Link building can be tough at the best of times, so if there are any ways to shorten this process and find some quick wins then I’m always happy to try them out. I thought I would share some methods that can be used to find relevant link targets for your website. This involves something that any link builder should be aware of: competitive link research.
Competitive link research essentially involves looking at the link profiles of your competitors in order to find opportunities for you to build links. In a nutshell, you’re looking at where your competitors have built links and then targeting these sites yourself whilst avoiding all the hard work that went into acquiring them. This could be through finding blogs relevant to your niche that are taking on guest posts, identifying higher quality, relevant directories to submit your site to or by discovering some really original, unique link building ideas.
Analysing Your Competitors’ Back Links
There are a number of tools that you can use to scout out the links that are pointing to your competitors’ websites, but I am going to focus on Majestic SEO’s Site Explorer tool and SEOmoz’s Open Site Explorer tool. Both of these tools need to be paid for in order to get the best out of them but they will definitely prove their worth over time.
Majestic SEO has to be my favourite link analysis tool and it has helped me to both identify new opportunities for links as well as finding potential issues with links coming into my sites. I have taken a snapshot of the links to the Wow Internet website that I have been working on through Majestic SEO’s Site Explorer, which we can look at in a bit more detail.
The first thing I always do is download this list to a .csv file so that I can filter through the list of URLs that are linking back to the Wow Internet website. What I’m looking for is some sites that are bringing in particularly powerful links and ways in which I could possibly take advantage of this.
Once the .csv file has been downloaded I will need to filter through a few parts of the results. Firstly, I’ll hide all of the links that have been flagged as deleted and then also hide the nofollow links so that I am only focusing on links that are passing PageRank through to the website. If I then filter the SourceCitationFlow (this is a metric used show the quality of the linking URL) column in descending order, I can see the higher quality links at the top of the list.
Instantly I can see some potential linking opportunities that competitors of Wow Internet could take advantage of. The top link is from a blog article on the SEOmoz website and then the next is from the profile link on my SEOmoz account that points back to the Wow Internet website.
A guest post on the SEOmoz blog can provide a website within my industry with one of the most valuable links possible. Now this is old news to many of you within the online marketing industry but when you look at the second link (the profile link on my SEOmoz account) you will see that the ‘nofollow’ has been removed from the link. The reason for this is that I have over 200 ‘MozPoints’ on my account, which I gained by simply answering questions on the forum and commenting on the blogs, etc. This could be a quick win toward your link building if you are already paying for your SEOmoz subscription. You will find that there are many instances of this in other niches among high profile community sites.
The third link is from a testimonial that I wrote on the WordStream website after using their product. This represents one of the best links going back to the Wow Internet website and can be a great strategy toward developing links to any website. At the end of the day, everyone wants to good PR for their business. Just from a quick couple of minutes of scanning through the linking profile of the site it is clear to see that there are many opportunities that can arise from carrying this research out.
Open Site Explorer
For those of you who prefer SEOmoz’s Open Site Explorer then you are able to do a similar task. If I take a look at a competitor of the Wow Internet website then I can see this same type of analysis from a different point of view.
Open Site Explorer has some handy filtering options that mean you don’t always need to download to a .csv to get the best from the results; however, I would recommend doing so. Through the filtering options within OSE I’m able to drill down on only followed links from external sites and it’s also possible to group the links by domain, which is a particularly handy option. We can then sort the results by domain/page authority to see the highest quality links going to the site.
Taking an instant look at some of the links that this website has, I have noticed that the top result goes to an open source SEO tool project where you can donate money toward the project and receive a listing on the ‘donations’ page. This page has a page authority of 63 and a domain authority of 62 so it could be a quick and valuable link prospect that would only need me to donate a bit of cash toward a good project. Win!
Another link that I have noticed is an SEO/web design-specific online directory that I could add the Wow Internet website to in order to get an extra back link from a related website. Online directories shouldn’t be relied on for links, but if they are niche relevant then they can certainly be quite helpful.
What You Should Be Looking For
Having access to all of this data is invaluable toward building an effective link building campaign. It allows you to understand what your competitors are doing and gain some quick insights into how to build some extra links. Having said this, just because your competitors are flooding blogs with spammy comments, doesn’t mean you should be doing it as well. Try to look for guest blogging opportunities by finding links that your competitors have gained by doing all the initial outreach groundwork and you’re sure to reap the rewards. Also, try and look for some of the more original ideas for back links, such as the WordStream review that the Wow Internet site had and the donation page link that one of the competitors had. This is where you will find some real gold.
Also, keep in mind that your competitors may well be doing the same as you so keep ahead of the game and always be on the lookout for original link building ideas. On top of this, try to focus on building links that are hard to replicate by building social communities or taking advantage of offline relationships. Either way, always keep an eye on your competition!
Matthew Barby heads the SEO and social media division at Birmingham-based online marketing company, Wow Internet. He regularly blogs on the Wow Internet Blog and his personal SEO blog about many different aspects of online marketing. You can get in touch with Matthew via Google+ or on Twitter.