As a beginner SEO you can be forgiven for feeling slightly overwhelmed by the vast array of techniques and best practices that are recommended to achieve good rankings. Link building is just one of a number of ongoing tasks you will need to tackle to get the best results and move up the search engine rankings.
Naturally then, finding as many link building opportunities as you can is essential; throughout this article I am going to show you an effective way to gather a list of quality backlink opportunities that you can integrate into your link building strategies.
Why is link building so important?
Google sees good quality links as a sign of trust – they are a signal that your site has been helpful to somebody and that the information you are providing has value. Links are the core of Google’s algorithms and still remain the strongest signal you can give the search engine about the authority and importance of your site. Your site could be full of valuable content, but if other sites aren’t linking to you then you aren’t demonstrating to the search engines how awesome the content is and your site will fail to achieve the rank it deserves.
Quality over Quantity
It’s not all about quantity of links though, the quality and relevance is what Google is concerned about. In fact, if you were to acquire or buy links from a bunch of low quality sites, it would have a negative effect on your SEO.
Don’t be tempted by short cuts, Google wants you to build links naturally.
Investing in a quality link building strategy
You may have read articles that claim there are ‘quick fixes’ or ‘easy ways’ to build links but these claims couldn’t be further from the truth. Link building takes time and it can be very challenging to build high quality links but it is an integral element to your SEO effort, and is well worth the time and energy. The good news is, there are reputable tools that you can use to make the link building process easier, more efficient and more effective.
At Matter Solutions we have a couple of these tools up our sleeves, including Ahrefs, Majestic and Moz. If you are looking at trying out one tool I would have to recommend Ahrefs. While this tool will not build any links for you, it will help you gather a huge database of quality domains that you can approach. Below are some of my favourite and most useful features that Ahrefs has to offer.
SEO can be complicated enough on its own at times, so the last thing you want is to use a tool that is confusing and difficult to navigate. Ahrefs is a very sophisticated tool, enabling you to gather loads of data, yet it is so easy to use and understand.
Compare multiple competitors quickly
One of the first tasks you should be doing when you are trying to rank for a keyword or phrase, is to run a search of the term you would like to rank for in Google. Let’s say you have a page on your site dedicated to ‘SEO tips’ and you would like to rank for that term. You would enter that phrase into Google, pick out the top 5 results and input them into the domain comparison tool. Below are some results I found with this search:
- Search Engine Journal
As you can see this presents you with a lot of data to analyse, which you can use to assess your next move. It will help you determine exactly what needs to be done in terms of link building to rank for your keyword. At this point you should also ask yourself if it is achievable. For example, if your site is low in strength and authority (domain rank), and you are targeting a keyword that is highly competitive, i.e. among sites with a high domain rank and thousands of links (as in this case), you will struggle to rank highly for that term. You would be more successful picking one that is less competitive, something achievable.
If you are attempting to rank for a term you will also need some help deciding the type of links you need to go for. This tool breaks down the exact number of .gov, edu, .com, .net and .org sites that your competitors are linked from, giving you an idea of the challenge ahead. The most sought after are .gov and .edu sites because Google ranks these links as higher authority than any other.
Who is linking to my competitors?
So now you know the types of links that your competitors are receiving, you want to look into one of them more specifically and find the exact domains they are getting backlinks from. This is done using the ‘site explorer’ tool on the homepage of the Ahrefs site – you simply have to enter the domain you wish to check and then click ‘search links’. The best practice for this is to pick a direct competitor that is offering the same services and operating within the same areas as you – this will increase the chances of obtaining links they have. For this example I am going to choose Moz. Once you have entered your search site you will see a page like this:
You will then have access to a range of data that fully analyses the Moz backlink profile, including the domain rank and number of backlinks and referring domains. Now, if you want to find out exactly who your competitors have links from the best option here is to click on referring domains – this option is found underneath overview on the left hand side of the screen. You will then see this page…
This is great because you can view the exact domains linking to your competitor, helping you create a list of sites to contact. You can even list these sites in order of domain rank or when the link was first seen (by the Ahrefs crawler), making it easy to phish out any domains you don’t think are strong enough or relevant anymore. But the data goes further than this – you are even able to look specifically at the backlinks that have been set up, and this makes it very easy for you to see exactly how your competitor acquired the link. You are then in a better position to craft an approach to this site as you will have a good idea of what is required to achieve a link, and if it is worth your time.
Start earning links
Using the Ahrefs tool is extremely easy and enables you to create a list of sites to visit while also giving you an idea of how you need to approach them, or what it takes to get a backlink from them. Now for the difficult part – earning those links. Once have a list of sites to contact you will need to visit their pages. You will already have an idea of how your competitor achieved the link and sometimes it can be easy, e.g. if there is a list of resources your site fits into perfectly. However, this is very few and far between – often you will have a lot more work to do and will have to be innovative in your approach, offering something that will add value to the site you want to link to you. Link building works best when the link creates a win for you AND a win for them. Good luck!
What do you think?
Have you used Ahrefs in the past? If so, what do you think are its most useful features? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.