Digital Marketing & SEO

How to Create a Link Building System

Welcome to the second lesson in the team building, systems and workflows module. In this lesson, we’re going to go over how to create a link building system to maximize your team’s effectiveness and efficiency. Now, systems are key to scaling.

Digital marketing professional services help your team stay organized and smoothen out processes. But many people think that a system is just a list of steps where you hire people to fill those roles. For example, an assembly line might have spots for 3 people. A packer, an inspector, and a sealer.

An Example

The first person is responsible for packing the box. Then it moves down the conveyor belt to the second person, who’s responsible for inspecting the contents. Then it moves down again to the final person who seals the box. Everything runs like a well-oiled machine and each person is doing their part. Now, while this all seems well and good, complex systems will almost never work this smoothly. And there are two reasons for that. Systems need to be customized for the organization and the people in it.


For example, an organization may choose only to contact editors with bespoke emails to protect potential damage done to their brand via. templated emails. Or a company that outsources link building, may not want to give you an @ domain email, which can potentially change the angle you go in with. And #2. The efficiency of a system is fragile.


For example, if the first person in our assembly line were to quit, then the other two people have nothing to do. But that’s an easy fix. Just hire and train someone else. The real fragility in a system that’s built for scale is alignment.


For example, let’s say the first person packs the box and then the package moves down to the second person. They check the contents and they’re like… “Hey, you can’t just throw the item in the box like this. You need to place the item so it’s facing this way.” Tthen the first person might be like… “who cares?” They might continue to argue with no real conclusion. All the while, the third person is just waiting to seal the box and the queue of items are just building up. In other words, while the system is designed to move in the same direction, the people aren’t aligned, which makes their impact null.

Now, because of these reasons, I’m going to share the 5 key components to create a link building system that will be right for your organization. Alright, so the first component is the structure of the team. Ideally, you want to have different team members handle different parts of the link building process. This helps to create your assembly line from a structural standpoint and it also helps individuals to develop mastery in their role.

As People Get Better At Their Jobs

Things move faster and more effectively. The second is alignment in your company’s goals. It might sound cheesy to some, but I think it’s important to set specific goals for your link building team. For example, you may have a goal to get 50 new referring domains each month to revenue-generating pages. And the purpose of these links is to rank higher in Google and get more traffic as a result.

Knows And Understands The Goal

When each member knows and understands this goal, it makes their work more meaningful because they know what they’re working towards and what it’ll take to get there. A common incentive I’ve seen companies do is to give their link building team monthly, quarterly, or annual performance bonuses. This can help to further incentivize the team as a unit because each person depends on the other to reach the company’s goals.

The Third Component

The third component is to create standard operating procedures or SOPs. These are detailed documents and videos that explain how to carry out a task from start to finish. They help to ensure that each person is moving in the same direction towards the same goal. And they’re also great resources to have when onboarding new hires.

The best way to create SOPs is to actually go through the process yourself, or have a team lead do it. And while you’re doing the prospecting, vetting, and outreach, you should document the process as if you’re teaching someone who’s never done it before. And when you hand these off to new employees,  it should ease quite a bit of the hand holding that you’d have to do otherwise.

Create Sops For Pretty Much Every Marketing Channel

At Ahrefs, we create SOPs for pretty much every marketing channel. We have them for our blog, for our YouTube channel, and of course, for link building. Alright, the fourth component is to use a project management tool. Project management tools like Trello, Notion, Airtable, and Asana are a great way to organize all your campaigns in one spot. And they’re particularly useful if you have multiple campaigns running simultaneously. Let’s look at an example using Kanban boards in Notion.

As you can see, I’ve created 5 columns and named them Brainstorming, Prospecting, Vetting, Outreach, and Completed. These represent the various stages that a campaign may go through. I’ve also created some cards, which represent campaigns. Now, within each of these cards, you can assign it to a team member, change statuses, add custom fields and files, leave comments and tag other members in your organization, and add whatever you’d like in the description area.

Stay Organized By Keeping Your Assets In One Place

This will help you stay organized by keeping your assets in one place and also all relevant communications should take place there too. Now, to show you how this works, let’s say that the brainstorming stage went well and it was time for prospecting. The person in charge of this step would then choose “prospecting” as the status, assign it to the prospector, and then leave a comment to let them know.

If we go back to the kanban board, you’ll see that it’s moved down the pipeline. And as you continue to progress through your campaign, it’ll continue to move down the assembly line. Now, imagine you had 10 different campaigns running at once with a team of 5. At any given point, everyone on your team will be able to get a high level view of where each link building campaign is and what they’re responsible for.

Use A Campaign Management Tool

The fifth component of a link building system is to use a campaign management tool that supports simultaneous collaboration. Now, when I say campaign management, I’m referring to the actual campaign data you’ll be working with. And the best tool for this is Google Sheets. You can customize your sheet however you’d like and multiple team members can work together simultaneously so no time is wasted.

For example, if you had two vetters working on a campaign, one can start from the top of the list and another from the bottom to double the speed of vetting. You can also write your own functions in App Scripts, allowing you to connect to third party APIs. And this is how you’d run a blitz list right inside Sheets. On top of that, Google Sheets has a ton of built in functions like QUERY, FILTER, and VLOOKUP to name a few.

Filter Large Datasets

These will help filter large datasets and match data from other sources. Now, no system is perfect and it’s going to require some tweaking. So as you go through the process, be conscious of inefficiencies and blockers and find ways to eliminate them with the people who are involved in these processes.

I can’t stress how important it is to solve these quickly because a lot of time can be wasted by just dealing with inconveniences that can potentially be solved easily. Now, the system is just the structure of your everyday link building operations. Workflows on the other hand are what fuel the system. And that’s what your team will be using day in and day out to execute these link building campaigns.

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