Cost per click, cost per lead, cost per impression—they are all common ways of determining ROI when it comes to online marketing, so why not measure cost per link for SEO? And to be sure, there are plenty of SEO companies or consultants out there that guarantee 500 links a month for $500 and plenty of site owners that are willing to invest in this kind of link building campaign. But when it comes to white hat SEO link building, especially since the Google Penguin update, the quality of your link profile, not just the quantity, is more important than ever. While a site owner wants (and deserves) to know they are getting their money’s worth when it comes to link building, looking at the cost per link is just another way to silo your SEO results.
Why is cost per link a bad SEO metric?
If your SEO provider is getting paid per link, they might go for any link!
Obviously if you are working with a white hat SEO provider this isn’t a concern, but if you are working with a grey or black hat provider that is just focused on getting X links in X days, don’t be surprised if the quality isn’t exactly what you were expecting. Why should they bother investing their time and energy into getting the “hard” links when it’s much easier and profitable for go for the easy ones?
Cost per link doesn’t measure the value of that link.
Let’s say through their efforts your SEO firm finds you a great guest blogging opportunity on a popular industry site and you’re allowed to put two links in the author bio. Those two links go everywhere that post goes, which means every time someone shares, Likes, Tweets or promotes your guest post those links get a little more valuable. For instance, a partner website agreed to share the interview I did with link building expert Eric Ward. The quick blog post that got posted (with 2 links back to my interview) drove nearly 800 visitors to my site! 2 links in the grand scheme of my overall link profile might not be much, but their value is worth much more than the cost per link.
Links aren’t the only things your SEO budget is paying for!
I am a firm believer in being as transparent as possible with my full service SEO clients, so at the end of each month I send them a completed link building report, outlining what types of link building activities we did during the month and what the final links actually are. Some months those link building reports are a lot larger than anticipated (maybe there was an extra press release or article to promote) and sometimes they are a little bit smaller (maybe a guest blog didn’t go live as anticipated). But either way, as a full service SEO client it’s important to know that your budget is paying for much more than that link building document! Your SEO budget pays for the expertise and experience of your SEO partner. They should be willing to answer questions, provide feedback and insight when you need it and not be afraid to go a little above and beyond every now and again. For instance, maybe you added 5 new pages of content to your site and need them optimized. Maybe your company hired a new CMO and you need a quick report outlining the SEO work that has been done. Your SEO budget shouldn’t only be seen as a cost per link when it’s so much more than that!