Clear your mind, I’m going to take you on a journey into the psyche of a link builder – In this post I’m going to be covering the reasoning behind setting link building goals – how to set realistic targets and to finish off I’ll be giving you my personal link building worksheet! (If you would like to download the linking worksheet I use in this post please scroll to the bottom of the page for the download link!)

Before undertaking any link building campaign you need to ask yourself a few questions:

  1. What am I trying to achieve by building these links?
  2. Do I have a budget for this campaign?
  3. Is this a long or short term strategy?

By asking yourself these questions you’re giving yourself a deeper understanding of what it is you’re trying to achieve and what hindrances you may have. This will in turn help you set realistic goals and expectations, instead of diving blindly into a task hoping for the best.

Method In The Madness

 
Most basic linking campaigns have the same ultimate goal – “Build links, increase organic positions, ???, Profit”. Let’s take that a step further and analyse the different link building goals you can set yourself based on what it is you’re trying to achieve.

Link Building Goals

Let’s take a simple approach to this to begin with and I’ll expand on the different sections in a minute. As mentioned above most link building campaigns are undertaken with one goal in mind – to increase organic visibility. There are a number of valid reasons why this may be your only goal and it’s not necessarily the wrong approach to take. In most cases however, the thought process usually stops there and it’s because of this that many link building campaigns fail to achieve their full potential.

Why Are You Building Links?

 
Most link building endeavours can be grouped into two categories – Organic Visibility and Brand Awareness. There are slight differences in these link building schools, both have the same goal – “To increase brand visibility” but one focuses on Organic Search and the other is less concerned with organic visibility in the short term.

Organic Visibility (Link building for SERP increases):

  • High PR
  • Low OBL
  • Authoritative Domains
  • Less regard for on-topic links (although this isn’t true in all cases, a lot of link builders will look for site values and disregard site content)

Brand Awareness (Link building on High Traffic, Topical, Social & Viral sites for Traffic & Visibility):

  • Topical Targeting is crucial
  • Generation of videos / music / shareable content
  • High Traffic Sites

Neither of these schools of link building are wrong but they demand different skill sets and resources. In an ideal world we shouldn’t be scouting for links based on PR / OBL etc, but creating high quality content (in whatever form that may take) and distributing it through mediums that encourage natural distribution and result in organic links being built. However I can understand that due to various restrictions this may not always be possible due to financial, time based or other external resource issues.

Setting Actionable & Realistic Goals

 
When undertaking link building tasks you should be setting actionable goals that are achievable, if you don’t you’ll wind up setting yourself open-ended targets that not only demoralise you over the long term but can end up having a negative effect on your target site because of the untargeted links you may end up acquiring. Don’t marginalise your site, just so you can say “I built my 5 links today”.

This post by Search Engine Land on “10 goals for link building campaigns” is a great place to find a list of example goals you may want to set yourself.

When building my own small project sites I like to set myself a target of finding 5-10 potential link resources in an evening and then contacting these people or applying for the links at the end of the week. Although I look at PR and OBL it’s not a decisive factor in sourcing links, I like to build links that are relevant to user interest as these have a higher chance of being accepted and distributed through peers and are ultimately a better investment of your time.

Too often have I seen people targeting “100 PR3+ links only” – and while they may work you’re sacrificing your long term goals for short term gain. Stop It – this is not a goal and something you should not be aiming for – creating these off-topic links will harm your campaign in the long run! Of course, if you’ve got short term goals and aren’t concerned about your sites long-term visibility please continue. Otherwise, create real link building goals – “increase brand and organic visibility for keyword X by submitting to 10 topical directories and writing 2 guest posts” is a lot more achievable and surprisingly inexpensive.

Link Building Insight – My Link Building Process

 
I run a few affiliate sites and will now give you an insight into how I approach my own link building campaigns – this particular site is a gothic clothing and jewellery retail site (shameless link).

Before I start any link building campaign I like to write down a few notes on what is it I want to achieve, available budget and a bit of a brain dump on anything else relevant to the campaign. This keeps me focused, helps me set realistic targets as well as keeping me sane. For agencies or freelancers you could write down combination of the client’s goals and your expectations of the campaign etc.

The Benefit

By creating this spreadsheet I have a centralised set of goals that I can return to at any time. As you can see in this particular campaign, I’m aiming for Organic Visibility and not necessarily going down a brand visibility route due to a budget and short to mid term goals. Brand Visibility will be a v. long term goal assuming the site is successful. This could involve advertising on topical sites with banners that aren’t necessarily built with SEO in mind – e.g advertising on IllWillPress on a CPM basis with a “special deal for IWP viewers only” would result in visibility on a highly relevant site and could result in others sharing the coupon code and deal on other sites. Another route to go down would be to generate video reviews of niche items and distribute these on popular video sharing sites and forums.

Diving Deeper

Setting keyword targets and doing in-depth keyword research will give you a fighting chance against your competitors. If you’re dealing with a large e-commerce platform this will be an long an arduous process but it will be worth it!

Create a spreadsheet with your primary and secondary targets – this should include URL, Keyword and anything else you feel relevant to the campaign. Once you’ve decided on your key terms you should set realistic goals to target x number of key terms per month depending on resources available. This will help set client expectations and give you realistic deadlines to work towards.

I like to use Xenu to extract the site levels automatically (saves a lot of time if there are a lot of top level categories you’re targeting)

Link Building Worksheet

 
This template was based off an old Ontolo sheet. I have modified it to fit my needs and it’s by no means perfect but it offers a basic way to track the links you’re building and help you achieve your link building goals. (Link Building Template Download)

Top Tips & Summary

  • Make sure you’re not only setting yourself link building goals, but making them achievable
  • Track your link building – it’ll keep you sane and give you visibility on your progress
  • Undertake some heavy-duty keyword research and ensure these are pointed to the correct URL

That’s it for me. By setting your own link building goals you will keep yourself sane. I’m would say I’m living proof of this fact but my colleagues may disagree.

I’m off on holiday this week but when I return i’ll be writing a round-up post on the International Search Summit that took place on the 24th of November. If you’re looking for something else to read, please read my post about Social / SEO Synergy which covers the necessity of working on both Social and SEO platforms or my 101 Link Building Techniques inc. White, Grey & Black Hat

Please leave your thoughts and comments below and i’ll get back to you!