Google loves great content. Google loves great links too. If you got great content and links, Google loves you too. And what Google loves the other envious siblings (Bing, Yahoo, etc.) adore as well. For most great writers, the challenging part of this equation of SEO success are the links. Here, I’m going to share you a little tactic that we often use to build up the online reputation of a new or previously neglected website. This tactic is all about finding new link opportunities by discovering your competitors’ backlinks.
But first, let’s quickly remind ourselves why links are so important for SEO.
Links represent trust
Search engines aim to please the searchers. The searchers are pleased when they get quality answers to their questions quickly and effortlessly. This means that the job of a search engine is to figure out the intent behind the search and then create a list of quality answers from reliable sources that match that intent. When judging the reliability of a website, search engines will take into account which other sites are linking to your site, how reliable are those sites and how are they linking to your content. Rule of thumb: if multiple websites have an equally good answer for the searchers intent, the website with better links wins.
I want to be trustworthy – how do I get more links to my site?
Before you ask, yes, great content alone can and should attract some backlinks (links back to your site) organically. However, it is very hard for others to link back to your awesome content if they can’t find you in the first place. To solve this issue, we need to do some good ol’fashion marketing. And that’s what good white-hat link building (the way to attain links within the Google’s guidelines) essentially is.
One of the best ways to start building links to your site is to start by looking at what your competitors have been doing. Let’s dig a bit deeper into the process of doing that.
How to find link opportunities from competitor’s link profiles – a step-by-step guide
Start by thinking some key terms that your potential visitors are using to search your products, services or content online. Make a comprehensive list of at least 20 terms. Try to step into the shoes of the searcher and away from your own boots. People who are not actively involved in your industry might use different search terms than an industry expert.
Next, you can use a free tool like the Keyword planner on Google AdWords (or a paid too like KW Finder) to figure out how many monthly searches on average the terms you’ve picked have. In addition to that, Google will give you some suggestions on similar keywords that might be relevant. At this point, I suggest that you export the list as a spreadsheet.
Filter the spreadsheet according to monthly searches and competition. I’d suggest aiming for the terms with relatively low competition in the beginning (say below 0.4). This competition metric is actually measuring the competition for this keyword in paid advertising, but it works as a decent proxy for organic rankings as well. What is a good amount of monthly searches then? It really depends on the niche you’re in. For businesses with high revenue per customer and good conversion rate, you don’t necessarily need thousands of visitors to have a successful business. On the other hand, an e-commerce store with cheap products and low margins might need to attract tens of thousands of monthly visitors to break even.
Next, it is time to go through the list from top to bottom and disregard any term that isn’t relevant to your website. What you have left are the terms that you want your site to rank for. Now let’s proceed to plan the attack.
Find out who are your competitors
When we talk about competitors in business, we generally start thinking about the companies that are producing similar products or services as we are. In SEO realm, your competitors are the pages that are ranking for the same keywords you are targeting. Let’s find out who they are.
Previously mentioned paid tool KW Finder is your friend here as well as it automatically displays Google’s top results for each keyword.
If this is not an option for you, you have to do some manual work. First get SERPS’16. This is a handy tool that goes to your browser’s bookmark bar. Click it while you are on Google’s search results page and it will open you a numbered list of the results displayed and separated list of just the URLs. Next, clear your browser cache, open an incognito window and switch your VPN to the country you are targeting. Let’s do this!
- Pick the first term on your keyword list and search it on Google
- Click SERPS’16 on your bookmark bar
- Save the list of links into a spreadsheet
- Repeat until you’ve covered all of your keywords
Find where your competitors’ are getting their links
At this point, you should have a list of URLs from the top 10 competitors’ for a relevant keyword (or keywords). Next, we’ll discover what are the sources that these 10 competitors used to get their links from. For this, we need to use a tool (such as Majestic or Ahrefs) that crawls the web just like Google bots and tracks how pages are connected with each other via links. Unfortunately, these are usually paid tools so you need to either spend some of that marketing infrastructure budget here or try to juggle with the limited amount of searches provided by the free plans.
Go to the bulk backlinks section (or type in one URL at the time if you are using the free account) and export the backlinks into a spreadsheet. Now filter this spread sheet with domain Trust Flow (domain rank for Ahrefs). Domain Trust Flow is an index number by Majestic that tries to emulate the trustworthiness search engines would give to the site. Bigger here means better. Add an additional column into the sheet that displays the type of the link. Here we are going to fill in if it’s an editorial link, directory, through a membership or something else. Basically, we want to figure out what is the way to get this link. I usually also add a comments field for additional information and an indicator of how hard or easy it would be to get the link. I’ll also make another column for contact information. I tend to leave out sites that have a low Trust Flow (below 10).
After you are done with your list, it’s time to start reaching out, pitching guest posts and finding other ways for cooperation. Voilà you are in a good position of ranking higher and also getting relevant referral traffic to your site.
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