Link building can be tricky. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out where to jump in. There are enough obtuse options and strategies to make an SEO cry tears of pain. If you’re not employing a vendor to handle it, the bottom line is that link building is time consuming – no matter how you approach it. There are tools that help you determine find the friendly links and good link partners through different ‘guesstimation’ algos, but if you’re not using them you need to come up with your own plan of attack. A less efficient way to find links is to Google sites with related themes and content and try to negotiate links with them manually. This manual part of link building does give you a lot of SEO control over the link partners and what the link looks like (ie, the keywords in anchor text, supplemental text near the link, input in the kind of link it is, etc.). However, I like to optimize this approach with a few tricks.
Set Your Goals and Research Your Keywords
Before starting any link campaign you should have an idea of what you’re trying to accomplish. Let’s say we’re trying to optimize a deep ecommerce page selling Star Wars audio books. Let’s suppose the goal is to get this page to rank for some highly converting keywords. Before I try to get links to this page, I’ll do some preliminary keyword research and figure out the top 5 keywords that make the sale. I might round up these keywords through my analytics (sales data from natural search, paid search, and internal site search), and correlate them with keywords that Google, Keyword Discovery or WordTracker suggests. I also do some poking around in social networks for alternative phrases that come straight from the mouths of the people (tools like Blogpulse, WhosTalkin, Twitterfall, TweetVolume, connect you with conversations using your keywords and can sometimes give you alternatives or inspiration to build your own). I check out semantic search engines for relationships I didn’t think of (Quintura is a good one because it’s visual interface makes it quick). You might even find some options from the Link Diagnosis tool I’ll be talking about next.
Finding Link Partners and getting a Friendly Link
Next, if I’m focused on link building for SEO, I want to create a collection of sites to try to get links from. I’ll do this by thinking about my competitors. I could go to Yahoo and do the “link operator” (simply go to yahoo and type link:www.competitorsite.com into the search box, then take a look at the backlinks Yahoo returns), but I’ve become fond of a free tool called LinkDiagnosis.com. By entering an SEO competitor into this tool, I’ll get insight into their backlinks. If the website is linking to my competitor, maybe they’ll link to me too! Note: Link Diagnosis works better if you install the Firefox extension they offer. More insight to the links including PageRank, anchor text of every backlink, and more. It’s a good tool.
Which Sites Do Not Have NoFollow?
Link Diagnosis gives me a lot of link building insight, but it also does something I really like. Of course we want to get potential link partners, but we also want those partners to have NoFollows so they can pass PageRank. By clicking the “good” slice in the Link Types pie, you’ll get a list of just the websites that link out using without using NoFollow. Sometimes they’re blogs with comment boards, sometimes they’re social networks, sometimes they might be directories you never heard about, sometimes they’re small sites where reaching the webmaster won’t be too difficult. Sweet! Plus, with the FireFox extension, you can even see them ranked by PageRank to help you decide on which links to try to obtain first.