Basic rule of SEO link building is “match and exceed”. Eli told me so. Once we’re 100% sure we want to dominate SEPRs in a certain niche, one of our to-do items would be to gather a big list of websites who already link to our competitors. To match and exceed their link mass. Boom.
Today we will look at the process I use to gather a big list of websites that could potentially link back to a website of a certain niche.
The list could then be used to approach editors of those websites. We can offer content contributions to score an authorship credit, which hopefully links back to our website or a social profile. There are other ways to get backlinks though, but this one is really a win-win, IF you are offering great piece of content that fits the target audience.
I will reserve listing other ways you can potentially get link juice in another post. Right now, let’s get back to assembling a huge link building list.
Best way to demonstrate the approach is by example. So what we will do is gather a list of competitors for a Bitcoin wallet & ATM card service. When choosing competitors, pick the ones that rank well and closely resemble your product / service (you may already know most of those if you’re in business for some time).
Note: I will be using paid version of Market Samurai for the process. This software takes its SEO competition and backlink data from Majestic SEO, which could also be used but is a subscription service.
Finding competing websites with good link authority
First – if you were working on your project for a while you may already know most of your direct competitors that get good organic positions. You can just use them.
If you want an extensive list, get your keywords handy and open Market Samurai tabs for each necessary keyword. One at a time. I will focus on just 2 keywords. “Bitcoin credit card” and “Bitcoin ATM card”.
Go to “SEO COMPETITION” tab in Market Samurai for the first keyword, and click “Generate Results”, then do the same for other keywords.
Now let’s check out what websites in the results have best Citation Flow (CF) and Trust Flow (TF) parameters and offer similar product to the one we will be building links for.
Citation Flow and Trust Flow are metrics Mejestic came up with to measure backlink authority.
From this list, best candidates are #2, #3, #4, #8, #9 and #10. Other aren’t services we are competing with, they are publications, magazines or wikis.
Let’s note those and move on to the competing services we will find using our next keyword and so on.
Note: you can easily find competitors using Majestic, SEMrush or any other similar service. I am using Market Samurai just for convenience.
Export backlinks of competitors
Let’s make our first pick to start assembling the link building list. Click caret to the right of the URL. Then click “Citation Flow Analysis” in the expanded menu.
You will get list of backlinks to the website which is sorted based on the influence it has on the rankings of our competitor. The more authority the link passes to the domain, higher it will be on the list.
It’s worth noting that if website backlink is situated in a sidebar or other element that appear cross-website, a single domain may appear multiple times in the results:
We will ignore this for now. Next steps are to export all those pages that link to a competing website. Click “Export Anchor Text Data” button in the bottom-right of the current window:
Save the file as a .csv with the same name as a competitor, for convenience.
Repeat this until you have export files for multiple competing websites. For my example, just 2 will be enough. But you should aim at getting each one with great authority and similar service.
Creating the link building list
Now that we have our .csv files with all the juicy backlinks that point to our competitors, time to merge them into one big ass list.
Let’s use Google Sheets. Create an empty spreadsheet file.
It’s time we import all our exported backlinks. Go to “File > Import…”
Use Upload tab and upload your first .csv file.
Important: use “Append rows to current sheet” and click “Import”:
Your file will be imported:
Repeat the process again for each file, until you end up with a big ass link building list.
Note that you may end up with a header row between each file, but it’s not a problem right now:
You can avoid this by deleting header rows from all the .csv files that you import (but the first one).
Removing junk from the list
One thing that we need to do is get rid of all the duplicate domains. To do that we first need to end up with root domain URLs instead of page urls.
We will add a “Root URL” column C in the file, and place this formula and expand it to all other cells in column:
Now that we added root domains to our file, we need to remove duplicate entries.
What I suggest is:
- Move “Root URL” column closer to “Citation Flow”:
2. Add a few columns next to them and use “=UNIQUE()” formula to remove duplicates:
3. Copy newly created “=UNIQUE()” columns and paste it as values:
4. Remove all columns but the unique ones (if you didn’t do 3rd step, your “unique” columns will disappear.)
5. Fix & style file header 🙂
We’re done. Keep in mind that there may still be some duplicates left in your list. For example www/non-www versions of the domains or http/https, but you can simply remove them as you move along.
Now, this list represents all the websites that you need to get a backlink from. Good news is that if a website is on this list, for whatever reason they are already linking to your competitors’ website, so you can achieve this too.
Bad news is that it’s a lot of work. But if you do everything right, your product will dominate search engine result pages. How can it not when your link mass closely matches the trust and authority of all your competitors.
A lot of work
For next steps, the workflow may be different for everybody from this point on, but here are a few tips:
- Sort the list by “Citation Flow”. The higher is this value, the more valuable is the link from this website. Do whatever it takes to persuade them to get a backlink. They don’t answer email? Get whois data on the domain and try to call them.
- Treat the process like salespeople do. Get into relationship with them if possible. When sending a cold email, do research in advance, point out in the email that you are familiar with their website and read it from time to time. Bonus points if you actually do this.
- Track status. I add conditional formatting for cells depending on the status. Record contacts and the content that you published. You may need it later on.
- When pitching your content, show samples which are already published on high authority websites.
- You have to “sell” yourself to publishers. Is their audience interested in reading your content? Will you share it via social channels? Did your content perform better than average on the websites where you published? The answer should be “yes” to those questions and your prospects should know it.
- Be respectable if people deny working with your or don’t reply.
- Keep an eye on published articles. Engage with people that comment on it.
- Revisit the list. Send another email to people that didn’t reply. Send emails catching up with those that did. Offer more content or possibilities of other collaborations.
- Treat the list like a CRM. You’re selling your content. Website pay you by publishing your content. Sell them good product and they will buy again.
- Note that there are paid (and maybe free) tools that help you streamlining this process, for example BuzzStream. I like to approach it via a big ass spreadsheet list because it can be done in bulk and gives you more freedom.