Enterprise Link Building Guide

Enterprise Link Building Guide

By Ajay Paghdal
Founder of OutreachMama and Linkio

Imagine for a moment, you gear up with your headband, basketball shorts and Air Jordans to take on a bunch of 9 year olds in a neighborhood pickup game.

You dominate little Jimmy and his 4th grade buddies to return home a neighborhood champ.

The next day, you suit up again except this time, Jimmy’s brought his dad…who happens to play in the NBA and things do not end well for you.

In retrospect, of course that’s an obvious outcome. There are levels to this stuff.

SEO and link building is no different.

If you’re serious about ranking for super competitive keywords with link building, you can’t approach it the same way you would in less competitive industries.

Just look at what the experts have to say about it:

The Need to Be Careful and Aggressive at the Same Time
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In the enterprise, especially if the target website already has a high domain authority, it can handle a higher number of links than a smaller counterpart. However, as link volume goes up, it becomes easier for the algorithms to detect unnatural activity like lots of links originating from spammy sites, or unnatural anchor text practices. It’s important to balance this need of high volume links with a backlink strategy that focuses on great sites and natural signals.

by Ajay Paghdal, Founder at Linkio

 
Enterprise Link building
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Link building is often undervalued and under-invested in at large, enterprise companies. Once your brand reaches a certain size, it’s easy to fall back on your name recognition as the only effective driver of building high-quality links. What’s different about enterprise link building is the need to create sustainable and scalable link building strategies with the help of human effort. That takes investment in an outreach team and willingness to invest in content that you know will drive repeated links. One technique enterprise link building organizations can derive a lot of value out of is data collection, reporting, and distribution. Use your large marketing team’s budget to invest in original data that can always be linked back to your brand.

by Georgia McIntyre, Content Marketing Manager at Fundera

 

In this post, I’m going to break down the differences between enterprise link building and link building for lower competition industries because it’ll help you make better decisions with the strategy you choose.

Stick around and you will learn…

  • The do’s and don’ts of running an enterprise SEO campaign
  • Two killer case-studies that will teach you how to rank for keywords that are searched over a million times per month
  • How to painlessly devise your own winning strategy for the enterprise
  • And much, much more

Let’s get started.

What is Enterprise Link Building?

Simply put, enterprise link building is a toolbox of strategies for promoting large and complex websites.

This ain’t for your grandma’s artisanal candle business.

Think nationwide insurance…

real-estate…

car loans…

e-commerce…

even online casinos!

All of these industries are jam packed with competition and it’s not an easy task to rank.

Enterprise Link Building vs. Everything Else

Enterprises tend to have either a marketing director or a dedicated SEO manager.

The delegation and strategic planning is usually done in-house. Contracted consultants, writers, and virtual assistants are then hired to execute this plan.

To truly understand what separates enterprise link building from building links for regular small businesses, it helps to compare the problems each face.

Small Businesses : How can I increase the rankings of this page?
Enterprise: How do I increase the rankings of 1,000 pages?

Small Businesses: How much is this going to cost me?
Enterprise: This is my budget. What can you do with it?

Small Businesses: How can I increase my domain authority?
Enterprise: We already have authority. How could we maximize
our current results?

Notice the difference? Enterprise is all about scale and improving
what already exists.

Enterprise Link Building: What to Love

There are certain aspects of link building for the enterprise that you are going to LOVE.

#1. Strict guidelines about brand image
This includes the context of the link being placed into the article,the quality, and the topic of the article itself.

Large brands can be hesitant to have their names mentioned in any promotional piece without proper vetting from their PR team.

That isn’t really feasible or scaleable from a link building perspective.

Instead it’s best to target non-controversial topics for articles and link to a brand as an example of an option or a resource, depending on the page being linked to.

#2. Your competition has deep pockets and an army of marketers
You’re playing in the big leagues now, son.

No longer are we competing against business owners who had their sites designed in the 90s, old-school, brick and mortar marketers who say “What’s SEO? Some kind of sexually transmitted disease?”, and last but not least, mommy bloggers.

We could very well be going against the biggest marketing firms out there. There are millions of dollars at stake to get ranked for single keywords.

Ever since 2017, there was a noticeable change in broad-level, competitive keyword terms to favor big brands rather than lower-authority websites. To add to that, there’s now an even stronger favorability of large brands for the health/wellness industry.

As an enterprise, that’s good news for you since it cleared a lot of the small fries from the SERPs. This includes a lot of black hats who would game the algorithms despite being unknown brands.

The big boys rule many buyer-intent keywords and could be difficult to overtake. And with all this going against you, the decision makers of the enterprise could be willy nilly with their confidence in SEO as a marketing channel, making your job a little bit more stressful.

Speaking of decision makers…

#3. It could be difficult to justify corporate spend
The need to justify the expensive of SEO quarter after quarter is a difficult task in itself.

SEO is a long game. It takes a link building campaign around 6-12 months to really gain steam.

If you are unable to show progress or improvement within the first 3 months and decision makers aren’t on board with the process, your budget is going to be allocated to marketing channels that offer a shorter time for ROI.

This reminds me of a client I was working with in mid-2018. They were one of the most well-known brands on the planet (Ahrefs rank in the 1500s) and yet the SEO manager was in a bit of a pickle.

He knew links were the right move and his boss gave him 3 months of budget to test it, which he knew wouldn’t be enough but he rolled the dice anyway and we put together the best plan that we could in that 3 month window.

Unfortunately, it was too little too soon, and he lost his budget the following quarter.

#4: You need high-effort links… A lot of them!
You know the mantra, “Quality over quantity”? Well, we need to have our cake and eat it too. We need both quality and quantity!

It takes a real focused and sustained effort to get the types of rankings that move the needle in the enterprise.

Just scroll down towards the end of the article and see that over 400 referring domains were needed to rank a page for a million searches per month keyword.

Enterprise Link Building: What to Loathe

Not everything is rosey in enterprise land.

There are a number of things that make link building for these kinds of brands more difficult and tedious.

#1. Strict guidelines about brand image
This includes the context of the link being placed into the article,the quality, and the topic of the article itself.

Large brands can be hesitant to have their names mentioned in any promotional piece without proper vetting from their PR team.

That isn’t really feasible or scaleable from a link building perspective.

Instead it’s best to target non-controversial topics for articles and link to a brand as an example of an option or a resource, depending on the page being linked to.

#2. Your competition has deep pockets and an army of marketers
You’re playing in the big leagues now, son.

No longer are we competing against business owners who had their sites designed in the 90s, old-school, brick and mortar marketers who say “What’s SEO? Some kind of sexually transmitted disease?”, and last but not least, mommy bloggers.

We could very well be going against the biggest marketing firms out there. There are millions of dollars at stake to get ranked for single keywords.

Ever since 2017, there was a noticeable change in broad-level, competitive keyword terms to favor big brands rather than lower-authority websites. To add to that, there’s now an even stronger favorability of large brands for the health/wellness industry.

As an enterprise, that’s good news for you since it cleared a lot of the small fries from the SERPs. This includes a lot of black hats who would game the algorithms despite being unknown brands.

The big boys rule many buyer-intent keywords and could be difficult to overtake. And with all this going against you, the decision makers of the enterprise could be willy nilly with their confidence in SEO as a marketing channel, making your job a little bit more stressful.

Speaking of decision makers…

#3. It could be difficult to justify corporate spend
The need to justify the expensive of SEO quarter after quarter is a difficult task in itself.

SEO is a long game. It takes a link building campaign around 6-12 months to really gain steam.

If you are unable to show progress or improvement within the first 3 months and decision makers aren’t on board with the process, your budget is going to be allocated to marketing channels that offer a shorter time for ROI.

This reminds me of a client I was working with in mid-2018. They were one of the most well-known brands on the planet (Ahrefs rank in the 1500s) and yet the SEO manager was in a bit of a pickle.

He knew links were the right move and his boss gave him 3 months of budget to test it, which he knew wouldn’t be enough but he rolled the dice anyway and we put together the best plan that we could in that 3 month window.

Unfortunately, it was too little too soon, and he lost his budget the following quarter.

#4: You need high-effort links… A lot of them!
You know the mantra, “Quality over quantity”? Well, we need to have our cake and eat it too. We need both quality and quantity!

It takes a real focused and sustained effort to get the types of rankings that move the needle in the enterprise.

Just scroll down towards the end of the article and see that over 400 referring domains were needed to rank a page for a million searches per month keyword.

Do’s and Don’t of Enterprise Link Building

Here are some general rules of thumb you should consider when building out your link building strategy.

rule #1

Don’t focus entirely on deep links. The category pages is where it’s at!

Deep links point at very specific pages on your site. A link to one of your blog posts being an example.

If you have a huge site, don’t focus too much of your link building efforts on extremely deep, long tail pages. For example, if you sell prom dresses, and want to rank for “v neck prom dresses” you might be tempted to build links to your v neck prom dresses page.

However, if you look at the SERP, you’ll see the ranking URLs barely have any backlinks.

If you go one category level higher to “prom dresses”, most of those ranking URLs have many backlinks:

Mind blowing, right? Not knowing about these highly linked to category pages leave many SEOs scratching their heads.

Furthermore, you’ll notice domains that rank MULTIPLE TIMES for the same keyword.

The lesson here is that for big sites, Google doesn’t care how many deep-page links you have. Instead they want to return the results of brands who have established thematic relevance and trust.

And the key for that is to have a high domain authority with strong category pages.

In our case, strong category pages are pages with lots of links.

With those 2 factors in the bag, the trickle down effect of Google algorithm will help your deep pages rank naturally.

To add some nuance to this discussion, that doesn’t mean you should completely ignore link building for deep pages. Instead think of it as an allocation. 80% of your efforts go to category pages and 20% to deeper pages.

rule #2

Relevance, relevance, relevance

People tend to get obsessive with high authority links. You’ll even find people buying these kinds of links based on that metric alone – regardless of what the topic of the website is.

Yes – a high authority and super relevant link is fantastic, but what would you rather have out of the following two scenarios.

You own an electric car company.

Scenario 1: You get a DA 35 link from a website about funny animal GIFs.
Scenario 2: You get a DA 19 link from an eco-friendly automotive blogger.

Most will opt for the DA 35, and while that’s not bad, I’d go for scaling up the relevant DA 10-30 links.

Why?

Because there are so many more of them and they are easier to get links on because they aren’t getting their doors beaten down by webmasters.

And relevancy is HUGE nowadays for ranking in Google. In the following case study, I’ll show you how we used these types of sites to generate earth-shattering results.

rule #3

Relevance, relevance, relevance

The recipe for getting consistent referral traffic from a backlink looks something like this:

1. A visitor has to land on a webpage (usually millions of competing pages)
2. A visitor has to commit to reading the page instead of bouncing
3. A visitor needs to find the section that your link is placed in
4. A visitor needs to be compelled enough by the section to click the link
5. A visitor who clicks the link needs to care enough about your website to fall into your funnel

That sort of traffic funnel ends with a very narrow nozzle!

How many visitors will mozy their way all the way to step 5? Very few unless you have a super prominent, above-the-fold link.

Maybe you’ll get a mention in their newsletter blast? A mention on social? Ok, you’ll get some good traffic for sure, but of course that is all short-term.

The post might end up ranking in Google. Then you’ll get consistent traffic, right?

Well, the article would have to be amazing and it would need some backlinks to start ranking which would take a few months.

It’s a huge amount of work for any blogger who was kind enough to toss you a link in the first place.

You might get a backlink that produces referral traffic by happenstance, but to aim for it consistently requires an operational process that isn’t worth the investment.

Instead focus on this formula:

Quality links + Volume + Time

All you need is for your own page to rank in Google and you’ll end up with much more traffic than what any referral traffic strategy could get you.

Trying to get the best of all worlds will usually end up getting you nothing.

rule #4

Fluff content attracts crickets

Most corporate blogs are painfully generic and include an unholy mish mash of topics.

A content model they typically do not implement is one that focuses on cornerstone content, backed up by shorter-length support articles.

Instead, most enterprise sites do the following.

  • Optimize their category and product pages (as they should)
  • Create short 500-1000 word articles for their blog that interlinks to various product pages.

Those short blog posts would target a thematically related topic or a specific keyword (also good).

However, there is still one piece of the puzzle missing. For every 10 or 20 of these smaller articles, there should be a cornerstone article as well.

And this is a critical mistake nonetheless.

These cornerstone pieces would be roughly 10x the size of your regular articles and are targeted at a major keyword in your niche.

For example, we would like to rank for the keyword “link building strategies”.

It has thousands of searches each and every month.

Our first step of bagging this keyword was publishing a 10,000 word article that tells the reader everything (and more!) they need to know about the topic. https://www.outreachmama.com/advanced-link-building-strategies/

We didn’t stop there.

After that, we proceeded to create related articles that were shorter and had the goal of ranking them for related long-tail keywords. All of these guides have strong internal linking, including a link to our cornerstone content.
https://www.outreachmama.com/20-ways-to-build-links-using-blogger-outreach/
https://www.outreachmama.com/top-seo-link-building-trends-2017/

Sure, it would be just dandy to rank for that target term. But what’s in it for us? What’s the end goal?

Great question. We are trying to get more and more visibility to our link building services product page here:
https://www.outreachmama.com/link-building-services/

Still trying to crack the code of this strategy? Have no worries. Below is a detailed infographic that breaks all of this down in plain English.

Enterprise Link Building Case Studies

In these 2 case studies, I try to go into as much useful detail as possible. Unfortunately, I do block out any data that would identify the clients for reasons that you could imagine.

Even so, I think the breakdowns will do wonders in helping you understand what it takes to succeed

month #1

Simplicity is Key

This case study spans across 2 years of link building.

It follows an e-commerce business that specialized in a certain type of dress with many colors and skews.

At the start of the engagement, this 15,000 page website…

  • Was 2 years old,
  • Had 500 referring domains — mostly from PR activities that helped land very relevant high . end placements
  • Had a DA in the 30s

Not a bad start, but there’s a lot of room for improvement.

The stakeholders wanted to rank on page 1 for their main keyword, which had 350,000 monthly searches in a highly competitive market.

The top 10 sites on page 1 for the main keyword all had a DA of 60 or higher and were major shopping sites.

We began our campaign by building 15 links each month:

  • 5 sites, DA 20-29
  • 4 sites, DA 30-39
  • 4 sites, DA 40-49
  • 2 sites, DA 50-59

Our anchor text linked back to the company’s main product page.

At that time, they ranked on page 3 of Google at #22 for their primary keyword.

Month 2-6

Consistency

We continued the same strategy of building 15 links to the product range with varying domain authorities.

Through these 5 months, we started to see real traction.

Their targeted keyword reached page 2 in the SERPs – position #16.

Month 7

The First Big Milestone

We continued the same strategy of building 15 links to the product range with varying domain authorities.

Through these 5 months, we started to see real traction.

Their targeted keyword reached page 2 in the SERPs – position #16.

But…they ALSO wanted to start linking to another top-level category page for a second highly-competitive keyword.

We began building an additional 20 links each month, once again targeting another product page for the new keyword. This particular keyword recieved 1.5 million searches a month.
At that time, they ranked on page 2 of Google at #15 for this keyword.

Month 8-11

Moving On Up

By month 8, we were ranking on the bottom of page 1 at position #10. This was for our 350,000 searches per month keyword.

I hadn’t mentioned this yet, but there were a ton of subcategory pages in this silo that respectively had 10k-30k monthly searches.

As the rankings for the main category term increased, the longer-tail related pages also increased at a substantial rate. Often, we were appearing in the top 3 positions without having received any direct backlinks.

This feeds back to one of the Do’s and Don’t I mentioned above. Putting a ton of attention to the top-level category page can boost the rankings of all pages nested underneath.

We continued with 20 links per month but started shifting in a slightly different direction.

It began with targeting other long-tail subcategory pages within the same product/keyword silo. We did this in addition to linking to the main product page we started with in month 1.

AND as for the 1.5 million searches per month keyword…

After 11 months, we are now ranking on page 1 of Google. Position number-freaking 5!

This doesn’t mean our efforts stopped here. We continued, business as usual, building 20 more links per month, while still mixing it up a bit with other long-tail product/sub-category pages.

Month 12-21

Winning

We continued to stay the course with the same strategy, building 20 links up and down the 350,000 searches per month silo.

We’re now in position #3 for our 350,000/searches-per-month keyword.

What about the 1.5 million searches per month term, you ask?

Hmm…nothing much to report there. Nothing other than we are RANKED IN POSITION NUMBER ONE.

To sum things up, here was the activity breakdown for the first keyword cluster over the course of 21 months.

PeriodKeywords/Pages targeted# of Monthly LinksGoogle Ranking
Month 1115#22
Month 2-6220#16
Month 7220#12
Month 8-12320#10
Month 12-21320#3

I also talked about the importance of relevance and how it could be even more important than authority earlier in this article.

To break this down further, let’s inspect the balance of relevance and authority for the 350k/searches-per-month term that we ranked within the top three positions.

Overall, the page had 305 Dofollow and Indexed referring domains.

This is how the relevance breaks down:

URTotal Referring DomainsRelevant DomainsRelevant domain %
0-291707443.50%
30-1001351813.30%

Relevance in this case is defined by domains that are specifically catering to the customer’s niche.

Surprisingly, the top three positions were achieved through getting more 0-29 UR domains. This had more impact than the 30-100 counterpart.

In addition, the lower UR domains had much higher relevancy rates, due to the nature of those blog owners being more open to third-party content requests.

Let’s move on to the second case study.

Month 1

Simplicity as Usual

This case study spans across 1 year of link building for an e-commerce site that specialized in clothing for a specific sports industry. They had many categories, colors and skews.

At the start of the engagement, this 18,000 page website had:

700 referring domains
a DA in the 30s
and the main keyword they wanted to target had 60,000 monthly searches in a highly
. competitive market

The top 10 sites returning on page 1 for the main keyword all had a DA of 50 or higher. They were major shopping sites.

We began our campaign by building 15 links each month:

5 sites, DA 20-29
4 sites, DA 30-39
4 sites, DA 40-49
2 sites, DA 50-59

Our anchor text linked back to their main product page. This is what we wanted to rank for that 60,000 searches per month term.

At that time, they ranked on page 3 of Google, at #24, for their primary keyword.

Month 2-6

Consistency

We were still building 15 links each month, however…

In addition to the main product page, we started targeting other related long-tail subcategory pages (within the same product/keyword silo).

We were seeing steady improvements in rankings!

Within 6 months, their product page moved up to the bottom of page 1 – position #10

Month 8-12

We Made It!

By month 8, we are now ranking in the middle of page 1 – position #5

Just like in the first case study, we stuck to what was working.

We built 15 links targeting the other related long-tail pages while also linking to the main product page.

By the end of year one, this keyword ranked on top of page one – position #2.

By implementing the strategy of targeting other product pages within the same silo, tons of the subcategory pages that had 10,000-30,000 monthly searches were also ranking in the top 3 positions as a trickle down effect.

Let’s summarize

PeriodKeywords/Pages targeted# of Monthly LinksGoogle Ranking
Month 1115#23
Month 2-6215#10
Month 8-12420#3

There was a clear commonplace with both case studies: We didn’t overcomplicate things.

We had a list of keywords. Within those keywords we choose the most valuable cluster of keywords and focused our link building efforts on the associated pages.

Still, common questions arise like:

  • How many links a month should I be building?
  • What pages should the links go to?
  • What type of articles should my website be linked to from?
  • What kind of anchor text should I be using?

I drill down into the nuances of how to approach developing a strategy in this massive link building strategy guide.

To give you a brief rundown of what you should consider, follow these steps:

Step 1:
Check the rankings of your target keywords and identify a target keyword cluster.

Step 2:
Identify the most common-occurring websites that show up for those terms and see how their authority compares to yours.

Step 3:
Compare the number of Dofollow and Indexed referring domains each of your competitor’s homepages have compared to yours.

Step 4:
Compare the number of Dofollow and Indexed referring domains your target pages have compared to those who rank on page 1.

Step 5:
Identify the pages you’ll begin to target and create an outreach strategy.
Now, over to you.