There's nothing more discouraging to a digital professional than seeing their website's link profile remain stagnant, as in no steady upward growth, not even an occasional burst of activity.
Building steady streams of traffic requires a great deal of investment (time and actual money). If you're starting at zero though - zero money, zero time, zero resources - then link building efforts should be focused on only the most high-impact tactics, exercising every muscle in the marketing arsenal. First, however, you need to put the work in if you want to see the results.
Keep in mind that the following isn't for the virtually weak hearted - you're going to need some courage (and energy) to see this style of campaign work. Nevertheless, when you're prepared, anything is possible.
Over the next few weeks, Website Magazine will provide a series of articles (just like the following) on high-impact link building tactics. These articles will focus exclusively on a specific tactic or method for use in your link building efforts. Today, let's explore how to use Alexa and popular "similar sites" tools for building a prospective link pool - a group of sites that have the potential to link to our own immediately or in the future. The bigger the pool, the better the chance you'll have of catching something.
I know well and good what you're thinking: "Alexa, really? That's all we're working with here?" Remember, we're starting with zero (no fancy SEO research tools) and besides, if you know where to look and how to look at it, some of the data that Alexa provides can actually reveal a whole host of link building opportunities. Besides, Google doesn't make it easy to see the link profile of each and every site, but what they do show is related sites. And when you look at that information as an opportunity to increase the prospective link pool, you're well on your way to success with SEO.
EDITORS NOTE: The following is a "manual" process - meaning there's a fair amount of repetitive copying and pasting into Excel (or any spreadsheet application) involved. That's OK if you're starting from zero, but not so much if the resources are available to use one of the automated Enterprise SEO software solutions such as those listed in a recent Website Magazine Top 50 as they're able to provide far more useful details into prospective link targets.
STEP ONE: Visit Alexa.com
Under each Alexa profile, an indication of the number of sites "linking in" is included with its site information. The number of links that are being reported is hyperlinked - click on it and you'll find details on what sites in particular are linking to the site profile you're researching.
For example, in the image below, we can see that a site like Alexa.com has more than 376,000 sites linking in, which is quite a link prospecting pool.
STEP TWO: Identify Link "Types"
Every website has a different link profile, but some common themes exist. For example, citations (links) are available pretty much everywhere - from social profiles and forum threads, to guest posts on separate blogs and media releases on news aggregators. The trick is to find out what those link "types" are and then take note of them. A quick spin through the listings provided by Alexa will provide the answer.
STEP THREE: Organize Links by Category Type
While Alexa only returns 100 of the inbound links it knows about on the profile being researched, that's 100 more data points that you didn't know before. It's important though to group the links available into the categories you identify and the marketing tactic you'll need to engage in to acquire a link. For example, you might have a social media category, a forum-marketing category, a content marketing category, a joint-venture category, a legacy partnership category, etc. Defining the categories now will make future link building much easier.
STEP FOUR: Expand the Link Pool
Once you have a handle on the categories and know about the types of links that your competitors are receiving (along with a few sample sites), it's much easier to then locate other similar Web destinations to add to your link prospecting pool - it's easier to start with a few citations, which is why Alexa was the first stop. Armed with a list of sites, enter each one individually into the search box at Google (using the related search query: related:http://www.website.com) and you'll find additional websites to add to your prospecting pool. Google, of course, isn't the only way to find related sites. Consider using websiteslike.org, skrittle.com, similarsites.com, similarweb.com and similarsitesearch.com.
It's not a fool-proof method to build a prospective link pool, but it's a great way to get started. In part two of this article series, how to start the actual process of building links per category will be discussed. Stay tuned!