Link-building is something that seems to be outsourced frequently, as it's time-consuming and tricky to do well while minimizing risk. That's great news for companies that specialize in link development of course, but from my experience, it means that many times there's not enough communication with other marketers who may work in-house. This can result in poor results from every department. Link-building can absolutely still be used to make a site rank higher no matter what anyone says. It can also get you into serious trouble if you don't understand how to make it work in conjunction with everything else on a site, and it rarely works as well on its own as it does when everyone works together.
What You Can Do on Your Own
Do a search for your keywords and the site to see if there are multiple pages that appear. If there are five results that basically say the same exact thing, ask that they be combined in order to both reduce content bloat (and lessened link benefits. There's really no need to have five pages that list the same service you offer using different words.
Include the other teams when you send proposals on new ideas just to make sure you won't be working against something they're doing or duplicating their efforts. When there's no communication between teams you could easily be creating the same content that another team is creating.
If you have access to Webmaster Tools and you keep seeing messages that may not really affect your area of the marketing plan but you understand how to fix the problem, speak up! I did this recently even though the client has an IT department who should have fixed the issue. I'm always glad to be able to fix my own mistakes and it's very easy to be blind to your errors.
Make sure to check for 404s and inform the client how to handle them. Screaming Frog is quite useful for this (and for just about a million other things) in case you don't have access to WMT.
If there's something new going on, hear about it. If no one volunteers to keep you updated, book some extra time to keep checking out the site to find out for yourself. I've sometimes been so focused on promoting part of a site (like the blog) that I've completely ignored other critical parts (like a mass of new services or products going live) so always, always, always actually look at the site as often as you can.
Make sure the social team knows to promote your latest content, on every channel possible, especially if it's not something like a blog post that they'll obviously see immediately. You can learn a lot from a brand's social account as well, so take a look at who they follow and who follows them and maybe you'll see some good link opportunities.
If you are being asked to build links to a page that the company is spending a fortune on with PPC AND it ranks number one organically, using the same anchor that's being used as a paid keyword, speak up, again. If something is already where you want it, maybe someone should back off and focus their efforts elsewhere. Maybe they don't want to, but speak up and at least point it out.
Last but not least, always make sure no one has accidentally blocked all robots from the entire site. If I had a nickel for every time this happened…I'd have a lot of nickels. It's happened with clients who don't use a test environment, it's happened when they've moved to WordPress, and it's happened when they've just made an error. I've done it myself sadly.
What You Always Need to Know About
Upcoming changes that could affect your work. Is there a product that's going to be killed off next week? Is there going to be a big URL change? Are they moving to a new domain? Is the site being completely redesigned? Have they killed off a page that you built some great authority links to and they haven't put in a redirect? That one's been a big problem for me.
Major downtime planned. It's hard to get a good link when the site's down. While I'd love to say that we check to make sure the site is up every day when we start our outreach for each client, we don't. Like it or not, we assume that it's live unless we're told otherwise.
Is there anything really big and new coming up? Even if you're not going to be building links for a holiday promotion, for example, it's still a great way to get a webmaster's attention when you're doing outreach. Is there a big sale planned for the weekend for first time customers? Then let webmasters know this in the outreach even if you're trying to get links to a specific resource.
Questions You Always Need to Ask
How can I best stay in touch with other teams? Conference calls or Skype every month? In-person meetings? Project management system that we all have access to and actually use? Evernote notebooks or their new Workchat? I am a mad Evernote fan and I've tried to use notebooks to organize some of our link projects but it didn't work well for some employees, so we keep it very simple with emails. It's important to find a communication method that works for everyone as otherwise you just won't keep up.
How can I best let you know what I'm doing? Weekly email updates or phone calls? I do most of my updating in the form of emails but some clients want a monthly call with us, their IT people, and the head of SEO. Some clients don't really seem to care what we're doing, which I assume means they trust us (hopefully that's the reason) but I still give them a monthly update.
May I have access to your analytics and Webmaster Tools (both Bing and Google) accounts? I really hate having to ask a client how certain pages are performing when I could look it up myself. There's so much great information in these tools that it's a shame not to have access to them.
How to Get Buy-In on Cooperation
This can be tricky. I've given up on some of my (luckily former) clients who outright refused to let me know about things that directly affected our efforts. As a company specializing in link-building, we've always been thought of as the guys who just build the links and keep quiet about everything else so we still fight to be heard at times. Here's the thing: if we're doing outreach in order to build links to a how-to guide that you have and you've just decided to get some fast links thrown up on a blog network, that's bad news for us, and for you. If we can't tell what someone else is doing, we can't warn you of the dangers. We don't sit around waiting to run link reports on your site every day, so if 500 links go live tomorrow for this how-to guide, it might take a while before we know about it.
One reason that I like to have a high level of cooperation and communication is that I may come up with what I think is a great idea but depending on what another team is planning, it might be a monumental disaster for various reasons. I don't want to make a mistake or put a lot of effort into something that gets negated. That's a waste of client money. Let's say that I'm working on outreach for a service that you're about to kill off and replace it with something totally different but you don't think to mention it even though it's been in the works for months. I notice that wow, that landing page I was targeting is now a 404 and I've just spent the past couple of weeks sending emails to 200 webmasters. While I've been telling all these webmasters about this awesome service that is no longer available, I could have been introducing them to the new service so you've just spent a lot of money for something that isn't available anymore. You know how bad it is for a webmaster to tell you that the URL you sent them in this awesome email is a 404 or is redirecting them to the home page? What do you say then? "Oh sorry, I wasn't told." You look like a really great brand ambassador then.
In conjunction with this, you have to make sure that you reciprocate and that you're telling other teams about what you're doing. What if there are multiple link teams and unbeknownst to you, everyone else is also focused on the same page that you're working with? It could look a bit odd for one target page to generate 50 links with no other links going up to other pages on the site for two months straight.
In the end, a lot of this depends on you. Clients don't always think to tell you everything so do your part and ask questions. Get to know the other teams and stay in touch with them if possible. Everyone will benefit from the extra cooperation.
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