Ken McGaffin in the third article in his Link Building Made Simple series describes how to survey the current situation in your particular market, by building campaigns in Link Builder
Many people start their link building by doing competitive link analysis.
The basic idea is that you see who’s linking to your competitors and then chase after them for links.
That sounds eminently sensible and competitive link analysis is where we started with our Link Builder tool. But then we discovered something astonishing that made us completely rethink our approach.
We found that people were spending most of their time researching and building lists of link prospects rather than getting stuck into what was really vital - getting links from quality sites as quickly as possible.
You really can spend too much time researching and to our horror we realized that our tool was encouraging people to do just that.
So we had a major rethink.
We knew that research was vital in identifying link prospects - but we also saw that the research process was time consuming and dominating the work flow.
We asked “How could we find quality link prospects for our customers as quickly as possible?”
The solution we came up with was to shift all that time-consuming research behind the scenes so that all you would have to do is enter a keyword or a set of URLs and we’ll automatically build the campaign for you in minutes.
And once the campaign is complete, you have the choice of starting to approach link prospects right away or taking some time to understand the current situation.
Whether you’re building links for a new or an established site you need to know where links are coming from in your market, understand how the links got there and work out how you too can get similar links.
In Link Builder, you explore your current situation by actually building a link campaign. This chapter will explain how to look at your current situation and move on to look at some easy quick wins in getting links.
What are others in your market doing to get links?
In my introduction to link building I talked about how link building was about engaging with your online community. This means much more than looking for directories and ‘submit a url’ opportunities. It means actively engaging with authority sites, bloggers and journalists, customers, experts from your industry and many others.
And the ways you can engage are many and varied. Looking at how other websites are engaging will give you lots of link building ideas.
The Link Builder tool allows you to do this easily.
You can start with a keyword search or a URL search. Let’s look first at a URL search – enter the URLs of leading brands in your industry – in this case, I’ll look at the fountain pen market.
I’ve entered the leading brands in the market because these are the websites that have the most inbound links – by using the leading brands we find the largest number of possible link prospects.
Each URL you enter is a source for building your link campaign. So sheaffer.com, waterman.com, pelikan.com, parkerpen.com, montblanc.com and lamy.com will be the sources for this campaign. Behind the scenes, we collect domains that link to each source in turn and add them to your campaign. These domains then become your link prospects.
You’ll also see that I use the root domain, sheaffer.com rather than www.sheaffer.com when I enter URLs. That’s because if I use the root domain, my prospects will include sites that link to all the sub-domains, like example.sheaffer.com. The result is that I get more prospects in my campaign.
You can also enter a keyword to build your campaign. When you do so, we conduct a Google search for your keyword, and this time we use each of the top 10 results as a source to build your campaign.
The process is exactly the same as for the URL search, but in this case we treat each URL that appears in the top 10 results as your source and we collect domains that link to each source to build your campaign.
Your link building campaign
Whether you started with a URL search or a keyword search, we present your campaign as a large set of link prospects.
These have already been organized into different link building strategies for you – blogs, news media, social media and so on.
Here’s a campaign I created using the keyword fountain pens.
Now, there is a lot of information here, but I don’t want to jump into that right away - there will be time to do that later.
I want to look at how important it is to see links in their context.
Seeing links in context
I want to look for reasons why those links got there and the best way to do that is to look at the ‘Top Links’ column.
This gives me the exact web page on which the link sits so I can click on it, go straight to the page and understand how the link got there.
So here’s one result from my fountain pens example:
In this case the ‘Prospect’, www.getrichslowly.org ‘Links To’ www.fountainpenhospital.com and the link can be seen in situ by clicking on the ‘Top Link’ which leads to this page:
Here’s another where the ‘Prospect’, huffingtonpost.com ‘Links To’ www.jetpens.com
If I click on the top link, I’m taken to the exact page on which the link sits:
So I can see this is an editorial that links to JetPens because they’re interviewing the co-founder of JetPens.
Here’s another somewhat unusual but illuminating example. The prospect, dmoz.com links to www.nibs.com:
The ‘Top Link’ also shows me that the anchor text is ‘left-handed writers page’ – something I didn’t expect.
Click on the link and you’re taken to the exact page:
So, how come nibs.com is linked to with this anchor text?
Follow the link and I can see a page on nibs.com specifically about left-handed writers:
This shows that Nibs have been rather clever in their link building.
They understand that one of the ways to get a link from DMOZ relatively quickly is to go for an unusual category – in this case left-handed writers.
By browsing the top links, you’ll have ...
- seen what others are doing to get links
- identified link prospects that are of immediate interest
- gained a picture of what you have to do to get links
Which prospects are already linking to you?
The Link Builder tool shows you which of the prospects we found who are already linking to you. That means you can concentrate on those who are not linking to you and generate some new links for yourself.
However, there is still a lot of value in improving your relationship with sites who already link to you.
You could maximize the value of the links on sites that already link to you – people who already link to you have shown an interest in your business, so they could be persuaded to:
- give you a keyword rich link
- deep link to one of your important pages
- link to you again when you launch something new
- or they may be interested in some sort of business relationship
I’m a great believer in maximizing the value of work that you’ve already done. I always advise people who already have some good inbound links that the best place to start link building is with sites which already link to you.
Indeed, this is so important that you should set up a specific campaign containing only prospects who already link to you.
Campaigns based on sites that already link to you
Here’s how to set it up in Link Builder:
(i) Enter your own root domain - I’m using wordtracker.com here.
(ii) Include the historic index as this will give you the maximum number of sites that link to you.
(iii) Create a fictitious mydomain - I’d suggest links-to- followed by your own root domain.
This creates a campaign made up of the quality domains that already link to you. In this case it shows over 7000 quality domains pointing to wordtracker.com.
So what should you do with people who already link to you?
Someone took the trouble to respond to your link request or has heard about you, read about you, found you after a search, gone to your site, perhaps even bought from you.
Whatever the reason, they thought you were worth linking to! Such a person deserves a bit of your attention and time.
Not only should you be thanking them for the link, but by establishing a relationship you could open up rich collaboration and business opportunities, as well as boosting your search engine rankings.
Link Builder has been designed to help you find precious link prospects - and then build relationships. If you haven’t already done so you might like to try it free for seven days
What is linkworthy about your business already?
Any business will already have something that’s linkworthy – and many opportunities to use it. But somehow they’ve never got around to doing it.
Before you start creating new content for your link building, it makes sense to check whether you’re making the most of the opportunities that you’ve already got.
Here are some things to consider:
The nature of your business:
- Which general directories could you get listed in?
- Which industry specific directories?
- Which resources lists could you be added to?
Associations or groups that you belong to:
- Do they link to member websites?
- Or offer free listings?
- Do they run awards or special events?
- Do they run networking events?
- Do they offer opportunities to take part or volunteer?
Trade magazines that you read or subscribe to:
- Do they publish a directory?
- Or mention companies like yours in editorial?
- Who’s the editor?
- Who writes regularly?
- Do they invite readers to submit tips?
- Do they accept articles for publications?
- Do they publish case studies?
- Do they run annual awards or contest?
- Do they run networking events?
Suppliers and customers:
- Do your suppliers link to their customers? If so, why not you?
- Could you give a testimonial?
- Could you write about how a supplier has solved problems for you?
- Could you volunteer to be a case study?
- Would your customers recommend or link to your site?
- Could you publish a complimentary case study about one of your customers?
About you and your people
- Who writes about the town/city/region where you’re located? What could they write about you?
- What school/college did you attend?
- What have you done that’s unusual or newsworthy?
- Are you a young entrepreneur, an inner-city entrepreneur?
- A rural entrepreneur?
- A woman entrepreneur?
- A work at home dad?
- An entrepreneur over 50?
- What do you do outside business?
- Do you offer internships?
- Do you sponsor local events?
- Do you carry out pro bono work for non-profits?
… and anything else you can think of.
Internal linking and link power
Improving your internal linking on its own can have the dramatic effect on the ranking of the most important pages on your site – the pages you really want people to visit.
The most important pages may be your best converting pages, or the pages where people sign up to your newsletter or where you have the most important information about your company.
It’s up to you to decide which are the most important pages for your site – and once you decide, you can give them a dramatic boost by using two simple techniques:
- Keyword rich links
- Distributing link power
Let’s look at each technique in turn.
Keyword rich links
Google places great value on the anchor text used in a link pointing to a page. That’s the blue text that people click on to follow the link. Have a look at web pages and you’ll see many internal links like ‘click here’ or ‘read more’.
These are functional links of course – they take the customer to the page they’re after – but they don’t give the search engine any information about the page they’re pointing to.
Let’s look at an example.
A mountain bike retailer may have this link on his home page:
“Click here for more information on our special offers”
Fine from a customer point of view but it tells the search engine nothing about the page being linked to. The anchor text is the generic ‘click here’. It’s easy to improve this link by using the keyword mountain bike offers as the anchor text:
“Click here for more information on our mountain bike offers”
This link now gives Google the extra information that the page the link points to contains details of mountain bike offers.
This change is particularly powerful when the link appears in editorial copy on the home page.
“… and for this Thanksgiving Holiday, CEO, Mark Beech has put together our best ever offers. But these prices are so good, we expect to sell out pretty quickly so don’t miss out. ‘Click here for more information on our mountain bike offers' And meanwhile back at our Portland, Oregon HQ, Mark was …”
So we’ve given Google more information by including a keyword in the anchor text AND we’ve placed the link in editorial copy on the home page.
You could improve on this even further by making sure the link appeared towards the top of the page.
The inclusion of keywords in menu items also helps though the effect is not as strong. A menu item such as ‘New products’ gives little information to the search engine.
Much better would be ‘New mountain bike ranges’
So have a look at your own site. Are you using generic terms such as ‘click here’, ‘read more’ or ‘new products’ in your anchor text?
Now let’s move on to a more complex but powerful technique that is totally within your control and that is about how you distribute ‘link power’ throughout your site.
Distributing link power
The links that point to a particular page, say Page A, give it a certain ‘link power’. This link power is then passed on and divided between the pages that Page A links to.
Suppose the value of the link power coming into Page A was 10 units:
The 10 units of link power are then divided between Pages B, C D and E, giving each 2.5 units.
Those 2.5 units of link power are then divided between the pages that Page A links to and so on.
As this process continues, pages at the bottom get very little of the original link power.
Yet, these are often the most important sales and conversion pages – pages that could do with all the help they can get!
The lesson is that if you let your link power distribute through the standard structure of your site, then your important pages will get little benefit.
But simply by planning your internal linking you can give your important pages the link power they deserve. The secret is to link from your home page directly with a keyword rich link to your important pages.
In the following example, I’ve highlighted an important page on a site with three levels of content (for simplicity’s sake).
At the moment, the important page gets only 0.5 units of that precious link power. However, by making one simple change, we can give the important page four times as much link power!
In the above example, I simplified the maths so that it is easier to understand. The fundamental message is that just by controlling your anchor text and internal linking, you can give a significant boost in link power to your most important pages.
That means they are likely to rank better on search engines and give you more traffic and sales as a result.
Link building is an exciting activity. It’s a fantastic feeling to reach out and persuade other sites that you’re worth linking to.
However, the benefits you get from your hard-earned links can be greatly enhanced if you take the time to really look at where you are now and recognize the many things that you have control over and can improve significantly.
It is the link builders who lay such solid foundations who will have the edge in the long term.
So now, we’re ready to start networking and prospect hunting
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Link building made simple
Read the rest in this series:
Link Building Made Simple: Introduction
Link Building Made Simple 1: Strategy
Link Building Made Simple 2: Measuring your success
Link Building Made Simple 4: Networking and link prospecting
Link Building Made Simple 5: Content creation
Link Building Made Simple 6: Promotion
About Ken McGaffin
Ken McGaffin is an experienced internet marketing consultant and has worked for major pharmaceutical companies, advertising agencies, government bodies and non-profit organizations.
Ken unveils the secrets of successful link building in his 384-page e-book, Successful Link Building
You can watch recordings of his extremely popular (and free) Link Building Webinars