How can I evaluate a link building company?


We're looking for a link building company, but are weary of anything we find in Google. So far I've looked at:

  • (most promising so far for their blog network)
  • (for their directory submission service)

I am aware that paid links are frowned upon by Google, so I am looking for a link building company that uses legitimate techniques to obtain links. By legitimate techniques, I mean dofollow links posted in relevant content of high PageRank pages.

How can I evaluate a link building company? What should I look out for?

Marketing Inbound Marketing SEO

asked Jun 15 '11 at 07:50
252 points
Top digital marketing agency for SEO, content marketing, and PR: Demand Roll

7 Answers


No. "Link building" is never legit. It's frowned upon by Google because it makes the internet worse. It's an attempt to shortcut your way into legitimacy and it's almost always going to backfire.

Spend money making your site better or on search engine marketing.

answered Jun 16 '11 at 13:11
Joel Spolsky
13,482 points
  • Fair point. I can agree with you to some extent, e.g. where the "link building" company is buying paid links in a link farm or submitting your site to useless/irrelevant directories. However, it seems a company like backlinkbuild and their blog network (basically they write articles and variations thereof and seed them out to blog networks with links to your site) may be more legit. Perhaps you could recommend some ways to "make your site better" to improve SEO and drive organic traffic? Take a startup's monthly marketing budget of $500-1000/mo. as an example. – Mike 13 years ago
  • I agree with Paul May. "Link building" is legit; it's just semantics. There are good ways to build backlinks and bad ones. Truly marketing your site across many others, making yourself worth talking about, is good backlinks. – Alphadogg 13 years ago


"No. "Link building" is never legit. It's frowned upon by Google because it makes the internet worse.

Sorry, but this is totally inaccurate. Google doesn't frown upon it...they talk frequently about good and bad techniques and provide guidance about what you should and shouldn't do. Here's a recent video where Matt Cutts talks about effective link building strategies. They frown on things like paid links, link farms, etc. Good link building is really just good content and effective promotion.

I don't know anything about the agencies you mentioned, but I'd dig in to find out how they actually do things. I'd recommend handling the foundational links yourself (e.g., directory submissions) and work with an agency for the higher value link building. I'd look for an agency that looks more like a PR agency than a directory submission service or a link network. I.e., they identify good content opportunities and then find effective ways to promote it. It'll be more expensive, but long-term you'll be better off. I'd be wary of anyone that promises a large number of links fast and at a low price. Their tactics typically aren't sustainable and are often risky.

Here are some people/agencies that I'm either directly familiar with or that I've heard good things about from people I trust. I'm not affiliated with any of these groups:

  • Citation Labs ( Garrett French is the principal. Very creative marketer, good understanding of content development and understands how to scale efforts without being spammy.
  • MeasuredSEM ( the two principals, Tom Demers and Ken Lyons, ran the search marketing efforts at WordStream before going off on their own. Very strong link building background.
  • Distilled ( great team...I know Paddy Moogan in their UK office and he's very strong. People speak very highly of Justin Briggs and Tom Critchlow in the U.S.
  • Seer Interactive (www.seerinteractive): probably a 40 person agency that's very well thought of in the industry for link building. No direct experience with people who've worked with them though.
  • Blue Glass ( bigger agency and I've heard good things about them multiple times from our customers.
  • Debra Mastaler ( I don't know her personally, but she's very well thought of an I was very impressed with her contributions on the SEOBook forum when I was a member. Best link building answers of anyone I saw there. Tends to be focused on big companies though.

All of these people have written great blog posts about link building that you should check out. I'd also look at posts written by Ross Hudgens, Eric Ward and Jeremy Bencken...all three are very strong link builders, but I don't think any of them are working on behalf of clients right now.

answered Jun 23 '11 at 23:45
Paul May
124 points
  • Solid advice and great suggestions - I'll definitely check them out. Thanks very much. – Mike 13 years ago
  • This might be a semantic issue, but I don't think anything Matt mentions in that video would be considered "link building". It's just being effective on the internet. Link building is a commercial attempt to *game the system* by getting links *inorganically*, as opposed to just creating good content and promoting it well. – Hartley Brody 12 years ago
  • Anyways, I wrote more about my thoughts on this here: Brody 12 years ago


You can turn this around and aim your money at sponsorships.

Find a few local (or compelling) bloggers, and sponsor a post or week of their time. Many prolific bloggers make their income this way, and it results in legitimate inbound links.

Alternatively, spend the money on adding useful things to the web. Pen some real + useful content, and get it published in a variety of places. Host a conference. Sponsor a conference. Build a simple web app people find useful. Many things can be used to generate inbound links. The key is that it needs to be real + interesting.

answered Jun 18 '11 at 05:50
Bruce Alderson
121 points


The first thing that I think is worth taking into consideration is looking at ways to build quality over quantity. Stay away from companies that charge for large quantities of links or getting involved in link exchange communities. A great way to start creating links is just using a link tool such as Open Site Explorer from SEOmoz to research your competitors links. After you've found good link candidates you may need to send an email with a compelling message to the site or blog you want to link with. Keep in-mind that if you begin just sending cold emails asking if you want to exchange links most of the time you will be ignored. Start by maybe following that link candidates Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, LinkedIn etc. Try to comment on their blog posts and establish a relationship first, then ask to exchange a link. Remember, quality links take time to establish but are always worth the effort.

answered Apr 22 '12 at 09:35
11 points


There are several companies that you can trust, but the larger question here that needs to be addressed is what is your goal? The types and approaches to link building are incredibly varied. You'all know me as the longest tenured link builder on the web. 16+ years. Work solo. LinkMoses, yadda yadda...(Thanks for the mention Paul, yes, I still do client link building) During that time I've been asked to review hundreds of link building proposals from link building agencies large and small. The amount of BS, incorrect information and misguided strategies is still staggering to me after all these years. The right strategy will always be dependent upon the goals for the site, and based on these goals, you should select the agency to help you accordingly. Some agencies specialize in viral link baiting, others in paid links, others in merit based content earned links. Not all sites can attract all types of links. The crucial move to make is to identify and select the right agency for the specific linking job. At least 50% of my revenue comes from evaluating proposals and assisting in vendor/agency selection. Having seen more of these than just about anyone, I can spot the good ones fairly quickly. My particular approach to link building means I am effective for a very specific type of client, and when a client inquiry comes in that is not a fit for me, I direct that client to a vendor that is a better fit. BTW, one that wasn't mentioned above is Outstanding company. Again, that's the goal here. The right agency for the right job. No single agency can do it all. -Eric

answered Jun 25 '11 at 00:51
Eric Ward
11 points


As Eric Ward says above, no single agency can do it all. Each site needs its own bespoke link building campaign. He is also correct about just how much dross is out there, being sold each and every day, in which 90%+ is absolutely useless.

"If everyone listened more to Eric Ward regards linking, then the web would be a better place." (Yes, you can quote me, Eric!)

Most of the ones that do listen try and forget what he says, because he tells them what they need to know, but this means hard work. So, they end up using other schemes. For the ones that listen AND action, well, lets just say that they are the people that are happy on the web.

Anyway, enough of making Eric feel good... :-)

If you want a company that uses legitimate techniques, the very first one that they should offer is to ask you just why you think you should be linked to. What content do you have that is so good that other websites should want to list it on their own site? If they ask you this, and you can answer honestly, either positively, or negatively, then you are on the right track.

If you do not have this content (a great blog, a directory of related services to your industry, the best glossary in your industry, some great tools etc), then you had better get some, otherwise the $$$$ you spend on linking could become one of the worst decisions you ever made.

There are so many things to explain, but this should be enough to get you started.


answered Jun 25 '11 at 01:51
James Welch
11 points


I think something people lose sight of is, does their website deserve to rank. A link building firm who doesn't review your content and discuss this aspect of link building with you is one to avoid. Put another way, a link building company who are not concerned with content quality is likely to be using techniques which might be best avoided.


answered Jun 25 '11 at 01:10
Dave Robinson
1 point

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