I hired a terrible backlink building agency. So in today’s article, I’m going to be sharing with you exactly what I learned from the experience, how you can avoid making the same mistakes and what I’m doing forward in order to rectify the situation.
How I got into this situation
First things first let’s dig into exactly how I got into this situation. A couple of months or so ago, I caught up with an old mentor of mine and one of the big recommendations she gave me for the company I work for a site is to just start backlink building efforts.
At that point in time, we were building up the company blog. But essentially, we were at this point in which we needed backlinks to continue raising our domain authority.
That said, she mentioned that she had a great agency that she’s used for several years in terms of backlink building and both of the respective companies she’s worked for. And what was really great about this agency is that the founder of this agency was actually the SEO team lead for backlink building for canva.com, which is a massive site today.
So after hearing about the reputation of this particular backlink builder, I thought to myself, If I don’t have the time to actually come up with my own documentation for backlink building, then I might as well just contract this lady in her firm to see whether or not they could be a good fit for doing some backlink building efforts for us.
And at the very beginning, it seemed really promising. In fact, I jumped into this onboarding call and just for the sake of anonymizing this story, let’s call her Sandy. And Sandy did a great job in terms of sharing her sorts of processes and what her backlink builders specifically did. She also mentioned that essentially the way that her firm build was every single month you would be paying for 40 hours a week of work and it would be a grand every single month for the outreacher.
In other words, if you were just to work that out a thousand dollars a month for an outreacher, or is totally reasonable for 40 hours of work that works out to about $6 and 25 cents which is a pretty solid living when it comes to the Philippines, which is where her team was based out of.
So thinking that this would be a great fit and the fact that Sandy shared that she had so many clients that she couldn’t actually take us at that moment, she was also working with some of the largest sites in Australia at that time. I thought to myself, I might as well add us to that waitlist and see where it goes when she does have that opening.
A few weeks later, Sandy told me that she had an outreacher for me, and so from there we started onboarding that outreacher. And so in this particular situation, let’s call him Tony. He onboarded into my team, and from there, we were in daily communication talking about the sorts of prospects he was identifying and reaching out to those respective prospects.
This is where the problem started
Here’s where the problem started to break down though. Pretty much, I was under the impression hiring Sandy and her team that they already had all of this documentation in place in terms of what was the difference between a good link and a bad link? What sort of prospects should you actually be reaching out for versus the ones that might be PBNs or other bad sites. And it slowly unveiled to itself that this outreacher was a really new outreacher to her team.
Over the course of about a two month stretch in which I gave them a lot of opportunities to fix their work, this became a constant struggling point because in many cases it felt like I was actually training him outreacher how to outreach when the whole reason why I’d hired him was to take over in terms of some of the daily actions of outreaching.
Digging into the work they’ve done for me
So let’s go ahead and take a look at his actual spreadsheet to see exactly what sort of work he did. I have anonymized some of the links and things like that, but it’ll kind of give you an idea of what you can expect if you were to ever hire a backlink building agency yourself.
So this is a copy of the spreadsheet that their team set up for me. And pretty much what you can see is that we started around March 16th or so, and this was a lot of prospecting pre-work in which what we were doing was we were just getting a list of prospects that might be good for us. And then from here as well, we were just updating some existing partner domains and outreaching to our existing partners so that we can get some easy links right off the bat.
We didn’t include those in the counts that you’ll see in column E. But every single day, what Tony was doing was he was essentially telling me how many prospects did he backlog, how many emails was he sending? How many replies did you get as well as how many acquired links he got? And so over the course of the next month and some change almost two months, what you’ll see is that we did accrue some links.
In fact, by the end of it, we got a total of 16 backlinks and 115 replies but for that, he actually had outreached 960 different prospects. So if you do the math on that 115, over nine 60, that works out to about a 12% reply rate.
Now here’s where the problem happens though. When you look at the fact that Tony got 16 backlinks for 960 prospects that reflects a 1.67% conversion rate.
And that was really where things really just didn’t look very good. In fact, if you look at the last few respective days that we worked together, I ended up firing them on May 9th. What you’ll notice is that we went for a pretty long stretch of about, let’s see here, 11 days give or take where there were no new backlinks being acquired.
What that typically means is that the campaign that you sent wasn’t all that effective, or it wasn’t personalized enough to really be compelling for the recipient to want to add your link.
Here’s what I’ve learned from this experience
So what did I exactly learn from this experience?
Well, the first thing is, if you’re looking for a budget backlink builder, you pretty much will get what you pay for. In this particular situation, this is a pretty basic backlink builder that I paid for. Sandy mentioned that she had more experienced backlink builders, but it would cost three times the price of what I actually paid. So 3K a month instead of 1K my company didn’t really have the budget for that at that time, which is why proceeded with Tony.
But another thing that I learned was that in the case somebody is selling you something as some sort of service and things like that, you should always be wary and make sure that you’re giving them a lot of attention in those early weeks of onboarding. It’s my fault in which I didn’t even follow my own sort of processes that I typically do when I leave my own teams, which is constantly checking in with my contractors to figure out exactly what they’re doing and whether or not they’re on the right track.
By the time that I actually started noticing that Tony’s work, wasn’t all that great, he had already been sending 30 to 40 emails every single day for some time. And it was once I started seeing that we weren’t seeing any meaningful results, but I knew I had to intervene and give him more direct feedback. But by that point in time, we were already in weeks four through six of our contract, and it was just becoming harder and harder to actually get him to learn the space and correct his mistakes.
The third thing that I’d say that I learned from this experience is that sometimes it still is useful to bring in some contracting help, even if they do a sub-part job. Well, it wasn’t a great outcome in terms of a 1.67% conversion rate, we did get 16 links over the course of our close to two months of working together and for the price that I paid and which I probably paid them so far, about $1,500.
We’ll see whether or not they bill me for the final $500 or so that we work together. But it works out to anywhere between a hundred and $200 a link, which is not that bad, considering that some of the links that they did get were okay in terms of domain rate.
Overall though, I wasn’t pleased with the experience, it honestly caused me a lot more stress than it did in terms of taking things off my plate. At the end of the day, I ended up spending hours of my work day creating documentation and feedback for Tony to get better in those final few weeks. And I tried to give them some time to really figure things out. But it just wasn’t working out.
And that’s something in which the fourth learning I’d say for you is in the case where your link building agency cannot get you results within a two month time period, you should go ahead and move on. Don’t be afraid to cut things loose from there and start to rethink and reflect on why it didn’t work.
The fifth thing that I learned from this experience is trust but verify. It was really useful for me to start digging into the actual email templates that Tony was sending because that’s where I really solve big issues in which he was having capitalization and punctuation issues.
He was just sending a lot of what I would say was spam, as opposed to value add messaging in terms of link building. And overall, it just seemed that he didn’t have a strong sense of exactly what our product was, what we were doing with some of our content marketing pages, as well as how to build meaningful relationships with the people that we needed to build relationships with.
If you find yourself in a niche in which it is not that large of a space, you need to be really intentional about how you backlink build. The reason why is because even though we did get 16 links from this effort, we also got a ton of bad results in terms of replies or negative responses, just because we were more or less spamming people at that point in time.
The reason why this is really important is because in this particular example, we had two months in which somebody was pretty much reaching out and negatively impacting our potential brand in the future, as well as tapping out some of our space for building meaningful relationships because of the way that he was outreaching.
Where am I going from here?
Well, the first thing I did was I fired the firm. I found that they weren’t really useful in terms of the actual work product that they were creating and they couldn’t get to the standards that I wanted. And then the second thing that I did was I actually went on to Upwork and started posting RFPs for people that were going to cost anywhere from three to four times more than Tony’s price per hour.
In other words, 18 to $25 an hour. And I started getting really good responses in terms of experienced backlink builders that I had a little bit more confidence with. I’m also focusing now on finding backlink builders who not only have that experience, but also have the fact that they are working independently from an agency.
Oftentimes, I find that people that work in agencies have been taught some particular way. And so they’re a little bit less malleable in terms of training them on my own sort of process thatI’d prefer them take.
And that leads me to the third thing that I’m doing differently, which is with my new backlink builder, I essentially created the documentation from scratch and I’m training him from the ground up of exactly what I want done for my respective backlink building efforts.
Hopefully, you learned a thing or two in terms of things to avoid when you’re hiring it backlink building agency. Again, they can be a great place to get started in terms of just getting your feet under you and having some outreach efforts going out on your behalf, but you want to make sure that you really do actively manage them and give them meaningful feedback early on. If you want to avoid the same situation that I had.
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