Link Building Process Models for Enterprise and Agency Level SEO

Today’s guest post comes from Jason Acidre. Jason Acidre is the Co-Founder and CEO of Xight Interactive, an SEO Consulting Agency based in the Philippines. He’s also the author of Kaiserthesage, an SEO blog, and has been a marketing consultant for Affilorama and Traffic Travis for the past 2 years of his career as a professional search marketer. You can follow him on Twitter @jasonacidre

Like any other marketing practice, link building has different levels. An efficient process for link building depends on the goals, size, and market of a website or brand.

There are several factors that differentiate the scope of work when it comes to link development. Some are:

  • Type and size of the website that will be optimized
  • Methods suitable and reasonably needed by the brand
  • Nature of the industry and its online ecosystem
  • Budget allocated to link marketing and development

As a service provider, one process model for link development won’t necessarily work for every type of website and vertical you encounter. That’s why it’s so important for link marketers to continually test, adapt and know different processes that they can use effectively on different websites and industries.    

I guess one of my best advantages in the link building game is that I’ve personally experienced working in-house for an SEO agency, in-house for an enterprise-level company and as a consultant to small, medium and enterprise companies.

This breadth of experience gave me room to play around, discover and develop different process models that can scale to any level of link building (SMB, agency and/or enterprise).      

Although link building initiatives come in different sizes, there is one common thing that makes a link campaign very effective – if it’s goal-oriented.

Here are 3 link building models that I want to share. I hope you can find something useful for your own campaigns.

Infiltration Model

When you’re doing the legwork for your link building campaigns, put yourself in a shoe of a newbie blogger. What would you do to promote your blog? Do like what everyone else does, be a part of a community. So if you’ll be doing this on a large scale, you’ll certainly need to infiltrate communities in your industry where the linkers are.

These communities can be authority blogs, forums or social networks where other bloggers in your client’s sphere discuss things related to your industry.

Once you have identified the places where the active players in your industry’s online scene are sharing ideas and opinions, make a list of them. You will not necessarily need to entice influencers in your campaign’s initial stage. So start with those who have substantial following and readership, because they can still help you generate good links and absorb targeted traffic. 

After creating a big list of people/bloggers you need to connect with, start getting on to their radar. Build relationships and alliances, as these relationships can be a strong asset for your campaign once you start aiming for the bigger picture (like getting help to promote your campaign’s future content assets and absorbing targeted audience from them).

Some ways you can efficiently participate in online communities and engage your target linkers:

  • Leaving constructive and useful comments on their personal blogs.
  • Sharing their work on social networks (Twitter, Google+, Facebook, etc…) and letting them know about it (mentioning them).
  • Initiating conversations on their blogs or on social networks.
  • Setting up a blog, where you can mention or link to their works (articles/blog posts) – and letting them know about it as well.
  • Creating content specifically targeted to them (interviews, group interviews, review or supporting their opinionated content).
  • Offering guest posts for their blogs.

Develop a persona that you can use for this link building process. Use this persona for networking, because influencers engage more readily with people than brands.

As soon as you get coverage from these relationships, it’ll be easier to engage and connect with the influential and authoritative figures in your industry.

 infiltration link development model

Content Asset Development Model

Developing content assets is one of the best ways not just to build links, but also expand the site/brand’s unique selling point (USP). However, some of these processes do require time – and sometimes budget – to be implemented.

The basic model is to create new or repurpose existing content that can target both potential customers and linkers to the site. These materials may be web content, offline content, or events. 

 content asset development

Some common assets used to promote websites and obtain content-driven editorial links are:

  • Free Ebooks or whitepapers – before launching the ebook, you can send out emails to bloggers and industry experts for feedback (and also a subtle way of promoting it to them). You can also quote them and include their material in your ebook or whitepaper. Once you’re prepared to launch the free ebook, you can start offering it to bloggers as a freebie for their readers and get links from it. 
  • Free Tools – This tactic requires budget or coding skills, but it’s one of the best ways to attract links. It’s also easy to promote this type of web content, since people that you’ll be reaching out to can use it for free.
  • Repurposing data – there are ton of methods that you can use to visualize available data by creating infographics, timelines, kinetic typography, slide presentations and/or HTML5 landing pages. And there are also so many ways to market and push this type of linkable asset to its target audience.
  • Events – offline (seminars, conferences, meetups, charity events, etc…) and online (webinars, awards, contests, etc…) can help strengthen the site’s brand presence, and this presence can certainly lead to more links to the site. 

The success of these content assets depends on how they are promoted. That’s why outreach is a vital part of a brand launching something really link-worthy.

Then as soon as you get the word out to your prospects, it’s best to track if your content is getting the right attention in terms of links and social shares. You can uncover easy-to-acquire links once the heat comes off of your content asset launch.

You’ll be increasing your campaign’s chances of getting more high-powered links from people/sites who have known your site’s brand because of your content (through guest blogs or direct link requests), because they now have a little background of the level of value that the brand can provide.

Use social listening, brand monitoring and link analysis tools (like Topsy, Google Alerts and Ahrefs) to track the people/sites that have featured, linked to or voluntarily shared your content on social networks.

List the bloggers and sites you find that can help build more exposure to your site. Get better link placements from them (pitch for guest blogs, request for links, or promote upcoming content to them).

Content Acquisition and Distribution Model

Links are the outcome of great content. So instead of purchasing or creating links, why not just purchase content (seeing that it will translate to links) and distribute it for links?

For enterprise and agency level campaigns, this approach may be expensive at some point, particularly if you’ll choose to get content from veteran/pro-bloggers in a certain industry. But there’s a process in which you can somehow make this a very cost-efficient strategy. 

  • Find bloggers in your client’s industry who’re struggling to promote their blogs or their personal brand (try to find at least 10 – 20 to start off, because it will be cheaper). You can certainly find lots of bloggers who can really write exceptionally and create high quality content about the niche, but are still in this kind of situation.
  • Offer them a content partnership, wherein you’ll buy content from them. And in exchange, they can keep authorship of their content and your team will handle the outreach and the distribution of their content (for guest blogging). This will help them promote their brand as bloggers, plus they get to earn extra for writing for you. Your client gets a link from the content or from the author bio (as they can mention that they are writing on behalf of your client). It’s a win/win/win for everyone.  
  • Distribute their content as guest posts to top industry blogs, news sites and content hubs. You’ll have better chances of getting published on these authority blogs with this approach, because you’ve hired industry specialists to write for your content distribution campaign. So the quality of information from your content will not be a big issue in this case.
  • You can also choose to acquire some of their works to be published on your client’s website; especially those that you think will naturally attract links and social shares. Implement authorship markup to further boost the trust search engines see in the site’s domain, based on the authoritativeness of the authors it hosts.
  • Monitor the progress of the published guest posts, and track people/sites that have linked to or shared them, because you can grow your list of link prospects (that’ll be easier to reach out to) through this data.   

So imagine, if you can buy 5 high-quality blog posts for $10 – $20 a post from 10 different bloggers each month (it’s a bargain since you’ll help in promoting them along the process), then you can have 50 high-quality posts that you can use for your guest blogging campaign for a total of $500 – $1,000. On top of that, these high-value posts can also multiply the results of your efforts and lead to more link opportunities and brand impressions for the site, as they get socially shared and naturally linked to. 

That’s just it for now. I hope you’ve found something useful or interesting from this post that you can test and play around. If you liked this post or have questions, I would love to hear them on the comments below or send me a tweet over @jasonacidre.   


  • the content partnership idea just blew my mind…

    tactical question: when doing the actual outreach for this, what are you saying to the potential guest post website? “I have a great post from author XYZ who blogs at…”

    or do you represent yourself as the actual author who you paid for the content?

    seems a little awkward. how do you do it?

  • Sam

    Firstly, your content is very actionable which is often not the case with an SEO post.

    However I do feel that it seems to me that creating personas is just another way for gaming the system. Yes you are creating relationships and engaging with though leaders in your industry- but it’s deceptive. You are doing this for one reason and one reason only to get a link.

    How is that any different from the low level tactics other SEO’s use for getting links?
    The ‘delivery’ of the links might be different, but the outcome is the same- both going after a link that will push a page higher in the SERPS.

    I’ve seen many so called thought leaders in the industry shout on the rooftops about personas and at the same time look down at SEO’s that use lower level tactics that in essence produce the same results.

  • Sam,

    This is Jason’s guest post, so I’ll let him speak for himself on this, but I’ll provide a couple of my own thoughts.

    First, I’m also uncomfortable with the way many of the lower level tactics are talked about in the community. Too often, many of them are portrayed as unethical simply because they violate google’s webmaster guidelines (which gives google way more authority than they should have). I think we’d all be better off if the discussions of ethics and effectiveness/risk were separated.

    That said, we’ve typically been very in favor of the high-level tactics just because we think they work better and they’re more sustainable. I realize that this isn’t the case for all types of SEO, but I think it’s only going to become more valuable over time.

    As far as the ethics of using personas for community building, this is a step beyond what I’m comfortable with, but I’d like to hear Jason’s thoughts on this.

    Final thought…I think Jason is a savvy SEO and there’s a lot of great info in this post, so I hope we can avoid having the comment stream get hijacked completely by the ethics debate. It’s never that productive and it would be a waste of a good discussion about the actionable info that you mentioned.

  • I like the Infiltration Model and the concept of using a Persona(I just recently learned what these were).

  • Jason,

    For someone who has done only a bit of enterprise SEO this is a great primer on what the best tactics are for link building. Definitely a different world then local and SMB’s.

  • I really like the points you make Jason, but I’m wondering how you can get quality bloggers/posts for $10-20 per post. I would think it’s much more expensive (~$50).

  • Thanks for the comment Ryan :)

    We’ve been able to find newbie bloggers (that can really write awesome posts on specific niches) these past few months, who are also willing to write for $10 a post, as long as we can help them promote their personal brand as bloggers.

    Most of these bloggers also accept the offer, since the “pay” (even it’s not that big) somehow motivates them to write more (given that they are really doing it for passion).

  • I share Ryan’s concern about getting content from existing bloggers for $10-$20/post. I’ve done it, so I know it’s not impossible, but it’s also a trade-off: A less established blogger may be more affordable, but also won’t be as effective as a door-opener on high-value blogs since they’re not “industry experts.” On the other hand, a more established blogger can produce quality content AND make the outreach easier due to name recognition, but is going to cost more.

    CAN you get posts at $10-20/each? Yes. But like any good marketing strategy, you’ll need to find the mix of low-cost/low-authority and high-cost/high-authority bloggers that is appropriate for your campaign and your goals.

  • Interesting, thanks for the follow up Jason! This is a very actionable topic.

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