Even in a post-Penguin era, search engine optimisation has entertained the prospect of websites ranking in search results without the foundation of backlinks. This may be true to some degree, although only for sites in a non-competitive niche targeting long-tail keywords.
For brands in all other sectors, an SEO strategy cannot survive without a considerable focus on the development of inbound links. The greater the number of inbound backlinks from high authority domains, the stronger chance a website has of ranking for keywords in organic search results.
We understand the value in this school of thought, but how about the process? What does it take to assemble a killer backlink strategy to rule organic search results? The simple answer is to spy on your competition and devise your own suite of tactics based on what is working well for them. Here is my five-step guide to mastering that process.
Invest in a paid tool to review your competitors’ backlink profiles
It simply isn’t enough to make assumptions about how and where your competitors are accumulating their backlinks. There are a number of highly proficient kits on the web that can accurately analyse this to save you time and hassle. From my own experience, I have found the following tools to work well for this purpose:
Run the URLs of up to ten competitor websites through any of ohese tools to view the total number of referring domains and referring urls.
Categorise and refine the list of opportunities
Now that you have a defined list of third party websites pointing to your competitors you can begin to collate a bank of opportunities. This is the list of sites you too will attempt to target, but only providing they have relevance in some way to your website or business.
I suggest extracting the backlinks profiles and dumping into an Excel spreadsheet. At this point we don’t need to look further than website quality. You can get a good gauge on this by checking the domain rank or domain authority of each competitor site – the tools above all have their own interpretation of what this measurement is.
Set a rule to dismiss any target websites with an authority under 20. Also remove non-English written websites, and those which fall under the category of social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and Instagram.
Mine the data for patterns and insights
In pruning the backlink profiles, you may notice that certain target websites have linked to one or more of your competitors. These are quick wins to jump on as a baseline strategy. My thinking there is that if a website is prepared to link out to three or more of your competitors than it must have a dedicated page displaying information about these sites. Record this exact url for every instance within your research. For a compilation of up to 10 competitor backlink profiles, you may find approximately 100 “common denominator websites” to approach.
Map out a plan for achieving backlinks
The opportunities may present themselves in a number of formats and variations. You may see that a majority of intersects are directory listings, or public forum submissions for example. These are two of the lower quality opportunities within the breadth of link building tactics. Our intentions are to discover the likes of news coverage, articles submission opportunities – as these carry more weight on organic rankings.
Separate each tally of opportunities by type and label them in your spreadsheet. Here is an example of what this outcome could look like:
Number of directory submission opportunities – 30
Number of forum submission opportunities – 15
Number of personal blogger collaboration opportunities – 5
Number of article submission opportunities – 30
Number of news story coverage opportunities – 20
In this example, I would follow up with the directory submissions as a priority and work my way down the list.
Earn high quality links through content creation
Nine times out of ten high quality backlinks are earned, not purchased. To reiterate my definition of high quality, I’m referring to online news and magazine sites with millions of sessions per year. These publications tend to only cover stories and features, driven by credible sources.
In order to have your brand featured within the pages of a high tier site your approach must include creating content that is fresh, unique and carries a newsworthy angle. You’ll be surprised at how receptive a journalist is to being pitched a story they haven’t previously covered and fits with their reader interests.
Here are a handful of helpful guides on the web that differentiate content marketing from traditional link building.
What is content marketing? – Content Marketing Institution
How to build backlinks in 2018 – Gotch SEO
5 ways PR and SEO should be working together – Search Engine Land
I also recommend asking the Business 2 Community network of contributors for their best tips on how to integrate link building into an off-page SEO strategy. Many authors on this topic can speak of specific examples that may relate to your business model or industry sector.