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Link Building Campaign Prep

Written by David Harry   
Tuesday, 27 April 2010 13:07

6 Steps BEFORE You Start Link Prospecting

by the mad link geek; Garrett French

We've found that many new link builders begin link prospecting before they're ready - typically by means of pulling large lists of competitor backlinks. This leads to a link building campaign that's full of fits and starts, a campaign that never achieves a terminal velocity.

This article outlines a pre-campaign process for link builders so that they know exactly what type of link prospects they're looking for, and exactly where to go to find them.

1) Know Your "Linkable Assets"

What pages on your website are most likely to attract links? Which people in your organization are capable of attracting links? Conduct a "linkable asset inventory" for your organization and you will have a good starting point for knowing the resources you have available for attracting links.

Some of the major linkable asset types include:

  • Quality Content Used for Lead Gen (PDFs, Videos, Webinars)
  • Budget for Advertising
  • Widgets and Free Apps
  • Company Blog (consistently updated with quality content)
  • Thought Leaders (with time to write...)
  • PR Department
  • Contests
  • Coupons
  • Job Openings
  • Forums
  • Interns

Knowing your linkable assets will help you immensely when you finally get to the 5th step. It will also tell you whether or not you are even ready to start prospecting and outreach. If you don't find many or even any linkable assets during your inventory you know where you need to concentrate.

2) Know Your Top SERP Competitors

Who's your competition? Find your top competitors by gathering your most important keywords and running them through the process outlined in The Link Builder’s Guide To Analyzing SERP Dominators For Link Opportunities.

This will show who's really dominating the search results for your terms and help you begin unraveling their supremacy with backlink analysis! You'll find some great link request prospects when analyzing your SERPs too - so dig in and get your hands dirty with data!

3) Know What Attracts Links

What pages on your competitors' sites have attracted links? It's time to crack open Yahoo Site Explorer or Open Site Explorer and dig into their sites just a little. Look at the pages that have attracted the most links. Look at the sites linking to those pages. This gives you an idea of what could attract links to your site. At the very least a quick survey will jumpstart your creativity.

Once you have an idea of how your competition has attracted links, take another look at your linkable assets. With your growing understanding of "linkability" in your space you should have a better sense of what is going to get people linking. If there's nothing linkable about your site then you need to spend some time developing your content.

4) Know Your "Market Defining Keywords"

Market defining keywords describe your entire market. They're probably not the terms you target with paid search, or even in your organic efforts. If you got traffic from these terms you would get lots of it, but it probably wouldn't convert well.

For a camping goods retailer these market-defining keywords could look like: Camping, Hiking, Outdoors, Hunting, etcetera... and not product-related keywords. Knowing how your market defines itself is crucial to uncovering your most important link prospects.

5) Know the Queries that Will Uncover Your Link Prospects

Link building queries are searches with advanced operators designed to match up a given linkable asset (from #1 above) with prospects from around the web. A common query for finding niche directories is [(mdkw) directory], in which you check for directories relating to all of your market defining keywords.

A common query for finding guest post opportunities - should you have a writer standing by to create content - is [(mdkw) "guest post"]. Brainstorming queries is much easier with a link building query generator. Once you have your list of queries created, you can start your full scale, thorough and highly-effective link prospecting efforts.

6) Pull Backlinks from Your True Competitors

It's important to look at the link graph that impacts your market space too though... Start with the sites actually competing with you in the SERPs (based on step 2 above) you can spend your time digging through backlink lists that will be more impactful on your rankings.

You can use the data available in Yahoo Site Explorer (easily accessible via the SEOBook ToolBar), or you can also invest in backlink profile data from MajesticSEO or Linkscape. By analyzing who links to your competition - and why - you can understand what it's going to take for you to compete for links in your market!

Where do they have links that you don't? Are any of those sources easy to get for you? Are any of these sources in line with your existing linkable assets?

Garrett French

About the Author: Garrett French is the co-founder of Ontolo, Inc., creators of the Ontolo Link Building Toolset which uses your target keywords to find and grade link prospects. The Link Building Toolset reduces link prospecting and qualification time, letting you focus on the most valuable part of link building: relationships.

(Dave's Note: To thank early adopters during the launch of their new Link Building Toolset and because I harrassed him, Ontolo is offering a 25% discount that ends today at 9pm PST on 4/27/2010. That pricing is good through all future upgrades, price changes, etc. - Seriously, I rarely recommend tools, so get on it!)


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