Summary: Competitive Analysis For Link Development & Content Marketing on #SEOchat

Moderator: @shuey03

In what ways has competitive analysis helped you formulate a backlink and/or content marketing strategy?

@EricLanderSEO   Competitive audits & SWOT analyses really help to show opportunities and hazards to detour, particularly in link building. @AnnieCushing’s list of audit resources here (see: competitive analysis tab) is a great resource.
@shuey03   What kinds of things are you looking at in your SWOT analysis?
@EricLanderSEO   AHREFs, lost links over time & more recently – some of the new profiles loaded into SEMRush. Learning lots there.

@Mark_Garwell   I use buzzsumo for this a lot! It’s a great tool for working our what interests customers.

@alexpeerenboom   It helps pinpoint strategies/tactics competitors have used to get links. New ideas for clients.
@jacquesbouchard   Finding that respected competitors are doing it is a huge motivational point in getting them on board.
@jessesem   Use Buzzsumo to find content pieces that have links and are poorly designed. Redo & go after their backlinks.

@samueljscott   Focus less on competitors and more on your target audience. You want attention on whatever sites they visit.
@jacquesbouchard   I like it, but it’s a very blunt-object approach. Blend it with a more targeted strategy.
@shuey03   I love that… your competition is any website that your audience engages with. Next question for you is, how do you find those sites?
@samueljscott   Research the audience & create a persona that includes the sites they visit.
@AJutah   For SEO and content, a competitive analysis really shows what I can and should be doing better than my competitors. @aleyda has a great workflow for SEO.
@ty_kilgore   Once you’ve figured out the main competitors & money terms it isn’t long. You first need to know what you need to beat.
@AJutah   I base my content marketing plan using @backlinko ‘s Skyscraper technique.

@jacquesbouchard   It shows me and the client what’s successful enough for competitors to pursue in earnest, and builds my case for client buy-in.

@BruceClayInc   Competitive analysis is a good place 2 begin brainstorming content ideas; where are they missing the mark? getting it right?

@paramaya   We use competitive analysis to find influencers, outreach opportunities, new link opportunities, keyword research, etc. Competitive analysis is good for finding content gaps as well. This can be gold when used in conjunction with personas and good old-fashioned keyword research.

@jessesem   Really all link building starts with knowing who you need to outrank & understanding what’s working for them.

@tannerpetroff   Find successful content/subjects that can be done better. Find broken links and many other opportunities.

@ty_kilgore   Every SERP is different and every strategy needs to be different as well. Competitive Analysis has to be done for each term.

@stratrev   Impacts strategy, then drives the tactical with content marketing/link building.

@GregKristan   Competitive Analysis helped me build new ways to keep my audience on my page. This included adding videos, images, etc.

@KristiKellogg   Find the content they bring to the table, and use it as a jumping off point for even better content. May the best writer win.
@jacquesbouchard   I like to read the comments on articles I want to beat to see what was missed, so I can address that on mine.
@jessesem   Amazon can be a great source for customer intent around product sets as well.
@EricLanderSEO   BuzzSumo has been fun for this type of content research for me, too. Great suggestion!

@igalst   First of all to generate ideas for new referring sites.

@ThinkSEM   Gives us ideas (for a new market/client, say) where we can obtain links we haven’t thought of.

@Tony_DWM   Gap analysis. Competitors have “x focus” content, but the market-place is demanding “y focus” content (answers / help).

What tools do you find most helpful when performing competitive analysis and why?

@Mark_Garwell   Big fan of #Buzzsumo and #Swayy also love #pidatametrics

@Tony_DWM   @buzzsumo provides the content. @followerwonk provides influencer info, as does research in G+, Google Trends/Insights. But before any of the previous, get a whiteboard & marker & (semantically) connect co’s, content & relationships.

@Beymour   @BuzzSumo @followerwonk All great tools here.

@jessesem   ahrefs for backlinks, SEMRush for KW research, Buzzsumo for content. Combine the data for insights. I’ve been using the ShareMetric Chrome ext a lot. It integrates with Moz, SEMRush, Social, and ahrefs.

@CaitlinBoroden   I always start with a good ol’ crawl from @Moz Open Site Explorer.

@samueljscott   Build, promote, and publicize a site the delights its target audience and rankings will take care of themselves. PR software like Cision, Vocus and Meltwater is great for finding sites read by a given audience.

@alexpeerenboom   I’ve always used a combination of tools – OSE, Ahrefs, Majestic, GWT. Combine & filter out duplicates. Some tools pick up links other don’t.

@igalst   @Ahrefs for pure links, @SimilarWeb for referrals & Geo data.
@Beymour   I really like Moz’s toolbar plugin w/ the SERP overlay. Great for quickly sizing up a site.

@BruceClayInc   Our FREE Top-Ranked Websites Tool is a starting place to identify keyword competitors.

@ThinkSEM   We love @RavenTools! It’s chock-full of info we find useful, including backlink data (via @Moz) & page authority, etc.

@EricLanderSEO   I rely most on: @ahrefs @Moz @BuzzSumo @spyfu @semrush – but again, @AnnieCushing’s tools.

@stratrev   We love us some @Moz for ease of use including the reports.

@paramaya   You can’t beat Google SERPs as the jumping off point for competitive analysis. Search long-tail variations. OSE, Ahrefs, SEMRush for backlinks, keyword targeted, etc. I love to use Screaming Frog to see what competitors are targeting and how the site is structured.
@jacquesbouchard   I use it to find out what KINDS of content they’re doing. White papers? Videos? Case studies? etc.

@ty_kilgore   I like screaming frog & majestic
@jessesem   Screaming frog is great. We’ve been giving DeepCrawl a try and I like it much better though. Shows clean up progress.

@tannerpetroff   OSE. Google searches. BuzzSumo. GWT. Screaming Frog. Many more, but I use those all the time.

@AJutah   SEO – can’t beat @moz OSE. Content – Screaming Frog crawl, , Topsy.

@jacquesbouchard   I use @screamingfrog to find if they’re A/B testing, for signs of active SEO work and to see if they’re maintaining their site. Nobody is going to mention Spyfu?
@EricLanderSEO   I did! I did! I swear, I did!
@paramaya   There’s so much value in paying attention to what comes up in the SERPs for different types of queries.
@jacquesbouchard   And for evaluating how savvy the competitor is. Focus your energies on the smart ones.

@Tony_DWM   @buzzsumo provides the content. @followerwonk provides influencer info, as does research in G+, Google Trends/Insights. But before any of the previous, get a whiteboard & marker & (semantically) connect co’s, content & relationships.

How often do you perform competitive analysis and why?

@igalst   I use Moz’s DA metric every day, but honestly I prefer Ahrefs to analyze links. This is an ongoing project. We have at least one team member every day who analyzes what our competition does.
@samueljscott   Really? I use PageRank and DA less and less. If it’s a site read by the target audience, that’s most important. Give me a site read by target audience w low DA over irrelevant high DA site any day.

@EricLanderSEO   Analysis is run monthly when a client is in maintenance mode – or, when SERPs / changes require new data.

@tannerpetroff   Any time I create a new big content project, begin working with a client, or once a quarter at minimum just ’cause.

@Ajutah   I think you have a huge advantage online over your competitors if you continually analyze.
@EricLanderSEO   Great point. I’m always amazed at how many agencies and contractors operate in a vacuum – and LIKE to do so.
@Ajutah   And often, as the expert, it’s about educating your clients about the importance of the research.
@EricLanderSEO   So true. It’s like complaining about the weather, but not understanding seasons or ignoring meteorology.
@jacquesbouchard   That applies to overlooking the need for reputation management as well.
@Beymour   Agreed. Way too many brands are reactive with ORM.

@paramaya   Competitive analysis is part of our audits and an ongoing part of our process for retainer clients.
@CaitlinBoroden   We often give a quick preview of the competition in our audits and follow up with a doc dedicated to it.

What are the different metrics/indicators you use to identify quality competitive link opportunities?

@AJutah   If it’s a reference link in a guest post, I look at social followers, comment interaction, and try to find out # of email subs.
@jessesem   I think that social interaction is really undervalued. If it’s an opp and they have no audience, then who cares.
@AJutah   Although I place a higher value on email list over social followers these days. Followers can be bought!
@jessesem   Yeah interaction over followers. Hard to know list size most of the time.
@AJutah   True, but if you have a good relationship with the site owner, they’re likely to share that info with you.

@EricLanderSEO   New/Lost link analysis on @ahrefs is very helpful. From there, check domain records (and key users) in BuzzSumo. You can learn a lot on who to interact with, what to share, what to write – and WHEN to pounce. Also, what to ignore. Don’t overlook PA & DA over time (@Moz helps here) and utilize OpenSite Explorer to investigate influential inbound links. Both @Moz Pro & @ahrefs help us to analyze historical link profiles (layered, too, with many competitors) quite well.

@CaitlinBoroden   Engagement! If the content doesn’t gain any it’s a good indication something is missing.
@shuey03   What are the best engagement metrics?
@CaitlinBoroden   Comments, has the post been shared via social. Props to whoever mentioned ShareMetric. Checking it out now!
@Beymour   I’d say bounce rate, time on page, returning visits, goal completions, to name a few.
@shuey03   Those are hard metrics to get for your competitors
@Beymour   Oh whoops, missed that part lol. Then I’d say you’re limited to link metrics and social engagement.

@paramaya   Domain authority, site quality and topical relevance are critical when evaluation link opportunities.
@Tony_DWM   Absolutely, as are subject-matter-expertise / social shares on those authority domains & “explicit” referral traffic.
@CaitlinBoroden   YES! Overall site quality is key and should not be overlooked.

@jessesem   I also look at the site’s topic set. Does it make sense for them to be linking to me? Can it deliver traffic through the link?

@ThinkSEM   In conjunction with domain/page authority we look at citation flow to determine quality links.
@shuey03   Why is citation flow important?
@ThinkSEM   By knowing the “importance” of a page based on the links pointing to it.

@jacquesbouchard   What does the link do besides just being a link? Bring referral traffic? Help build a relationship? Do double duty with them.

@Beymour   I’ve been on a HARO binge lately. Lots of really great linking opportunities.
@CaitlinBoroden   We are constantly sharing HARO opps throughout the office. You never know what you could find. Great stuff.
@tannerpetroff   HARO can be gold from time to time. But you’ve always got to be watching.

@samueljscott   If the link will not refer relevant referral traffic, then I don’t want it.
@Tony_DWM   +10 That’s why editorially-vetted content, by smart journalists who know the needs of their aud, should be pursued.

@tannerpetroff   Moz metrics, engagement metrics, then the ‘eye test’ – Gotta be relevant.
@shuey03   I think “eye test” is the most overlooked tactic. automation and being too busy has made “not valuable” to some.

@ty_kilgore   I look at the following link information – top page authority & high domain authority. These have to be bringing in traffic.

@fighto   Lately, i’ve been finding great opportunity by just examining link overlaps between competitiors. is a helpful tool for finding link overlap. Moz also just introduced a new feature that helps.

What are the different metrics/indicators you look at to determine if a content topic is worth pursuing?

@samueljscott   If the content addresses a pain point, need, search query, etc. of the target audience.

@BruceClayInc   Search volume. But more importantly, does the content make sense? Is it helpful? Does it belong? It’s not all about #s.

@KristiKellogg   Will the content benefit the user and is it searched for? It’s the same story as always- doing keyword research &being useful.

@igalst   Pageviews, Shares, Comments. #Seochat. – Then Boune rate, Time on site, new visitors.

@tannerpetroff   Search volume. Relevance. # of posts on topic getting links. Where links are coming from. # of sites getting links on topic.

@jacquesbouchard   Do people OUTSIDE the company care? Is it something valuable and unique? Is there a presence around the planned content medium?

@AJutah   # of backlinks and social shares to the sites’ best performing content, and then how can I make that content better on my site. Then, go out and pitch your content to the sites that link to your competitors, and tell them you have a better resource.

@paramaya   New/frequent topics user-generated content? New queries in GWT? Reviews? Thorough persona research helps.

@Tony_DWM   Aside from @buzzsumo I ask 1) Is amplification possible? 2) Is this “flash-in-the-pan” or evergreen? 3) Is it unique?

@ThinkSEM   Engagement! Not just Tweets, RTs (& “likes”), but links acquired from amplification, etc.

@Beymour   Once again, @BuzzSumo. You can see how specific topics perform and also who the top sharers are. Good for outreach, too.

@emily_C27   What kind of #content is being discussed on Twitter? Always check what’s trending #hashtags.

@fighto   Obv. answer = search vol. Also: is the #1 ranking page good & can I do better? Is similar content being shared on social? If a site is ranking to x # of your competitors, then it’s likely a good link opportunity for you.

@ty_kilgore   If it’s going to bring the right traffic to your site then it’s worth pursuing. Knowing your audience!

What are the best written resources out there that would help a NOOB with competitive link development?

@alexpeerenboom   Moz blog has always been a great resource, too many great posts to list here.

@KristiKellogg   Basically the legions of articles on the @BruceClayInc blog.

@jacquesbouchard   Seek ye the wisdom of @Casieg – she knows her stuff when it comes to competitive analysis.

@KristiKellogg   In fact, I interviewed @debramastaler on link building yesterday.

@tannerpetroff   This one’s a bit old, but dives into some specifics. Solid guide.

@stratrev   @Moz blogs still help us.

@kougarov   As many in-depth articles on Penguin as possible. @Moz algorithm change tracker good place to start.

@alexpeerenboom   Ultimate Guide to Link Building by @ericward & @GarrettFrench is great too!

@Beymour   @buzzstream is really good. Also, this post by @paddymoogan is pretty amazing.

@AJutah   “3 Pillars of SEO Competitive Analysis” by @JoshuaCMcCoy. Also monitor their content production.

@paramaya   Can’t think of any, but I’m added loads of stuff to @Pocket right now.

@Tony_DWM   This by @jamesagate is excellent for noobs, as is this by @ChrisLDyson.

@BruceClayInc   Great resource for competitive link development by @neilpatel.

Guest Blogging is Spammy? Let’s Get the Facts Straight

In the world of internet marketing, the word “spam” gets thrown around quite a bit. Spam is an unfortunate reality of the world we live in today. But is guest blogging as a way to promote your website considered spammy?

Let’s look at guest blogging from another angle before we fully condemn it as just another part of the evil spam empire. Imagine that you walk into a steak house and order a t-bone cooked medium rare. If the steak is later presented to you well done, do you say to the manager, “Your stove doesn’t know how to cook a steak!”?

Of course you don’t. The stove is simply the tool that a cook used to prepare the steak. It’s the cook’s misuse of the stove that resulted in an overdone steak. Similarly, guest blogging in and of itself is neither spammy nor non-spammy. It is simply a tool. How that tool gets used is up to those who create the content.

The truth is that, while some bad eggs are filling up the blogosphere with spam, guest blogging can and is being used as a highly valuable tool to help professional organizations derive a great deal of value. But, with so much blog spam out there, how does one prevent their guest blog post from being marked as spam?

The short answer is, “Don’t write spam.” For the longer answer, consider what follows.

Create Professional Content

Spammers are lazy. Their goal is to create as much content as possible in the shortest amount of time. This often means poorly written posts (often spun) that provide little-to-no value which makes grammar nazis want to cut their own eyes out.

A professionally written, informative post that hasn’t been overdone (unlike the steak we mentioned earlier) is much more likely to be found useful to its readers and unlikely to be mistaken as spam.

A few ways to ensure your content remains professional and doesn’t risk crossing into the realm of spam are to:

  • Avoid promoting your business or website and focus on providing great value to the reader.
  • Have your content copy edited by someone else to ensure it is free of grammar errors and misspellings.
  • Avoid beating the figurative dead horse — keep your content unique and original

Avoid Spammy Blogs

Blogs that accept just any old content are likely to be filled with over-spun articles containing subject matter that has been done to death. Professional chefs don’t serve their food out of fast food joints with good reason. Your professional content shouldn’t be caught dead alongside something put out by someone who sounds like they failed third-grade grammar.

We are often judged by the company we keep. Even if your blog post is professional, original, and highly useful to its readers, posting it on a blog full of spammy content could result in people — or worse, search engines — believing that you are one of “them.”

However, blogs that provide value to their readers will be appropriately judged by all — as will your guest blog post.

About the Author:
Kevin W. Phelps is a seasoned SEO professional that owns To view more about what he and his company are doing, check out:

Summary: Link Audits with Tom Critchlow on #SEOchat

Guest: @tomcritchlow of Distilled: . We’ll be discussing Link Audits. @tomcritchlow is responsible for managing the Distilled team and writing killer blog posts. He is also a Distilled evangelist and speaks at various industry conferences. Tom makes Excel look easy and passed his GAIQ exam in 2010.

@tomcritchlow: I’m normally responsible for managing the @distilled SEO team but right now I’m in Seattle working with @seomoz for a few months. I’m also a fan of science and an all round data geek.

Why should you perform link audits and how often should you do them?

This entirely depends on the size of site and industry you’re in. Smaller/nicer industries can get away with less often. But it’s important for everyone to do at least one! @willcritchlow wrote a great post here: The principal is that you should always do an audit before starting with with a new client. To be sure there are no surprises!

There’s a great intro to link audits here: This is a little old but a good one from @vanessafox too: I know some SEOs in super competitive industries who have people dedicated to auditing and monitoring their own site’s links.

@kmullett: Would this be company link audits, competitive link audits or both?
@tomcritchlow: We’re mainly talking company link audits rather than competitive link audits here I think.
@ashbuckles: My question was all link audits but it’s important to segment as well.

What are some of the obvious bad signs to look for when looking at your backlink portfolio?

Obvious things to watch for: too much anchor text, not enough diversity, obvious paid links or any kind of footprint. I think link diversity is super important. Directory links are good for example, but bad if you ONLY have directory links. So you need to balance the profile. If you work with a brand who only has brand anchor text, throw some keyword rich links in! For manipulative/negative/malicious links (e.g. from copmetitors) are harder to spot though. In that case you need to go deeper and start looking at the linking IP blocks, see if you can find low quality link farms etc. Largely I just see links being devalued rather than sites penalised. That said, as soon as it becomes public (e.g. jcpenny) you can get slapped pretty hard.

@kmullett: We do client + competitive audit. If you don’t do an audit you can’t show gain in reports. 🙂

@kenjansen: How much is too much anchor text?
@shuey03: I think it all depends on what’s normal for a particular industry or niche.
@kmullett: Too much duplicate anchor text which is especially common across multiple site footers.

@jasonmun: I use Open Site Explorer to check for link diversity. Great tool!

@ashbuckles: How much is too much anchor text links? Doesn’t that depend on the competition? I see some #1 ranked companies with 99% anchor text, for example.
@tomcritchlow: yeah @ashbuckles makes a great point. This is all relative, so you have to balance your link profile vs competitors.
@jasonmun: Open site explorer is a good tool If the top 10 links are anchor text links, you know you are in trouble.

@shuey03: Do you see manipulative/negative/malicious links often?
@tomcritchlow: Nope – I don’t see manipulative stuff too often (not that works anyway) but I have come across it and it’s nasty.

@shuey03: Any good tools to help find linking IP blocks?
@tomcritchlow: Best tool for analysing linking IP blocks is majestic:

@beyondcontent: What about getting balance between link diversity and links Google would class as unrelated/not suitable? Grey area..
@tomcritchlow: When I say diversity i’m mainly talking link type (e.g. directory, blog). I don’t think Google looks much at thematically related links…. #controvesial!

@kmullett: Have you tried any of the tools?
@tomcritchlow: Yep. Folks @distilled use them.
@shuey03: @kmullett does @ontolo have any tools to help with link audits?
@kmullett: @shuey03 @ontolo yes, they have many.

@beyondcontent: Unrelated links came up in @econsultancy article this week, newspaper sites selling footer links, blatantly spammy. The case against article marketing by @econsultancy

What does a ‘healthy’ link portfolio look like?

I think I largely answered this in Q2 actually – basically a good diverse mix of links. Not relying on any one type too much. Here’s a good post on analysing a link profile to spot unnaturalness: I don’t know how effective article links will be after the panda update. My analysis here: This is a gem from @justinrbriggs

@jasonmun: What are your thoughts on blog commenting and forum link? I personally dislike them.
@tomcritchlow: Blog commenting is filthy IMHO. That said, I know folks who do it and it’s still highly effective. Sad in 2011!
@shuey03: I believe blog commenting and forum linking is valuable as long as it is on industry related sites and you provide value.
@ashbuckles: I still believe blog commenting has a place, socially. But not spammy, quick, pointless comments.
@JoshuaTitsworth: When you comment to just get a link and not to add to the blog post it falsifies the community.
@ashbuckles: Correct. I only comment when I ‘really’ have something to say.

@shuey03: If you have enough diversity, do you still see plenty of value in spending time building directory and article links?
@tomcritchlow: yep – article and directory links are still effective as part of a healthy balanced diet, I mean link profile.

@ashbuckles: So if you say Google doesn’t care as much about themed links, what are more important factors? i.e. branded links, etc.
@tomcritchlow: I think Google doesn’t look at themed linking because it’s too hard/noisy as a signal. Sites get links from all sorts of sites. Strong/trusted/diverse links are more important than themed links.

@jasonmun: Can you give us an example of how we can leverage social media for links?
@shuey03: Infographics are a great way to build links socially – Great post from @seomoz on infographics here:

@saffyre9: re: Themed linking – do you have any examples/data on that?
@tomcritchlow: Not really I’m afraid. Gut feel/experience.

@tomcritchlow: Hey, while we’re here can I give a shout out to the @distilled Link Building conference we’re running: 🙂

@kmullett: Check linkback speed to index by typing in exact match phrase in Google then select latest to find when it hits the index.

What are some steps you should take to correct a poor link portfolio?

Correcting a link profile comes in 3 forms really:

  1. You got a penalty. If you get a penalty you need to clean up. Take down ALL the links you can that are even borderline. Then file reconsideration.
  2. You are unbalanced. If it’s just that you have an unbalanced profile you can usually just use that to drive your link building strategy going forward.
  3. Malicious from competitor. If it’s malicious – I’d recommend reporting to Google asap. Google hates that kind of thing. You often can’t get the links down. A useful tip is to watch for link networks – so look for footprints and try and contact the person behind the network.

This is a great article about link building with low quality links:

@JoshuaTitsworth: Would you say updating links rather than implementing a 301 is a good idea?
@tomcritchlow: I’ve heard that using 301 redirects can dampen/remove link penalties but I’ve little personal experience with it. I think that’s why they might work for removing a link penalty. If link juice/effects are destroyed.
@kmullett: Well a 302 would at least make more sense wouldn’t it? Temp move.

@shuey03: Have you found that Google actually listens if you report malicious links?
@tomcritchlow: They listen but don’t respond.

@davesaunders: How do you “clean up” bad links?
@ashbuckles: Sometimes you can request removal of links, take down duplicate content, remove doorway pages, etc. Another option to kill bad links, albeit risky, is to 404 pages and move content to another URL.

@jasonmun: What are your thoughts on Google Bowling? Anyway to avoid this?
@tomcritchlow: It’s actually pretty hard to do if you have an established site. I have *ahem* friends who have tried and failed to google bowl competitors out of the index. Not impossible, but very hard.
@jasonmun: I reckon the amount of effort to bowl a site can be better used optimising your own site.
@kmullett: There are automated tools out there that exist to facilitate such crap via pligg, comment spam, etc.

What are the best (paid and free) tools for doing a link audit?

By far and away the best tool for link audits: I know I’m biased but it’s great. As previously mentioned though, majesticseo is great especially for lower quality links: I also still use yahoo good to get as many link sources as you can. And of course GWT is a no-brainer.

Once you have collected link URLs, analysing them is a must for serious/enterprise audits: Not really a tool, but here’s some great visualizations of link profiles: Let me say it again, @seomoz’s combined with excel is pretty much all you need. Speaking of excel – check this out from @MikeCP

@matt_storms: I have been using blekko and finding some interesting things.
@tomcritchlow: I must admit to not having used blekko too much yet.
@kmullett: It has some interesting results. They just blocked 1million domains! Blekko announcement.
@tomcritchlow: So blekko has pages like this: but is there a way to export/download them all?

@ashbuckles: @kmullett What is it about Majestic SEO (it’s a great tool) that you’re partial to?
@kmullett: @ashbuckles good question. I just think it has greater depth and I like the output.

@kmullett: Do you use many Google operators manually? allintext:, allinanchor:, allintitle:, etc Low return volume though.
@tomcritchlow: Nope don’t use them much myself. Tends to return poor quality data.

@garyjmag: Other than OSE, what is your favorite part of the SEOmoz toolset?
@tomcritchlow: The webapp is awesome too plus new Q&A section.

@tomcritchlow: One final thing, you should all follow @distilled – we have some very exciting news announcing next week 🙂

Link Prospecting with Garrett French

Guest: @garrettfrench. He co-founded the @ontolo link building toolset with @benwills. @garrettfrench is also a mad blogger on all of the top search engine marketing blogs (wish I had the time he did).

I started in publishing at WebProNews WAAAAY back in the day. My background is in content and in particular building links with content. I’ve got an amazingly cute 1 year old 🙂 ~ @garrettfrench

What are the stages of link prospecting?

Inventory your linkable assets – that’s what you’re exchanging for links. There’s definitely a process to effective link prospecting.

Linkable assets can include: content, cash, expert access, widgets, products for review, interns etc. For each linkable asset you determine who might care enough (be incented) to link/mention/share.

For example, asset = our link building ebook Audience = link builders. Many link builders read seo blogs. Inventory your linkable assets – thats what you are exchanging for links. So we want to build an seo blogger prospect list and offer a free copy for review + humbly request link.

Conduct Link Prospecting Keyword Research (more on this later). List out your prospecting phrase Roots. For example, for our ebook = SEO, Link Building, SEM, Online Marketing.

Generate your prospecting phrase stems (see Stems = terms that target particular sites or pages. For example, blog, forum, even inurl:resources. Combine prospecting phrase roots with stems targeting site and page types

Query your search engine of choice and add potential prospect URLs to your spreadsheet. Hand qualify your prospects to create your outreach list

Q: @tbrownseo: Are there any linkable assets that many SEOS commonly pass over when prospecting?

A: I don’t know actually – I do know I ALWAYS get ideas from client conversations. Always. Definitely helps to have a process or flow chart – that’s why we developed the asset inventory process.

Q: @garyjmag: I get Keyword roots and Keyword stems…but what’s Stem Replacement?

A: Stem replacement is to replace a variable string. Lets you put the stem inside of the root instead of after. So you can put “word [var] word2” and the stems will go where [var] is, rather than appending to the end. For those interested in the stem replacement usage: and

@kmullett: For those following who need Google operator ideas, one of my favorite lists »

Why is link prospect qualification important?

Outreach and relationship building is the long, tedious and most valuable part of link building. Qualifying link prospects PRIOR to outreach, instead of AS you outreach makes outreach smoother and faster. Qualification based on target’s Authority/Trust ensures that you’re spending your outreach time effectively. Qualification can also save you the anguish of accidentally contacting competitors or esteemed colleagues.

Always qualify by available stats/numbers first, then by-hand second. Remove duplicate hostnames (not URLs) from your prospect lists with this nifty tool: Qualification is all about actionable lists that you can pass off to PR or execute on yourself.

Q: @JadedTLC: How do you send out emails? LinkedIn? Contact us?

A: is usually best. “I always had the best luck sending out emails from the client domain. Gmail etc. not so much.” – @dan_patterson. Agreed – lower trust. Have heard of people emailing with celebrity names, and of course womens’ names.

Q: @AndrewKolyvas: Do you automate 1st contact with form mail or is it personalised?

A: Not automated, but definitely templated. First P customized though. “Automated email inquiries for links are very easy to spot (and delete).” – @AnnieCushing

Q: @JadedTLC: Do you write to webmaster or find their SEO through linkedin?

A: I usually try to get in through the editorial door and rarely if ever reveal that we’re SEOs. Our toolset collects email addresses and contact urls so we start there.

Q: @tamrajh: What do you say you are if not an seo?

A: “I usually contact as an in-house PR Associate.” – @garyjmag.
“I like “content coordinator” or some such.” – @TomDemers.
“I disagree with contacting as a PR Associate – I’m an SEO . They can search and find out I’m not – bad self form.” – @JadedTLC.
“I contact people currently as someone in marketing, search marketing. Usually works pretty good.” – @dan_patterson.

Q: @nuttakorn: What do you think about traditional PR approach and also digital PR agency to work on approaching?

A: I’ve seen PR folks go ape over what I first thought of as link prospects… PR see the brand/publicity value clearly.

Q: @lyena: Why do you think revealing that you are an SEO is a bad idea?

A: We often approach guest posting ops… we find there’s a great deal of suspicion around SEO in general.
“Because webmasters HATE seos.” – @shuey03.
“Because most think they are SEOs.” – @arniek.
“Tarnished brand image.” – @garyjmag.

How is link prospecting keyword research different from SEO keyword research?

There’s an illustrious school of thought for SEO Keyword Research and next to nothing for link prospect keyword research. SEO Keyword Research finds opportunities based on a market’s info and $$$ demand. Link Prospecting Keyword Research finds opportunities based on a target prospect’s unique language usage.

Conducting link prospecting keyword research requires a keen eye for these unique “foot prints”. @MelanieNathan talks about “foot prints” here: I began outlining a “school of thought” here, but have a lot more work to do.

When looking for great foot prints I look first at the SERPs, in particular the snippet titles. Google’s suggested searches often provide great ideas for prospecting phrases. I also look for any on-page foot prints of a “definite” prospect page or site. This kind of foot print thinkery: led to the local citation finder tool

Note that effective research also includes looking for intitle and inurl usage of language! There are no tools specifically for prospecting phrase research – it’s all by hand right now.

Q: @tamrajh: I’m sorry but I don’t know what you mean here…footprint?

A: Simple foot print example: blogs usually call themselves blogs, and use that word on the page. Here’s an interesting footprint: .gov sites usually use the word “Preparedness” on their disaster resource pages.
“For footprints, consider language patterns. ie “Leave a comment” = blog comment footprint. “add your site” = directory footprint.” – @benwills.

Q: @TonyVerre: What’s you’re feeling on Wonder Wheel? I like that to find adjacent/related terms to the KW?

A: I honestly have not used it yet – I usually get what I need straight from the SERPs. I will check it out though!
“I love Soovle. Queries multiple search engines at once.” – @AnnieCushing.
“I love Soovle for blogging ideas.” – @shuey03

“Standard SEO Keywords help you find competitors. Link prospects, not so much.” – @garyjmag.

What is a linkable asset and how does it relate to link prospecting?

Linkable Assets are anything – from people to web pages – that provide an incentive to link or mention. Linkable Assets include: upcoming events, prizes for a contest, a writer, an industry expert, job openings, a widget, PDF, independent research, free data, developers, designers, product for review, and oh yes, cash etc. In short, any person, page or resource that can incent a publisher to link, mention or share. Your linkable assets determine what genuinely is and isn’t a link prospect for your campaign.

For example, no PDFs? – PDF submission sites are out then. No inhouse experts? – Soliciting offsite interviews are out then. No writing resources? – Guest post opportunities are out.

Alternately, a link opportunity inventory can reveal what COULD be an asset. Backlink Analysis is also highly effective in revealing linkable asset types Find the deepest pool of link opportunities based around their unique foot prints. And then go get all of them.

“I love using OSE and Majestic in tandem for comprehensive backlink analysis.” – @AnnieCushing.

Q: @garyjmag: Just started using Raven Tools for link management and prospect finding….anyone have any thoughts on Raven?
“I think raven is cool, I just started using it.” – @matt_storms.
“Raven is pretty much the shiz!” – @shuey03.
“I love @raventools too. That’s my link building command center.” – @AnnieCushing.

What are the best tools to assist in link prospecting?

  • (free) Google for prospecting phrase research.
  • (free)Talk to clients, find and read through vertical forums, trade pubs, blogs, resource lists, etc.
  • Advanced query operators (other list posted earlier actually better!)
  • (free + email) Link Building Query Generator
  • (free) Prospecting phrase root + stem combination tool
  • Your favorite backlink analysis data provider
  • (free + email) SERP dominator tool (use prospecting phrases instead of SEO kws)
  • (free) URL Reviewer for faster qualification
  • (free) Remove Duplicate Hostnames tool for faster qualification
  • (paid) the Ontolo Link Prospecting Toolset (automates broad and thorough link prospecting) – free 2 week trial”We do a lot of OSE reverse engineering and find that for the right client that alone can tie us up a long while.” – @ImageFreedom.Here’s my pontificating on link strategists:

    Q: @garyjmag: Does ontolo help w/ link management, or are you working out of Excel spreadsheets?

    A: We are prospect discovery-centric right now.

Phase Three Link Building Strategies

The phase three link building strategies are definitely the most time consuming and often times some of the hardest links to get during a link building campaign. Because these links are some of the hardest to get, they are some of the best links as well. Enough said… Lets get started!

1. Competitive Links

Competitive link building is what I consider to be link building that “level the playing field”. Competitive link building is when you analyze your ranking competitors backlink portfolios and going after their juiciest, strongest links. Using tools like Open Site Explorer and Raven Tools can really help assist you in the competitive link process and reduce the amount of time it takes to find these links and request them.

Competitive link building helps you in two ways. First, as stated above, it levels the playing field with your competitors and second, it helps associate you with those competitors when Googlebot and the other spiders visit those sites, sees your competitors links and also sees your links as well.

You can also take your competitive link building a step further by analyzing competitors that rank for lateral keywords. For instance, if you are trying to rank for the term divorce lawyers, you could also analyze the backlinks of those websites that rank or divorce attorneys. Because most people are lazy when it comes to link building, finding these opportunities and securing those links can put you light years ahead of those you are competing against in the SERPs.

2. Link Bait

Link bait can come in many forms, but lately, come in the form of Infographics. Sharing a lot of information about a particular topic (preferably about something that is being discussed a lot… like the BP Oil Spill) in a easy to read, easy to understand graphic attracts links like crazy. Probably the biggest hurdle with Infographics is finding someone skilled enough to build them for you and stick to a budget.

Another form of link bait are Top 10 Lists, or other “resource” type content that will help people answer questions or help people find a lot of reliable information in one place.

As with any form of link bait, you will always want to put this on your blog… yes, you should ALWAYS have a blog on your site, then drive the links to that particular blog post. You will then funnel that link juice that you attract to your money pages via in content, anchor text specific links.

3. Industry & Keyword Specific Links

Industry and keyword related links are good links to get because they solidify what your site represents. If I had the choice of getting a PR7 link on an unrelated website and a PR2 link on a very relevant website, I would always take the PR2 link all day, every day. Getting these links aren’t always hard to get, but it is time consuming digging them up. I use tools like SoloSEO to find good search queries that I can search on in Google, Yahoo, and in Bing to dig up these link opportunities. You can also use advanced search operators to help you find these links as well.

4. Local & Review (Citation) Links

A great way to get highly authoritative and very credible links is by setting up Google, Yahoo, and Bing Map listings. In these listings, you are given a link to your website and sometimes, those links drive traffic to your website, especially if you are targeting local traffic.

Where the true value comes in is when you get citations to supplement your map listings. A citation is any reference to your local business, including the business name, address, telephone number and other information about your website. There is a great article written by David Mihm that helps us understand why citations are a good idea to get for your business. You can read that so I don’t have to repeat it.

There are many places to get citations on the internet and some of the good ones to start out with are as follows:

  • Best of the Web Local
  • Insider Pages
  • Super Pages
  • City Search
  • Hot Frog
  • Yellow Pages
  • Yelp
  • Match Point
  • Zoom Info

5. .edu & .gov

Many SEOs put a ton of value in .edu and .gov links and I’m not going to discredit their beliefs. While I do believe they are valuable, I wouldn’t say that not going after them is going to destroy your link building campaign and your overall success in ranking well in the SERPs. If you choose to go after them, I wouldn’t recommend spending a ton of time focusing on obtaining these links since you can put that time toward other link building that will yield better results. Just know that adding a few of these links to your link profile will help you diversify the types of links you have pointing back to your site and obviously help you rank better in the long run.

Now that we have gone through three phases of link building, you should have a better guide to helping you get your link building campaign started and put on cruise control. There are other methods of building links, some are better and some are worse. You should always remember that you should never rely on just one method of link building. You should ALWAYS build different types of links at different intervals to ensure that your link portfolio is bulletproof and can handle any algorithm changes so that your site doesn’t fall victim to those devastating Google filters and penalties.

Repurposing Old Content For New Link Acquisition

I think we all can agree that one of the easiest ways of building links is by writing high quality articles and submitting them to article directories such as

One of the biggest obstacles to overcome with article creation is the time it takes to produce the content. For every article that is written and prepared for submission, you either have to spend considerable time, or pay someone else to create it for you. Who says you are only limited to a few links per each piece of content that you create? I say repurpose it and get more links in less time.

So, let’s dive deeper into how this is done…

Turn Your Old Content Into Video

Despite popular belief, creating video and distributing it to all of the major video engines is a piece of cake! Using software like Windows Movie Maker and Jing, you can easily turn that old article into a video and not only get additional links back to your website, but often times drive loads of targeted traffic.

There are a few ways to create a video from your old content, but my favorite, is by taking what you said in an article and turning it into a Powerpoint. You can then take your Powerpoint, shoot a screen capture, and then upload to your favorite video site. If you want to do something a little different, you could even do a screen capture of you showing the home page of your blog or website while going over the content of your article.

Once you have your video file, you can send it to YouTube, MetaCafe, and Viddler. My favorite is definitely YouTube (despite the no follow links) because I can drive tons of traffic and usually rank well in the SERPs in less competitive niches. Uploading to Viddler (followed links) and other do follow video sites is a great way to get those juicy, credible links back to your site.

Turn Your Old Content Into Slideshows

As mentioned above, taking your old content and turning it into a Powerpoint presentation can be a great way to get additional links. In addition to turning those Powerpoint files into video, you can just upload them to sites like docstoc or slideshare and collect some additional backlinks to your website. These too are very credible links due to the credibility of the domain… and as those links age, they will become even more credible.

Turn Your Old Content Into PDF’s

Now that I have brought up docstoc in my last example, another great way to get links back to your website using your old content is by taking the actual article and turning it into a PDF. Before PDFing it, you should create hyperlinks within the document and then upload it to docstoc and other document type websites. When those PDFs get indexed, the links within them will also get crawled, indexed, and count toward your link count.

Turn Your Old Content Into Audio

Lastly, you can turn that old content into audio files and upload it to podcast directories. Using programs like Ivona text to speech, you can easily have your content turned into English audio with either a male or female output. When uploading to the podcast directories, you will be able to add links back to your website, thus giving you yet another way to get links from your old content.

Repurposing your content is smart and not a lot of online marketers are doing enough of it. I’m sure that these are just a few of the ways to repurpose your content to get some additional links without a ton of additional work on your part. Please share if you have other ways or other services that work well in making these processes easier.

Phase Two Link Building Strategies

Unlike phase one link building strategies, phase two requires just a little more effort on your part, but will be rewarded with higher rankings in the SERPs. Phase one helps you build a pretty solid foundation to your supplemental link building that you will do in phase two. How about we get started…

1. Article Marketing

The hardest part about article marketing is creating the content that you will post on the article websites. You should work hard to create high quality content around a certain keyword that you want to rank for. You can then take the content and post it on sites like EzineArticles, Go Articles, and Article Dashboard. It is advised that you do not post the exact same content on each of those sites, but quickly re-write the content and post unique copies of each article on their respective site. If you are feeling a little crazy, you could also invest in a good spinning software and mass produce semi-unique versions of an article and shoot it out to many different article websites.

One thing to keep in mind about article marketing is how to effectively use the author resource box to your advantage. First, you should always max out the number of links allowed. Most often it will be two links. I usually build those links to deep pages on my websites, but you can take one to the home page and one to a deep page if you wish. Always make sure to use some different variations of your keywords as your anchor text so your links look more natural to the engines.

2. Super Charged Article Marketing

I wasn’t really sure what to call the second method of link building since you aren’t actually building any links. Instead, you will be building RSS Feeds for your articles that you submitted during the article marketing process and submit those feeds to RSS Feed Directories. This will ensure that all of your efforts are indexed by Google and the other engines and you receive maximum value from your work. Use a service like Dapper to create the RSS Feed and then submit to directories like Feedage.

3. Guest Blogging

Blogging is a really hot topic right now and links from relevant blogs are full of link juice that will launch your website to top rankings in the engines. Using services like MyBlogGuest to find these opportunities make this method of link building a little easier, but you still have to create the content and strategically place the links in that content. You can also leverage the power of semi-automated blog networks, but these links are of lesser quality and should be used in conjunction with other link building tactics.

4. Submit Content To Social Blogging Sites

Guess what? More content needs to be created for this next link building tactic. Creating and submitting content to sites like HubPages, Squidoo, and other “authority sites” is a great way to get links and boost your website’s credibility. Because these sites are very credible in the eyes of the engines, they will not only help you rank better, but often times, rank themselves in less competitive niches allowing you to own more real estate in the SERPs allowing you to dominate the competition.

5. Forum Links

Many SEOs will tell you that forum links are garbage, but I beg to differ. Posting links on just any forum is a complete waste of time, but finding industry related forms and becoming part of the community… that is where the real value lies. Getting involved in conversations and answering questions around the niche you are targeting not only strengthens you as an authority, but you can add links in your author signature that point back to your website. Often times, these can be anchor text specific links and often times, they are do-follow links. Even if they are not do-follow links, you will still get traffic from those links and if you are TRULY and authority and provide real value on your website, you will attract links from those visitors websites, blogs, facebook pages, and twitter. All in all, you win… So don’t ignore forum links!

Well, that is phase two in a solid link building strategy. So go out and make things happen for your website!

Phase One Link Building Strategies

link buildingStarting a link building campaign is actually easier than most website owners think. Most never try because it sounds too difficult or too time consuming. However, with some guidance, you can be well on your way to building site credibility and some amazing backlinks with very little effort.

1. Internal Links

One of the most overlooked aspects of link building is optimizing internal links for maximum SEO value. Strategically placing in content anchor text links from page to page on your website will not only help the link juice flow from page to page, but also help it rank better for the phrases you are targeting with the anchor text.

2. Link Reclamation

Have people been linking to pages on your site that don’t exist? Have they been linking to pages that have been taken offline? If so, there is some link juice coming in to your site that can be funneled (301 redirected) to other, more important pages of your site. This will ultimately help them rank better in the SERPs. You can use Google Webmaster Tools or Open Site Explorer to find these pages that are showing a 404 error and reclaim those links!

3. Company Name & URL Search Queries

Brand monitoring is not only important from a reputation management standpoint, but can also be used a a link acquisition strategy. Finding mentions of your URL or your company name and contacting those webmasters for a link is a great way to build links. If they are talking about your website (in a good way) and it is pretty recent, they are probably going to be willing to make a clickable link to your website. If you are super nice or offer something in return, you might even get them to use some highly targeted anchor text as well.

To monitor your brand and track these mentions, you can use services such as Andy Beal’s Trackur (my favorite brand monitoring software EVER) or Google Reader.

4. Authoritative Directories

One of the quickest ways to gain Google’s trust and build site wide credibility is by building links from authoritative directories like DMOZ, Yahoo! Directory, Best of the Web, and Yes, DMOZ is nigh impossible to get into and the others cost some money each year, but links from those domains can take a website from zero to hero!

5. Local Directories

Doing a Google search for your state or city + directory will most likely yield some directories that you can quickly submit your website to. Searching for Utah Directory in Google has immediately given me which is a local directory. These links are very relevant especially if your website services individuals in that area.

You see… in just a few short minutes of reading, you have five ways to get EASY links that will not only help you increase the credibility of your website, but help you start showing up higher in the SERPs.

Want more? Read Phase Two Link Building Strategies