Properly optimizing your site involves a fair amount of both on-page optimization (keyword optimization, silo structures, etc.) as well as off-page optimization. Off-page optimization primarily involves link prospecting and building.
This is the process wherein you’ll research high-quality sites that you can utilize to link back to your site. These are known as “backlinks,” and are the foundation of an optimized site. The more high-quality links that you have linking back to your site, the more authoritative your site is and the higher you’ll rank in Google’s search results.
Sounds simple enough, right?
Well, the concept itself is simple, but the process of prospecting and building links requires a good bit of effort. Of course, you can always do things manually… but it will take an unreasonable amount of time.
The best way to prospect and build links is to use algorithmically-driven SEO tools designed to take care of all of the hard work for you. Ranktracker’s Web Audit tool, SERP Checker tool, and Keyword Finder tool are great places to start. If you’re looking to hyper analyze your competitors’ pages, then SEO Spyglass is an amazing resource that provides you with a behind-the-scenes look into where your competitors’ traffic comes from.
In this guide, we’re going to show you all of the basics of link prospecting and building. We’ll start by explaining exactly what they are and why they matter. Then, we’ll go over how to identify high-quality prospective links and explain how to use SEO tools to get the job done quicker.
It’s time to get your site ranked!
Alright, so let’s start by defining exactly what link building is and why it’s so important for your site’s SEO. We’ll start by giving you an example that everybody can relate to…
Think back to when you were in school. Who were the popular kids? Who were the not-so-popular kids?
Chances are, the popular kids were simply the people who knew the most people. Sure, they probably wore some cool clothes or drove a decent car, but the real reason they were popular was that they were confident around people and had a network of friends. Most schools have plenty of “cool kids” who aren’t as popular simply because they’re introverted and don’t talk to others.
Websites work almost the exact same. You could have the greatest website in the world, but if it doesn’t have any backlinks, then the Google algorithm will skim right over it and pass it off as a low-value site with little to no authority.
This is because Google’s algorithm searches for the number of links that link back to your website. If your site is being mentioned by other reputable sites, then chances are that your site is pretty good and has a good level of authority (one of the key metrics Google uses to determine your site’s ranking).
Just having backlinks isn’t good enough to get your page to rank higher. You need to ensure that your site’s backlinks are high-quality, relevant, and indicate that your site is an authority in its niche. So, with that being said, here’s how to determine a good backlink from a bad backlink.
The first thing that matters is the authority of the link. Google’s algorithm determines a link’s authority by three key factors:
Domain authority is the first factor that contributes to the overall authority of a link. Simply put, this is determined by the age and quality of the domain itself. The older the domain is, the more authoritative it is. Additionally, factors such as overall user engagement and daily traffic to the site also affect domain authority.
This is a great place to utilize Ranktracker’s Web Audit tool. It allows you to input any URL and performs a quick, in-depth scan of the domain. Within a few seconds, you’ll be able to see some of the key metrics of the site, such as its daily traffic, how many backlinks it has, how many pages it has indexed, etc.
The second metric is page authority. This is similar to domain authority but checks the age and engagement of the individual page that links back to your site. The older and more authoritative that the page is, the better quality of a link it is for your site.
Lastly, the link authority is a culmination of both the domain and page authority metrics. Put simply, if the page that links back to your site is posted on a reputable domain and has received a good amount of engagement and traffic, then it has good link authority.
Next, we have link relevancy. Google wants to make sure that the backlinks you have to your website are relevant to the content and subject of your website itself. If not, then the algorithm may think that you’re trying to scam the system and may down-rank your site for it.
For example, let’s just say that your site specializes in selling organic dog treats. Relevant backlinks would be those that came from sites about pets, dogs, dog treats, animal health, etc. Those are all relevant topics that are closely related to dogs and dog treats, right?
However, if your backlinks were coming from completely random sites, such as technology-related sites, medical sites, home improvement sites, etc., then those links could hurt your dog treat site’s link profile.
Think about the last time you went to a specialist doctor… The chances are that the specialist was recommended to you by your primary care doctor. If some random construction worker recommended the specialist to you, then you probably wouldn’t have taken them as seriously.
Last but not least, we need to discuss link quality. When you’re prospecting and building links, you need to ensure that the links on your list are high-quality links. You don’t want a bunch of newly-minted, scammy, low-quality, random sites linking back to your niche website. Otherwise, it’ll look like you purchased your links.
Buying and selling links is a common black hat SEO practice that has become quite popular as competition on the internet has gotten more intense. It’s the same as how some YouTubers and wannabe influencers purchase likes, followers, and comments for their videos and posts.
If you’re just looking at the numbers, then it seems like it works… However, the Google algorithm looks at more than just how many links you have; they individually analyze the quality of each link that directs to your site.
Since we’re on the topic, we figured that we’d take a couple of minutes to address the two main types of SEO you’ll find; black hat and white hat SEO.
Simply put, black hat SEO uses questionable SEO techniques designed to “trick” the Google algorithm into up-ranking a website. Often, black hat SEO works great in the short term and can cause your site to quickly move upwards among the ranks of SERPs results.
However, the Google algorithm is constantly on the lookout for sites using blackhat techniques and cheats to increase their ranking. If the algorithm suspects you’re using black hat SEO (such as buying bulk links, for instance), then it will red-flag your site and down-rank you. This means that all of your hard work and money invested will have been for nothing.
White hat SEO, on the other hand, involves using tried and tested methods of search engine optimization. There’s nothing scammy, shady, or dishonest about white hat SEO. It typically involves traditional methods of link building, appropriate usage of keywords, etc.
All in all, white hat SEO takes longer but has longer-lasting results. You’ll never have to worry whether or not you’re risking your site’s overall integrity or ranking. Black hat SEO is often tempting, but it often results in your site getting permanently down-ranked.
Earlier in the article, we mentioned an incredibly useful tool called Backlink Finder (comming soon!). This tool is hands-down one of the best backlinking tools ever created. First off, it will analyze your site. You’ll be able to calculate how many backlinks your site already had along with the quality of each backlink that’s directed back to your site. This is a great tool to set benchmarks for your own site’s performance.
Secondly, Backlink Finder allows you to analyze your competitors’ backlinks. You’ll be able to see all of the backlinks that your competitors are using to rank their sites. You can then contact these sites directly to figure out what you need to do to get a backlink from them!
Lastly, Backlink Finder has a built-in algorithm that suggests the highest-quality link prospects that you should look into. It analyzes the niche of your existing site and then cross-references that with the top-ranking SERPs results for primary keywords on your site. Then, it analyzes the top-performing websites and lists them out for you.
Backlink Finder is a great tool for identifying potential link prospects and spying on your competitors. However, it may not give you a full picture of the quality and authoritativeness of each link. This is where Ranktracker’s SERP Checker tool comes in clutch.
The tool allows you to input keywords relating to your site’s niche. Then, you’ll be able to manually scroll through the top-ranking sites and pages in that particular niche.
If you cross-reference these results with the link prospects generated by Backlink Finder, then you’ll have a great starting point for potential link prospects that you can use for your own site.
When you’re developing your link building strategy, it’s important to understand the difference between follow and no-follow backlinks.
Once upon a time, all links were the same and all backlinks contributed equally to a site’s ranking. However, this is no longer the case. In the early days of the internet and search engines, black hat SEO experts would exploit this and create fake, scammy sites full of irrelevant or made-up links, using them to boost their site to the top page of Google with little to no effort.
So, Google decided to create “no-follow” links. These links are those that have very little authority when it comes to your site’s overall backlink profile. They’re commonly attributed to links left in comment sections or links that are on a page without any relevant context.
The type of links that you really want to focus on are follow links. These are high-quality links that are posted on relevant authority sites within the same niche as you. They’re often used in context as a direct reference. They aren’t scammily posted in the comments section of a blog, posted on social media, or sent via instant messenger (these are all examples of no-follow links).
If you want to quickly up-rank your site, then you’ll need to develop a solid, reliable link building strategy. This often involves delegating tasks to a team of multiple individuals. To review, the key steps to link building are:
Research and analysis: This involves using tools to research top-ranking sites in your niche and analyzing your competitors’ backlinks to see what backlinks they’re using.
Outreach: After identifying potential link prospects, you’ll need to reach out to the webmasters to see what it takes to get a backlink. This could be writing a guest post, paying for a promotional post, etc.
Content Creation: Most of the time, link building requires a fair amount of content creation. This means you’ll need to have a dedicated copywriter on-hand to help out with writing guest posts, press releases, and other content that will be used to link back to your site.
If you can break each step down and delegate it to team members, then you’ll be able to effectively up-rank your site with high-quality backlinks. Sure, you could do it all yourself… but it would take a lot longer and the process would be a good bit slower.
If you’re serious about your SEO and link building, then having an SEO toolkit is a must. Without it, your research and analysis will take a lot longer and will generate limited results. Without the ability to perform in-depth analysis on your site, link quality, and your competitors’ links, then you’re just floating in open water with no direction to go.
Ranktracker’s full SEO toolkit is one of the best places to start. Their Web Audit tool is great for analyzing both your site and your competitors’. Their SERP Checker tool helps you find valuable keywords and competitor data for specific keywords (which can also be good link prospects). Ranktracker’s toolkit also comes with a Rank Tracker tool that tracks the SERP ranking of sites as they move up or down Google’s search results, measuring key SEO metrics.
Last but not least, Backlink Finder (comming soon!) is a must-have if you really want to create a solid backlinking strategy. It allows you to analyze every single one of your backlinks and your competitors’ backlinks so you can hijack their traffic and their success without having to put in half as much work!
Just think about how much you could do with your site ranking on the first page of Google results with tons of high-quality backlinks… You’d have more traffic, make more conversions, and become a true authority site in your niche. Isn’t that worth investing in?