SEO Tools: Link Analysis, Part 2

When we last met, we took a look at some of the linking signals that Web pages send to the search engines to help determine the overall relevance of the content to the query. We used some of the free tools available to anyone who desires to use them. Specifically, the Google PageRank Toolbar, mozRank from SEOmoz, and Yahoo Site Explorer.

We readily determined that visible Google PageRank plays a nominal role when it comes to page-one positioning. All the same, we learned that self-help sites for the key phrase [exercise equipment] only have a PageRank of 2 to 3 to land on page-one; e-commerce sites range from PageRank 3 to 5. Courtesy of Yahoo Site Explorer, we also learned that if we wanted to make a numbers game out of link building, we would have to attain approximately 13,000 links to the homepage and 16,000 the entire site to be a player. And based on information from mozRank, we’d need to spread those inbound links out among at least 330 different domains.

While these general linking details provide some insightful information, if our goal is to get to page-one results for [exercise equipment], we must understand the role that our targeted phrase plays in signaling relevancy to the search engines. To do that, we’re going to need to use some other tools, most of which are not free of charge.

We’ll start with the basic back link analysis tool from SEOmoz, part of a vast SEO tool set that starts at $79 a month. The basic tool provides an analysis of several hundred links found through the Yahoo Site Explorer API (define), Technorati API, and Google API so the data set represents a mixture of fresh and authoritative links. The basic Anchor Link Analysis tool from SEOmoz provides some interesting information about our page-one rankings for [exercise equipment].

Each report takes 5 to 10 minutes to run. The results can be easily downloaded to a CSV file for easy comparisons of link source details. Unfortunately, we had to toss the data from Sports Authority because the ranked page was a category within the site, and the report only featured links to the top level domain (TLD). As a result, we’re only analyzing nine page-one results of 10. But the information is interesting all the same, especially if you happen to be working on a link-building strategy for [exercise equipment]:

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As you can see, we’ve aggregated the number of occurences of back links with [exercise equipment] or [fitness equipment] in the anchor text, since we’ve already determined the two phrases are synomynous. To determine the percentage of links in our overall linking portfolio that we may need to target to get to page-one results, we simply divided the links reported in the data set by the number of occurences of the targeted phrases.

Based on this information, in order to get to page-one results in the major search engines for [exercise equipment] searches, we need to build a linking portfolio for the site that attains a 19 percent to 37 percent occurrence rate of [exercise equipment] in the anchor text links. Doing so would send some pretty strong signals to the search engines as to what our page is all about.

All the same, there are a lot of different tools you can use to analyze back links. Remember, different tools generally use dissimilar data sets, which will likely produce diverse results. For example, SEOmoz already offers a beta version of its anchor text link analysis tool based on data from its LinkScape Web crawler. Other anchor text link analysis tools include, but are not limited to:

Fair warning — some free tools are stuffed with advertisements and include disclaimers about their accuracy. Some tools are downloads, others are plug-ins, and the paid tools vary widely in pricing. Of course, for your own site, Webmaster tools like those from Google can provide you with even greater insight into your own back link portfolio.

In the past (say two or three years ago) focusing only on getting specific anchor text links from external sources went a bit too far. Hence, the smack down on buying and selling text links and manipulating results with Google Bombs . Nowadays it seems we need to focus not only on improving the percentage of relevant, descriptive links to a Web page in order to rank well for particular terms and phrases, but also take into account the quality of the back links in terms of the source page’s age and authority. We’ll look at some tools that can help root out good linking opportunities the next time we meet.

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