Inhouse Link Building Interview: Ross Hudgens
We recently asked inhouse link builders to share the ins and outs of their daily work, the tools they use, the processes they develop and how they've grown and managed their credibility internally.
This is authentic SEO marketer Ross Hudgens' submission.
Day-to-Day Link Building
1) As an inhouse SEO, what are your top 5 most important link building tasks and responsibilities?
- My most important link building task is developing scaling procedures so that we can affordable grow the #s of quality links we get per week. This means things like find ways we can outsource content, expedite processes like e-mail gathering, and develop and recruit interns to perform low level tasks/grow into affordable (but talented) entry-level analysts.
- Internally, the most important “link building” task is building out content to use as a resource. Leveraging our talented writers and developers to create content we can disseminate to link acquisition sources is the most important thing – because without that, we’re incapable of anything but shady link acquisition.
- Develop a business network to utilize. The best links I’ve received so far are those from people I have developed business relationships with, either through direct e-mail contact, through other friends, or by meetings at networking events. These continue to be the richest links because there is strong mutual interest, and generally, the people you meet at these event have a strong website or their own strong network to help you link build.
- Hustle. Sometimes I get my hands dirty and use my skillset as a burgeon, which generally means guest posting or writing some kind of content somewhere. This is pretty time consuming but sometimes intern’s aren’t capable of getting a guest post approved at a top-100 blog, so it takes a few extra hours to claw out a PR6 link.
- Skate around the edges. Lots of link building opportunities come from simply sitting on the edges of the internet, reading SEO posts, and listening to your network. Hey, this post happens to be one of them! These kinds of links are often easy to acquire – they just mean you have to have your ear on the floor, listening.
2) What, if any, link building tasks would you be comfortable outsourcing?
High quality link acquistion. If I can see a history of links a link builder has gotten in the past and can prove to me that they’re natural and consistent, I have no problem outsourcing (and do currently). However, if it’s a typical Agency situation where they throw in tons of terrible links to fill out a report, I am not trusting. Likely, I will only outsource to people I know personally.
On the lower end, I have no problem outsourcing data-entry type tasks places like Mechanical Turk and ODesk in the effort of scaling – there is low cost and little risk involved.
3) How much of your time is spent on link building related tasks on a day to day basis?
4-5 hours. But that’s not a very informative number – I also have content writers constantly working on things like guest posts and external content creation, and also, people outside the company developing links for us. It’s hard to approximate what that works out to in man hours, but it’s safe to say that we spend a significant amount of our resources on acquiring links.
Link Building Tool Questions
1) What are your top 5 most important link building tools?
Textbroker, SEOMoz’s Open Site Explorer, Spin Profit, Raven SEO Tools, and SEO for Firefox.
2) What are the most valuable tasks or functions of existing link building tools that you couldn't live without?
Open Site Explorer’s backlink tool is by far the most robust and effective tool for backlink discovery. I actually flirted with using RavenSEO exclusively but had some serious withdrawals without it, showing the pure value of the tool. Similarly, I almost didn’t include SEO for Firefox on the list because I’ve taken it for granted, but as a way of cutting down link valuation time, it has been an incredible resource.
3) What are the biggest let-downs of link building tools you have used or currently use?
The time-gaps for many of these tools are there biggest failures. For example, SEOMoz’s Open Site Explorer only has monthly updates to their index, which limits some of its power. If it was more frequently updated, I might not ever leave it.
Inhouse Link Building Campaign Design Questions
1) If a fellow inhouse SEO asked for help in developing a link building campaign, what questions would you ask them?
What’s your target market? How competitive is it? Who are your link acquisition targets? What unique content offering can you offer these people? What resources do you have?
2) What link building tactics work better for inhouse SEOs than agency link builders? Why?
Undoubtedly content creation for linkbait. We have the ability to build out resources on-page that agency link builders frequently just don’t have the ability to – especially as it comes to developing them. I worked agency for two years and never did we even both requesting some content be developed – because the hassle and historical proof had shown that it was nearly impossible to get implemented. Leveraging things like merchandise giveaways to get links is another thing that agency SEOs just can’t do.
3) As an inhouse SEO, what link building techniques have you found that scale (if any...)?
To a point, e-mail outreach can scale because you can throw interns at it en mass and have them plow away at it. It’s monotonous and it won’t develop 100 links a week, but the ROI you can get from this type of outreach, if done correctly, is momentous.
Internal Credibility and Influence Questions
1) Can you describe techniques or tactics you've used to grow your internal trust and credibility with colleagues?
Nothing grows trust like results. It’s that simple – show metrics and ROI, and you’ll find that C-level people will give you the world. For the employees that actual implement tasks, I thankfully have a team that has been great at listening and implementing SEO recommendations even while we’ve been in our infancy – so I really haven’t had to deal with any of the stresses involved. Sometimes, there’d be a little tug-of-war when I’d ask to implement things they didn’t necessarily understand. I’ve (fortunately) found that all it’s taken is a little more tugging to get things done, and no hocus pocus. I am thankful to have such a great team.
2) How do you get colleagues to perform tasks related to link building?
Leverage their strengths. I’ve had our content writers do guest posts because it’s more fun than boring content creation and they’re good at it – so it’s pretty easy to get them to do. Similarly, if I asked them to do e-mail data entry, they’d push against me – but since I found ways to leverage their competencies to get me links, great things have happened.
3) How have you grown your colleagues' ability to identify and act on link opportunities?
During SEO meetings I’ve stressed and educated people on the team that every link can help. We have great buy-in here so things haven’t been that difficult, but I am very cognizant to recognize and applaud people that get us links internally so they feel inclined to repeat the action.
4) What metrics do you use to convey link building success to upper management?
Right now, we’re still early in our development, so traffic is thin. I do it by showing them the # of links we get per week, and how those links have turned into changes in rankings. But the most important metric is rankings – if they see that’s going up, they could care less about the links – as long as they see a properly allocated time to the procedure. Once we have sufficient traffic, I have no doubts that the table will turn to the bottom line.
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