By Brett Farmiloe, founder of Terkela decentralized Q&A site that turns questions into articles with expert insights.
Link building was the hardest thing I had to figure out in my digital marketing agency.
The options were simple:
- Do not do it; sacrificing lucrative income
- Outsource it; be the middleman
- Do it; find a scalable solution that works
I chose to ‘do it’, but the ‘find a solution’ part is what stuck with me for several years. Our agency has tried all the white hat, black hat and gray hat tactics. In the end we created a link building solution, and in the end I successfully sold and left the agency.
What was the solution?
Focus on the customer’s EAT: expertise, authority and trust.
In this post, I’ll tell you more about the solution and how to build a profitable, scalable digital PR department to drive client outcomes at your agency.
The scalable solution: your customer’s expertise
Everyone is an expert at something, especially your customers.
Solutions that leverage and share that expertise are the best, most natural way to promote a business and gain backlinks. Just answer questions, position your customer as the expert, and get your customer featured in articles linking to their website.
Help a Reporter Out, or HARO, created this strategy in 2007 when they connected journalists with expert sources. Google validated this strategy in 2018 with the introduction of EAT in their Search Quality Rater Guidelines. And since HARO hasn’t innovated on their platform, the door has been left open for other newcomers to the space, such as Terkel (disclosure: I started Terkel), Help a B2B Writer, Qwoted, ResponseSource, and even Quora to give experts a platform to share their expertise.
Agencies have never had such platforms to run their digital PR or link building efforts on a large scale. Therefore, when solving link building issues at an agency, it is important to focus on the ‘how’ and ‘who’ when building an internal process.
The internal process: how and who?
Most major problems are solved with a well-defined process within a structured department. Link building is no different.
How does an agency build a process and who should be part of the process?
Before we build the process, let’s take a look at who should be part of the structure: writers, digital PR managers, and customer services.
• Writers: the voice of the customer
Customers don’t have time to write answers to questions. Instead, writers need to take the voice of the customer and structure answers on their behalf.
Pause here. Deciding whether to get client approval is the most important decision you’ll make as part of your agency process. If client approval is required, writers will identify relevant questions, write an answer on behalf of the client, and then the agency will ask for approval.
Otherwise, if a client gives your agency the green light to submit on their behalf, a writer would identify, write, and submit.
Most agencies opt for the latter and pay writers on a performance basis, where success is a quote placed in an article. In this way, costs are maintained and writers’ motivations are aligned with agency and client success.
• Customer service: the project manager
Even if customers don’t need quote approval, they still need to see and understand where their insights are placed. Client Services delivers these messages and keeps projects running smoothly with quick approvals.
If clients simply want to receive updates on successful placements, agencies should equip their Client Services team with answers to frequently asked questions from clients, informing them about how activities are delivering results. Otherwise, Client Services can play a PM-like role to ensure deadlines are met.
• Digital PR manager: keep an eye on everything
The digital PR manager ensures that everything comes together to achieve a positive result.
The activities of the writer are closely monitored to ensure that the goals are achieved. Goals are regularly reviewed to ensure they are achieved. Performance reports are maintained so that monthly organic search traffic trends are moving in the right direction.
In short, the digital PR manager owns all activities for the entire agency or some of the agency’s clients.
Agency size: division of responsibilities
The size of the agency affects the roles and responsibilities of the digital PR department.
• Idea: 1-5 employees. Designate one person for writing, customer service and digital PR management.
• Scale: 6-10 Employees. Outsource the writing to freelancers and assign one person for customer service and digital PR management.
• Growth: 11-25 employees. Keep the writing outsourced and divide digital PR and customer service between two employees.
• Expansion: 25+ employees. Consider splitting digital PR managers into their units of teams, which are responsible for a certain number of clients. Customer services can be shared or distributed, depending on the traditional structure of the agency.
Next steps: eat it
Link building has always had a certain mystique. But the reality is that it can be quite simple.
Rely on your customer’s expertise, authority, and trust to build links. Build a structured digital PR effort to get answers from customers through expert insight platforms. Generate results for your clients and your agency’s bottom line.