By Kate Smith
19 Nov 2015

Why Teamwork Matters in Link Building

Basic SEO     SEO Strategy     Link Building

In my family, we call the act of working alone “John Wayne-ing it”. This is on account of the fact that John Wayne was a darn good cowboy who didn’t need nobody. He swaggered and yell-drawled all by his lonesome.

But John Wayne-ing it in the real world sucks. Humans are social creatures who crave community. We thrive in groups and prosper in teams.

In my family, we call the act of working alone “John Wayne-ing it”. This is on account of the fact that John Wayne was a darn good cowboy who didn’t need nobody. He swaggered and yell-drawled all by his lonesome. Whatever he needed to do, he got it done — alone.

But John Wayne-ing it in the real world sucks. Humans are social creatures who crave community. We thrive in groups and prosper in teams.

SEO and link building, like many jobs in the tech industry (and cowboying), are generally thought of as solitary tasks. Across companies large and small, the task often falls to one single individual (who I picture alone in a tiny office with maybe a ficus for company). And that works for some people.

But at Page One Power we build links almost exclusively, day in and day out. And we've found, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that link building works better in teams. Teams work so well that we’ve made them part of our core philosophy, one of the ideologies that defines our business.

Teamwork is core to the way we build links.

What does structuring as teams offer as opposed to working individually? Teams offer more opportunities for:

  • Personal growth
  • Job satisfaction
  • Creativity, collaboration, and innovation
  • Good business practices
  • Team mascots (I started at P1P on Team Albatross)

I’m going to show you, piece by piece, why we build links in teams — and why it works better than John Wayne-ing it.

Why Teams? Because Collaboration Fosters Creativity and Innovation

By definition, collaboration means banding together to produce an outcome.

See? Source.

In link building, we collaborate over topics, page value, campaign ideas, tactics — basically every piece of the campaign.

You’ll often see people in our office asking for opinions on how they’ve phrased an email, subject line, searched for link opportunity, or soliciting edits on a piece of content. SEOs here often write reports together, design outreach together, brainstorm target audiences together. The discourse (and sometimes even debates) that arise from these conversations cause us to challenge assumptions and find solutions.

Why is collaboration so important?

A study by Gensler of over 2,000 workers states:

“Collaboration remains key to the spread and development of ideas in pursuit of innovation. For employees whose workplaces support both their individual work and collaborative work, we see a significant spike in performance.”

In other words, the often-solitary act of manual link building can be improved by adding an element of collaborative work.

Collaboration is important in our industry because it requires constant creative (dare I say artistic?) thought. Sometimes having a co-worker as an extra set of eyes or as a sounding board on a project is the best way to create the best version of your work.

You know what else you get with collaboration? Innovation.

Working with a team helps to bring in new perspectives and consider facets of an issue you might not be able to see on your own. Each person's experiences and knowledge will give them unique insights, especially when it comes to determining relevance and audience issues — so a team’s insights will naturally provide more, broader perspective to work with.

This broader perspective improves our ability to find common ground with our audience—and site owners—across the globe. Whether we work with tech companies or lawyers, we’re more likely to produce nuanced, high-level work if we have a team of individuals with varying expertise. Different backgrounds and interests make us more successful:

“...diverse contributors understand the unmet needs in under-leveraged markets. We’ve found that when at least one member of a team has traits in common with the end user, the entire team better understands that user.” Harvard Business Review

For SEOs, this means that multiple minds find multiple solutions, which allows campaigns to be well-rounded and more likely to hit on effective tactics and verticals.

An innovative SEO team can also implement new ideas more effectively. Teams have more input in the planning stages and more oversight when analyzing results. This way, one unsuccessful tactic will be less likely to tank an entire campaign.

Teamwork Requires Structure

Having a team of people sharing work on an account necessitates strong business practices and processes. These standard practices ensure consistent results.

Furthermore, multiple people using these standard practices improves the likelihood that they are followed. It's much easier for John Wayne to do as he sees fit, because he has only himself to answer to (The Duke answers to no man). But individuals on a team are beholden to their teammates.

As the saying goes, “many hands make small tasks” — and many hands also make sure tasks get done or else everybody gets screwed.

Structure also makes it easier to share work.

Not every task in the link building process is, like, fun. In fact, it can be hard and depressing. We get rejected a lot. (Constantly.) We also do many small, often technical tasks over and over and over again.

Checking links in a massive client backlink portfolio? Fine for maybe the first 1,000 links. After 7,000 or so, your eyes start to feel like they need to bleed. And when you’re working with a teammate, you can hand the task off when it gets to be too much. When they reach the end of their eye-bleedy tether, they hand it back.

This process of sharing burdensome tasks helps to prevent burnout or fatigue. No one likes being stuck doing things they don’t enjoy. Having people to help and support you through those tasks is a huge relief.

team_people-coffee-tea-meeting.jpgPlus, all that synergy.

Working in teams does come with some structural challenges that John Wayne SEOs don’t face. Communication, organization, dependability, and time management all become magnified when they extend across a team. These, however, are obstacles that teammates can address together, particularly with the guidance of a manager. They’re the ones who carefully create link building team environments that help each team member succeed.

Teamwork Aids Socialization

Humans are generally happier in a community setting.

Mental well-being is a difficult thing to define, but most people require social interaction in the workplace to maintain an even keel. Anecdotally, we enjoy the ability to talk to coworkers simply for the sake of interacting.

Interacting socially with our coworkers leads to building a working relationship with them, making us feel invested in our surroundings — and can give us a mental break from work.

Science backs this up: The ability to socialize at work makes us better “citizens” in our company and improves performance.

Yeah, that’s right. Chatting about your indoor soccer league or Star Wars makes for better employees.

Though we all know what really keeps employees happy.

Due to the often individual nature of pursuing links (link prospecting, research, outreach, analysis, writing, etc.), balanced teams will encourage socialization without detracting from work.

Yes, different people thrive in different work conditions. Studies have found that extroverts might actually not do as well in team environments as one might assume, whereas neurotics do quite well in teams. (One of those situations where the universe laughs at your attempts to make sense of life.) Not everyone will always love the team socialization vibe all the time, but in the grander scheme there’s little doubt about the benefits of team environments.

Teams that allow for both solo work and interpersonal collaboration ensure people get the benefits of socialization without losing the benefits of focused work. Socialization is a natural byproduct of being organized into teams where multiple people work on the same campaigns and projects.

Teamwork Means Continual Learning

Team environments are exceptional for continual improvement. Teammates challenge one another and provide context for each other’s work. Heck, sometimes even a healthy sense of competition can fuel the drive to perpetually improve.

Teammates also share tactics and tools, bringing fresh ideas and best practices into the workspace. Many of the tools and practices we utilize around the office were introduced by an individual or a group that developed a tactic or figured out an effective workflow in a program.

As put by MIT professor Dr. Alex Pentland:

“Multispecialized functional teams will think about a problem and bring different perspectives together by going out and finding information in their specialties, then coming together to talk about it. That's how tacit learning and integration happen.”

Our own individual experiences make us valuable to a team. With our varying experiences combined, we bring in more information and expertise to share with the group.

With our varying experiences combined, we form Captain Planet SEO.

SEO is one of the most obscure and constantly changing corners in the always-volatile online marketing industry. Continual learning isn’t just a good idea — it’s necessary to stay in business. Teams learning together is an excellent way to get a leg-up and improve link acquisition.

Teamwork Creates More Culture

Last but not least, teams help individuals integrate into a work culture.

Sitting down in a cubicle and never speaking to neighbors is an isolating experience. It can be difficult to understand where you fit in the big picture without people to help you get established.

More importantly, a team culture allows an avenue for self-expression. As our own Amy Merrill puts it, “People often expect company culture to come from higher up, but that isn't always the case. Culture tends to be more balanced and natural when it comes from the team.” (PS Amy will be crushing it in London this April at BrightonSEO. You should check it out.)

When employees work as a team, they’re able to form a sense of identity much faster. They’re given a group they can rely on, which alleviates pressure when working on a high-stakes account, and they’re also given a common goal. The support of teammates to work towards a goal and also the knowledge that the team depends on each individual is a potent mix.

A strong team culture can become a motivation in and of itself.

Final Thoughts

Some people really like the Lone Ranger act, the “don’t fence me in” attitude. They don’t much like being held accountable to teammates or want to listen to outside opinions.

That’s fine, except that they’re missing out on many opportunities to better themselves and their work.

Is it possible to kick butt while working alone in an echoey office? Could John Wayne have built the hell out of some links? Absolutely.

But link building is such an odd mixture of technical and creative work. The task of staying up-to-date on the SEO world, managing clients, and producing consistent results is daunting to take on alone.

So consider this: Link teams that balance between individual and collaborative work, share tasks, and are made up of diverse people offer benefits that individual SEOs can’t possibly get on their own. These teams innovate, learn, and leverage each other’s strengths — all leading up to the fact that they build damn fine links.

And that's why we build links in teams at Page One Power.

John Wayne can’t compare.

Sorry, Duke. Source.
Kate Smith

Kate Smith is a Content Marketing Specialist at Page One Power in Boise, Idaho. When not at work Kate enjoys obscure movie trivia, reading Shakespeare, and the occasional zombie video game. Sometimes all three at once.