Tactical Link Building: Finding Link Targets

Last time, we discussed how good, old-fashioned directories could, and should, remain a key feature of your link-building repertoire. Today, we’ll discuss how to find other link targets to help you construct a sustainable long-term link-building strategy.

If you’re just starting to create your site’s link-building strategy, now is a great time to plan on spending some quality time culling your keyword research, analyzing your site’s Web metrics, and growing your understanding of rival sites’ search results. In your quest to discover link-building targets, it’s important to remember two things: start small and aim big, and don’t break what’s working.

To get started finding link targets, hit your site’s Web metrics. Look at search engine referrals and which keywords or keyword phrases drive the most traffic to your site. Usually, a pretty small list of high-volume keywords and phrases drive between 50 and 70 percent of your search referral traffic.

If you rank well for your branded terms, so-called head terms, as you should, toss those phrases out of the list and focus on unbranded, or “torso,” terms for which your site content ranks well. Just make sure you aren’t reviewing internal site search data, because visitors use different search tactics and phrases once they find and engage with your site.

Know which keywords and phrases your site converts well for today, but expand that list to account for seasonality if your online business ebbs and flows through distinct sales shifts. Refresh your keyword list and data for these terms. Then try to focus only on two or three keyword themes at a time when seeking link targets. Trying to get a variety of text links in place for 50 different terms and phrases may quickly become unmanageable.

Remember, this process is first about link building for targeted terms that you already rank for. You can then expand that list based on content opportunities.

Spend some time analyzing your site log files; you’ll start to see traffic patterns develop and evolve over time. If log files make you see double, spend time analyzing your site through any or all of your site’s Webmaster tools. Either way, seek out opportunities to grow more referrals from those sites that already send traffic your way and add new link targets to the mix.

It takes a link to send a referral from one site to another, and each link contributes to your site’s visibility for specific keywords and phrases. Visit those sites that link to your site, then hit the SERPs (define) to review the links of top-ranking competitive sites for your targeted terms. Once you have a list of targeted terms your site ranks well for, add those terms and phrases that you want to rank well for to the list. Initially target your content that already ranks on page two or three of the SERPs. A handful of well-targeted inbound links could help move this content to page one.

Moving from your site’s Web metrics to SERPs for targeted terms will help you grow your list of link targets and add missing links to your site’s repertoire. Then seek out your rivals’ good linking neighborhoods. Using some link analysis tools for initial research will help simplify this process.

There are many free and fee-based link analysis tools to choose from. The SearchStatus 1.26 Firefox add-on gives you a heck of a lot more than just quick studies of backlinks, so it should already be in your SEO (define) toolbox. The SEO for Firefox plug-in displays PageRank, Google cache date, age, Delicious bookmarks, Compete details, and much more. The co-citation analysis tool Hub Finder will almost always help you find authoritative links that may be entrenched for a rival site and not your own.

If you’re more visually oriented, then a linkdomain:www.yoursite.com search in Quintura will help you connect the dots of who is linking to whom for what. KartOO is another helpful visualization engine you can leverage, and details from Google-Enabled Visual Search represent other tools you want to add to your SEO toolbox for finding link targets and other good linking neighborhoods.

Fee-based tools can also help simplify managing your list of link targeting activities. Advanced Link Manager is great for anchor text link insight, backlink diversity data, pretty charts, and many other features. Good anchor text link analysis tools are also available from SEOmoz and Internet Marketing Ninjas, among others.

It’s easy to get lost in the tools that can help you find and acquire link targets. Use some free trial time to your advantage and grow your understanding of how each tool works. But always remember to keep your eyes on the prize — discovering link targets that build on your site’s search engine positioning for target keyword phrases that convert.

Join us for SES Search Engine Marketing Training Day, September 26 at the Fairmont Dallas.

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