Scaling Link-Building: Sustainable Practices for Enterprise Clients

Enterprise clients operate at a very competitive scope, and need links to help fuel their online marketing. Once overlooked, large brands are learning that it takes a strategic and intentional approach to secure the links they need in their online marketing.

Moz and BuzzSumo recently released a study that analyzed 1,000,000 articles, and found no correlation between social shares and links. The same study found that more than 50 percent of articles had zero external links.

This is no small finding. Real businesses are investing into creating content for marketing and audience development, but they are failing to secure the visibility vital to success. 

We know that search drives massive amounts of traffic. Also, we know that links remain critical to ranking within competitive SERPs. The point is that good marketing doesn’t de facto leads to links – it leads to link opportunity. This is why it is important to have designated members of your marketing team that are responsible for SEO and links.

You can’t afford to mess up technical SEO for site performance, nor can you afford to miss link opportunities for marketing performance. Technical SEO has long since earned legitimacy, but now link strategy is coming into its own within marketing departments.

For enterprise clients, the need for links is even greater given their competitive scope and the constant deployment of new marketing initiatives.

These clients aren’t looking for flavor-of-the-month marketing: they want scalable and long-term results. This means acquiring links online at a sustainable scale that are able to move the needle in their marketing.

For an example of how SEO and links can help enterprise-level companies improve their online marketing, I’d encourage you to read my post from last month here on Search Engine Watch.

This discusses what it means to successfully scale a link campaign for a client in today’s market.

Scaling Doesn’t Mean Automation

In previous years of SEO, scaling links often equated to automation. Building links that moved the needle was easy because almost every link was able to do so.

Today Google’s Penguin algorithm ensures only relevant links with human value will make a difference in a long-term campaign. Every link needs to be legitimate, critically examined, and defensible.

The value of a link should be threefold:

  1. Valuable for the people who click the link.
  2. Valuable to the site hosting the link.
  3. Valuable to the site being linked.

This should be approached in that order. Any attempt to shortcut to number three and ignoring steps one and two will lead to a less-than-ideal link.

Automated link building was always a shortcut – it leads to spam links and plays no part in today’s marketing environment. Google is now able to police this in their Webmaster Guidelines. Therefore the era of online shortcuts is over – the hypodermic needle or the magic bullet is that of marketing mythos.

Link development is about creating a guiding link strategy, manually promoting the value of your site for links, and intentionally pursuing link opportunities, while simultaneously maximizing human value. Creating a link strategy requires an astute understanding of the company, campaign goals, current and past marketing strategies, the competition, the linking environment, and the linkable assets.

To manually promote your site for links, you have to establish value, a target audience, and note the sites with audience overlap.

Leveraging marketing opportunities for links is all about integration. Any link campaign should integrate with as much of the marketing department as possible – and beyond, if applicable. With integration, your job is to view other online marketing initiatives from the link opportunity perspective in order to make sure any opportunities are realized.

This requires intentional, strategic pursuit, especially as link campaigns will often involve multiple tactics, angles, audiences, and niches.

The only way to scale this type of link development is to also scale both sweat and creativity, and unless robots recently started exhibiting these human qualities – this means scaling rests on the shoulders of humans. Of course, bringing more people into a campaign essentially means paying more for it, and hiring manpower with experience and expertise tends to be expensive.

So how can you justify scaling human effort in order to scale your link development? By growing a campaign after you establish a strong foundational plan that has a high probability for success.

Launching a Link Campaign

Anytime you invest into a new marketing channel – be it paid, earned, owned, partnered, and so forth – it takes time to learn the ins and outs. You won’t operate at 100 percent efficiency right from the start.

This is especially true in link-building, as you must understand your client, the market, the competition, the linking environment, influential community members, and how to best approach other sites.

It simply takes time to successfully launch a link campaign and define project potential. These are some integral and definitive elements that should be prevalent within any campaign:

The Business:

  • Unique business value/unique selling point (USP)
  • Products/services offered 
  • Brand voice and message, tone, and positioning 
  • Target audience and buyer personas 
  • Primary and secondary competitors 
  • Existing relationships 
  • Industry reputation

The Site:

  • SEO history 
  • Linkable assets 
  • Keyword themes 
  • Backlink analysis

The Niche:

  • Influencers within the niche 
  • Prominent industry sites 
  • Ideal target audience 
  • Linking environment and how willing industry sites link-out
  • Popular tactics within the niche 
  • Common relationships within the niche 
  • Heavily linked or popular industry content

Campaign Goals:

  • Definition for project success 
  • KPIs 
  • Link targets 
  • Secondary goals 
  • Project scope 
  • Potential growth

Previous and Current Marketing Strategy Analysis:

  • Past online campaigns 
  • Current online campaigns 
  • Past offline campaigns with same or similar audience 
  • Current offline campaigns 
  • Partnerships, events, and community engagement

Competitor Strategy Analysis:

  • Current and previous marketing tactics 
  • Backlink analysis 
  • Identify popular and ranking pages 
  • Competitive keywords 
  • Identify online strategies

This is not intended to serve as a comprehensive list, but rather exemplifies some of various considerations often taken in successful link campaigns. Jon Cooper also has a great list of questions you can suggest to new clients here as well.

Launching a campaign takes time, resources, care, and above all else – significant research. You need to truly understand the company, the brand, the client’s expectations, the industry potential, the niche opportunity, current and past marketing efforts, and the competitor’s impact.

Building a strong foundation within a campaign is key to future scalability.

Build a Foundation and Scale with Success

In order to create a campaign capable of scaling, you should establish a deep understanding of the company and brand. Then integrate across the company and identify as many opportunities as possible. Once you’ve officially determined the campaign’s potential, you can begin to scale as appropriate.

It can be overwhelming to scale a link campaign, because it requires clients to invest large amounts into their link projects. You cannot move forward without trust and established value. However, the integration process can give you time to to establish client trust, allowing you to acquire a few worthwhile links to important pages that ultimately prove campaign efficiency.

Then it will be easier to grow the project successfully, both in terms of having the client invest more and growing the project without stumbling. 

Scaling human effort can be another difficult obstacle. Every necessary minute spent learning the business, industry, niche, and competitors is a minute not spent securing links. That’s why it’s important to build a strong foundation prior to attempting to scale a project – both to meet client expectations and drive initial momentum.

Link development is more marketing than technical SEO that requires a sustained effort which increases in strength over time – and it all begins with a solid foundation able to support scaling the project.


I will be the first to say that link-building isn’t for everyone.

It takes a company in the right stage of the marketing process to be ready for link development. If you are launching new marketing initiatives, have built link opportunity, and have established value online, you should already be thinking strategically about links. For those ready to invest in strategic link acquisition,

I’d recommend spending ample time in research and discovery in order to cultivate a secure campaign foundation. Once you’ve identified opportunity and campaign potential, then you are prepared to scale the project as necessary. Again, that means scaling characteristics exclusive to humanity – sweat, creativity, and sincere work effort.

If you’re not specifically addressing links within your marketing strategy, you’re hindering your own online marketing. The value of links on the Web isn’t going away. If you’re actively working to acquire links on the Web, I hope you appreciate the wisdom of scaling human effort and not seeking shortcuts.

Homepage image via Shutterstock. 

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