Link building -- the process of attempting to influence inbound links pointing to a site -- is a fundamental activity of most SEO (define) strategies, but very few people are armed with the tools to do it right. Even more people have the right tools but struggle to stay on top of their linking efforts and understand the impact of them.
Today, let's examine how you can be fully prepared for your link-building endeavors by developing a comprehensive link-building toolkit that you can leverage throughout your program.
This "toolkit," which consists of contact lists, worksheets, and templates, is a consolidated repository or file of relevant references or documents required to undertake your link-building program. My link-building toolkit is typically a spreadsheet file with multiple tabs for each item or element. As you will be entering data into your toolkit throughout, I've found that Excel facilitates this most easily.
As link building is typically an on-going activity, it will make the sometimes arduous process a little easier and keep you organized. Furthermore, if you aren't the one implementing your link-building efforts, it will make the hand-off much easier and provide the person executing the strategy with everything she needs to fulfill the requirements.
Note that depending on what your strategy is, the tools in your arsenal may differ, but likely the majority of these will be applicable.
Consider including the following nine elements in your link-building toolkit:
List of targeted keywords: Undertake research to determine which keywords you will be targeting with your link-building efforts. These keywords will ideally be used in the anchor text -- the text contained within the hyperlink to your site -- that you provide to your link partners, or when you are posting links on third-party Web sites/directories. Your target keyword list should consist of a handful of keywords you will be targeting for ranking (typically around three to five keyword phrases are ideal).
List of potential link partners: You should undertake research to identify and select potential link partners to approach for a link. Leverage your existing business network as well as conduct some manual searching in the search engines to identify link partners. Create a worksheet to capture your research and all pertinent information, including:
Web site name
Web site URL
Desired link page
Webmaster name and contact information
List of targeted directories: Directories such as DMOZ and Yahoo organize sites by thematic area, and are often used by search engines to build their indexes, making them a good target for SEO and link-building efforts. While you are undertaking your potential link partner research, develop a list of directories that you may want to submit your site to. You should create a worksheet to capture your research and all relevant information, including:
Web site URL
List of relevant blogs and forums: Posting content on blogs and forums related to your industry is a great way to increase inbound links and traffic to your Web site. When undertaking research on linking partners, you will want to note when you come across online discussion forums or blogs that are relevant to your Web site and where you might be able to add value. Note the following in your research:
Web site URL
Particular section/forum that is most relevant
List of press release sites: Online PR Web sites enable you to create and distribute online press releases quickly and easily, providing the potential to garner many links. Keep a list of reputable online PR Web sites, such as PRWeb and PR Leap for quick reference. From your spreadsheet, you may want to link directly to the submission page.
Link request letter template: Typically link requests are done formally through an e-mail link request letter. You will want to draft a sample link request letter in advance and have it handy when developing letters or e-mails to send to Webmasters in your link partner list. You can treat this as a template and customize it to the site in question. Your link request letter should ideally have the following elements:
A personalized salutation
A compliment to the Webmaster on the caliber of their site and how you found it
A quick overview of your Web site and its value
A request for a link from the Web site
Provision of desired anchor text
A friendly sign-off (use your full name, title, and if possible, an e-mail address with the same domain as the site you are requesting a link on behalf of)
Link request tracking worksheet: You will want to keep track of which sites you have approached for a link and the uptake of those links. A link request tracking worksheet should have the following elements:
URL of linking page
Requested landing page
Contact e-mail or URL (if a Web form)
Link received? (Y/N)
Link employing anchor text? (Y/N)
Date link posted
Paid listings worksheet: Track expenditures for paid links or directory listings on a separate sheet in order to keep all details of financial transactions handy. We recommend capturing the following:
Name and URL of linking site
Requested landing page
Start date of listing
Purchase order (PO) number
Renewal URL or contact
Link-building progress tracker: Because you will be spending a lot of time and effort building up your inbound links, track the impact those efforts are having. You should develop a spreadsheet that enables you to track progress over time. A simple format would be to outline each key performance indicator in spreadsheet rows, and input the data for each KPI (define) in subsequently dated columns (e.g., Month One, Month Two, Month Three...). Depending on how frequently you will be undertaking link building, you can update this as often as you want, but we would recommend updating it monthly. You will want to include the following metrics:
Number of inbound links
Organic search traffic
Organic search conversions
With these tools and resources clearly laid out in a single quick-reference file or document, you will be well on your way to successfully executing your link-building activities.
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Julie is a member of the senior strategy team at Klick Health, focused on online media and digital. Julie initially established and led the media practice at Klick for several years, relinquishing leadership to expand beyond media into additional digital tactics. She brings a wealth of experience in search marketing, digital media, and all facets of digital strategy to bear, helping Klick's clients develop innovative digital solutions. As her role has evolved, so have her contributions to ClickZ, which she has been writing for since 2007.