It’s well known in the SEO industry that building links through linkbait promotion can be challenging at the best of times. So why do SEO agencies make it more difficult for themselves by not setting accurate targets and managing client & internal expectations?

This is where link-building funnels come into play.

Link-building funnels are a tool which can help you better predict three things:

  • The number of new referring domains you’re likely to earn from a linkbait campaign, given the amount of time you have available
  • The number of new referring domains you’re likely to earn from a linkbait campaign, given the number of link targets you already have
  • The amount of time you’ll need to earn the number of referring domains you have set out to earn.

The simple logic here is that the more website targets you contact, the more links you’ll get. But what exactly is that proportion? How many websites do you have to contact to get the amount of referring domains you’re aiming to get? Or how many referring domains can you earn given the number of website targets you already have?

The Link-Building Funnel

Without further ado, here’s an example of a link-building funnel:

The funnel itself is fairly self-explanatory, with a clear correlation between the number of link targets required (ie. websites to contact) and the number of new referring domains you’re likely to earn with them.

But before explaining each of these metrics further, you’ll need to be made aware that this particular link building funnel is only appropriate for a linkbait campaign with two unique qualities:

1. Resource Page Targets: All of the websites being targeted in this case are websites with particular resource pages (ie. a page that lists and links out to a number of useful resources on other websites).

2. Feeler Emails: The link-building funnel assumes using the strategy of sending feeler-emails as your initial email. A feeler-email is an email you send as your initial email, and is characterised by getting a feel for which websites are open to engaging with you.

The strategy is to send a short and sweet email which asks a simple and easy-to-answer question such as, “if I had a resource suggestion for your resource page, could I send it through to you to check it out?”

The alternative to this, and what many agencies do, is to send a fairly long email introducing themselves and explaining their piece of linkbait in detail, and ending off by asking the person they are contacting to link to the resource.

By doing this, you’re expecting someone who doesn’t know you and has never spoken to you before to read your long email in their busy day, and to then go through the effort of adding the link to your resource.

It’s unlikely that they’ll even reply to you, nevermind adding your link.

So we’ve found that sending feeler emails get a much higher response rate than going-in-for-the-kill in the initial email.

The Link-Building Funnel’s Metrics & Levers

1. Link Targets Required (Websites): This metric is obviously the number of websites you’ll be contacting for linkbait promotion. This can be a pre-set figure, or it can be derived by the amount of time you have available.

So if it usually takes you an average of 4 minutes to find a link target, then you can figure out how many link targets you’re likely to find with your time available.

The levers you can pull to impact this number are the time you have available, or the advanced Google searches you use to find your resource pages. These are specific searches on Google (or any search engine) where you input the text inurl:resources or inurl:links to tell the search engine that you only want them to return results to you which have the words resources or links in the pages URLs, which is the best way to find resource pages.

2. Expected Reply Rate: This is where the use of feeler emails comes into play. We’ve been tracking the reply-rate of these emails for various clients, and have found that the reply rates remain fairly stable within each industry. So we’ve gathered enough data to confidently predict that the reply rate of our feeler emails in this particular link-building funnel is about 20%.

Although, the more this data is gathered, the more accurate your expected reply rates will be.

So in this case, 20% of our website targets will say something like “Sure, you can send through your resource suggestions for us to take a look”.

The lever you can pull here to impact your reply-rate metric is the quality of your email outreach template. So if you’re getting a reply rate of below 10%, that’s a pretty good indication that you should change the wording of your outreach emails.

3. Expected Number of Replies: This is simply the number of replies you expect to get given the expected reply-rate derived previously.

4. Expected reply-to-link-rate: This metric is now a calculation of the number of referring domains you expect to earn given the number of websites who have replied to your feeler email. In our link-building funnel example above, we’ve found from our own past data that one in every three websites who replied to our initial feeler email went on to actually add the link to our linkbait on their resource page.

The lever to pull here to impact this percentage is the quality of your linkbait. So if you find that not many websites are agreeing to add a link to your linkbait, even after replying to your feeler email; maybe it’s time you took a look at your piece of linkbait and consider improving it, or creating something better.

An organised desk with a laptop, a chart and documents

And there you have it; a fully operational link-building funnel which can help you predict the expected success of a linkbait campaign, or simply calculate how many link targets you’ll need to achieve your referring domain targets.

The first step you’ll need to take however is the collection of data from your current link-building campaigns in order to complete your link-building funnel metrics with the most accurate data available. You can then continuously amend the metrics as you collect more and more data.

If you have any questions or would like any further explanations on the use of link-building funnels, then drop us a comment and we’ll answer your question as best we can.


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