several unavoidable costs they need to cover before even turning a profit, including:

  • Professional tools.
  • Outreach staff.
  • Writers (for guest posts, for example).
  • Other agency staff (account managers, administrators, etc.).
  • General business costs (office space, utilities, and so on).

All of these need to be covered with an additional margin for profit for an agency to function. Therefore, if an agency charges $20 per link, regardless of where it is based, you should consider that a red flag. 

It’s also worth considering that the price (as well as scale and turnaround time) will vary depending on the types of links you want to acquire. 

Link prices among the most popular agencies range from $1 per link (for local citations) to $700 per link (for HARO link building).

Costs of different link types

8. Ability to scale

If you are considering using a link building agency for the long term, you’re probably going to want to scale up the operation as you go forward. If the agency you’re using is a small four-person operation, it probably isn’t able to grow with you.

The ideal situation is to find an awesome link building agency that you can build long-lasting relationships with. It should be one that knows your website and goals so you won’t have to change providers every time you want to double down on your efforts.

Finding an agency that is already well established with a large team of staff is the best option if you are looking for long-term growth opportunities. 

Final thoughts  

Hiring a link building agency could be the secret sauce for SEO success for anyone who wants to build epic backlinks at scale. But finding the right agency can take time, effort and, in some cases, trial and error. 

Finding an agency that is professional, has open communication, and is invested in seeing you succeed is going to be key to building a long-lasting partnership. 

Got questions? Ping me on Twitter.

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No Algorithmic Actions For Site Reputation Abuse Yet




Looking up at an angle at the Google sign on the Head Office for Canada

Google’s Search Liaison, Danny Sullivan, has confirmed that the search engine hasn’t launched algorithmic actions targeting site reputation abuse.

This clarification addresses speculation within the SEO community that recent traffic drops are related to Google’s previously announced policy update.

Sullivan Says No Update Rolled Out

Lily Ray, an SEO professional, shared a screenshot on Twitter showing a significant drop in traffic for the website Groupon starting on May 6.

Ray suggested this was evidence that Google had begun rolling out algorithmic penalties for sites violating the company’s site reputation abuse policy.

However, Sullivan quickly stepped in, stating:

“We have not gone live with algorithmic actions on site reputation abuse. I well imagine when we do, we’ll be very clear about that. Publishers seeing changes and thinking it’s this — it’s not — results change all the time for all types of reasons.”

Sullivan added that when the actions are rolled out, they will only impact specific content, not entire websites.

This is an important distinction, as it suggests that even if a site has some pages manually penalized, the rest of the domain can rank normally.

Background On Google’s Site Reputation Abuse Policy

Earlier this year, Google announced a new policy to combat what it calls “site reputation abuse.”

This refers to situations where third-party content is published on authoritative domains with little oversight or involvement from the host site.

Examples include sponsored posts, advertorials, and partner content that is loosely related to or unrelated to a site’s primary purpose.

Under the new policy, Google is taking manual action against offending pages and plans to incorporate algorithmic detection.

What This Means For Publishers & SEOs

While Google hasn’t launched any algorithmic updates related to site reputation abuse, the manual actions have publishers on high alert.

Those who rely heavily on sponsored content or partner posts to drive traffic should audit their sites and remove any potential policy violations.

Sullivan’s confirmation that algorithmic changes haven’t occurred may provide temporary relief.

Additionally, his statements also serve as a reminder that significant ranking fluctuations can happen at any time due to various factors, not just specific policy rollouts.


Will Google’s future algorithmic actions impact entire websites or specific content?

When Google eventually rolls out algorithmic actions for site reputation abuse, these actions will target specific content rather than the entire website.

This means that if certain pages are found to be in violation, only those pages will be affected, allowing other parts of the site to continue ranking normally.

What should publishers and SEOs do in light of Google’s site reputation abuse policy?

Publishers and SEO professionals should audit their sites to identify and remove any content that may violate Google’s site reputation abuse policy.

This includes sponsored posts and partner content that doesn’t align with the site’s primary purpose. Taking these steps can mitigate the risk of manual penalties from Google.

What is the context of the recent traffic drops seen in the SEO community?

Google claims the recent drops for coupon sites aren’t linked to any algorithmic actions for site reputation abuse. Traffic fluctuations can occur for various reasons and aren’t always linked to a specific algorithm update.

Featured Image: sockagphoto/Shutterstock

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WP Rocket WordPress Plugin Now Optimizes LCP Core Web Vitals Metric




WP Rocket WordPress Plugin Now Optimizes LCP Core Web Vitals Metric

WP Rocket, the WordPress page speed performance plugin, just announced the release of a new version that will help publishers optimize for Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), an important Core Web Vitals metric.

Large Contentful Paint (LCP)

LCP is a page speed metric that’s designed to show how fast it takes for a user to perceive that the page is loaded and read to be interacted with. This metric measures the time it takes for the main content elements has fully loaded. This gives an idea of how usable a webpage is. The faster the LCP the better the user experience will be.

WP Rocket 3.16

WP Rocket is a caching plugin that helps a site perform faster. The way page caching generally works is that the website will store frequently accessed webpages and resources so that when someone visits the page the website doesn’t have to fetch the data from the database, which takes time, but instead will serve the webpage from the cache. This is super important when a website has a lot of site visitors because that can use a lot of server resources to fetch and build the same website over and over for every visitor.

The lastest version of WP Rocket (3.16) now contains Automatic LCP optimization, which means that it will optimize the on-page elements from the main content so that they are served first thereby raising the LCP scores and providing a better user experience.

Because it’s automatic there’s really nothing to fiddle around with or fine tune.

According to WP Rocket:

  • Automatic LCP Optimization: Optimizes the Largest Contentful Paint, a critical metric for website speed, automatically enhancing overall PageSpeed scores.
  • Smart Management of Above-the-Fold Images: Automatically detects and prioritizes critical above-the-fold images, loading them immediately to improve user experience and performance metrics.

All new functionalities operate seamlessly in the background, requiring no direct intervention from the user. Upon installing or upgrading to WP Rocket 3.16, these optimizations are automatically enabled, though customization options remain accessible for those who prefer manual control.”

Read the official announcement:

WP Rocket 3.16: Improving LCP and PageSpeed Score Automatically

Featured Image by Shutterstock/ICONMAN66

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Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint: A Step-By-Step Guide




Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint: A Step-By-Step Guide

This post was sponsored by DebugBear. The opinions expressed in this article are the sponsor’s own.

Keeping your website fast is important for user experience and SEO.

The Core Web Vitals initiative by Google provides a set of metrics to help you understand the performance of your website.

The three Core Web Vitals metrics are:

This post focuses on the recently introduced INP metric and what you can do to improve it.

How Is Interaction To Next Paint Measured?

INP measures how quickly your website responds to user interactions – for example, a click on a button. More specifically, INP measures the time in milliseconds between the user input and when the browser has finished processing the interaction and is ready to display any visual updates on the page.

Your website needs to complete this process in under 200 milliseconds to get a “Good” score. Values over half a second are considered “Poor”. A poor score in a Core Web Vitals metric can negatively impact your search engine rankings.

Google collects INP data from real visitors on your website as part of the Chrome User Experience Report (CrUX). This CrUX data is what ultimately impacts rankings.

Image created by DebugBear, May 2024

How To Identify & Fix Slow INP Times

The factors causing poor Interaction to Next Paint can often be complex and hard to figure out. Follow this step-by-step guide to understand slow interactions on your website and find potential optimizations.

1. How To Identify A Page With Slow INP Times

Different pages on your website will have different Core Web Vitals scores. So you need to identify a slow page and then investigate what’s causing it to be slow.

Using Google Search Console

One easy way to check your INP scores is using the Core Web Vitals section in Google Search Console, which reports data based on the Google CrUX data we’ve discussed before.

By default, page URLs are grouped into URL groups that cover many different pages. Be careful here – not all pages might have the problem that Google is reporting. Instead, click on each URL group to see if URL-specific data is available for some pages and then focus on those.

1716368164 358 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of Google Search Console, May 2024

Using A Real-User Monitoring (RUM) Service

Google won’t report Core Web Vitals data for every page on your website, and it only provides the raw measurements without any details to help you understand and fix the issues. To get that you can use a real-user monitoring tool like DebugBear.

Real-user monitoring works by installing an analytics snippet on your website that measures how fast your website is for your visitors. Once that’s set up you’ll have access to an Interaction to Next Paint dashboard like this:

1716368164 404 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the DebugBear Interaction to Next Paint dashboard, May 2024

You can identify pages you want to optimize in the list, hover over the URL, and click the funnel icon to look at data for that specific page only.

1716368164 975 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideImage created by DebugBear, May 2024

2. Figure Out What Element Interactions Are Slow

Different visitors on the same page will have different experiences. A lot of that depends on how they interact with the page: if they click on a background image there’s no risk of the page suddenly freezing, but if they click on a button that starts some heavy processing then that’s more likely. And users in that second scenario will experience much higher INP.

To help with that, RUM data provides a breakdown of what page elements users interacted with and how big the interaction delays were.

1716368164 348 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the DebugBear INP Elements view, May 2024

The screenshot above shows different INP interactions sorted by how frequent these user interactions are. To make optimizations as easy as possible you’ll want to focus on a slow interaction that affects many users.

In DebugBear, you can click on the page element to add it to your filters and continue your investigation.

3. Identify What INP Component Contributes The Most To Slow Interactions

INP delays can be broken down into three different components:

  • Input Delay: Background code that blocks the interaction from being processed.
  • Processing Time: The time spent directly handling the interaction.
  • Presentation Delay: Displaying the visual updates to the screen.

You should focus on which INP component is the biggest contributor to the slow INP time, and ensure you keep that in mind during your investigation.

1716368164 193 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the DebugBear INP Components, May 2024

In this scenario, Processing Time is the biggest contributor to the slow INP time for the set of pages you’re looking at, but you need to dig deeper to understand why.

High processing time indicates that there is code intercepting the user interaction and running slow performing code. If instead you saw a high input delay, that suggests that there are background tasks blocking the interaction from being processed, for example due to third-party scripts.

4. Check Which Scripts Are Contributing To Slow INP

Sometimes browsers report specific scripts that are contributing to a slow interaction. Your website likely contains both first-party and third-party scripts, both of which can contribute to slow INP times.

A RUM tool like DebugBear can collect and surface this data. The main thing you want to look at is whether you mostly see your own website code or code from third parties.

1716368164 369 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the INP Primary Script Domain Grouping in DebugBear, May 2024

Tip: When you see a script, or source code function marked as “N/A”, this can indicate that the script comes from a different origin and has additional security restrictions that prevent RUM tools from capturing more detailed information.

This now begins to tell a story: it appears that analytics/third-party scripts are the biggest contributors to the slow INP times.

5. Identify Why Those Scripts Are Running

At this point, you now have a strong suspicion that most of the INP delay, at least on the pages and elements you’re looking at, is due to third-party scripts. But how can you tell whether those are general tracking scripts or if they actually have a role in handling the interaction?

DebugBear offers a breakdown that helps see why the code is running, called the INP Primary Script Invoker breakdown. That’s a bit of a mouthful – multiple different scripts can be involved in slowing down an interaction, and here you just see the biggest contributor. The “Invoker” is just a value that the browser reports about what caused this code to run.

1716368165 263 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the INP Primary Script Invoker Grouping in DebugBear, May 2024

The following invoker names are examples of page-wide event handlers:

  • onclick
  • onmousedown
  • onpointerup

You can see those a lot in the screenshot above, which tells you that the analytics script is tracking clicks anywhere on the page.

In contrast, if you saw invoker names like these that would indicate event handlers for a specific element on the page:

  • .load_more.onclick
  • #logo.onclick

6. Review Specific Page Views

A lot of the data you’ve seen so far is aggregated. It’s now time to look at the individual INP events, to form a definitive conclusion about what’s causing slow INP in this example.

Real user monitoring tools like DebugBear generally offer a way to review specific user experiences. For example, you can see what browser they used, how big their screen is, and what element led to the slowest interaction.

1716368165 545 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of a Page View in DebugBear Real User Monitoring, May 2024

As mentioned before, multiple scripts can contribute to overall slow INP. The INP Scripts section shows you the scripts that were run during the INP interaction:

1716368165 981 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the DebugBear INP script breakdown, May 2024

You can review each of these scripts in more detail to understand why they run and what’s causing them to take longer to finish.

7. Use The DevTools Profiler For More Information

Real user monitoring tools have access to a lot of data, but for performance and security reasons they can access nowhere near all the available data. That’s why it’s a good idea to also use Chrome DevTools to measure your page performance.

To debug INP in DevTools you can measure how the browser processes one of the slow interactions you’ve identified before. DevTools then shows you exactly how the browser is spending its time handling the interaction.

1716368165 526 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of a performance profile in Chrome DevTools, May 2024

How You Might Resolve This Issue

In this example, you or your development team could resolve this issue by:

  • Working with the third-party script provider to optimize their script.
  • Removing the script if it is not essential to the website, or finding an alternative provider.
  • Adjusting how your own code interacts with the script

How To Investigate High Input Delay

In the previous example most of the INP time was spent running code in response to the interaction. But often the browser is already busy running other code when a user interaction happens. When investigating the INP components you’ll then see a high input delay value.

This can happen for various reasons, for example:

  • The user interacted with the website while it was still loading.
  • A scheduled task is running on the page, for example an ongoing animation.
  • The page is loading and rendering new content.

To understand what’s happening, you can review the invoker name and the INP scripts section of individual user experiences.

1716368165 86 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the INP Component breakdown within DebugBear, May 2024

In this screenshot, you can see that a timer is running code that coincides with the start of a user interaction.

The script can be opened to reveal the exact code that is run:

1716368165 114 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of INP script details in DebugBear, May 2024

The source code shown in the previous screenshot comes from a third-party user tracking script that is running on the page.

At this stage, you and your development team can continue with the INP workflow presented earlier in this article. For example, debugging with browser DevTools or contacting the third-party provider for support.

How To Investigate High Presentation Delay

Presentation delay tends to be more difficult to debug than input delay or processing time. Often it’s caused by browser behavior rather than a specific script. But as before, you still start by identifying a specific page and a specific interaction.

You can see an example interaction with high presentation delay here:

1716368165 665 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the an interaction with high presentation delay, May 2024

You see that this happens when the user enters text into a form field. In this example, many visitors pasted large amounts of text that the browser had to process.

Here the fix was to delay the processing, show a “Waiting…” message to the user, and then complete the processing later on. You can see how the INP score improves from May 3:

1716368165 845 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of an Interaction to Next Paint timeline in DebugBear, May 2024

Get The Data You Need To Improve Interaction To Next Paint

Setting up real user monitoring helps you understand how users experience your website and what you can do to improve it. Try DebugBear now by signing up for a free 14-day trial.

1716368165 494 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the DebugBear Core Web Vitals dashboard, May 2024

Google’s CrUX data is aggregated over a 28-day period, which means that it’ll take a while before you notice a regression. With real-user monitoring you can see the impact of website changes right away and get alerted automatically when there’s a big change.

DebugBear monitors lab data, CrUX data, and real user data. That way you have all the data you need to optimize your Core Web Vitals in one place.

This article has been sponsored by DebugBear, and the views presented herein represent the sponsor’s perspective.

Ready to start optimizing your website? Sign up for DebugBear and get the data you need to deliver great user experiences.

Image Credits

Featured Image: Image by Used with permission.

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