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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!)

 

Comments  

 
0 # Brian Hawkins 2010-04-27 13:20
Garrett,

Your a link pro, you just goofed on your "link building query generator" text link that goes to a dead page.
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0 # Garrett 2010-04-27 15:14
fixed - thanks for the catch :-)

G
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0 # Dana Lookadoo 2010-04-28 00:22
Garrett, thanks for sharing this process! And thank you for all your contributions to the community!
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0 # Andrew@BloggingGuide 2010-04-28 12:28
Research is really important in all or some of these steps. Looking and studying at what competitors do to their site can help immensely in beating them. However, you just have to make sure to do better than them.
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0 # Andrew 2010-04-29 03:31
That's a nice, well-written article.

I like your step-by-step approach to things.
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0 # Lucy 2010-04-29 11:36
Thanks for the post - very useful. I have found Open Site Explorer very useful in the way that you mention, but I will definitely check out the other tools you mention now. Increasingly it seems to come down to research, so it is good to see reminders like this.
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0 # David Ogletree 2010-04-30 19:16
When you talk about "Know Your Top SERP Competitors" you did not mention any ways to do this. SEO Fox has a report that shows you all the backlinks of your competitors. http://linkrep.seofox.com.

I had it made because it is something I needed. It shows way more than yahoo LD and also spiders the backlinks to make sure they are still live. This way you have a fresh look at your competitors backlink profile.

Here is a demo
http://linkrep.seofox.com/login.php?t=demo

There are other sites like www.seomoz.com and www.majesticseo.com that provide similar data but they don't have a recent spider data on the backlinks.
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-1 # seo freelancer 2010-05-01 08:45
thanks, Garrett! Have to note you got some interesting points - probably, the best one - is good planning & brainstorming.
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0 # Garrett French 2010-05-04 13:50
@Dana - Thank you for stopping by, and especially for your continued enthusiasm. Now THAT'S a community contribution!!

@Andrews - Thank you gentlemen! I'm all about research, planning and process... these can definitely lead to a sustainable advantage.

@Lucy - I've played around some with OSE but haven't embraced it fully yet. I will have to once YSE is dead ;-)

@David - I will have to check out SEOFox! Since you're in the Austin area you should look up Ben Wills, the other half of Ontolo :-) If you're a developer you two should hit it off.
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0 # web design berkshire 2010-05-12 11:58
Hehe very nice article. Comparing exercise to internet marketing, well i sorta agree with you. Internet Marketing is tedious work to begin with, a never ending cycle if you're too unsure or doesn't know how to do it right. But then again, the part where you says push through it really makes sense. Very nice article indeed! Thanks! and oh btw~ nice sermon. LOL
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