How To Hire Your Next SEO Link Building Expert

This part of our Digital Marketing Recruitment Guide details the process you should follow when hiring an agency link builder, it is written by a digital marketer with 14 years of SEO experience, 11 years PPC experience and is the Managing Director of two companies.

How you recruit a link building superstar is markedly different to that of any other online marketing role and in this section, Lee McCoy, Managing Director of Chocolatiers, provides a detailed guide on how to hire an agency link builder and what characteristics, values and experiences to look out for in candidates during the recruitment process. Everything you need to consider when recruiting for a link builder to join your digital agency, you will find below.

Link building is a vital service for any Agency. The right Link builder will achieve success for your clients & grow your agency.

For many agencies, the one paragraph that hardly alters in pitching documents relates to link building. It's the Marmite of SEO tasks. You're obsessed by the analytical side of link profiles or you're not. The problem is great link builders are a unique bunch and they're as distinct a role as media buying and email marketing, if not more so.


The first characteristic an agency should see demonstrated is an intense curiosity. Wanting to know why a particular webpage ranks and another doesn't is of crucial importance when it comes to link building. Ask the candidate which website has the most interesting link profile to them and why. Hopefully, the candidate will answer with a website that demonstrates a strong niche that fosters links and social recommendations naturally. If they mention a website that has been removed from Google for over-optimisation, it shows that they have a different inclination which may be better suited to clients working in more competitive niches; the former answer would indicate they are suited to clients that require more creative flair. 

Thinking outside of the box

A large number of the search engine ranking factors are link-related. We don't simply mean counting the number of links to a given webpage, but also the text within the links, their position on the page, text found around links, over-optimisation of links, domain diversity, domain trust, the number of exact match links across a domain and many others. Ask the candidate for all the link-related ranking factors they can think of. If they can only name two or three, perhaps they're not the right person for the role.

Playing by the rules

The internet is littered with websites which used to dominate their industry but have since fallen from grace. Link builders should read widely and be able to recall a website that has lost significant rankings due to the use of short-term methods such as directory submissions, article syndication, press release marketing, comment spam, forum hacking, excessive guest-posting and the over-use of widgets. Ask them to name a well-known website that has fallen foul of Google's link-building and why. Also ask them if they know of any websites from their own research that have also been 'hit' by Google, but haven't been 'outed' publicly.

Knowing their tools

Almost no link-builder will do their job by using Google advanced searches alone. Almost all will use two, three or more tools. Ask the candidate which tools they use, and what tools they'd like to use if the budget was unlimited. Look for tools such as Ahrefs, Link Research Tools, Open Website Explorer,, Word Tracker, Buzz Stream, Majestic SEO and Link Prospector.

Conducting a campaign

Ask the potential employee, if they had a new client, such as a baby photo studio which has zero links to start with, how they would develop a strategy? The important points to look out for in their answers are a definitive determination of the link profile and not to take other's words for it. They should also ask what 'assets' the company had - what cool web content they have that separates them from the competition. They should ask what resources are available - such as budget, interesting customer data, celebrity clients or artistic and technical knowledge. They should also ask what the client's priorities are, such as what products or services deliver the greatest return. The link builder should also ask about seasonal trends, what the competition is and how long they've got to deliver tangible results.


Many link-builders are employed to recover websites from Google unnatural link penalties. All agencies are likely to have come across this issue and will understand how soul-destroying it can be to achieve results with this particular kind of campaign. You should ask them if they've ever worked on a recovery project before and how they did it. You should ensure that the candidate mentions link audits using Google Webmaster Tools and any one of,, Link Research Rools, Ahrefs, Sistrex and Ontolo; they should also mention disavowing links via Google's own tool as well as contacting webmasters for the removal of links. If they mention the dilution of link profiles and creation of link-bait then this is another good sign.

Track performance

One of the crucial aspects is, of course, the reporting of campaign successes, failures, opportunities and risks. The candidate should communicate a strong understanding of the need for clear and inspirational reporting. They should also show the ability to be diplomatic with clients who aren't working at the pace expected but still possess the charisma to get things done. It is also essential that a candidate can demonstrate how they track performance. Is it via traditional link profile reports from one of the major link reporting software companies; is it simply by producing ranking reports; the increase in traffic to target pages, improved keyword reporting by Google Webmaster Tool or a combination of all five?

The Candidate

Great link builders have a vast range of skills including analytical, problem solving, communication and creative skills. With productive link building often being the difference between retaining and losing clients, it is essential that you hire the right candidate. The points above should help you take a giant step to achieving that.