In-house Specific Questions

This section consists of questions answered only by respondents who classified themselves as in-house marketers. 36% of respondents described themselves as in-house marketers which equate to 136 possible respondents to the next series of questions.

Do you use external agencies, freelancers or
contractors for link building?

Almost two-thirds (63%) of respondents said that they do not use external resource such as agencies and freelancers to help with link building.

What the experts think…

It’s great to see how many teams are taking link building in-house.

Some of the best campaigns I’ve seen over the last few years were in-house efforts and it makes sense:

• There’s greater potential for collaboration with other teams internally
• They understand their business and their brand better than agencies ever will
• They have the luxury of time, where campaigns could be open for longer, scrapped,
relaunched and updated without bureaucratic push-backs

I was surprised to see two-thirds of in house teams keeping their link building efforts in house, I’d have thought it would have been far less than this but it makes complete sense. In-house, teams are the experts in their brand, data and positioning so they’re perfectly placed to do link building for their company over any agency.

We’re also seeing a knowledge share trend within our own client base that supports this trend; in-house teams are working with us and other agencies to upskill their teams when it comes to creative processes, outreach and link building.

How much budget do you invest in link building
each month for external suppliers?

Those who answered yes previously were then asked how much budget they invested in link building per month.

We saw a fairly even split between four answers here with a tie between $1,000-$2,500 and $5,000-$10,000 per month.

What percentage of your overall marketing budget is dedicated to link building?

To add some more context to the previous answers, we then asked what percentage of overall marketing budget is dedicated to link building. This question was open to all in-house respondents, to capture answers from those who use budget but not on external suppliers.

Over half (61%) answered that it was less than 10% of spend or 0% of spend which is dedicated to link building.

What the experts think…

More than 50% say they spend between 0 and <10% of their budget on link building. I think that makes sense since the majority of professionals stay away from buying links.

At the same time, I think it's misleading for someone who's thinking of starting a link building campaign for the first time to think that it's going to cost almost nothing.

The reason why someone links back to a website is that they found something of value there, that's worth sharing with their friends, readers, followers etc. So there are two things that need to happen for someone to link back to you: you need to produce something of value and you need to make sure others see it.

Producing something of value always has a cost. Sometimes that means spending time and calories, not actual budget, but there is a cost. Depending on the existing resources and goals (not all links are equal, it depends what you're looking to get); sometimes it's better to keep the activity in-house, or it makes more sense to actually carve out budget and have an agency do the heavy lifting.

Promoting that valuable resource is also really important. That can happen organically. For example, at HubSpot, I see that we do get a lot **of mentions (and backlinks) organically because relevant content ranks well in search results. That creates a sort of flywheel where we don't need to actively promote a piece to get new backlinks (even in this case, there is a cost of keeping that content up to date and relevant). But if visibility in SERP is not something you can rely on, then again, you need to spend time and effort looking for relevant opportunities.

I was surprised to note that 23% of respondents indicated that they have no budget at all for link building, when 71% of all respondents either agreed or strongly agreed that Google are still heavily reliant on the link graph from a ranking perspective.

I wonder if perhaps this is at least in part due to the challenges associated with concrete measurement for this type of activity - i.e. it can be very difficult to prove ROI from link building, and as such, perhaps, it’s hard to make the case for investment in this area. As an industry we clearly still have work to do on this front.

Link building's perceived importance in SEO and web marketing remains extremely high, yet budgets remain remarkably low. It seems that businesses would still much rather pay per acquisition (so long as it's measurable) than put money into higher ROI but harder to prove channels. I think there's a competitive advantage to be had for those who don't fall into this trap.

Web marketers can rejoice that 61% of respondents spend 10% or less of their budget on link building, because it represents an opportunity for everyone else. Link building doesn't guarantee success, but it sure beats wishing.

Following on from this, are you expecting this to
increase, decrease or stay the same next year?

We then dug a bit deeper into budgets and asked how this may change or not change over the next year. Over half (53% of in-house marketers said that they expected budgets for link building to remain the same.

Very few (5%) expected them to decrease.

What the experts think…

I think the in-house answers around the spend on linkbuilding are fascinating. They are generally sleeping on linkbuilding as part of their SEO/performance marketing, except for some very likely winners who continue to spend BIG, when they would likely be able to generate the most results through just outreach specialists let alone investing in a full blown enterprise linkbuilding campaign.

As an agency who works with a lot of in-house teams to help them deliver link building, this is encouraging! It also reflects our own experience in that very few clients are completely cutting budget for link building (or SEO in general).

The one thing I would say is that as much as we all know links are important, it's more important than ever for in-house teams to understand the close connections between product, brand and link building. These areas (along with others) can make link building far easier and mean that you're not trying to push water uphill with brands who don't deserve links in the first place!