There Are No Free Links: Budgeting Resources for SEO Link Building

A common problem many companies face is how much manpower — and how many resources — to allocate to link building.

First, let’s dispel a common myth: there are no free links. All links are paid for in one form or another. Companies invest time and money to create content and resources, and then spend more time and money to promote that content. Even if you’re self-employed and doing it all yourself — your time has a dollar value.


The amount of time and resources to invest for link development depends on the profits your company stands to make from top rankings. Remember: a large portion of ranking algorithms are still based on backlinks.

In “Link Value: Top Rankings, Secrets and Lies” I wrote: “Ask yourself what are top rankings worth to your company? How much more revenue would your company take in if you were in the top 10 for your keywords? How much revenue would you lose if you lost your top 10 rankings? Are top rankings worth $20,000, $50,000, $100,000, or more per year? That answer will help you decide what to invest into link development with regard to time, resources, and money.”

The amount to invest in link marketing is subjective with many variables, including industry, profit margin, demand for product, and others factors. One large variable is your competition. It’s difficult to compete if your competitors invest $5,000-$10,000 monthly in link marketing, and you only invest $1,000. Of course, there are always exceptions for creative entrepreneurs.

Also, link marketing tactics vary widely: from e-mail requests, to full-fledged marketing campaigns, to unethical tactics such as hacking sites to add links.

The wiser companies are integrating link marketing into all aspects of their marketing and public relations (PR) programs. Your competitors could be working with extremely large marketing budgets and utilizing a top PR agency to get mentions in major media outlets. One solid reference or write-up in a major publication could produce hundreds of additional secondary links.

What does this mean? Set reasonable goals and budgets.

Realistic Resource Evaluation

While every company wants top rankings, there’s only room for a select few. Combine that with companies having limited availability of resources and manpower. This calls for a practical evaluation of resources. Otherwise, link projects can produce lackluster results or even grind to a halt.

Younger and start-up companies are probably the biggest culprit of over-accessing their resources. Think of it this way: if your development department (or person) is booked, or already behind in projects, it’s unrealistic to expect them to find the time to develop link promotion tools or applications. Now replace “development” with “marketing,” “writer,” or any other role involved in link marketing.

If the resources aren’t available, then either scale back the project, or bring in the necessary resources.

Hire or Outsource?

Consider hiring or outsourcing parts of the project — either temporarily or long-term — if resources aren’t available. Remote workers are often highly experienced in their given profession. Retirees seeking part-time work are also a great resource.

Approach this as a way to free up the time of current employees. Ask your professional staff how much time they spend each week doing lower-level routine tasks. Can these tasks be delegated to a part-time person, or a remote worker?

Realistic Ranking Goals

Are you targeting vanity terms like single term keywords for your industry? Guess what — so is everyone else in your industry. So let them fight over those.

Focus on long tail keywords. Instead of devoting 95 percent of your resources to rankings for “hotels,” reverse that focus to rank for specific destinations (e.g. “NYC hotels,” “San Francisco hotels,” or “Orlando hotels”). Those consumers are closer to the end of their buying cycle and will convert better. You can dominate all the specific keywords while your competitors are fighting over vanity keywords.

Being realistic about your available resources, budget, and goals when setting up a link marketing program will save you and your staff from unnecessary frustration. Plus, you’ll end up with better results!

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