Link Building Case Study: Why it's Important and How to Evaluate One

What a link building case study can tell you about who (and who not) to work with
Published on 
May 26, 2024
Updated on 
May 26, 2024
Posted in 

Everything in the realm of SEO must naturally evolve in tandem with Google. Whether content, site speed or, in this case, link building, to do well in the SERPs, you need to placate Google. 

The best way, as a link building agency, you can demonstrate that you know what you’re doing to potential clients is with a case study. 

In this article, we are going to walk you through the ins and outs of a link building case study. The purpose of this exercise is two-fold. 

First, we want to demonstrate to you that link building actually works. There is a nearly 200-strong list of Google ranking factors, and backlinks are definitely one of the top two or three most important. 

To this end, we’re going to walk you through a case study that we have put together for a client of ours that shows this. 

Second, we want you to be able to make informed decisions when it comes to hiring or working with link builders. 

If you are serious about significantly increasing your organic traffic, you will need to focus on link building at scale and to do this, you essentially have two options: to do it yourself or to work with a link building service or freelancers. 

Any good link building service should have at least one case study to show you, demonstrating that what they do really works. 

While the outcome of a link building campaign is never 100 percent predictable, if a link builder knows what they’re doing and understands what Google is looking for, they should be able to show positive results from their link building efforts. 

With that in mind, let’s take a deeper dive into a link building case study. 

Why a well-structured link building campaign can really work wonders

Nectar is an HR tech provider that sells B2B employee recognition software. The aim of their tool is to provide companies with a way to let their employees reward and recognize each other for hard work, collaborative efforts and the like. 

What they wanted when they came to us

What they were ultimately after when they came to us was organic traffic. 

They were a relatively new company, and they wanted to make organic traffic a much more significant part of their lead generation. Our job was to help them achieve that. 

They had a great tool, helpful and well-done long-form content, and they had the same link building philosophy as us: user-centric links that put quality over quantity. 

Our approach and the results

Our approach was to take Nectar’s linkable assets and build links to relevant, high authority sites. Once these links started to pay dividends (in the form of increased traffic and page authority), Nectar would then create internal links to their higher ROI/buyer intent pages. 

We used a combination of competitor analysis, HARO and content marketing to build backlink profiles for each of Nectar’s target pages and secured some fantastic links. 

Here are a few examples of the kinds of links we built for Nectar: 

The end result

This Ahrefs graph whos nectar going from less than 1,000 monthly organic traffic to over 50,000/month. 

More importantly, they went from zero demo bookings per month to more than 50. That’s a 50-fold increase in organic lead generation.

Some important qualifiers

As we previously touched on, a lot goes into increasing your ranking and organic traffic. Links are important, and there is an undeniable and very significant correlational relationship between the kind of link building we were doing for Nectar and their massive increase in traffic and conversions. 

However, it is important to emphasize the necessity of a strong content and SEO fundamentals as the foundation of a link building strategy. 

The best link builders in the world are not going to be able to do much with a client’s website and traffic if they don’t have good technical SEO in place and the requisite to build links to. 

Nectar had both of these things in place already, they just needed our link building expertise in order to acquire the kinds of high quality links they needed to grow.

Your link building efforts matter

So yes, building links is important, and it works. Even just taking a page from zero links to a few links can have a marked impact on organic traffic. 

Now, how do you go about evaluating a link building case study? 

How to evaluate a link building case study

If you’re shopping around for a link building agency, you should always want to check out their case studies. 

Link builders that don’t have proof that their link building tactics work or who refuse to show it to you should raise some red flags. 

Here are some of the main things to look out for when evaluating a link building case study:

  • Does the case study understand the client’s business and/or problem?
  • Does the case study point to specific link building methods? 
  • Does the case study highlight the importance of a preexisting SEO foundation? 
  • Does the case study provide visual evidence of the results? 

The importance of understanding the client’s business

If you noticed in our case study, one of the first things we did was lay out our client’s problem and goal–what were they hoping you achieve with our link building efforts? 

You want to see that any link builders you are planning on working with approach your project form the problem-goal perspective. 

Link building isn’t just something you do because all of the highest-ranking articles on SEO best practices tell you that you should. It’s a strategic part of a larger lead-generation and conversion strategy. 

Your link building agency should understand how organic traffic fits into your overall business strategy and why it’s important to you. 

Also, notice how the case study highlights the client’s concerns/requirements. 

“Trevor wanted to work with a link building agency that he could trust and wouldn’t require too much time. After the initial month, which is a normal trust-building period, he gave us autonomy to build links to Nectar the way we believed would move the needle.”

A case study should make it clear how a link building agency views its clients and their business problems. 

It should also make it clear that a business relationship is always based on trust. We take it slow with new clients so they get a feel for how we work, understand that we have their business’ best interests at heart, and are committed to building high authority backlinks the right way. 

Specific link building methods

Another important component of a link building case study is the methodology section. 

Of course, you can’t expect an agency to give away their trade secrets, but it is not unreasonable to expect link builders to touch on the types of link building methods they use to achieve their results. 

In the above screenshot, we let people know that for Nectar we relied on a combination of HARO, competitor analysis, and larger content marketing efforts.

Link builders that aren’t upfront about the kinds of tactics they use to build links are often trying to distract from the fact that they use black hat link building tactics. 

At best, these are going to provide no SEO value to your website. Worst case scenario: Google hits you with a manual action penalty for unnatural, low quality backlinks. 

The importance of a solid SEO foundation

Another thing that we always try to stress to our clients is that a successful link building process is predicated on preexisting search engine optimization. 

Here we’ve underlined a couple of key things. Nectar already had really good long-form content in place for us to work with. And, they had good web design with sound technical SEO infrastructure–including internal linking, site speed optimization, mobile responsiveness, etc. 

A case study that doesn’t highlight these things is, to use a journalistic term, burrying the lead. That is to say, it is failing to mention one of the important conditions for the link building campaign’s success. 

Without both of these things, you are probably not going to build many links, because inbound links need a) somewhere to go and b) a well-optimized website that Google is going to want to show to searchers. 

Any links you do build are going to have much less impact because the trust signals are not combining with other essential facets of user experience and SEO.

Visual evidence of the results

This is the hardest part of a case study to fake or skirt around. 

The trend line showing an increase in search traffic that correlates with an increase in quality links pointing to a website either exists or it doens’t. 

This is something you can get with a couple of clicks from whatever SEO analytics tool you’re using (in our case, Ahrefs). 

If you’re putting your faith in a link building agency and paying for a service, you should expect a case study to provide quantifiable evidence that the link building does what it says it does. 

Follow up questions to ask after reading a case study

Knowing how to read and evaluate a case study is an important part of deciding on whether or not to work with a particular link building agency. 

There are, however, other important questions to ask that will give you even more insight into the reliability of the case study and the appropriateness of a link building agency for your business and objectives. 

What link building strategies would you use for my business?

Different types of businesses require different link building strategies. Certain industries and niches are tricker than others when it comes to building links. 

The vast majority of our clients are in the B2B SaaS and real estate niches. We tailor our link building tactics to these industries, meaning we use industry-specific prospecting and link building methods. 

A case study might show stellar results, but is the link building strategy used in a given case study 100 percent applicable to your business and industry? Ask this before deciding on a link building service. 

What is your anchor text policy? 

Another important question concerns how a link building service is going to write and place anchor text. 

Whether it’s a guest post or a niche edit, Google has specific requirements for anchor text. 

It wants to see a variety of anchor text types, from branded and URL anchors, to contextually relevant natural anchor text. 

What they definitely don’t want to see is a preponderance of keyword optimized anchors linking to commercial pages. That’s considered spammy and you will want to know whether any link building agency you are planning on working with knows or cares about this. 

How do you evaluate link opportunities?

What constitutes a good link? 

This is a polarizing question and, to a large extent, we get it. Different links make sense in different scenarios, at different times in a company’s SEO journey, and for different niches and business models. 

A directory link from and reputable local real estate agent directory is going to make a lot of sense for a new real estate agent’s website; not so much for a human resources CRM. 

Domain Authority or Domain Rating are very often reliable proxies for how much link juice a referring domain will pass on, but not always. Link farms are often built on high DR/DA sites. 

The point is, you want to make sure that not only is there an editorial process in place for vetting and, when necessary, passing on link building opportunities, but one that is right for your business. 

These are the kinds of conversations you should have with link builders before deciding to work with them. 

In summation

Knowing why case studies are important and how to interpret and evaluate a case study are important when it comes time to choose link building partners. 

Knowing what evidence to look for and then how to qualify it will allow you to get the most out of a link building service. 

If you would like to learn more about what a user-centric, full-service link building agency can do for you, get in touch with dofollow for an exploratory chat and let’s see if we are a good fit. 

Why Trust Us On SEO

Eric Carrell & Sebastian Schaffer have been working in SEO for over a decade, building their own projects - understanding and testing SEO strategy, along with building hundreds of white hat links per month for our projects. They take their learnings and experience and apply them to the strategy that drives our link building strategy for our clients.

Eric & Seb have always believed in quality over quantity, doing things the right way so we future proof our client’s websites against future Google updates and the evolving industry of search.

While Seb handles the company strategy around culture, processes and structure, Eric is constantly working to improve our service offering, customer experience, and following the industry in parallel with Google’s Quality Guidelines so that we are always one step ahead of our competition and aligned with what Google wants to see for your site to rank higher.

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