SaaS link building: 21 tactics to use in 2021
Creating a link building program internally is painful: it takes time, money and persistence to get right. Building links continuously month-on-month to your SaaS is key to drive impactful long-term SEO results.
Let me explain.
When leading the Growth Marketing team at Typeform I hired an SEO Manager to take over a channel that I had grown from 0 -> ~60 new customers per month.
Over the course of the next 2 years I built a dedicated SEO team that grew this channel further where it now contributes 500+ new customers per month and is recognised company-wide as a business-critical source of new MRR.
Link building is a necessity, it’s one of the Google’s top #3 ranking factors. We proved this through a handful of different experiments;without links you cannot get to top positions.
There is no denying that the SaaS space is competitive. So we knew we had to double down in this area continuously.
My SEO manager didn’t want to come to work every day to build links. It’s tedious work that requires a lot of time-investment: understanding which websites to contact, reaching out to them, negotiating publishing fees and topic titles, building dedicated content, measuring results, etc.
We decided to hire an SEO Intern to do this, but he got bored after a few months and wanted to do other things that my SEO Manager was doing.Having a person dedicated to link building is not a career, because there are no career progression opportunities within the same space.
So what do you do?
Given my experience working internally at a hyper-growth SaaS, I highly recommend externalising the link building muscle of your SEO machine to an agency who specialises in the SaaS space.
Here are 9 key reasons why I ended up outsourcing link building to an agency, and why you should too.
1. It requires a big time commitment from your team
Let’s imagine you want to build 15 new links to your website each month from different websites within your niche.
The following is a realistic picture of the monthly time commitment for each activity:
As you can observe, the total time commitment to build 15 links is 212 hours / month. This is much more than a single full- time hire can handle.
A full-time person has 160 hours available to them on average per month – and don’t forget this includes time for things like meetings, holidays, replying to emails, sick-leave, etc. So in reality they only have 2/3 of this time = ~106 hours / month.
So if you wanted to build this muscle in-house, you’d need at least one full-time project manager + freelancers.
*The assumption here is that it takes 1 full-day to write a quality 1.5k word article. From research all the way to editing and completion.
2. Outsourcing is actually more cost-efficient
If you decide to build this machine in-house, you will need a full time SEO Project Manager and a team of freelancers. This is what your costs will look like with a goal of 15 links / month:
An agency is able to lower these above costs because they have the advantage of economies of scale.
Furthermore, by using an agency, you’ll also save in other ways:
- 0 payroll taxes and legally imposed salary raises
- You can deduct tax from this expense
3. It requires multiple skill sets
Running a successful link building program requires a myriad of different skills which is hard to find in a single person. What’s more, by definition not all of these skills might exist in your company culture.
Here are just some of the skills needed to run successful link building campaigns:
- Mid-level SEO expertise
- Solid negotiation techniques
- Writing / content creation
- Ability to prospect for opportunities
- Highly personalised outreach
- Project management
- Effective follow-up techniques
When working with an agency, they have a fully trained team of people with these skills already. At Skale, we hired people who already had these skills from many years of experience working in the field.
4. Most of the work is tedious and isn’t exciting for a single person
As I mentioned earlier, link building isn’t a career because the career progression is SEO junior / link builder (for 6 months, 1 year maximum) -> SEO manager.
If you hire internally, then you’ll have to find someone else on average at the 6 month mark because they will either leave, change position within your org, or be promoted to SEO Manager and no longer perform link building duties themselves.
This situation simply isn’t scalable as you’ll have to keep replacing this role, and you lose time because you have to keep re-training new people.
What’s more, the work of a single person working on link building is tedious and isn’t exciting (my ex-Typeform team can tell you from experience). They want to be working on other cross-functional projects within the org much closer to your product.
So why does this work at an agency?
Let me explain how it works at Skale.
Because we work with various clients, we have the benefit of economies of scale. We are able to afford dedicated roles in our team for each stage of our link building system: writers, SEO consultants, partnership managers, etc.
As a result, we are able to build career progressions for each role to keep our team motivated, and also specialised. This leads to low tenure rates, and better work output.
5. You get access to a battle-tested system that delivers results
When you start a new program – you need to figure out the ropes. You learn through trial and error. You waste time, money and it distracts from your core company goals.
As SaaS companies, we have the tendency to build vs. buy. I know this all too well from my time at Typeform. We tried to build everything in-house – even our own attribution model!
It was a mistake because we wasted time (2 years to be exact) trying to build a system which other people had already cracked the code to.
Because we had a unique product that we were proud of, we thought we also needed to have unique custom-built solutions for almost every aspect of our business.
In hindsight, this was a mistake. We could have accelerated our growth by simply buying a ready-made attribution tool.
In the context of link building it’s much better to outsource this system, so you can accelerate growth and increase focus on other aspects of your business. An agency has already figured out and battle-tested their system to ensure it works and delivers results from the get go.
6. You get increased accountability for results
When executing your growth strategy, you can’t afford to trip up. You need to deliver month-on-month growth both in terms of your leading indicators (e.g. # product signups) and lagging indicators (e.g. $ new MRR).
When partnering with an agency, you increase accountability to achieve results in the following ways:
- An agency has a wide-range of resources it can pull together to hit deadlines or a change in strategy
- An agency doesn’t get caught up in internal politics, meetings, or spontaneous business needs
- An agency won’t get sick and not deliver results
- An agency won’t underperform, they are experts in their field
7. You get access to top SaaS SEO expertise
By working with an agency, you can leverage their knowledge and experience from working with a wide-range of clients . You can also up-skill your existing marketing team – a key objective for any SaaS company.
For example, at Skale we have specialised in SEO for SaaS and have been working in the field of SEO for more than a decade. We have worked with some of the fastest growing SaaS companies in the world including Typeform and TravelPerk.
Don’t leave your SEO strategy to chance, find strategic and specialised partners who have already achieved big SEO results within the SaaS space.
8. You get easy-access to top tier websites
Running a link building program is all about building relationships – and they aren’t easy. They require persistence, time and knowing the right people.
At Skale we have already done the hard work, partnering with top brands such as G2, Piktochart, Funnelytics, Whatagraph, and many more in the SaaS and B2B space.
Why invest time and energy trying to build these from scratch when you can partner with someone who has already done it?
9. You get an outsider’s perspective on your business
When I left Typeform something happened.
I noticed things that hadn’t crossed my mind for years.
I could finally see the wood from the trees, and started communicating these before-unknown opportunities for growth to my ex-colleagues.
There is a clear advantage of working with an external SEO partner: they can look at your business from another perspective, a different angle, and therefore avoid tunnel vision that you may have developed over several years in the midst of your SaaS.
Having a second-set of eyes will give you a competitive advantage.
Still not convinced?
We asked different SaaS companies why they chose to outsource their link building. Here’s what they said.
– “Outsourcing backlinking was important for us to move faster on critical parts of our SEO strategy. It allows us to do so with confidence and efficiency. With no prior expertise in-house doing it by ourselves would have require more time with less chance of success. Now we can focus on our strength and leverage OH expertise and experience.” – Adrien, Growth Engineer @ Slite
– “Besides not having in-depth SEO knowledge in the marketing team internally, I’ve learned link-building is actually not a very exciting task and also very time consuming. Nevertheless I still saw major benefits in link-building, so we decided to work with an SEO agency, which turned out to actually be more cost-efficient & delivered amazing results!” – Urska, Director of Marketing @ Whisbi