Expert Interview 022: Enterprise Link Building with Julie Joyce

julie-joyce

Link building for enterprises has some differences with how SEOs build links for small to medium sized business. The approach/method, process and tools are a few differences that we can see between those two types of link building.

In this interview, we have Julie Joyce to share to us her views and tips about managing and conducting link building campaigns for enterprise-level companies.

Let’s get started..

julie-joyce

What is your career before entering the search industry? Is there something that we still don’t know about you?

I was a social worker, very briefly, and then I was a computer programmer. Something you still don’t know about me? That’s tough because I’m not very sly haha. I despise board games. I mean I really, really hate them. Everyone thinks that I must love them but the idea of having to play a board game makes me want to go into a rage fit for some reason.

In managing link building campaigns for enterprises, how do you simplify the process of maintaining the consistency and productivity of the work produced by your team? Any tools that you recommend for link building management?

What a fantastic question! We’re a pretty small team these days so I am very lucky to be able to be directly involved with everything that they do. I don’t micro-manage (I hope!) but I do work closely with the team so that we all have the same basic ideas about what makes a great link. I am the final say in what goes out the door and I wouldn’t change that because it’s my reputation on the line, so if something isn’t right, we fix it. All of my link builders are industrious and creative people and they all really want to do a good job, so I’m very lucky to work with such great people. We have a truly amazing IT guy who has created an internal system that he is nice enough to adapt whenever I have a whim, and that allows me to constantly have an overview of what we’re doing, what hasn’t been done yet, what needs to be done immediately, etc. Everyone in the office has access to it so we all stay informed, and that’s the key for all of us.

In terms of tools, I love Majestic but we don’t use a lot of tools in our link building. I use them in my analysis though, so it’s mainly Majestic, Link Research Tools, and Link Risk right now. I’m checking out SEM Rush and I love that currently. I can’t live without the organizational tool Evernote though. If I had to get rid of everything else and keep only one, it would be Evernote.

Have you tried doing PR for big brands? If yes, what are some differences that you saw when performing PR between SMBs and enterprises?

Yes, and there are some parts that are much easier with a big brand. The reputation is already good for the ones I currently work with (although I’ve had to deal with some with bad ones and that was truly difficult) so I think that their brand identity is a big selling point. The main problem I have with the big brands is that everyone sees them as a source of insane money, and that’s annoying when we have webmasters we’re working with and they keep wanting more and more, citing that they just know the client has a fortune. Well maybe they do, but I’m not going to blow money just for the heck of it.

With smaller brands though, sometimes we’ve been able to get more creative simply because there aren’t layers of management to go through, with other teams involved. I like having a mix of both on the client roster.

Give me at least ten questions that you commonly ask to your clients to be able to understand their business and their expectations on your work?

I doubt I ask them ten questions! While I do realize that this sounds very inflexible (and it might be), I know what our capabilities are, and I know how we work best. Over the years I’ve tried to deviate from our usual standards and many times it’s just not worked out, so I do enough of a spiel initially that we start out on the same mindset. However, here are the most common questions that I do ask:

  • What type of link building has been done before?
  • Are you doing any link dev yourself or is any other team doing it?
  • Are you currently under a penalty or have you been? (This one seems pretty critical these days.)
  • What is your overall goal with link dev? Traffic/rankings/branding etc.
  • Who is your typical customer?
  • Who are your competitors?
  • How much risk can you afford to take with your main site?
  • What would your ideal link look like?
  • How involved in our work do you want to be?
  • What link metrics are most important to you?

Now, a lot of this gets discussed over the course of a few months as some clients do come to us with the “do this and then send me a report” attitude. If I agree that what they’re asking for is doable and sounds like a good idea, that’s fine with me. I have clients who’re very involved and some who are not involved at all, and just like I like having big and small companies on board, I like having a mix of personalities.

What is your process in finding link targets for your clients’ sites? Do you start with their existing contact lists?

We go out and search to find good linking partners. We approach it as if we needed to find a good resource for ourselves, for whatever the niche is. We use Google, Dogpile, Million Short, Bing, and an internal engine that we have.

What are your key metrics when prospecting for link targets?

Some clients give us metrics, usually PageRank. I want to make sure that the link target is indexed in Google and that the site doesn’t appear to be penalized, but other than that I look for relevancy.

How do you go diversifying natural links in an enterprise link building campaign?

We have multiple people working on those kinds of campaigns, so if we built 25 links for a big brand in a month, 15 might have been from one person, 9 from another, and 1 from a third. I don’t dictate how our link builders find sites. I don’t dictate which anchors they use either other than to give them a general theme, but they are responsible for negotiating that with the webmasters. If we end up hitting something too hard, like getting 5 links in a row on a very specific kind of site, it’s usually very obvious so we vary what we do next.

What are your best tips in improving your client’s outreach campaigns? Which parts of the email copy you apply variations for testing purposes? Is split testing still works today?

I think that you should always, always approach a webmaster with the idea that you’re lucky if he or she even opens your email and takes his or her time to deal with you. I think that being very polite is key, but so is making sure that if a person never wants to hear from you again, you actually leave them alone. I’m tired of seeing unsolicited emails with no opt-out clause, or being emailed again and again after I’ve asked to be taken off an email list. Using the webmaster’s name is usually good, too.

We don’t do any active split testing but I’ll do it when I do certain types of outreach myself. I think it can be incredibly useful, and the last time I did it I tested the same subject line with one being in the form of a question and one in the form of a statement. The question worked best.

Our link builders all do things a bit differently from each other. They’re given a basic outreach outline but they all adapt it so their emails are more personalized, and they’ll adapt those emails based on the site and what they know about the webmaster.

Do you have any experience with removing thousands of unnatural links for an enterprise agency? How do you manage expectations from clients with regards to their expected date of complete link removal?

I don’t usually handle the removal but we have done a few cleanup jobs a couple of years ago, and they were incredibly tedious. I do a lot of audits where I give a list of bad links to the client, but they handle that themselves or contract with someone else to do it. When we did do it, we spent months on one account in particular and only got about 150 links removed. I did an audit for a lady over a year ago and she’s still cleaning up bad links and trying to get a penalty revoked, so whenever anyone asks me how long it takes, I tell them to expect the worst, sadly.

A content-led link building campaign is the top consideration of SEO practitioners nowadays. With regards to content creation, how do you make sure that you’re providing the best asset to your client?

I am under a company-wide NDA so I can’t give examples. I’m really not sure how to judge if I’m providing the best asset to any of my clients as I’m not always in control of what other people are doing that could interfere with our work. I don’t ever do anything that a client does not know about. They see the work we do and they know what techniques we use to get links. I do always explain the risks of certain techniques of course. We’ve had some of our current clients for over 4 years and we’ve gotten several clients through word of mouth from our clients, so I have to look at that when I judge the job we do.

Thank you again. Julie. I appreciate your time.

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1 comment

  1. 1

    Hi Venchito,

    Nice tips re: which tools to use. Majestic is good and obviously very popular but I hadn’t heard of “Link Research Tools” which looks interesting. I might go check that one out.

    Richard.

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