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How much should a link cost to generate? How much will *your* link cost to generate? That’s a question we get a lot as an agency and at the end of the day, the right answer is “it depends”.

However, there are general frameworks for thinking about how much it should cost to generate a quality link. I discuss those frameworks and what I see as a good cost range in our new video, below.

As a general note, I’m also referring to quality links in this scale: that is, links that are editorially placed and have an average Domain Authority (DA) higher than 30.

Audio Version

Update: Skip to the end to read our new passive link building strategy which averages a $500 or less CPL

Video Transcription

Hi, I’m Ross Hudgens, founder of Siege Media, and today I want to describe what a good cost per link is. I mean, it’s something I don’t really see frequently described often in the industry and we have the guts here to actually do that.

So, I want to actually get into what a good framework is for evaluating the cost for a link generated and obviously the secondary value you can get from a content marketing effort in addition to the link.

And the first thing before getting into those numbers are three considerations that actually go into that.

1. How Tight are the Brand Requirements?

First is the brand you’re pitching for, do they have tight brand requirements or do they have loose brand requirements? I’m sure you’ve seen in a lot of those like viral marketing pitches, you’ll see these like big amazing assets, well, really, they might not tie in super tightly to the brand semantically, and they’re lucky enough to maybe have the buy in of that brand or more likely that is actually not a brand at all, it’s just a website that has creative on it that wants to get links.

And because they have that creative flexibility, they have the capabilities to get crazy with their content and more likely create something that resonates on the web. And therefore, they’re capable of generating a lower cost per link because of that.

Compare that to something like Wells Fargo. Wells Fargo almost certainly cannot say certain things finance related, and therefore that consideration, specific to content, is actually going to make it harder for them to generate a low cost per link. There is some offset in that they have a big brand, but if you think about those general things that if you have a tight brand framework against ability to be creative brand wise, it gives you a scale to generate a lower cost per link.

And generally, you want to be higher on the scale because you want to be a brand. So it is a kind of a cost benefit analysis but it’s just something to think about when thinking about how successful your campaigns are or the vendors that you’re working with.

2. How Strong is the Brand You’re Pitching?

Second is the brand strength generally when pitching. I kind of touched on it there. But also something about Wells Fargo or say your Airbnb actually enables a lower cost per link because they’re so well thought of. It happens frequently with the right kind of clients that we have is that the bloggers we pitch or the new sites we pitch love those brands.

And for those reasons, they’re going to be more likely to want to work with you, to want to cover your content, and therefore the cost per link is going to be lower. And obviously, that’s going to create efficiencies that are really valuable in terms of building in domain authority and getting more value out of content marketing campaigns when you have that brand to back it up.

Compare that to someone like, no brand, people actually hate seeing that company because of what it signifies and therefore, if you’re going to do content marketing, if you do it all, that’s going to be a really high cost per link comparative to something like Airbnb because of that dichotomy between the two scales.

3. Does the Business Vertical Impact CPL?

Next is think about business verticals generally. If you’re in personal finance, that market specifically is unique in that personal finance bloggers do not like getting pitched content all that frequently. They want money for that content and if you just know personal finance generally, it’s going to make it more difficult for you to win the link at a lower cost per link because of those restrictions.

Also think of something like, if you’re in home decor, that market is not going to receive links as excitedly because most of the time, they just cover their own content.

Every vertical is different and that’s where expertise comes in, is knowing those verticals and knowing how they receive content. Compare that to something like movie sites, if you’re IMDB, you could probably make movie content and achieve a really low cost per link not just because of your brand, but because movie sites love covering content, they link out all the time and that consideration overall is going to make that more effective.

So… What’s a Good Cost-Per-Link?

And finally, all those things considered, what is a good cost per link? In general, I think a good cost per link is when you have the creative flexibility, and you can pick any topic, and you’re in the right vertical, it is possible to achieve with content marketing a cost per link sub $500, especially with a vendor. You might be able to get lower than that if you bring it in-house. And then it scales up as you’re working with a tighter brand requirement.

If you’re doing content marketing and you have really strict brand requirements, it’s very possible you can get around $1,000 cost per link for a quality link. Of course, there’s more benefits that come with $1,000 cost per link than just the link, so it offsets that cost for that brand. You’re actually building brand, you potentially are ranking, you’re getting social shares, you’re getting potential sales from that.

While that creative brand over on a $250 scale is way more likely to actually not be getting any value besides the link itself, and obviously, there’s risk in that. And therefore, it’s all about the value of the scale in content marketing, but generally, if you’re doing a good job and you’re pretty creative, I think you can achieve a sub $600 cost per link on a long enough timeline.

And when you get above $1,000 for a cost per link, that’s of any kind of quality, say above DA 30 on average, you’re probably getting expensive and probably paying too much for that work. So when you’re evaluating your vendors and your link building generally, success generally, I think you feel good about a good quality link under $700 when that’s tied to content that has other value, and you feel good if you’re a really strict brand and you’re getting other value and it’s $1,000.

But if you’re only getting that link value, and it’s $1,000 or it’s more than $1,000, you’re paying too much for that link and most likely you’re not seeing the value from it.

Of course, everything is vertical specific. If your vertical only needs 30 links, that $1,300 link, that $2,000 link might be worth it for you because you only need 50 links to rank for, if that vertical just generally has such difficult time generating links.

So hopefully, all those idiosyncrasies had some value and got you thinking about what a good link building campaign is and of course, you bring this in-house, possibly you could do it cheaper.

However, it’s very possible it would be a lot more expensive because you don’t get those small details across the framework that makes something linkable. So I’d love to hear your own experience, what you think your own good cost per link is, and of course, I’m not saying pay for a link.

In my experience, we actually pitch a content cost and a range of a link rather than just the link, so you’re going to get value of the content marketing campaign, not a guarantee of a cost per link or rather a range on a long enough timeline with enough campaigns that you’re confident you can achieve. So if you like this video, feel free to comment, give us a thumbs up, subscribe, and thanks for watching the channel. And if this range sounds like something that will be valuable to you, check out our link building services.

Update: Passive Link Generation

The above video reflects “hands on,” active outreach and the CPL associated with that. This range still applies, but a link building method we’re focusing on more is passive link generation. Meaning, can we target topics to rank for that will create a link earning engine naturally for a brand.

The CPL for this strategy is better every single time, but you have to account for time. This strategy runs across a much longer timeline (typically 12+ months) because it relies on rankings vs. the one-time hit of an outreach campaign. Meaning your CPL short term may be similar, but long term much lower. We did an analysis of this approach and found the below CPL:

Months Post PublishCost-Per-Link

Editor’s Note: As a disclaimer, we don’t *always* achieve these numbers, but we do most of the time. When we don’t, we’re aware of it, and we communicate and iterate with our clients in order to get as low on the scale as possible as the campaign evolves. As mentioned, true cost-per-link must be evaluated on a long timeline.

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