In our last article we began talking about link building and how someone new to the field of SEO might begin. We talked about why a company hoping to do business online will need to do link building and we also showed you how to do research online to find out who your competition is by performing some simple keyword research and then looking to see who is ranking online for those terms.
In this article we are going to dig in a little deeper to look at how you can begin looking for sites to request links from.
As we said, in our last article, you began by doing some elementary search phrase research which led to some searches on Google to find out who is currently ranking for those search terms. Now that you have your list of just who is ranking it’s time to dig in! So let’s roll up our sleeves and get into it.
Let us start by taking the top competitor in your research. There are a few different websites you can use to figure out who is linking to them. This first is the Yahoo Site Explorer. It is a tool developed by Yahoo which allows you to explore sites – whether they are your sites or someone elses.
Simply enter the URL of your competitor’s website into the box at the top of the page and hit the “Explore URL” button.
This tool returns a wealth of information – from the number of pages Yahoo has identified for this site to the “Inlinks”. This is what we are most interested in. Inlinks refers to inbound links, or back links – links back to the site in question.
When you click the button you will see a list of all pages linking to the site. On the right of the page you will see 2 dropdown menus – the first allows you to show inlinks from all pages, show all inlinks except those from this domain, or all except from this subdomain. The second dropdown allows you to show links either to this page, or to the whole site.
So when you chose one of the options from the first dropdown you will see the list change. We have found this tool most helpful when you chose “Except from this domain” in the first drop down. This is because, the tool then filters out internal links – that is any links from internal pages pointing to the home page. Obviously these aren’t going to be that helpful in link building so we will exclude those.
In the second drop down you can either chose to this page only or to the whole domain. What you chose here will depend on what you want to do, but again in our experience, it’s best to show links to the whole site. That being said, you could always just do links to the home page now and go back later to get the remaining links.
So for now let’s chose “entire site”. You should now see all inlinks except from this domain to all pages on the site. The tool also gives you a count of the total number of links. You will also see an “Export to TSV” link – this allows you to export the first 1000 links found in this report which you can then open in Excel for example.
So now you’ve gathered up to the first 1000 links from your first competitor. Continue doing this until you have all the links from all the sites you consider as competitors.
Once you’ve done that there are again many ways to proceed – you could combine all links into one “master sheet” and remove duplicates, or you could target each competitors links depending on the search phrase(s) you used to find them in the first place.
For example, if you gathered all the links for your top three “blue widgets” competitors, then gathered all the links for your top three competitors for “red widgets” you can then begin link building for “blue widgets” using the blue widgets data, and link build for red widgets using the red widgets data.
One caveat about the Yahoo Site Explorer – at some time in the near future the tool will be replaced by a Microsoft/Bing powered tool. No one knows what that will look like yet, but I would hope it offers the same functionality as the Yahoo tool currently does.
Another useful tool is the Open Site Explorer – it functions similar to the Yahoo tool in that you enter in a competitors URL and it returns the links it has indexed.
A more manual (And less accurate) way to determine your competitors links is to do an old fashioned link query in Google. Simply enter “Link:competitordomain.com” into the Google search box and Google will return a selection of links pointing to your competitor. Notice that we say “selection”. Google quit returning all links some time ago.
Bing also offers “link:” and “linkdomain:” queries to see which sites Bing has listed as links to your competitor. “Link:” shows links pointing to a specific page while “Linkdomain:” shows all links pointing to an entire site – similar to the same functions the Yahoo Site Explorer tool offers which we’ve explained above.
So now that you have gathered your competitor’s linking data, the next step is to analyze and figure out which sites you’d like to request links from. That will be the subject of our next article.