If you’ve read some of our other guides to link prospecting, then you should have a solid understanding of what’s involved in link building and why it’s so important. For the uninitiated, let’s start off with a few basics.
Essentially, link prospecting (or link building) is the process of finding backlinks for your site. The more high-quality, relevant, high-ranking backlinks you have pointing back at your landing page or site’s pillar content, the faster and easier it will be for your site to rank organically in Google SERPs (search engine rank page) results.
By using tools like Ranktracker’s Keyword Finder, SERP Checker and Web Audit tool, you’ll be able to identify key competitors in your niche. Then, you’ll be able to use the Backlink Finder (comming soon!) tool to hijack their backlinks and use the same high-quality backlinks to build up your site’s search engine ranking for similar or secondary keywords in the same niche!
One of the most important things to remember as you’re engaged in the link building process, though, is that you need to stay organized. Without having organized files, spreadsheets, and schedules, your link building efforts will be a lot harder (and take a lot longer).
In this piece, we’ll be discussing some key organizational tips and strategies that you can use to help your link prospecting process be more efficient and effective. If you’re ready for your site to hit the top results in Google and have tons of high-quality backlinks, then you’ve come to the right place! It’s time to rank up, cadets.
Like any business venture that you take on, your link building campaign should be just as organized and planned out as if it were your actual business (because your business actually depends on it).
So, first things first, you need to get organized!
One of the best ways to stay organized during your link building campaign is to use Google Drive. Google features a full set of comprehensive tools that allow you to create documents, spreadsheets, presentations, invoices, and more. Plus, all of their built-in tools sync with your Gmail account and Google calendar, allowing for a seamless, highly fluid workflow.
All Google users have access to 15 gigs of free storage space on their drive, which is more than enough to get started with. If you end up needing extra space, though, they have a number of affordable paid plans that you can use to get up to several terabytes of storage space.
As you slowly build your links up, you’ll want to create a folder where you’ll store important information on each prospective link. This is especially true for sites where you’re posting guest content regularly in exchange for backlinks.
You’ll want a place where you can save all of your past guest content posts and save any valuable website metrics and screenshots that you find using Ranktracker’s Web Audit and Rank Tracker tools.
Within each folder, you’ll have sub-folders for content, SEO snapshots/data, and a spreadsheet (made with Google sheets) listing all of the URLs for the content that links back to your site.
This will allow you to double-check the SEO performance of each individual page that links back to you. The data gained from this will be valuable in the future, so always make sure that it’s easy to access.
As you further your research and use tools like Backlink Finder (comming soon!) to research competitor’s niche backlinks, you’ll want to keep a running sheet of potential link prospects. These will be sites that you eventually reach out to with a proposal to backlink to your site.
Backlink Finder will quite literally generate hundreds or even thousands of results in terms of competitor backlinks and the best possible links for your site. If you don’t save the results in a sheet, then you can easily lose track of them and miss valuable opportunities to increase your site’s ranking.
Your sheet should be more than just a random list of potential link prospects, though. As you generate potential prospects for backlinks, you should double-check them using Ranktracker’s Rank Tracker and Web Audit tools. These tools will show you under the hood and let you see important SEO metrics about each potential prospect.
As you update your prospect sheet with new sites, you should also include some key metrics and numbers for each link prospect. This will allow you to create a prioritized list of which webmasters you’ll want to reach out to first, and help you create a structured workflow.
The most important aspect of link building is going to be content creation. Almost every reputable, high-quality site that offers you a backlink will want some type of guest content created for their page. Perhaps the guest content is an informational article/blog post, or maybe it’s a press release linking back to your page.
Either way, if you want your link building to progress quickly, you can’t hope to do all of the articles yourself. Therefore, if you want to rank faster, you’ll need to work with a copywriting agency or hire freelance copywriters to help you write your articles.
That being said, whenever you’re working with third-party individuals, you don’t want to give them valuable or sensitive data on your clients. So, you’ll want to create separate spreadsheets for each of your copywriters, detailing the articles/content that you want to be written, notes on content, keywords they need to target, and target word count for each article.
Then, you can set up the sheet for sharing and share it with each writer you’re working with. They’ll be able to see what they need to write about for their site, and you’ll be able to see and edit the list as you see fit.
Before you go crazy and start developing a strategy, you need to view a benchmark of where your site is currently at. It’s just like starting a fitness training regimen… when you show up to meet your personal trainer, they’re going to give you a basic fitness test and assessment before creating your new workout plan, right?
Trying to create a link building plan for your site without proper analysis will just be a waste of time, as you’ll have no context for how your site needs to improve, in the first place.
So, with that being said, here’s how to go about analyzing your site (or a client’s site, if you’re an SEO agency). As long as you have the right tools, the whole thing will be a breeze!
First thing’s first, you need to analyze your site itself. Thankfully, Ranktracker’s Web Audit tool makes this part an absolute breeze. Simply open up the tool and put your landing page’s URL into the search bar, then give the software a minute to crawl through and analyze your site.
Within a minute or two, you’ll be able to view a full analysis of your site as a whole. The Web Audit tool will show you valuable data on your page, such as:
How many pages are indexed on major search engines.
Valuable SEO metrics, such as site traffic etc.
How many backlinks your site already has.
A 0 to 100 score, based on 100 different scoring factors.
The most important fixes to improve your page ranking.
One of the best features of this tool is that it will also allow you to come back in the future and compare your scans. This will allow you to see if your SEO efforts are actually paying off or not, as well as where future improvements need to be made.
The Web Audit tool will show you where all of your key SEO-related issues on the page are. For example, you could have broken internal links or faulty HTML code that results in redirects and 404 errors. These will need to be fixed before moving on to any other optimization strategies.
After identifying where any major issues on your site are, you’ll need to get a snapshot of what (if any) keywords that your site is ranking for. If it’s a relatively new site, then the chances are that you may not be ranking for any. If the site’s been around for a few months, then it may be ranking for a few keywords, even if it’s not ranking high.
To figure out which keywords your site is ranking for, pull up Ranktracker’s flagship Rank Tracker tool. This tool is an absolute powerhouse when it comes to tracking your on-page SEO and keywords that pages are ranking for.
You’ll be able to run your site through the tool to see specific metrics on your site as a whole. You’ll also be able to analyze individual pages, allowing you to see all of the keywords that certain pages are ranking for as well as how they compare to competitors’ pages.
Getting a single snapshot of your site or pages’ current status is a good start. However, if you plan on running a successful SEO campaign, then you’ll also need to keep track of your analytics moving forward.
There are two methods that we suggest for everyday monitoring:
Comparing Ranktracker snapshots.
Google Analytics is probably the best free-to-use SEO analytics tracker on the market. To use it, simply embed your unique Google Analytics code into your site’s HTML. Within a week, you’ll be able to see key metrics such as monthly traffic, bounce rate (how quickly visitors leave after coming to your page), and more from your Analytics dashboard.
However, Google Analytics won’t show you everything. It’s simply not designed to. So, to get a more accurate and in-depth view you’ll want to compare your Google Analytics results to the monthly snapshots recorded in Ranktracker’s Web Audit tool.
Keep in mind that your analytics reports might not change much from one week to the next. However, you should be able to see considerable changes and differences from one month to the next.
Next, you’ll want to take a close, in-depth look at your site’s content. Today, people expect well-written, informative content. Not only do people expect it but the Google algorithm judges your site for it.
If you’re not able to be partial to your own writing, then have a professional editor or writer look over your site. Ask them to look for readability, engagement, and concise writing. If it’s not up to par, then you’ll need to get the main content on your site re-written.
Sure, it may be a bit of a pain upfront… but it’s critical for your site’s overall success moving forward. In fact, if you don’t have any good content on your landing page or your site’s pillar content, none of the link building you do will even matter, to begin with.
Today, Google ranks all sites based on three main factors, otherwise known as E-A-T. This anagram stands for:
To gauge your site’s E-A-T score, the Google “spider” crawls through each page, running content through algorithms to test whether it’s high-quality, well-written, resource-linked content. If it is, then you get some brownie points and your site ranks up; if not… well, you get down-ranked.
Lastly, you want to ensure that your site has a good silo structure. This can be performed by looking at your sitemap. Basically, you’ll want to have your landing page, several pillar pages (main pages), and then a bunch of sub-articles and child posts that link upwards to your main pages.
You want your silo structure to look like a tree’s roots. Internal links should grow deep, rather than wide.
Now for the fun part- link prospecting! Once you’ve analyzed your site and made some necessary improvements, it’s time to figure out prospective sites that you want to link back to your content. Now, there are two ways to do this:
Manually, by using Google search results (the hard way).
Automatically, by using SEO tools (the easy way).
The hard way basically involves looking up every possible keyword and secondary keyword associated with your niche and making a long list of top-ranking sites for each keyword. Then, you’ll need to manually analyze each site to see if it’s a good fit for a backlink, before adding it to your link prospects sheet. This is an effective strategy but requires hours upon hours of research. But hey, it’s free, right?
On the other hand, you can speed up the whole process by using Ranktracker’s highly refined SEO tools. Below, we’ll show you the step-by-step process for link prospecting with these SEO tools.
First, you’ll want to look back at that keyword list you generated in the above steps. Then, take the primary keyword that your site/niche is ranking for and run it through Ranktracker’s Keyword Finder tool. This will generate valuable secondary keywords you can use for your research.
Once you have a few good keywords, run those through the SERP Checker tool. This will show you all of the top competitors for each of those keywords. You can use some of these sites to up-rank your own site with backlinks, especially if your site is targeting a secondary niche keyword that their site isn’t in direct competition with.
For example, maybe you own a speciality online flower shop and you want to get a quality backlink from an information site on total home landscaping. It’s the same overall niche (landscaping/gardening), but the aim/clientele of each site is different, so the other site likely will be fine backlinking to your site.
Ranktracker’s tools are great for overall link analysis. However, if you really want to speed things up, then consider using the SEO Spyglass tool. This will allow you to see every single site that backlinks to all of your direct competitors. You can then hijack these same backlinks and contact their webmasters to work out content exchange deals.
The best way to do this is to input your primary keyword into the SERP Checker tool. Then, take note of the top page-1 competitors. Run each of your top competitors through the Backlink Finder (comming soon!) tool, and you’ll be able to see all of their backlinks. Pretty cool, right?
Backlink Finder also allows you to analyze your own site and check for existing backlinks. You can also track to see if any previous links have been lost over time.
Once you have a list of potential link prospects, you’ll want to analyze them and double-check to ensure that they’re actually good-quality links for your site to be associated with. Most of the time, they will be, thanks to the fact that Backlink Finder filters out poor-performing or adult-related sites that could negatively affect your site.
Alright, so at this point, it’s time for a quick public service announcement:
Don’t mess with Google’s algorithm and rules.
What does this mean as far as link building goes? Well, for starters it means that all of your link prospecting and building should be done “white hat.” So, don’t go on black hat websites trying to buy links or joining scammy link building initiatives.
Most of these black hat sites focus on spamming your website’s URL across low-quality, unrelated domains. As you can imagine, this will ultimately end up in your site being red-flagged and penalized by the Google algorithm. Sure, it might garner you some quick, short-term success… but once your site has been penalized, it can take a while to get it to up-rank again.
So, that being said, all of the backlinks to your site should be obtained ethically. This means networking with webmasters, working out deals for content exchange and link trading, and providing high-quality content that’s used for your backlinks.
It can take a while, and it often requires you to contract certain aspects of the work out to third-party content creation companies, but it’s well worth it in the end. When your site becomes a true authority in its niche and ranks on the first page of Google for major keywords, you’ll be reaping in the rewards obtained from doing things the right way.
Now, before we go, we figured we’d discuss one last topic. Namely, you need to optimize your pillar content for backlinks. If you’re going to have links directed at your landing page or pillar content, then you need to make sure the content on those pages is golden.
If not, then most webmasters aren’t going to want to link back to you in the first place, as it will hurt their page’s ranking. Plus, if your main pages are low-quality, then any visitor who does organically find your site through a link will quickly “bounce” away and give you a bad bounce rate, reducing your Google SERPs ranking.
First, you’ll want to make sure that your main pillar content is optimized for your niche’s primary and secondary keywords. You can keep track of this using Ranktracker’s Rank Tracker tool, as it allows you to individually track each page on your site.
Next, you’ll want to create high-quality, easy-to-read, informational content on your landing page and your main pillar pages. Make sure that the main content is all checked for grammar and spelling errors, uses larger font that’s easy on the eyes, and there isn’t a lot of lengthy block text consisting of 6 or 7-line paragraphs.
If you want your site’s other pages to get traffic and increase your algorithm score, make sure that the pillar content on your site has some internal links to related articles or other pillar content.
Ultimately, you want to focus on enhancing the experience of every user who visits your site. The more you focus on creating a positive experience for your users, the more likely that high-ranking webmasters will grant you a backlink and the better your bounce rate will be.
Here are some useful tips for enhancing your user experience.
As we’ve expounded on throughout the article, you want to focus on making your content easy to read. The easier, simpler, and more informative your content is, the more visitors will enjoy your site.
If you’re using a popular site-building service like Squarespace, Wix, WordPress, etc., then you should be able to feature a social sharing option on each webpage. This is especially valuable for pillar content and blog posts. When you make them easier to share, you increase the chances that somebody will share your post and get you more organic content. Plus, it makes you look like a more authoritative resource.
If the main content on your page has lead generation forms, make sure that you're giving away some type of value in exchange. If people go to your site and see that you’re requesting lead information (email, phone, social media follow, etc.) without offering anything of value in exchange, then your site can be deemed as spammy.
If you have a lead gen form (which is completely fine, by the way), just make sure that you’re providing a free newsletter, webinar, e-book, or something else of value in return.
If you want to take your link building to the next level, then Ranktracker’s SEO toolkit will help you reach new heights even faster than you imagined. You’ll be able to perform an in-depth analysis of your own site and your competitors’ sites. You’ll be able to see how many links you have compared with your competition and what you need to improve to help your organic SERPs ranking, and more.
When you combine Ranktracker’s tools with the Backlink Finder (comming soon!) tool, you’ll have a birds eye view of your entire market, and will be able to access all of the high-value backlinks that page-1 rankers are using to get their pages ranked by Google’s algorithm.
SEO tools, by themselves, won’t necessarily help you rank. However, when you combine them with an action plan, organized spreadsheets, and solid, high-quality content, you’ll be unstoppable!