Link Acquisition Within an SEO Company – Looking Under The Hood

January 22, 2014 - Digital State Marketing

The subject of reporting will, inevitably, always be one discussed in Search Marketing, and particularly the SEO world. The level and quality of reporting, and indeed the appetite from buyers varies widely in the industry.

One of the questions raised occasionally is to what level of reporting should a service provider go to; especially in relation to the finite detail of link building and other activities. As a non-neutral observer I already know my beliefs but thought it may be useful to articulate them in this article.

Within any industry there is a singular overarching necessity and that is to be efficient, I’m sure we all know the downfalls of being otherwise. The numbers of links that DSM build are not in the volumes of mass service providers, as we are a high end agency, but almost all campaigns have an element of link acquisition – be that through traditional routes or through content outreach (where we are monitoring the inbound topography and social citations) – as such, the numbers are, per quarter, substantial.

Links reports

It is not our policy to provide link acquisition reports and that policy never changes or bends. I know several of our competitors very well and it is not something that they do either. It may be easy for a seminar speaker that does not actually run a search or SEO firm to say it should be otherwise but the reality is that we need to strike a balance between reporting and execution. Link building is a complex area and the reality is that the publication of links lists can have unexpected (and, in some cases, inevitable) consequences.  For example:

If you can imagine the situation where a pensions provider listed every single stock or share it bought to the pension holder and the reasons why, one can imagine that this would take up time that the firm could legitimately using elsewhere – they would become significantly less efficient and ultimately either be delivering significantly less to their clients or have to increase costs significantly to cover the administrative burden.

  • They are potentially dangerous, for a number of reasons, to the buyer if an employee takes them to a competitor.
  • They often need explaining at length which puts a significant administrative strain on the service provider and buyers are generally unhappy to be billed for this strain, even when they are satisfied with the conclusions of the conversation itself.  Furthermore, we may be required to repeat these explanations to an MD (or equivalent) thus doubling the time and energy.
  • We are exposed to describing the nuances of link building in detail to marketing staff who then go and get a job in SEO – specifically stating on their CV that they have knowledge about (and indeed data relating to) link building campaigns.
  • A significant percentage of search specialists move within the same niche/s and regularly move to competitors firms thus for the buyers protection limiting the IP transferred to their staff is a benefit to them.
  • Individuals or organisations may try to reverse engineer the list to identify contacts and to approach them directly.
  • Individuals or organisations may have a link on the same page as a buyer that we have NDA contracts with, or indeed have nothing to do with at all but the buyer may think that we have (such as competitors etc.).
  • They potentially release our IP; IP that we invest significant amounts of money in developing each and every year – for example, our technical bill for 2013 (internal cost translated to external billable hours) was nearly £100,000.
  • We have suppliers with whom we have contracts that state that we will not divulge their details or URLs.
  • Receivers of reports could potentially distribute those reports to our competitors or indeed their competitors, and the latter is a significant point because unless a buyer has an exclusivity contract with a supplier tendering for their business (which is impossible) sending them highly detailed data will potentially help them engage with the buyers’ market and thus their competitors.

The above covers merely a highlight of the main issues – there are many more. With respect to the SEO element of our business, we do inform buyers how many links we have built and from what domain authority (DA) each and every month but to list them all individually (thousands of them across the buyer base) raises serious issues as highlighted above and frankly most of our clients would rather we were working than reporting, as they already have access to their analytics, etc.

Both with respect to SEO and other elements of reporting we provide detailed monthly reports and are happy, within reason, to discuss the development of bespoke reports for fully engaged partners – further to this, CRO and bespoke analytics interrogation is available and charged upon a time and materials basis.

For further information please contact Digital State Marketing’s Manchester office