You probably already heard that link building is one of the most important elements of a successful SEO strategy.
If you want to grow your organic traffic in 2019 and beyond, it’s not enough to just create great content…
…you need high-quality backlinks from relevant and authoritative websites.
Simply put, link building is the act of proactively obtaining links from third parties to your own website.
If reaching out to someone you don’t know to ask them to add a link to your website sounds weird, then you’re absolutely right.
That’s what makes link building so challenging (and interesting!).
Fortunately, there’s a simple approach anyone can use to find backlinks—even if you don’t have any SEO experience.
In this tutorial, I’ll show SCALABLE link building strategies you can use to leverage existing competitor backlinks to help you easily find and secure valuable links for your site.
This is the same strategy we’ve used to rank ClickMinded, an SEO training course, for highly competitive keywords like “seo training” or “seo checklist”.
Link Building Strategy: Using SEO Competitive Research to Find Powerful Backlink Opportunities
The first step in any link building strategy is to find websites that are likely to link to your site.
There are many types of link building—but most people start their process with one or a combination of these tactics:
- Look for blogs in your niche or industry
- Find journalists who write stories about your industry
- Create partnerships with similar but non-competing companies
I think these are all good approaches… but they’re generally NOT the fastest or most efficient methods if you’re just getting started.
Instead, I like to approach link building from a competitive research perspective.
Think about it.
Fortunately, you can easily leverage Alexa’s Competitor Backlink Checker to do this.
First, just enter your site and a list of competitor websites into the tool and click “Run Analysis” (important: use this walkthrough to find your real SEO competitors)
Now, you’ll likely have a massive list of websites linking to you AND your competitors—in this example, I got 25,334 link opportunities (!!!)
Right away, there’s a way to narrow down these results to websites that likely represent the best link opportunities.
Getting several backlinks from the same site has diminishing returns
Click & Tweet!
(e.g., the fifth link from website A will be less valuable than the first one), so you’ll want to use a filter to display just your link gaps.
If you select your website from the “Show Backlink Gaps” dropdown, you’ll get just the websites that are linking to your competitors and NOT to your website.
Next, I’ll show you how to discover 3 powerful backlink ideas from this list:
Backlink Idea #1: Power Linkers
Power linkers are websites that consistently create links to content within your niche or industry.
Think of it this way: if a website is linking to all or most of your competitors, they are very likely to link to yours as well.
Again, Alexa makes it super easy to find power linkers in your industry.
Just use the “Sites in common” selector to filter websites that are linking to at least half of your competitors:
After applying the filter, you’ll get a list of power linkers ranked by the number of sites in common and including the competitors they are linking to:
If you expand each of these opportunities, you’ll even be able to see the specific pages that are driving the most traffic to each competitor.
For now, just download the list of power linkers—the last section of this post will teach you how to get links from these opportunities.
Backlink Idea #2: .edu Sites
Most SEOs agree that not all links are created equal, so the authority and trust of the sites linking to your website is an important factor.
That’s why a link from your cousin’s small blog (that hasn’t been updated in years) is typically less valuable than a link from The New York Times.
Just like major media, websites that belong to educational institutions are generally regarded as very authoritative sites.
Fortunately, while most websites online use the “.com” top-level domain, schools frequently use “.edu”—which makes it easy to tell them apart.
In Alexa’s Competitor Backlink Checker, use the “Linking Sites URL contains” filter to find .edu sites linking to your competitors (and not your site):
In our case, this gave us an extra 248 link opportunities.
Now, export this list of opportunities and move on to the next one.
Backlink Idea #3: .gov Sites
Similar to .edu sites, websites belonging to government offices are considered highly authoritative.
And just like with .edu sites, it’s easy to find them thanks to their use of the .gov top-level domain.
In Alexa’s Competitor Backlink Checker, use the “Linking Sites URL contains” filter to find .gov sites linking to your competitors (and not your site):
In our example, I got 12 additional link opportunities:
Export these opportunities as well. Next, I’ll teach you how our outreach process works.
The Key to Scalable Link Building Strategies: Simple and Effective Outreach Campaigns
Up until this point, you’ve found powerful link opportunities using three simple criteria:
- Power linkers
- .edu sites
- .gov sites
In this section, I’ll teach how you can vet, prospect, and reach out to each of these opportunities and build links.
First, open the data you downloaded from Alexa:
For this process, you can get rid of the first 4 rows and columns B, C, and K. Plus, add a few additional columns named:
- Contact name
- Contact email
You should end up with something that looks similar to this:
Validating Your Link Opportunities
Before trying to find contact information to reach out, it’s best to verify whether you should really contact this website—that’s what the validation column is for.
To do this, you will need to visit the website, as well as some of the specific pages that are linking to your competitors.
Determining whether it’s worth it to reach out to a website and ask for a link will depend on your business, but these are some criteria you can consider:
- Is this a competitor or a partner of your competitor? (if it is, then it’s unlikely they will link to your site—so not worth it to reach out)
- Are you asking them to add a link to an existing post or page? How long has it been since it was last updated? (you’ll typically find little success in asking for links from old content that hasn’t changed in a while)
- Do you have relevant content for them to link to? Do you need to create brand new content? (you will need to decide whether you make the effort of creating content for your link building campaign)
Just write down YES or NO in the “Validation” column after you’ve evaluated each opportunity.
Now that you’ve organized and cleaned up your data, it’s time to find the contact information you need to run your outreach campaign—I call this step “prospecting.”
For this step, make sure you’re using Google Chrome and install the Hunter.io Chrome extension.
Next, visit the website you plan to which you’re planning to reach out.
Click on the Hunter icon on your browser and you’ll get a list of possible contacts for this specific website.
If you have several options to pick from, use the following criteria to choose:
- Always try to reach out to an actual person instead of a catchall email address (e.g., [email protected], [email protected], [email protected])
- If there are several contacts, default to the one for which Hunter shows the most sources (this increases the chances of the email being valid)
Add the contact information you’ve found to the spreadsheet with link opportunities and repeat this process for the rest of the websites on your list.
Now that you have a list of validated link opportunities and contact information, it’s time to actually reach out to them.
To do this, I like to use a basic email template that allows me to modify and adapt the message to match each opportunity.
In general, your email should always be:
- Short and straightforward: no one likes long emails—make it easy for people to know what you mean.
- Showcase that you’ve done your research: demonstrate that you value the content provided and why.
- Provide a strong rationale for people to add a link to your site.
Here’s the basic template I use (the content between square brackets “[ ]” is a placeholder where you should add personalized content for each outreach target).
Subject line: Quick Question
Hey [contact name],
I was looking for some information on [topic] this morning when I found something pretty awesome you created: [URL]
This is great, thank you for putting it together!
We recently created a resource that [reason why they should link to your content]. Here’s the link to it: [URL of your post/page]
If you think this would be useful for your users, feel free to add a link to it in your post. If not, no worries at all. Just wanted to make a suggestion that your users might find helpful 🙂
Fill out this email template and start sending to each of the websites on your list.
Just sending email is not the end of the process. Webmasters will start replying to you and you need to be prepared to answer promptly in order to increase your chances of obtaining a link.
Most of the time, replies will fall under one of these categories:
- Positive reply: your outreach email recipient replies saying they would like to link to your content. This is the best-case scenario. All you need to do is to make sure that they actually added the link.
- Negative reply: one of your targeted site editors or site owners replies with a negative answer.
- No reply: If your outreach email recipient doesn’t reply after a certain amount of time, send them a follow-up email with a variation of the message you sent in the first outreach email.
To keep track of the progress of your campaign, update the “Status” column in the spreadsheet based on the responses you get.
Your Turn: Try These Link Building Strategies
If you’ve been struggling to rank your website in search engines—it’s probably because you need to build more links (or the right types of backlinks).
In this post, you learned how to:
- Discover numerous potential link opportunities for your website
- Narrow down those opportunities to 3 easy and powerful categories
- Find contact information for your link opportunities
- Reach out and manage responses at scale
Now it’s your turn to take this walkthrough and help increase traffic to your website!
Want to take this even further?
Learn even more powerful tactics to grow your business with SEO by enrolling in our free mini-course: Boost Your Organic Traffic With Competitive SEO Research.
And to access the Competitor Backlink Checker mentioned in this post, plus other powerful SEO and competitive analysis tools, sign up for a free trial of Alexa’s Advanced plan.