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The Ultimate Link Building Manifesto For SEO Agencies

We know that in the ideal world, SEO agencies should be magically earning their clients links with remarkable content assets and clever PR campaigns – Try telling that to the marketing team managing SEO for a company that sells ‘Lattice Towers‘. It can be done, yes, but in the real world, where cost efficiencies and time play a big factor in reaping SEO benefit, an alternative must be laid out. Here we are going to be talking about ‘surgical link building’. Pro-active link building for rank affecting benefit.

The Holy Grail Of Links

Let’s start with looking at the ideal link. We often like to regard our Blogger Outreach links and journalist links to be as close to the holy grail of links as you can get. Of course, nothing would beat an in-content link on the homepage of the White House, but we need to stay realistic here.



The best links look a bit something like the above (this link is not affiliated with us in any way)

Genuine & relevant site

If a site is genuine, and relevant, we’re happy! We don’t get too hung up on the metrics. It’s more about gut feeling… How well is the site looked after? Is the rest of the content on the site of good quality? You can usually tell within 10 seconds if a site is good quality, without even looking at a single metric.

Non Promotional Intent

If a link is from an advert on the site, a guest post or an advertorial and is labelled that way, the link will possibly be devalued by Google. Google is looking for real human ‘votes’ for other brands, websites or services. If a brand is recommended within the flow of the content, vouched for completely by the site owner or blogger, this is what we want to see. We believe links from author boxes are of less value too.

In Content Link

We believe links from within the main body of content are far more valuable than links outside of the content, for example, links within the sidebar or footer; links within the footer or sidebar typically have no context and maybe there for a non-voting reason.

This is not saying all links from the sidebar or footer are bad, but generally, links within content that have relevant context are valued more.

Other Links Out

If a webpage is seen to be too weighted towards one link out, it could look biased, and therefore promotional or sponsored. There could be a chance the link is valued or less or not at all if it is suspected to be solicited. Too many links from pages where your own brand is the only link out could create a pattern. If the webpage has other links out to various sources, it is therefore seemingly impartial and will hold more weight and longevity as a backlink.


If the website or webpage has obvious engagement like social or comments, we believe the link holds more weight in a search engine’s eyes.

Determine Your Clients Link Building Baseline

Before you begin link building for your clients you will want to determine the baseline of your clients existing efforts. Newer sites will need to have a different approach to established sites, and local sites will need a different approach to national sites (I will go over this a little later on).


Check existing anchor text distribution

It is worth checking the anchor text distribution of your clients so that you are not disproportionately pushing keyword anchors even more. It may be a case of ‘evening out’ anchor text over the next few months. Ahrefs is a great tool for checking your distribution and investigating your backlinks as a whole.


Check current velocity of links

It may be worth checking the current velocity of the link acquisition. A sudden change to this could trip a filter and cause a penalty.

Determine content assets to link to 

Ensure that the client is ‘linkworthy’ and has content assets that you can link to like blog posts, infographics or useful tools. If you were ‘attracting’ links naturally these are the most likely pages to be linked to, not service or money pages. Some SEO’s believe that building links to a particular page is the only way to rank that page, when in fact value from a link can flow through the linking structure.

The Type Of Links That Will Make A Link Profile Look Natural

In terms of surgical link building there are a few types of links you’ll want in your link profile. These links will of course will need to be built at a natural velocity using natural anchors, but more about that later…

Directory Links + Local Citations

We’re not talking 100’s of spam submission sites here. We’re talking a nice baseline of local, topical and authoritative directories. Webmasters submitted their websites to directories years before search engines existed, they are basically how the web was categorised.

Whilst these links won’t necessarily provide a huge ranking effect, they will provide a solid natural baseline for the rest of your link profile. Especially for brand new sites, 20-50 high quality directory links and local citations will be a great kick start to an SEO campaign. Don’t forget the benefit of NAP for local results.

Here are some ideas as to where to find these directories:




You’ll also want to search google for ‘[industry] + web directory’ to find highly relevant directories specifically for your industries or locations.

Links From Bloggers + Webmasters

When a brand gets popular, it will naturally get linked to from bloggers and webmasters within posts and pages. This will essentially be the ‘bread & butter’ of your link building profile. These are the links that search engines value the most.

You can acquire these links by executing blogger outreach campaigns for your clients, also known as guest posting campaigns. We wrote a post a while ago about how to find blogger outreach opportunities. You can ask to feature content on the site, or request links within existing content.


Resource Page Links

Another great type of link to acquire is a ‘resource page’ link. Lots of websites, old and new like to list useful resources to their visitors. These pages are very useful to readers, and search engines really value the links as a vouch from the webmaster. You can acquire these types of links using the same approach as blogger outreach.

Press Release Links

Press Releases  shouldn’t be abused for SEO, but every once in a while when a company has a milestone such as a new website, employee or product line, it can call for a little PR. Press Releases typically aren’t designed to help with SEO, but we do see that it generates links, sometimes naturally, and sometimes from the press releases themselves.

If you’re looking to write your own Press Release, we’ve got an excellent guide here which will help you out!

Link Building Blueprints

Sometimes SEO agencies find it hard to know exactly what to do for their clients. Here are some rough link building blueprints for each type of client/website – local website, brand new website, established website and low competition website.

We recommend you don’t follow these blueprints blindly, each link building campaign should be carefully considered, depending on the goals and current state of the link profiles.

Local Website

  • Local Directories (10-50 ) one off
  • 2-5 Blogger Outreach Links per month
  • 1 press release – every 6-12 months

Brand New Website

  • Web Directories (10-50) one off
  • 5-10 Blogger Outreach Links, slowly increase per month
  • 1 press release – every 6-12 months

Established Website

  • 5-10 Blogger Outreach Links per month – increase seasonally
  • 1 infographic + promotion
  • 1 press release every company milestone (no more than 3-4 per year)

Low Competition Website

  • 2-5 Blogger Outreach Links per month
  • 1 press release – every 6-12 months

What To Link To


What a lot of SEO agencies struggle with is where to link to on their clients’ sites. Some agencies are very commercial with this and build all the links to the money pages. Some agencies may build links all to the home pages, which is a lazy way of doing things. Naturally you would expect most the links to go to the homepage, some to the content assets (blog posts, infographics, tools etc) and the fewest to the money pages.

Don’t worry about your money pages not ranking – with the right site architecture, the juice will flow around your site, and your other pages (included money pages) will get rewarded.

Avoid Patterns & Unnatural Stuff

No website gets penalised for bad links. They get penalised for patterns. We’ve spoken about it before.

Watch out for the following:


  • All links going to money pages
  • Links coming from pages with the same length of content
  • Links coming from pages that are biased towards one link
  • Links coming from labelled advertorials
  • Unnatural link velocity

Don’t Follow Link Building Trends

A common misconception with link building is that it is changing all the time. Link building isn’t changing all the time. What changes is the names of techniques (example: tiered link building, link wheels & link pyramids… topical hubs & web 2.0s… link exchange and resource page links), or the combination of link building methods bundled together, typically for marketing purposes. Sometimes new technology allows for loopholes to be exploited, and this creates a new link building ‘trend’.

This leads to SEO agencies chasing the latest tactics, using dangerous software and executing unnatural techniques, consequently, getting their clients burned. What we must remember is the fundamentals of good and proper link building never change.

If you want to stick with tried-and-tested link building methods, check out our post on reliable link building strategies here.

Don’t Overthink Link Building

SEO agencies mustn’t overthink link building. Put simply, links from any other relevant and genuine website is good. Forget about tiers and software link building. Stay away from loopholes and ‘hacks’. Stay grounded with long term methods, the more manual the better.

Daniel Trick
Daniel Trick

Head of Content

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