What is a Realistic Link Building Benchmark for a Link Builder?

Last night, a colleague and I were debating what an expectation would be for setting a realistic goal for number of quality links attained in a month. Half jokingly I mentioned we should post the question via blog or Twitter to solicit feedback.

Well I decided I’d try my luck via Cape Cod SEO :-).

As an SEO practitioner or site owner, if you’re one focus was to gain inbound links for a period of one month, what would be a realistic expectation for this program?

For the sake of argument, let’s assume the site you are working on is (should be) well known to you (IE, keyword strategy, business model, industry, etc).

Please feel free to comment below and as a “Thank You” for your time, I’ll list participants (with links) via the post.

Thank you for your participation in this link building discussion:

QUICK ADDENDUM: Based on initial feedback and comments, here are some additional thoughts:

  • In the benchmark determination, it would help to identify the assumption of a full-time work week or not. My 30 link benchmark was actually derived from a client project where 20 – 25 hours per month allocated, but I think one could argue 30 links/month full-time if the quality was there.
  • Here is a post I wrote a while back on link building evaluation. Since it is 2 years old it probably needs to be refreshed, but my opinion is that the more criteria that can be satisfied here will lead to a higher quality inbound link

Update 2: It’s worth pointing out that setting a numeric goal for a link building campaign is not the only facet in measuring success. Obviously the improvements in organic search engine traffic, leads, and revenue must happen as well, regardless of the number of links acquired.


24 Responses to “What is a Realistic Link Building Benchmark for a Link Builder?”

  1. richardbaxterseo on December 4th, 2009 10:52 am


    Between 25-30 monthly links built for reasonably high quality links (mR 4+) is about right. That said, if there’s linkbaiting involved it’s a different story.

    I wonder if you should categorise the types of linkbuilding and create benchmarks for each?

  2. Wil Reynolds on December 4th, 2009 10:56 am

    Do quality links include no-followed?

    At 30 I assume it would.

    Are syndicated press releases included?

  3. Tweets that mention What’s a Realistic Link Building Benchmark for a Link Builder? | Cape Cod SEO -- Topsy.com on December 4th, 2009 11:01 am

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Chris Winfield and richardbaxter, Rizwan Ahmad. Rizwan Ahmad said: RT @chriswinfield: What’s a Realistic Link Building Benchmark for a Link Builder? http://bit.ly/5KZBh9 (POLL) […]

  4. MoreProSEO on December 4th, 2009 11:01 am

    The poll wasn’t specific as to whether this was your primary job function or just something that you’d be doing (on the side) throughout the month.

    Obviously, if you were working on building quality links 40 hrs per week, you would expect more than 25-30 links per month, correct?

    Linking is extremely difficult, but at these production levels, how you can justify charging a client for all those hours (assuming it’s 40 hrs per week). Even on the low end of SEO fees, that’s a lot of green.

  5. Monica Wright on December 4th, 2009 11:02 am

    Oh this really depends on the sites and types of links you want. For some reason I’m going to underachieve here – 20 links maybe (assuming we are not counting directories).

  6. Philippe on December 4th, 2009 11:05 am

    25-30 links in a month seems pretty big for me, especially if that does not involve linkbaiting.

    Now, it all depends on what you mean by “quality” links, as well. I guess I can get 30 links in a few days in a few days with article marketing, now is it real quality?…. not so sure about that.

    We should define what quality means before, no?

  7. Nataliya Yakushev on December 4th, 2009 11:09 am

    Depends on the quality of the links. I would take 5 .edu relevant links over 100 article syndication links any day. For a full time link builder I would say 5-10 quality naked links a month would be fair.

  8. Derek Edmond on December 4th, 2009 11:20 am

    @richardbaxterseo – I think categorization of the type of links acquired is important, especially if it is a full-time endeavor; thank you very much for the comment

    @Wil Reynolds – yeah I think so, particularly if there is an opportunity for traffic, leads, etc.

    @MoreProSEO – I’m not sure, hence the poll :-) Seriously though, if you got 30 awesome links from major publications, I think that could be worth a monthly salary. But I do agree a breakdown of hours allocated would help in this case. For my 30 links benchmark, I’m allocating 20 – 25 hours per month (just as an FYI)

    @Monica Wright – thank you for your comment, it is appreciated!

    @Philippe – since this was just a quick poll, it’s open to interpretation. That said, how many link building “SEO factors” would your article links satisfy? If they hit a vast majority of known criteria, I would suspect they could be argued as quality.

    @Nataliya Yakushev – thank you very much for your comment and opinion; it is appreciated

  9. Brendan Picha on December 4th, 2009 11:22 am

    Hi Derek,

    This is a tough one because there are so many variables when it comes to link building. I prefer to quantify a prospecting number instead an backlink acquisition number. You may prospect 100 potential backlinks but after the effort, only gain 20. So depending upon what the client’s budget is will determine the prospecting amount.

  10. Jim Spencer on December 4th, 2009 11:26 am

    Let’s set some assumptions;
    1)There is money, talent and time.
    2)The answer focuses on “to do’s” or effort for a month and the results will stream in long after the month is over.
    3)The kw research is done more or less (never true)
    4)The site is new or not well linked

    In a month you could;

    1)Write 3-5 blog comments per day (120 links)
    2)Submit to select paid directories (5 links)
    3)Submit to select editorial directories (10 links)
    4) Write 4 1,000 word well written blog posts or articles (50 links)
    5) Hit the social bookmarking and recommending sites (5 links)
    6) Hit the social sites and share links (10)

    After a month you may have generated around 200 links. Your mileage will vary with your effort and quality of work.

  11. Derek Edmond on December 4th, 2009 11:27 am

    @Brendan Picha – fair point and thank you for the comment

  12. Derek Edmond on December 4th, 2009 11:32 am

    @Jim Spencer – wow, great comment & thanks so much. I tend to think that is aggressive but certainly worth taking into account. For the first assumption, that is a 40 hour work week, correct?

  13. Brian Hawkins on December 4th, 2009 11:45 am

    @Jim Spencer had a valid point.

    You really need to

    Define the goal of what is a quality link

    2. What linkbait “ammo” do you have to achieve it? What do you bring to the table for the whats in if for me to link to you? Because you could crank out lots of guest blog posts, if you had some solid material to give.

    3. Plus it depends on the value of the brand. If Google or Apple asked you to published a unique guest post or something of value, you’d do if its from a trusted brand.

    But this is all a debate, but I’d say it just comes down to doing quality research, having a strong link strategy & a solid link building / social media team to deliver results.

  14. Jim Spencer on December 4th, 2009 11:45 am

    Well, could you

    1)Write 5 blog comments in 3 hours, including finding the right blogs to comment on?
    2) Submit to 5 paid directories in 5 hours?
    3) Submit to 10 editorial directories 10 hours?
    4) Write one great article in 5-8 hours?
    5) Create a handful of accts in 4 hours?
    6) Participate in the social web 1-2 hours a day?

    The one time efforts fall off and that leaves more time for the ongoing efforts for the rest of the month.

    Seems like a month might allow for a lot of links, don’t you think?

    To be clear for the most part this is not going to achieve super high value links, although if the articles and the blog/site are awesome those may allow for high quality links.

  15. Peter Davis on December 4th, 2009 11:48 am

    One of the biggest challenges with link building is that it’s time consuming. And thus, I’ve tended to outsource a lot of link building to freelancers. Another challenge is quality. It’s easiest to tell a freelance link builder to get you 30 links, but in my experience there’s a huge variance in quality. It’s dead easy to go out and post 30 blog comments, or forum posts, or bookmarks, or directory links and such. It’s not so quick and easy to get 30 of what I call quality links. Quality links are by definition, not easy to get.

  16. Derek Edmond on December 4th, 2009 11:54 am

    @Brian Hawkins – definitely agree and appreciate the comment. BTW, do you really want me to link out to the Twitter profile?

    @Jim – yes agreed

    @Peter Davis – yes, but if your role is to acquire links, having benchmarks makes sense, yes? I’d agree that a number alone is not enough criteria, but it can be a starting point.

  17. Casie G on December 4th, 2009 12:38 pm

    I would say, as an in-house person, I aim for between 25-30 links per month. Those links come from blog comments, forum participation (relevant of course) and blog posts.

    However, I think it is easier for me to define as we have a person dedicated to getting 5-10 news stories written each month which typically contain links. Knowing I am going to get a few additional high quality links from those things, makes it easier for me to focus on the smaller targets.

  18. Paddy Moogan on December 4th, 2009 12:58 pm

    Very interesting poll and something I ask about (and get asked) a lot. I’d agree with Richard that I think you’d need to categorise the links you want. So my first start would be to list every method of getting links that are applicable to the client, then focus on three at a time until that method has been exhausted or I know its time to move on.

    I once spent half a day researching and writing some link bait which attracted 5 or 6 high PR links which to me is time well spent. But I could also spend half a day getting 20 directory links which mean very little.

    On average though I’d estimate 20-30 decent quality links built manually, plus some time crafting linkbait which could bring 100’s or 0 links!

  19. Derek Edmond on December 4th, 2009 4:30 pm

    @Casie – thanks for the comment and I know there is more to your job than link building. Can’t underestimate the value in having other members of the team helping :-)

    @Paddy – thank you as well for the comment and glad you found the discussion valuable!

  20. Rebecca on December 7th, 2009 9:18 am

    “Quality links,” to me, are the ones that drive traffic and particularly traffic with a high conversion rate. We all like to have those .edu links, and I have been able to create good SEO results for clients with them, but it can’t just be about bragging rights.

    For a new site, or one in a niche for which directories are widely used, links at targeted directories are valuable. A good linkbuilder can average 3-5 of those per hour, assuming that some involve filling out a form and some involve writing a persuasive email to the .edu webmaster or what have you.

    Blog posts can drive lots of traffic. Doing guest posts, posts at blogs over which you (the linkbuilder) have control, etc. can net 2-3 quality links per hour.

    Forum participation shouldn’t be forced, but it can make sense to devote an hour or two a week to that, and you can probably expect to average one worthwhile link an hour. Social media like Facebook and Twitter can do wonders if done well, and that’s faster yet.

    So I’d be inclined to think that a full-time linkbuilder should be able to manage way more than 30 links a month, especially if there’s good data to work with.

  21. Josepha on December 7th, 2009 2:48 pm

    If we don’t include the small, kindling-type links, I think that 30 or more is a good assumption.

  22. Derek Edmond on December 7th, 2009 11:02 pm

    @Rebecca and Josepha – thanks very much for stopping by and commenting. Nice breakdown of link building strategies to consider

  23. SEO Denver on December 16th, 2009 3:17 pm

    Focusing completely on the effort should yield more than 30 decent links in any month. But given competing priorities, this would be difficult. If one can achieve 30 and then keep the system growing at that rate, over time you have a good solid link base.

  24. Derek Edmond on December 18th, 2009 12:17 am

    @SEO Denver – thanks for stopping by and commenting! It is appreciated