The core problem of link building—assuming you’ve maximized your site’s linkability—is not prospecting for sites that may potentially link to yours. The problem lies in rapidly identifying the link prospects whose links will provide the fastest and largest impact on your search marketing goals.
With tools like the SEO Toolbar and SEO for Firefox, every URL from every domain that ranks for your keywords reveals a wealth of inbound linking pages, each of which is a link prospect. Add in opportunities from the link suggest tool, and several .edu site searches and a determined link builder could find thousands, if not tens of thousands of link prospects in less than a day.
Based on our experience in automating link research and link prospect qualification for millions of URLs, we wrote this article—and created a free, downloadable worksheet—to enable motivated link builders to quickly identify the most relevant, valuable and likely-to-link prospects from thousands of potential link opportunities.
The core metrics for link prospect evaluation
When building links to influence search rankings we look at three key metrics for evaluating link prospects: relevance, value and acquisition potentiality.
To illustrate the link prospect metrics of relevance, value and potential we created the following Venn diagram:
Let’s walk through the metrics, how they’re derived and discuss their importance to your link building process.
Measuring link prospect relevance
Relevance in link building is the measurement of a page’s relevance to your keyword(s). Relevance should measure whether the keywords are present or not as well as where they appear on the page or in the tags, as these factors will have shadings of influence on the search-rank impact of a link prospect.
Here are some factors to measure that will indicate a link prospect’s relevance to your target keywords:
- Keywords in the Title tag
- Keywords in the body of the text
- Keywords in H1 tags
As you visit each link prospect, put a “1″ in the appropriate column for that page’s relevance to your keywords.
Measuring link prospect value
The value of a link prospect—for the purpose of influencing search rank—lies in the amount of link juice the page is capable of directing to yours. For these purposes, no-followed links have little impact. As a primary measure of value we recommend looking at the PageRank for the hostname as well as PageRank of the specific page. Many hold that the PageRank that Google displays is not an accurate measurement. While this is true, PageRank represents the only page value measurement currently available from a search engine. Further, PageRank makes identifying penalized sites easy. We propose that by combining the measurement of a link prospect’s relevance with its value, one can make faster decisions regarding acquisition priority.
Here are some factors to measure that indicate a link prospect’s value:
- PageRank of hostname
- PageRank of page
- Outbound links followed/no-followed
As you visit each link prospect, put a “1″ in the appropriate column for that page’s value to your search marketing goals.
Note: If your link building goals include increasing community involvement and referral traffic from relevant sites then no-followed links should be considered. Read this for more information about measuring the value of no-followed links.
Measuring link prospect acquisition potentiality
Acquisition potentiality is the likelihood that a particular link prospect will actually “convert” into a link for your site. We look at link potentiality based on your ability to add a link to a page yourself and secondarily your ability to impact or influence the page’s creator to add a link.
Here are some factors that indicate a link prospect’s acquisition potentiality:
- Is it a competitor?
- Ability to submit, add or comment
- Relationship with someone at that domain
- Publication date
- Can you make a valuable addition or correction to the page?
As you visit each link prospect, put a “1″ in the appropriate column for that page’s acquisition potentiality. Note: link buyers may not have as much of a need for this metric. Keep the column in the worksheet, though—it could represent likelihood of accepting a reasonable offer.
Using the Link Building Worksheet
We created a spreadsheet – freely available for download – to accompany this article and assist motivated link builders seeking to grow their current capacity for rapidly and effectively qualifying their link opportunities. Not only does this worksheet streamline work flow and keep your team more organized, it comes pre-programmed with equations derived from the ones we use in our automated link prospecting and qualification process.
All you or your team has to do is evaluate 9 elements of each link prospect URL and mark a “1″ in the appropriate column of the spreadsheet if that element is present. The spreadsheet does the rest for you.
Remember – the link building worksheet works best with large numbers of link prospects. The more you can evaluate the better. We prefer working at a scale of hundreds of thousands of prospects. If you’re working by hand, try and get up into the high hundreds, if not thousands.
In future articles we’ll cover methods of slicing the link prospect data you add to your worksheet as well as advanced link research methods that will ensure that you find only the best opportunities for your link building campaigns.
More link qualification resources
Our Link Building Guide has a section called Link Opportunity Qualifiers Within Large Scale Link Prospect Data Sets that will give you more ideas for add-ons or modifications to your spreadsheet.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.