For the past several years, I’ve been responsible for overseeing the work of link teams large, medium and small. I’ve experimented with both client-based and task-based assignments and am currently managing a very small group that utilizes both client-based and task-based projects.
That system works for us right now. It might not if we grew again, but I’m content with the way we’re all working together. I can see everything that my team does, from the sites they are thinking about contacting to the full negotiation emails, and I like being able to personally sign off on everything that goes out our door.
Today, I’d like to talk about the major pros and cons of structuring link-building teams based on clients versus tasks, then discuss some pointers to help you decide which structure might work best for your team.
Client-Based Link Work
Client-based work is exactly what it sounds like: team members mainly work on link development work for one client. They may be responsible for multiple clients, but they’re still doing it all for these clients — from discovering new linking partners to negotiating link placements.
In terms of equality, it’s probably the most equal way of working for link builders, as no one gets stuck with the less fun bits of the process.
Pro: Intense & In-Depth Knowledge
The beauty of working on one client is that you can really get to know them inside and out.
Once you’ve been working with their site for a few months, you (ideally) really can home in on the most relevant link opportunities. You can focus on the breadth and depth of the client’s offerings, and you can gain the confidence of feeling like an expert on what the client does and how you can help them through link development efforts.
When we have had to put a link builder on a new client, it usually takes a week or so before we see anything popping. We’ve had times when a link builder finished a client project and needed new work, so I’d put him on something new for just a few days — and usually realize that all that did was cost us time and money. It takes a while to get really familiar with any site.
Con: Burnout & Boredom
Depending upon your tolerance for working on the same basic thing for a long period of time, burnout is pretty common (though that’s probably true for most facets of link development).
Usually, I can see when a link builder really needs a new challenge, so it’s easy for me to move them to another client. However, if you don’t have that luxury, burnout is definitely a potential issue.
Our most common complaint? “I can’t think of any new ideas for this client.”
Task-Based Link Work
With task-based work, each team member owns a particular facet of link building rather than being responsible for a client. With this type of system, a team member can become an expert in a process like outreach, and that allows for more trial-and-error testing, which is definitely a plus.
Some people are going to be better at certain tasks than others. With a task-based team, everyone can be more efficient. Once you know a process, you can nail it and do it well. Maybe you’re great at finding new linking partners, but you hate sending the emails. Maybe you are amazing at negotiation or content writing, but you have trouble finding the right sites to contact.
If a task-based team is structured well, those weaknesses won’t be a problem because someone else will pick up the slack on the areas where you aren’t as efficient.
Con: Lack Of Challenge
In many ways, this is a nicer form of burnout. It’s hard to move forward when you’re doing the same thing over and over, even if you’re really good at it. Your brain kind of stagnates.
If all you’re doing is sending outreach emails based on a list of sites that you were given, for example, you’re going to end up being very unhappy very soon — unless you’re one of those rare types that really enjoys doing the same thing over and over.
2 Major Factors To Consider
When determining which structure is right for your link-building team, you should take the following into account:
- Individual Personality. You really have to take each link builder’s personality, goals and work performance into account. For example, our three main link builders all have very different strengths and weaknesses. One prefers to focus on one specific client at a time. One keeps his eyes out for all clients, all the time. One does best when given very specific tasks like updating old links or contacting a list of sites he’s been given. Since we’re small, this all works out very well.
- Ultimate Responsibility. Someone has to be the end of the line, the one to say yes or no, the one to make the final call on the link and justify it to the client. In our case, that someone is me. If a client hates a link that we built, I’m the one who has to answer for it and fix the issue, so I like knowing what’s going on from the discovery stage to the negotiations. Always make sure you have someone who calls the shots, no matter what type of structure you have.
However you structure your team, it is critical to make sure that you’re working as efficiently as possible while still keeping everyone happy. Happiness isn’t a typical goal for link builders all the time, and I think that’s quite a shame, as it can be extremely tedious work. It can be amazing, too, but I do really believe in doing as much as possible to keep my team happy while getting all the work done.
And remember this, always: If your link builders aren’t confident enough to work on their own — whether it’s with a client or on a task — make sure they have a point of contact for support.
Even my employees who have been with us for years still have questions and still get stuck. I myself go through periods of burnout and find that by simply sitting down and having a conversation with someone else about it, I feel so much better and refreshed. Your team will always be better off if they’re supported.