The Master Guide for Backlink Research and Strategy
Total Read Time: 10 Minutes
So you want your local business to rank in search engines?
I hope you brought an umbrella, because it’s about to get juicy…“link juicy,” that is.
Just like in the real world, building genuine relationships is the backbone of success online. When you gain the trust of other successful websites in your industry, Google is more likely to push you to the top of the search results.
How do you link up with high-authority sites in your niche?
I cover this along with other important SEO tips in this article.
Let’s turn on the tap and let the link juice flow, because when the right backlinks are pointing at your site, organic traffic and increased revenue are never far behind.
Here are 3 simple steps to establish powerful relationships with authoritative sites:
Outline of The Process Here:
1) Spying On Your Competitors
2) Identifying Authoritative Sites In Your Industry
3) Outreach and Relationship Building
Why Backlinks Matter
Backlinks are your way of proving to Google that other sites find value in your website. The more links you get from relevant sites, the better your site will look in the eyes of Google. Keep in mind that there are two kinds of backlinks ̶ DOFOLLOW and NOFOLLOW.
DOFOLLOW vs. NOFOLLOW Backlinks
Any inbound link (backlink) is better than no link, but DOFOLLOW links are the ones that you really want.
What’s the big deal with DOFOLLOW links?
They pass on authority, a.k.a. “link juice,” to your website. In other words, DOFOLLOW links act as a positive vote, or a thumbs up for your site, whereas NOFOLLOW links don’t pass on any link juice.
By giving you a DOFOLLOW link, the linking site is taking a risk ̶ if your site gets penalized by Google, their own rankings can take a hit. DOFOLLOW links are Google’s way of knowing that other sites trust the integrity of your site, and it’s why the more DOFOLLOW links you have, the better your rankings will be.
Now let’s dive into the 3 simple steps you can take to build better relationships online and reap the rewards.
I’m going to spend the majority of this article covering how to spy on your competitors because it can quickly boost your backlinks by 20% or more.
1) Spying on Your Competitors
Whoever is at the top of the search results is there for a reason.
Do they target keywords more effectively? Possibly.
Does their internal linking put yours to shame? Could be.
Are they optimizing their images like pros? Maybe.
Their success is most likely a combination of all these things, but one of the most influential factors is their backlink profile.
Quality content and backlinks from high-authority sites are two of the most influential factors when it comes to ranking in the SERPs (search engine results pages).
In this section, you’re going to learn how to spy on your competitors so that you can steal their backlinks and their SERP rankings.
Why Spy On Backlink Profiles?
Imagine if your backlink profile looked like all of your top competitors? I think you can agree, it’d be a whole lot easier to crush it in the SERPs and take all the traffic for yourself.
Rather than build a backlink profile from scratch, you can take a shortcut to improving your visibility and beefing up your SEO.
Your competitors did all the hard work for you by building their backlink profile from trial and error, now it’s time for you to cash in on it.
Finding Your Top Competitors
The best places to go for link building ideas are the backlink profiles of your top competitors, i.e. whoever is outranking you for high-value keywords. The idea here is that if you can get backlinks from the same sources, you can copy their success.
Type a high-value keyword into Google. In this case, let’s say that you’re a plumber and you want to rank for “plumber Philadelphia.”
Once you see who ranks for this keyword, you’re going to use a backlink analysis tool to spy on their backlink profiles so that you can mimic their success.
If you do it right, you can start ranking on the first page of Google for more than one keyword.
Backlink Analysis Tools: Your Weapons of SEO Espionage
Several tools can help you discover where your competitors are getting their link juice from, but some of the big ones are:
All of these tools do a great job of sneaking behind the scenes and harvesting backlink profiles, and they each have their strengths:
Ahrefs has one of the most active crawlers on the internet, meaning its data is always as accurate as possible. It’s definitely one of the best backlink analysis tools available.
Moz Open Site Explorer has a massive following and a user community of over 600,000 active members. Why do people like it so much? Moz is a premium tool for in-depth backlink analysis and with a user-friendly interface.
SpyFu is the new kid on the block when it comes to backlink analysis tools, and it specializes in stealth reconnaissance. Their sharing feature makes it easy to pass on data to other team members.
SEMRush is one of the best all-in-one SEO tools for beginners. Although its backlink analysis isn’t as strong as Moz or Ahrefs, in 90-plus percent of cases it’s going to do a fine job.
Using Ahrefs to Spy on Backlinks
Goodman Plumbing was at the top of the SERP results for the keyword phrase “plumber Philadelphia,” and we’re going to use Ahrefs to learn what we can about their backlinks.
Go to Ahrefs and create an account if you haven’t already.
They’re pretty cool about letting you do some basic backlink research free of charge. Everything I show you in this article was done without a paid account.
Enter Goodman Plumbing’s URL into the search bar, and Viola! ̶ you’ll find a whole bunch of insightful metrics about their site. Take a look at the line graph below to see their massive backlink growth in the last few months. Somebody’s been busy!
Let’s see where all those backlinks are coming from so that we can pursue relationships with the same sites.
Click on the “Backlinks” button in the top of the left of the sidebar menu to navigate to the backlink research page.
In the top menu, filter the results to show only DOFOLLOW backlinks.
Then click on the “DR” column to organize the results beginning with sites that have the highest Domain Rating.
Now you should have a list of high-authority websites where Goodman Plumbing gets their link juice from.
These are the sites that you’re going to target first for link building opportunities.
By taking a closer look at the backlinks page for Goodman Plumbing, you can get some insight into how they get their almighty DOFOLLOW links.
Let’s take a look at this link that they got from Philadelphia Magazine.
By clicking on the link to open the page where the backlink comes from, you can see that Goodman Plumbing was featured in an article called “Best of Philly: The 5 Best Friends Your Home Ever Had.”
Now you know the secret to their link juice!
All your business has to do is get featured in a similar article and that link juice can be yours.
Copy Their Backlink Ratio Using Ahrefs
Return to Goodman Plumbing’s backlink overview page.
On the right hand side of the page you can find a treasure trove of useful information about their backlink profile, including percentages on:
- Types of referring domains
- Kinds of backlinks (DOFOLLOW, NOFOLLOW, images)
- URL rating distribution
At the bottom of the same page, you can also find data about their anchor text distribution.
Create a Master Spreadsheet
Make a master spreadsheet of your top competitors and the high-authority sites where they get their DOFOLLOW backlinks.
If you find that several sites get their link juice from a certain site, that’s a solid sign that they’re a strong prospect.
Google Sheets is an excellent free tool for creating searchable spreadsheets so that you can easily share your findings with team members.
2) Identifying Authoritative Sites In Your Industry
You aren’t going to find all of the link building opportunities by spying on the competition. The internet is a massive place, and most of the high-value sites will be hidden from view…at least at first.
You can find them by following a trail of profitable keywords.
Finding High-Volume, High-Value Keywords
To find other high-value sites, you’re going to search for high-value keywords and see who ranks for them.
Use a tool like Neil Patel’s UberSuggest to find high-volume keyword phrases. UberSuggest generates popular keyword ideas when you enter a keyword into the search bar.
Choose a keyword from the results that has a high search volume and enter it into Google to see who ranks for it.
Do this with several high-volume, high-competition keywords and take note of the sites that repeatedly show up on top of the SERPs. Put these sites in a short list to research later with Ahrefs or a similar tool.
Narrowing Down Prospects from Your Short List
Take your list of website prospects and head on over to Ahrefs, Moz or another comparable SEO tool.
For this example, let’s say that you’re a nutritionist and you want to get a high-value link from a leader in the health niche.
Dr. Axe is a website that dominates the SERPs for all sorts of high-value keywords. A DOFOLLOW link from his site could really dump the link juice into your site and increase your chances of ranking.
Put Dr. Axe’s URL into Ahref’s search bar and navigate to the “Linked Domains” button at the bottom of the left sidebar.
Set the filter settings to “DOFOLLOW” and “.com.”
Then click the “DR” button twice to organize the results beginning with the lowest authority sites.
Now you can see if Dr. Axe gives DOFOLLOW links to weaker sites.
As you can see from the above screenshot, Dr. Axe does give DOFOLLOW links to low-authority sites.
The other ultimate sign that Dr. Axe might be worth reaching out to is if he links to sites that are very similar to yours, like other nutritionists.
3) Outreach and Relationship Building
Now that you have a list of prequalified sites to reach out to, it’s time to get to reachin’.
The good news is that most sites fail miserably when it comes to outreach, so it won’t be hard to stand out from the pack.
Want to know the golden rule of outreach?
Offer value first and ask for link building opportunities later…much later.
Why It’s Important to Offer Value First
It can be tempting to get ahead of yourself and pitch a link acquisition scheme right off the bat, but believe me, this is outreach suicide.
When was the last time you met someone, immediately asked for a significant favor, and they obliged?
It rarely works out this way, both in-person and online.Yet for some reason many businesses pitch first rather than building trust and seeing where it goes.
First focus on building up good karma. Can you find a time-relevant tip that might save them time or money? Offer value and warm them up before asking for something in return. It’ll give you the best shot at building a genuine relationship, and in the end that’s the most effective way to get high-quality links.
Leveraging LinkedIn Networking
If you’re a business, there’s no better place than LinkedIn for making industry connections. LinkedIn could be the single most powerful networking tool for business-to-business relations, and it’s massively underutilized.
That’s great news for you, because it means that if you use LinkedIn the right way, you can stand out.
LinkedIn’s Premium for Business is $60/month. While this might seem a tad expensive at first glance, the value it can deliver in terms of outreach can more than make up for the cost.
LinkedIn Premium allows you to conduct detailed searches for prospective site owners and send up to 70 direct connection requests a day.
Rather than sifting through contact pages on the sites you’re targeting, you can quickly make a direct connection with the decision maker and start offering value.
Follow these steps to warm up prospective link opportunities on LinkedIn:
- Always send a personalized message along with your connection request. It’ll increase your acceptance rate dramatically.
- Send a thank you message within the first 48 hours of the new connection.
- Deliver the first piece of value within the first three days.
- Over the following two weeks, give them two more value drops without asking for anything in return.
At this point, you’ll have built up an honest report and they’ll be much more receptive to hearing your pitch.
Free Guest Posts are for Chumps
One of the more common link building strategies is to write an article for another site and embed a DOFOLLOW link in the content. But because it’s such an overused strategy, website owners have grown weary of the “free guest post in exchange for a link” pitch.
How do you spice it up and offer real value in the process?
By positioning yourself and your article as high-value, and you do that by demanding that they pay you just like any other quality writer. I know it may seem counterintuitive, but high-authority websites have deep pockets, and what they care about most is quality.
Another way to sweeten the pot is to say that you’re only interested in becoming a regular contributor.
Webmasters are always inundated with guest post requests, and if they only get one article out of a relationship, that isn’t very time efficient. But if you offer to write for them on the regular, they’ll get more content for their time and you’ll get more link opportunities. It’s a win-win.
Finding the ultimate way to get DOFOLLOW links is going to be different in every niche, and that’s why it’s important to use an SEO tool like Ahrefs so you can copy your competitors.
When you do your outreach, always remember that online relationships are no different than in-person ones. Offer value first, warm them up, and then make a pitch that continues to offer value.
You’ll be in backlink heaven in no time!
You can also contact us if you want high quality DOFOLLOW backlinks, completely done for you, hand-built and specialized by our team and network!