Link building can be intimidating to undertake. It’s laborious, speculative, and many organizations don’t know where to start so they avoid giving it the attention it deserves as an important factor for ranking well in search engines. Instead of pursuing links sporadically, it’s wise to go into it with a plan on how you’ll devote your efforts. Less time will be wasted and the results will be far more effective. To get off on the right foot, it’s important to understand how to unearth the link-building opportunities that have the best likelihood of providing SEO benefit.
Mine Google’s Search Results
Considering that the basic premise of link building is to get links from websites that Google considers authoritative, it then makes sense, as a method of finding these websites, to ask Google who they are. Here’s how:
- You’ll need a list of your most desirable keywords. These are the words you’d most like to be found for.
- Prioritize your list.
- Starting at the top of the list, do a search using the keyword. I recommend not being logged into a Google account in order to minimize the effects of Google personalizing the search results based on what they know about you.
- Investigate each search result.
- If the search result is a competitor, they’re not going to be receptive to a link request, but before you move on to the next search result make note of them by creating a list of competitors. This list will come in handy later.
- When the search result isn’t a competitor, you’ll want to review the website while contemplating on how they may be persuaded to link to you. If you believe there may be a way, add them to an outreach list.
Pan Through Your Competitors’ Links
Another great source of inspiration for link-building opportunities is to review the links going to your competitor’s websites, especially any competitor who’s showing up in the search results in a better position than you for your important keywords. This is where the list of competitors from the Google searches comes in handy. Their ranking success is due in part to their links, therefore learning about the types of links they’ve been able to attain will help guide your outreach strategy. Furthermore, you may decide to reach out to many of the same websites.
You’re going to need a link research tool to do this. The best ones cost money in the form of monthly subscriptions, but they likely either have limited-feature options you can use for free or they have free trial periods you can take advantage of. Here are a few of the well-regarded ones: Ahrefs, Open Site Explorer, Majestic SEO. If you already have a subscription to gShift, Moz or Raven Tools, they likely provide link research tools you can use. Furthermore, there is a free option: Bing Webmaster Tools. You’ll need to register and validate a website you own, but after that you can perform link research on any website you wish.
When doing this research, be sure to use the URL of the specific web page you wish to learn about as opposed to simply using their domain’s URL. For example, if your competitor’s product page is showing up in the search results above your product page, then use their product page’s URL as opposed to simply using their home page’s URL.
When researching a competitor’s URL, you’ll likely discover dozens or perhaps even hundreds of links. Don’t be intimidated – the more inspiration the better. You can, however, potentially end up with a list of thousands, or even tens of thousands of links, more than you can ever go through individually. Professional SEOs have methodologies for analyzing such lists to weed out dead ends and create a prioritized list of websites to investigate. This saves time and increases your likelihood of finding valuable link opportunities, so if you find yourself in this situation and you wish to be thorough, consider hiring a professional SEO.
How to Spot That Diamond In The Rough
You’re essentially looking for websites that are trustworthy resources that have a readership likely to be interested in the content of your site. Ideally, links from these websites will send valuable traffic to your website and they’ll send signals to the search engines that your site has authority. For more on this, visit Google Will Ignore Your Link Building Efforts Unless You Focus on Quality.
If the search result is an article, investigate the rest of the website. Ask yourself if you can approach them by offering to write a contributed article. You can also investigate the author. Can you pitch story ideas to them that relate to your business? Can you offer up experts within your business to be sources of quotes for future articles?
If the search result is a complementary product or service, ask yourself if you can create a resource on your website that would appeal to their website visitors.
If the search result is an organization that does activities related to your products, ask yourself how you can get involved. Can you sponsor one of their events?
Creating an outreach list of potential link-building opportunities is a major part of the link-building process, but it’s only the beginning. Your next challenge is to approach these websites. Email them, use their online forms, call them on the phone, or even send them a letter by mail to start a conversation about getting a link. Be sure to communicate why linking to your website would be truly beneficial to their readership. Ask them for their ideas as well.
Don’t be discouraged when your attempts don’t seem to be working out. Keep in mind that link building is a numbers game that can be thought of in terms of prospecting. You won’t always strike gold, but going through the process will, over time, pay off. Link building is time intensive so I recommend scheduling dedicated time on the calendar on an ongoing basis.
Now that you know what it takes to launch an effective link-building campaign, give it the attention it deserves. This is your chance to take control of how you rank in the search engines.