Link building pricing may seem like a very gray area for you right now. 

You’ve probably been Googling phrases like “link building cost” or “link building pricing”, looking at all the different providers, and trying to establish some kind of average for what you’d be willing to pay. 

You’re right in thinking there is a huge range involved – some may be charging almost $1000 a link, while you have providers selling links for $10. 

What is the true cost of link building and what should you be paying?

Well, the team at TLG have years of experience, and have been operating in the industry since 2016. In this article, we’ll shed light on why there are such variations in pricing and what you should be expecting to pay. 

The Landscape of Link Building ​​Pricing in 2024

You have probably looked at the guides and surveys out there, and if you try to extrapolate an average of all of that, the range is quite wide when we look at the entire market as a whole.

  • At a per link perspective, businesses are paying from $100 per link, to over $1,500 per link.
  • On a monthly retainer perspective, they are paying anything from less than $1,000 to over $20,000.
  • Or they may be paying for a content marketing or PR activity, where link KPIs are only secondary, or not the actual goal. The service may be anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000 monthly. In those cases, link cost may be as low as $250 (best case scenario for highly successful link earners), but may be as high as $1000+.

So let’s slice this a few different ways, to understand why there are such variations. 

The Industry Factor in Pricing

There does tend to be variations in link building costs, depending on industry. And this is primarily due to one core reason – the more commercial association an industry has is in terms of its content, the higher the cost. The less commercial it is perceived, the lower cost. 

So industries like gambling, loans, insurance or finance products are generally always on the high end. (i.e. YMYL niches). While an online game, charitable organizations, or a hobbyist site, can generally speaking, be easier to earn links to and will cost less. 

Why is this? Well, some of the factors are play:

  • Blogger or admin fees – if you’re dealing with a sector where you will have to rely largely on links from blogs in specific sectors – lets say personal finance blogs, or travel bloggers – many of them will expect payment of some sort. Either direct payment, affiliate fees or a significant amount of product. 
  • Outreach difficulty level & receptiveness – Keeping paid links aside, you can also get relevant links for free. But, depending on the sectors you reach out to (and which is dependent on your business), your success rate, and therefore, efficiency of link building will vary. Some sectors are just more difficult to get high quality links from as many of them either are very particular about their content and what they link to – or are skeptical of your industry or business type. Some of that industry will link, but you’ll have to work harder to get each link. This will then reflect in the cost that the provider has to charge.
  • Media & PR link building scope: Some of the higher difficulty niches (such as casinos, CBD, adult) you may find a lot of journalists and media do not want to touch the topic, and may even have an editorial policy of not linking out. This reduces your ability to do things like HARO outreach – either you won’t get any links, or the success rate will be much lower.
  • B2C vs B2B aspect – Again, this is really depending on the niche. But, if you have something like an online game, a niche food blog, musical blog or a charitable initiative, you may find you’re generally dealing with consumers. So you’ll be reaching out to individuals or blog owners who are very passionate about this niche or hobby, and are quite open to linking to your site – simply because its helpful, and they are probably very hungry for content to share and read. But as soon as you move out of these non-commercial areas, you’re going more B2B and you then have more hoops to go through such as editorial guidelines, competing interests, etc.

Let’s assume link quality is at a good standard, you’ll find costs of:

$250 to $350 – Lower difficulty sites (i.e. charitable sites, game sites.)

$350 to $700 – medium difficulty sites (B2B tech, real estate, legal, healthcare.)

$700 to $1000+ – Higher difficulty sites (Casino, loans, insurance, financial products.)

Hard

Casinos & gambling: Notorious for having to be reliant on paid links. You will find that most have to rely on a lower quality link type (i.e. verging on link farm quality) because those are the only sites that tend to be open to linking out to this industry. Many blogs also charge a premium if you are a casino or gambling product, so you will have to pay premiums. But, this space has a higher tolerance threshold in terms of backlink quality. I.e. The general landscape of this industry is that most sites have a spammy link profile, so you can get away with more.
Loans, insurance and financial niches: Bloggers which have topical crossover with these niches, will be used to being offered higher sponsorship fees or brand partnerships. 
Financial products: similar to the above topics, you will either be dealing with brands or bloggers that expect a payment, or you have a very obscure/niche product that will be hard to make relevant to other niches.
CBD & Cannabis: Not priced as high as the others, but many sites will either not link to these niches, or expect a premium for doing so. From a healthcare perspective, this is also still a gray area in many countries, so you may even find people are just not receptive to this as a topic in general, and this restricts the link strategies and scope.
On top of this, these spaces are very competitive and you may find you need more link volume/equity to compete.

Medium-level

MarTech / SaaS: These sectors are more tech-savvy, and more clued up about SEO. And a lot of the link building would involve reaching out to other non-competing sites in the marketing or SaaS space. There’s usually a lot of hunger for content, so they’re more open to guest posts, link exchanges and linking to other useful content. However, there is a lot of competition as well, because the industry is so SEO/link building savvy – so it’ll take more effort to stand out in someone’s inbox. 
Tech products: Could be anything from cybersecurity to telecom products, to VPNs. You have a large pool of potential sectors you can prospect, but also you have bloggers that are very aware of the benefit. And either will want sponsorship or free product. Also a lot of the general tech blogs are link farms, which you’ll want to avoid. 
Healthcare & fitness: There may be sub niches of this which are more difficult (CBD for example), but generally speaking, we’d consider this on the medium difficulty level. You’ll often be competing against large, well established brands (especially on commercial keywords), but you do also have a large pool of prospects, since health and fitness is something that’s very central to everyone’s lifestyle. It is also a YMYL niche, so the closer your business goes to the more medical/pharmaceutical side of things – this starts to increase difficulty. 
Legal and real estate: This can sometimes be more difficult to build link strategies around, due to the complexity of the topics and how it needs to be conveyed at outreach. Not impossible to do, but this can be a bit more difficult, when you need to stay highly niche relevant.

Easier

Charities and social initiatives: Tends to be easier as you will not have a commercial agenda, and people will feel compelled to share and link to your content. If its associated with something like  specific illness or animal conservation for example – you will find people who are very passionate about that space, and will do what they can to help you acquire links. 
Online games and calculators: If the site itself is a game which is a bit of fun and free to use, people will be happy to link to it (let’s assume there are no ads.) Same thing if your site is simply a free tool or calculator. As long as there is an audience for it, you’ll find a lot of interest in linking to it. 
Hobbyist sites: Let’s assume there is no obvious commercial aspect to the site –  if you have a niche blog where you share free advice about a hobbyist activity – like playing a musical instrument, gardening or movies for example, you’ll find it pretty easy to build links, since the core objective of the site is just to educate an audience. I would usually advise this type of blog to do their own link building internally.

Pricing Based on DR, DA and Authority Score?

This is a model that is used by many link building services and brokers, where their link cost is depending on the site’s DA (Domain Authority), DR (Domain Rating), or Authority Score (AS).

We have discussed third party authority metrics in another article, and it is of course a very flawed method to price links. 

While a high quality site may have a high metric score – it’s possible for a low quality link to also have a high metric score. So, it doesn’t really reveal the full picture. If trust is placed in the wrong agency, you may find you’re paying inflated prices for link farms, with inflated metric scores.

True link quality actually is impacted by an amalgamation of several other factors, and there are much better ways to measure it than DA – relevance (both domain and page level), organic traffic, the E-E-A-T of the site, and various other link building metrics.

However, let’s assume link quality has been addressed and is not an issue – it’s reasonable to apply a benchmark with a metric like DA or DR, in order to cut out very small sites from the prospecting process. 

If a service is using an authority bucket approach to their link building pricing, here’s how it tends to look on average:

DA/DR 20 to 39 = $300 – $350

DA/DR 40 to 49 = $350 – $400

DA/DR 50 to 59 = $400 – 550

DA/DR 60 to 69 = $550 – 600

DA/DR 70 – 79 = $600 – 900++

Note:

  • We analyzed the latest data on pricing from a number of link building and digital PR agencies to calculate the industry averages above. 
  • Some offered flat pricing for multiple buckets, some a flat pricing for all links, while others only started pricing from a certain DA/DR metric. (i.e. they don’t build links below a certain metric number)
  • Once we get to the higher DA/DR levels, most do not offer pricing specifically for this, but some digital PR agencies do. At this stage, pricing for top tier media becomes very steep, and you may even be paying equivalent to $1k to 2k or more. 

Look at this pricing as what it is – a benchmark of what the industry charges and how much you would otherwise be paying, if you did not hire TLG. 

The advantage of our pricing is that it is a flat fee, and you are not paying a premium for securing particularly large/authoritative sites. While you will also have a mixture of lower to moderate authority sites – in the long run the cost would balance out, and you are getting more reasonable pricing. 

Pricing Based on Traffic Value?

Another way of calculating the value of a link, is to look at the monthly traffic value of the top site dominating your space, and extrapolating the value of the links based on this. (this is from SiegeMedia)

The calculation is simply:

Monthly Traffic Value / Number of Linking Domains  = Monthly Value of Each Link
Monthly Value of Each Link * 24 months = Lifetime Value (of each link)
  • Traffic Value is tied to the Adwords Cost (CPC), so you’d generally expect that the highly commercial niches we shared earlier, will end up with a higher link value.
  • 24 months is used to calculate lifetime value, because 2 years is how long a link will stay live, on average. (At TLG we would say you’d expect to see a link attrition rate of about 1 – 2% from the 1 to 2 year mark)
  • Your cost to build links should be around a 10:1 ratio with the lifetime link value. So if the LTV value comes out as $100, then you may need to spend $1,000 to acquire links manually.

The theory behind all of this, is that it gives you some kind of gauge on the difficulty level of building links in your niche, and also a measure of the impact a quality link will have in that niche. The lower it is, seemingly the easier it will be to acquire links. While the higher it is, the harder it’ll be to build links.

Here’s an example of a client we helped with link building, who we can now consider the top site in their niche:

Taking the above formula, 

$4,200,000 / 1,472 = $2,853.26

Lifetime value per link = $68,478

However, I’m certain this client didn’t spend anywhere near this for their links, so going by this valuation, they got a bargain!

Now, does this valuation help?

The problems with this calculation:

  • SEO tool calculations can be wildly off. Sometimes it won’t even capture many keywords, and traffic figures can be off. So it may underestimate the traffic, and therefore, the true value of that traffic. 
  • Link profiles can have a lot of junk links inside them which makes the number look bigger than it is. The links that are actually contributing to SEO impact, may be much lower, so this can throw figures off.
  • Keywords which have a low CPC, may in fact be more valuable than the figure suggests. Just because a keyword has low traffic volume, or not many are bidding on it, doesn’t mean it isn’t a valuable keyword.
  • Keywords with high CPC, on the flip side, may not actually be worth going for in terms of cost vs benefit. It would be like TLG trying to put all our efforts into ranking for “backlinks”. High traffic, $2.50 CPC but probably not our target market.
  • How do you measure overall brand value? A brand can dominate a niche arguably, if they have done everything else better than its competitors. Amazing content that serves the audience, great brand reputation, good PR, and a smaller number of (higher quality) links.

It can help in terms of trying to just attach some sort of value to links in a niche, and making comparisons of difficulty. But by no means is it foolproof. 

At TLG, we advise using calculations like this as a yardstick – to determine if link building should be a combination of both manual link building and producing link-earning assets – or if manual links are going to be the biggest lever. 

Other Factors Impacting Link Cost

1. Link Quality

This is an obvious one, but if you want quality, you need to be willing to pay for it – so it’s inevitable that better quality link building will be more expensive. 

As you go up in terms of quality level, it also gets more and more expensive. Trying to secure a link on a top tier site like Forbes, BBC or Wall Street Journal, isn’t going to be easy. In fact, at this point it becomes more like doing PR, and it won’t be easy to get links from such publications. 

But, getting a link from smaller blogs, or businesses in related sectors, is going to be somewhat easier – and this reflects in the price. 

It’s important to just be practical about your definition of quality. Quality doesn’t always have to mean the “biggest sites” but about building links that are over a certain quality standard. 

Big links will come as well, but it’s probably not going to be possible for an agency to only produce top tier links, at anything less than a very premium price.

2. Industry

As we explained earlier, the industry your website is in, will dictate the difficulty of link building – and therefore will reflect in the average price you have to pay. 

This is the reason why some agencies will not work with certain industries – as it just doesn’t fall within their expertise and pricing model.

So if you’re in a particularly difficult niche (as explained in our “Industry Factor” section above), be aware that you may have to pay a premium to build links of a quality standard. 

3. Content

The better the quality of content, the more appealing it is, and higher the editorial standard – the easier it’ll be to build links to. 

So, the further away you move from this, it makes the difficulty level higher, and therefore, more resources and legwork is needed to build links.

We’ve worked with clients who had great content (arguably the best content in their industry), and techniques like skyscraper or resource page outreach, worked extremely well. 

But, if you only want to build links to commercial/transactional pages, or just don’t have any usable content – this will be harder to build high quality links to. And sometimes, will involve having to use paid strategies, or relying heavily on guest posting (which has a content cost associated with it.)

4. Brand Equity

If you are a recognizable brand, or have a very well known product, this can work wonders in the outreach process. People will respond more favorably, and are more likely to already be aware of you. 

In fact, here’s an example of a company we reached out to, that just happened to use our clients software. 

They said they only allow one guest contributor a year, and the fact they used and liked the product, probably helped. 

On the flip side, if you’re a big, recognizable name – you may also find that blog owners start asking for payment – purely as they perceive you as a brand with a large budget. Check out our article on paid links, to learn about how vetting of paid targets should be done.

5. Flexibility / Barriers

The more flexibility you have in the link building process, the better this is in terms of efficiency, and therefore can reflect in the cost. 

We’ve found over the years that some companies (especially at enterprise level), will be very particular on the kind of sites they want to get links from, they only want to be associated with certain topics, or only want links over a certain authority metric. 

While steering strategy in a certain direction is understandable (i.e. if you’re in the fitness industry you’ll want links from relevant sites and topics to be centered around fitness rather than mental health for instance) – too many restrictions in parts of the process, will reduce the amount of sites we can reach out to, and introduce bottlenecks. 

The more barriers and hurdles in place – the less efficiency there’ll be, the lower the success rate – and therefore the more cost to the agency. 

We always advise having internal stakeholders on board with the link building process, and understanding that trust and flexibility is needed, to achieve maximum success.

Be Wary of Link Farms & Cheap Link Building

When selecting a vendor, what you ultimately want to avoid is using a service that will get your backlinks placed on link farms. 

And unfortunately, the majority of the services out there that sell single, or small package links (even if they fall within the average pricing levels above), will be in that territory. They are banking on someone new to the space, or business owners not educated about link building, to just buy links, thinking they’ll have an impact.

Going back to the authority metric pricing model – authority metrics in of themself, don’t mean much, and do not guarantee anything by any means.

But, by keeping that price guide above as a barometer of industry averages – if a vendor is claiming to sell “high DA” links at an unrealistically low price, alarm bells should be ringing. That probably means they’ll be buying your backlinks on link farms, with inflated metrics.

And if you are going to be using one of the paid link services, make sure to employ a very strict vetting process, to ensure you are getting the best bang for your buck.

In House vs Agency vs Freelance Link Building Services

There are different ways you can go about this, if you are trying to get an idea of the cost of link building, if you brought it in-house, outsource to an agency, or outsource to a freelancer.

Let’s compare.

In-House Costs

If you want to forego outsourcing, and bring the link building in-house, its important to also consider how much this will cost. 

For the purpose of this example, let’s assume we are building 20 links a month. This’ll cost between $102,000 to $140,000.

  • Link building assistant x 1.5 ($22,500)

One person at a push can probably build 20 links a month, but you’ll likely need at least one person helping them with admin, data prospecting. Let’s call this 1 full timer, and one part timer. And if we assume you’re in the US and have to pay at least minimum wage, this is equivalent to $15,000 for a full timer and $7,500 for a part timer in the US. 

  • Link building manager x 1 ($40,000)

One person will have to train the team, ensure everyone is hitting their daily KPIs, and coordinate tasks to ensure campaigns actually consistently lead to those links being landed every month. That’s going to run you at least $40,000 just to hire an entry-level marketer in the US. A more experienced manager will be more like $60,000+, but let’s use the figure of 40k.

  • Content writer x 1 ($24,000 to $50,000)

Content will be essential to the link building operation. Whether you’re creating content for your own site to earn links, or you need to write the guest posts to provide to the editors the team is dealing with. You will generally want the writer to be separate from the link building team, as you need someone who can concentrate on the quality and ensure it meets standard.

The average salary of a content writer in the US is at least $50,000 (according to Salary.com). And even if you hire a freelance writer,  and assume a rate of $0.1 per word and 20 articles at 1,000 words each, that would still be at least $24,000 a year.

(Note: a freelance writer will tend to take on multiple projects, and you won’t always have the same commitment as if they were in-house – so you will inevitably have some loss in turnaround time and speed if you go this route.)

  • Link building software ($3,600+)

You will need a suite of tools to help you with the link building process. An outreach software Gsuite inboxes, LinkedIn Sales Nav account and email finding software/plugin will be the bare minimum. Let’s assume we need at least 2 email inboxes, send 1,000 emails with 2% success rate, and have collected 1,200 targets/contact emails. This’ll run at least $300 per month.

  • Additional costs ($12,000 – $24,000)

You will have other ad-hoc costs that will add up just aside from the above. We’ve assumed you aren’t paying for links, but if you have to include paid strategies, you’ll pay at minimum, an average of $50 per link (some will be less, some will be higher and some links will be free). But this will be another $1,000 per month. Plus, not all of your guest content will be accepted by editors, and some of your blog content will fall flat – all this will become wastage. Also, if someone in the team leaves, you’ll incur more costs in the recruitment and hiring process.

So in total, you might be spending $140,000 over a year, to build at least 20 links per month.

Not to mention, once you need to scale to a larger amount (once you’re at the 50 links per month level), this is where a lot of other costs start to come in. The team will start to expand and you’ll need a team leader in place, you’ll need extensive training and SOPs to be created, you’ll need more software to streamline the process, and the cost will stack up even further from there.

Agency or Freelancer Costs

This is going to be variable depending on who you hire, but some of the average costs we came across in our research:

  • Link building agencies: typically, won’t engage for anything less than $2,000. And they’ll usually scale up to $15,000+, depending on how much scale you need. The advantage is it tends to be tied to a link KPI.
  • Content marketing agencies: varies in scope, as some will be experts in your industry, while others may cost a bit less, but be generalists. But for a reputable agency in the US/UK, you’ll typically be paying $6,000 per month for a small business/small scale to $60,000 per month at enterprise level. Around $10,000 to $20,000 per month is normal for a mid 7-figure company.
  • PR agencies: Will depend if you’re hiring a freelancer/small PR firm, or one of the larger firms. You will typically either be paying it as an hourly rate ($125 to $500), or it’ll be a retainer that can run anywhere from $2,500 to $20,000 per month. In fact, national-level and global PR agencies probably won’t touch a campaign for less than $15,000 a month. The major factor at play here is that coverage will not be guaranteed, and will be highly unlikely to be tied to a KPI. 
  • Freelance link builders: Another approach is to hire link building specialists on a freelance basis. You may be able to find them on platforms like Upwork. While they may be quite experienced in the field, you would expect to have to pay around $50 to $100 per hour. On top of that, you’ll have to pay for all the tools they’ll need for the job, and often, it may not be tied to a link KPI – since you are paying for their time. This is even aside from factors like availability, contingency in case of illness, etc.

So hiring a specialist link building agency offers many advantages in comparison. You can tie the campaign directly to a link KPI, you are able to piggyback off their experience doing outreach for your industry, and you can get a customized link building strategy.

A customized link plan, backlink audits, and a link building approach which ties directly to your overall marketing and SEO goals, may not be something you can get from freelancers or agencies in other fields. 

Why choose TLG as your Link Building Agency

Out of all the link building agencies you may be looking at, and the cost you are comparing, why should you choose us? 

Here’s a few reasons:

Link building pricing: our costs are very reasonable when we compare them against the market. Because we have a fully remote, distributed team, we don’t have certain overheads, and that allows us to pass that cost saving onto clients. 

Natural link building and link quality: despite the reasonable cost, we have a very manual, niche-focused and high quality approach to link building. We want to build natural links, links that are highly niche relevant, or are very hard to attain. Those are some of the hardest links in the world to build, and are something you will get as part of our service.

Link building strategy: we don’t look at link building in isolation. We want you to get the most out of our link building efforts – how many links you need, where to point them, and pages to focus on to maximize traffic and ROI return, are also things we can work with you on. Even the most creative agencies won’t factor this in, but we don’t want to leave anything to chance.

End to end service: you can offload the entire link building process to us. We do everything in-house – from writing the guest posts, to the data prospecting and outreach, and even the strategy work and HARO outreach. While other agencies may be outsourcing parts to other white label agencies or casual workers, we keep everything under one roof.

Transparency and trust: Our entire process is fully transparent and we give clients full access to everything we’re doing, so they’re aware of what links we’ll be building. Some agencies will just report the links at the end of the month, but we want to ensure you’ll be happy with the work we’re doing. 

Integrity: we want to conduct our work in an ethical manner. Those values apply within our company as well, and that’s also our approach with clients. We do not compromise on quality in the name of profit, and we will not work with your direct competitors, to prevent any conflict of interest.

How to Calculate the ROI for Your Link Building Campaigns

As you’ve seen by now, link building costs will add up, and if you need quality, you will have to pay a fair amount. 

But, the outlay in cost is worth it, if you know you can get the return on investment. 

The key thing is to ensure that the link building you’re doing is good enough that you will get that return, and to ensure that the link building is being put to best use. 

Let’s briefly go through a few approaches you can take, to calculate the potential ROI, or justify the spend.

ROI via Traffic Value

Let’s go back to the “Pricing Based on Traffic Value?” section and assume we are measuring the Lifetime Value (LTV) of our links. 

If we know we are gaining links lower than the 10:1 acquisition ratio we set, and we are making gains on rankings/traffic against competitors, then we at least know that we are moving closer towards getting a return. 

Regardless of whether you are doing content marketing efforts, link building, or digital PR, using this calculation will allow you to see if you’re at least in the right ballpark.

Across all services, link costs tend to end up in the $600 to $1000 range – so if you can hire an agency and link acquisition costs are in the low end of that range (or lower), you’re doing well. 

ROI via Conversion Rates

If you want to really dig further, and apply a more scientific approach, a better way to approach it, would be to look at the potential gains in traffic you can get – and extrapolate ROI potential from that.

We will explain this in more detail in a future link building ROI article but for completeness, we’ll cover the steps here.

  1. Analyze your organic search market, and prioritize

Take your biggest competitors, and the terms you already rank for, and compile all of this into a central database. Cut out junk or irrelevant keywords, and categorize them into one of 3 types:

  • Total addressable market (TAM): keywords that could hypothetically be your market, if you assumed zero competition. (broader)
  • Serviceable available market (SAM): the segment of the TAM that is your market with your current business model.
  • Serviceable obtainable market (SOM): the segment of the SAM you can most realistically capture given the current stage.

Generally speaking, you’ll want to focus on the SOM, and I’d define this as something that you can capture within the next 1 to 1.5 years. 

  1. Sort by KD and prioritize based on traffic/revenue potential

Now take your pool of keywords, and sort by difficulty level. Different metrics are out there, but an obvious one is the Keyword Difficulty (KD) score, of which both Ahrefs and Mangools have their own version. 

Split the KD into ranges – according to what is Easy, Medium, Difficult and Hard. Your definition of these depends on your current authority and stage, but I’d recommend calculating the range split, based on your current rankings. 

Next, take the data on your keywords, and input your revenue data associated with each page. This can either be the Average Order Value or Conversion Rate. You basically want to see the pages and keywords which will bring the most valuable traffic.

This is where you want to start shortlisting the keywords based on either traffic gain, or revenue/conversion gain. And since a URL is capable of ranking for multiple keywords, you’ll also want to group the keywords together into clusters. If you want to look for short term gains in the next 4-6 months, segment that list further, into keywords that are currently in positions 4 to 20.

Ok, assume from the above you have your shortlisted URLs and keywords, you should now have a shorter list of URLs to focus on.

  1. Calculate link gaps

Now from there, I’d recommend focusing in further – one a handful of URLs (maybe 5-10 at a time), and looking at their main keywords. Anything more than this in a link building campaign, will lead to confusion and split efforts. 

(Note: this will be hard to do manually and you should build this out into an advanced Excel sheet, and something like Power BI/Tableau)

Here is an example keyword, where we are analyzing the top competing pages for one competitive keyword, against one client’s page. (Note this is hypothetical data and SERP page to illustrate) 

We have filtered out low quality links, and have sorted into domain authority buckets. We can then take the average and median of these links, and then from this, it gives us an idea of how many links we need to build, to compete at the top for this keyword.

So in the above example, the average link gap is 119, which is what we need to beat to compete on the first page. In some situations, you may want to focus on a single competitor, or only some of the top competitors, to get the average. So let’s imagine we only wanted to look at the top 3, as we consider them our only real competition. 

The number will then become a link gap of 200.

Next, you want to plot the velocity of the competing pages, to see what backlink velocity you should be matching. In the example below, we can see 2 that have been building an average of 8 per month – so we ideally need to beat that.

We want to close out the link gap on this keyword over 12 months, and we therecipecritic  as our model for velocity. 

8 links * 12 months = 96 links

96 + 200 = 296 links.

We need to beat 296 links over 12 months – which we can say is 25 links per month.

Now repeat this for all your other target keywords. 

  1. Extrapolate into potential traffic & revenue gains

We can assume that the keywords from the previous step, are your main, and most competitive keywords, we will also be able to rank for the other keywords under each cluster. Take the search volumes for those keywords and append:

This will give you a truer value of your potential traffic gain from each. 

Take your conversion rate (which you can gather from your Analytics account), and this will give you the potential revenue gain in a month, if you were in the top spot for that keyword.

Repeat that calculation for all keywords – and this will give you a value of the total amount of revenue you’d be bringing in per month. 

Intangible benefits and unmeasurable ROI

There is a caveat that comes with the above. It is just very difficult to completely tie link building directly to ROI. 

Firstly, it’s contingent on so many other factors. If you haven’t served the intent of the keywords as well as other competitors, if you haven’t gone after the right keywords, if the website doesn’t provide a good user experience, if Google releases a massive update (e.g. like HCU) – this will affect the ROI. 

But secondly, there’s so many ways that links will benefit other than just the direct “link equity to page” perspective

Link equity passes through to other pages. So, when you have all your ducks in a row (like good internal linking structure) and have built great quality inbound links, it can lift the entire site up, and the compounding effect can act as a bigger lever than you predicted. 

Getting links on highly relevant sites in your industry, or high authority sites, will also improve brand awareness, it may even drive direct traffic and sales – which you wouldn’t have included in your original calculations. Link building is about more than just the SEO benefits.

The Final Word on Costs

This article ended up longer than we intended! But, it really does show that there is a lot that goes into link building, and a lot of factors to consider.

The ROI question is important but as you can see, is not something that can be answered easily. 

What we do know is that link building definitely impacts SEO and is a very important ranking factor. What’s important, is ensuring you can hire a proven link building agency that can build links the right way, and can build them strategically. 

When you can do that, and continue to trust in the long term process, it will get you a return. Contact TLG today, to find out more about our service –  a service that isn’t just about building links, but building businesses.