The job of link building is getting tougher. The introduction of encrypted searches, the series of Panda updates, and whatever Google come up with next is putting more and more pressure on us all to drop any shortcuts and concentrate on quality link building. And the proven formula for quality link building is ‘great content, well promoted, equals great links’.
Not only must we continue to create great content, we’ve got to find more quality sites from which to get links. And to find more quality sites, we’ve got to go beyond simple competitive link analysis.
For many marketers, the first thought in link building is to do a competitive link analysis and then target the sites that are linking to your competitors but not to you.
That’s a good start, but it will never bring you all you need: if ‘follow your competitors’ is all you do, you’ll only be chasing links from sites where your competitors have already succeeded and that means you’ll always be behind them.
To be really effective in link building we’ve got to be more creative and go way beyond competitive link analysis in looking for new link opportunities.
Step 1: Broaden your idea of relevance
You have got to have relevant links, right?
That's true but it’s only part of the picture. Many people's idea of relevance is limiting.
Take BobsRedMill.com who produce whole grain foods. As you’d expect they get links from food sites like Chow.com, Epicurious.com and VegWeb.com.
But they also get links from:
- [GetRichslowly.com], a personal finance website that recommends them as a source of inexpensive, quality cereals.
- [Children’s Hospital Boston] as part of their Patient Education Information on Gluten-free foods
- [CNN small business] because of their employee ownership scheme
- [New York University’s Student Health Center]
- [BikePortland.org] for providing breakfasts for participants in a cycling event.
All of these are relevant links in the context in which they appear.
If you take only a limited view of relevance, you won’t even think of opportunities like these.
Step 2: Maximize your relationship with sites that already link to you
Sites that have already taken the step of linking to you, have done so for a reason. Do you really understand what that reason is and what their motivation is for going to the trouble of writing the code that gives you the all important link?
- they’ve used your products and found them particularly useful
- you solved a specific problem for them
- they’re compiling a resource list
- perhaps they’re posting on a specific topic and they found something you wrote relevant
Discovering the specific reasons why gives you the basis of strengthening your relationship with a site. That could lead to:
- further coverage and links in the future
- keyword-rich linking text
- links to deep content on your site
- interest in joint ventures or affiliate relationships
- and much more...
You get the idea - linking to you is a sign that they’re interested in what you’re doing and you should follow up with something that strengthens your relationship.
Step 3: Check out who links to the sites that link to you
So you’ve looked at sites that link to you, you’ve understood why they linked, and you’ve approached them to strengthen your relationship. Now it’s time to move on and win some new links.
The sites that already link to you can be seen as an informal ‘organic link network’ that has evolved due to their interest in what you do. Sites that link to them are also sites that are likely to be interested in what you do.
For example, Footlocker.com get a link from the fashion blog [Nitrolicious.com] which in turn gets a link from another fashion blog, [ElementsOfStyle.com] - that blog and many hundreds of others could be more targets for Footlocker.com.
So find out who links to the sites that link to you and you’ll find many more linking opportunities.
Step 4: Check out who links to the top magazines in your market
Top magazines in your market can be a great source of high quality link prospects.
Magazines, newspapers and online news sites often quote and link to each other, so compiling links to the top magazine will reveal many other media outlets. This helps you build lists of target publications and identifies journalists and editors who could be interested in your company. Furthermore, bloggers will comment upon, link to and share any interesting article or news piece they come across.
So if you’re interested in ‘gourmet food’ for example, sites that link to leading food magazines like bonappetit.com, saveur.com, cooksillustrated.com, foodandwine.com and epicurious.com
are likely to be of great interest.
Step 5: Collect lists of the top blogs in your market
Link building is a tough task and you need all the help you can get. So how about getting some help from all those wonderful people out there who compile lists on the ‘top blogs’ in any given industry. Such people will probably have reviewed the sites, maybe even published some metrics that can help you identify blogs that you can target.
For example, SportsManagementColleges.net provide a list of the [top 50 skiing blogs]
And even better, you can use the top blogs that you find as I’ve used the top magazines in the example above. Blogs tend to link to and comment upon posts made by other blogs in their industry. So using them as a source for finding new links is very productive.
I’ve outlined 5 techniques for going beyond competitive link analysis and being creative in where you look for new link prospects. But of course, don’t just follow my ideas, develop your own unique methods and you’ll soon be discovering a ton of relevant link prospects that you competitors haven’t even thought of.
And, if you’ve got some good prospecting techniques I haven’t mentioned, please post them in the comments below.