Extreme Competitive Link Building
Yes, there are a million ways you can build competitive links and a lot of it can be brutal and time consuming. The easiest links often come from come from co-citations, or places that link to more than one of your competitors. Rather than parse through a list of tons of singular backlinks that you may have no chance to get, why not build an enormous list of co-citations?
Yes, there are some tools that will give you a head start on this like Virante's Free Link Hub Finder tool and SEOmoz Labs' Competitive Link Finder, but these are still quite limited. You want to find a whole crap load of co-citations? Just follow along...
Tools you'll need...
- A backlink checker that spits out URLs. Yahoo Site Explorer exports up to 1,000 for free, SEOmoz's Open Site Explorer up to 10,000 (for a price) and Majestic SEO will spit you out more than Google even knows about (also for a price). Use any of them or all of them in conjunction, in this example I'll stick to Open Site Explorer for simplicity's sake.
- You'll also want to have Tom Anthony's incredibly awesome Competitive Analysis Google Doc (for more reasons than just this post) that you can learn all the details about here (read the comments for how to switch from Google UK to US).
- Excel (or an equivalent spreadsheet tool like something from Openoffice).
Knowledge you'll need...
- Have a list of target keywords, the more the better, but have some sort of generally prioritized list.
- Know a sizable number of your closest competitors (and by that I mean in terms of service offerings).
- Take your first fifty keywords (hopefully grouped fairly tightly around a main product or service) and toss them into the Competitive Analysis Google Doc under the "Config" tab - please note it only takes 50 at a time
Just plug in your keywords and wait for magic.
- Over on the "Report" tab this handy tool calculates the top ten most often occurring domains for your keyword set (complete with SEOmoz metrics!) - these are competitors. Of course, you'll want to subjectively pick out some stragglers, in case you have some results that aren't exactly apples to apples competitors like Wikipedia or an Amazon.com.
This used to take a LOT longer, I swear...
- Armed with your own personal knowledge of competitors and the Competitive Analysis doc, you should be able to keep running keywords through (and even doing manual searches for very specific products or services) to build a substantial list of 20, 50, or even a few hundred competitors.
- Once you have a full list of your competition in place it's time to start pulling some backlinks. Use your favorite tool (again, in this case Open Site Explorer) and input your competitor and export their links and save the files in some sort of an organized fashion because you'll be combining them all later.
Beware bestlandloans.com, we're watching you!
- Once you (or a poor intern) has run all of these for you, you'll want to start assembling them into one massive document. Basically, this is just a matter of opening and copying and pasting them into one giant master list, just make sure you delete the header row for all but the first copy and paste job into the master document. If you want to try to keep your data extra clean, before you copy and paste you can do a find and replace in my URL list to delete "http://" and "www." as I often find discrepancies where some URLs are listed with or without and we don't want to miss any valuable opportunities.
Make sure you take out the header row when copying and pasting.
- So now you have a gigantic list of cleaned up backlinks, it's time to find the co-citations. Depending on which tool you used to extract your backlinks, you may want to create a new column right next to your URLs (Open Site Explorer has several columns of data on the individual URLs, so I would insert a fresh column B for example). Then, I would use this handy formula: =COUNTIF(A:A,A2)>1 in Column B to check to see if the URL in Column A was in fact duplicated elsewhere in Column A. If so, the cell will read true. Copy this equation the length of column B.
- From here you can make your spreadsheet a table or use the sort function (I prefer tables so I can sort by the SEOmoz metrics). You can sort by trues and separate them from the links which are not co-citations and attack them separately, with the co-citations being the apparent low hanging fruit. If you want to see which pages should be the easiest targets, sort the URLs alphabetically and scroll down your list to see which URLs have the most occurrences.
- Super duper bonus tip #1: If you want to really speed up your processes, head over to Citation Labs and sign up for their toolset and use their Contact Finder tool which will extract emails and contact forms to save time in your outreach process.
- Super duper bonus tip #2: If you use Majestic or Open Site Explorer prioritize your co-citation targets by their home grown metrics (MozRank and MozTrust for Open Site Explorer and AC Rank for Majestic SEO) and use the Excel search function to parse title and URL information for easy targets like guest posts and niche directories.
- Super duper bonus tip #3: Toss up to 5,000 of your URLs into a free Google Custom Search Engine and use Google search operators to pluck out directories, guest blog posts, and other specific competitor opportunities.
Adam Henige is Managing Partner of Netvantage Marketing, an online marketing company specializing in SEO, PPC and social media. Adam heads the SEO and link building efforts for Netvantage and has been a contributing blogger for industry publications like Search Engine Journal and SEOmoz.
Tags: building competitor links, co-citations, competitive link building, competitors links, extreme link building, google, majestic seo, open site explorer, scalable link building, seomoz, yahoo site explorer