Link Analysis Beyond Search Rank

I’m an extreme believer in linking analysis and competitive linking intelligence. I have tools that analyze millions of links every week. I have scripts that compare, contrast, group, separate, divide and categorize links to a degree that would make your eyes cross. As I type this one of my competitive link audit scripts is in its third hour of chewing on tens of thousands of inbound links linking to several sites my client’s site competes with.

But for this week’s column let’s imagine my link analysis has absolutely nothing to do with search rank. What good is all my link analysis if I don’t use it to try and improve search rank? How do you study thirty or forty thousand links if search rank, PageRank, high trust domains etc., don’t matter? What’s the point? What do you look for?

Plenty. In fact, some of the most fascinating and useful information can be found if you remove search engines from your link analysis objectives. The challenge is knowing what to look for, and that will only come with practice.

So what exactly am I talking about? Below are several key strategic pieces of information that were identified purely as a result of link analysis for one of my clients. I can’t divulge their name, but I can say they are in an eco-friendly food related industry niche.

From competitive link analysis I learned that

1). My client’s largest rival was going to be an exhibitor at a food industry trade show that was months away. My client had no idea, but by discovering it they now have time to react and respond in a strategic manner.

2). My client was doing business with over twenty different food industry groups that had web sites with links pages—many of which had not linked to my client’s site, because it was at a new URL and those regional food industry distributors had no idea. Those twenty sites have all been contacted and the new links have already started to appear.

3). One of my client’s competitors was sponsoring several high end content food blogs.

4). Another competitor had recently launched on online sweepstakes and placed targeted links on high interest niche content sites.

5). Several competitors had created corporate Wikipedia pages and others were being quite aggressive with Wikipedia topical link insertions.

Have you spotted the one common thread to all of the above discoveries? None of them have anything to do with search rank. And the pursuit of the above links has nothing to do with search rank, even though such links could give off a residual ranking effect. This is link intelligence, link marketing analysis, maybe even link espionage. After all, finding out your largest competitor has plans to make a big splash at an industry trade show a year away is pretty powerful stuff.

And it was all discovered by looking through 30,000 competitor inbound links with an eye towards things other than search rank. It’s amazing what you can find if you just ignore the engines every once in a while.

Have you discovered useful information via link analysis? Tell me about it in a comment below.

Eric Ward has been in the link building and content publicity game since 1994, providing services ranking from linking strategy to a monthly private newsletters on linking for subscribers. The Link Week column appears on Mondays at Search Engine Land.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Link Building: General | Link Week Column


About The Author: has been creating linking strategies for clients since 1994. Eric publishes the strategic linking advice newsletter LinkMoses Private, and provides linking services, training and consulting via

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  • Baby

    I think you have some great points there, nice post. I often try to “preach” marketing edge and strategy to others, but it often falls on deaf ears. I even blogged (perhaps ranted)recently about the reality of SEO scores, and IBLs… Pointing out that the “Reality” was in the conversions, page depth, and such.
    What Truly Defines SEO Success? Get a Reality Check!



  • rogerthedodger

    My link analysis has shown that many of my competitors are using paid links to do well in the rankings. And one competitor has a recip links scam going on, where he hides his outbound links in javascript so his link partners don’t get credit and he creates a bunch of one way links for himself.
    My site is an informational magazine, full of great content. My business model is advertising-revenue based, not sales or conversions. So search rank is everything to me. What do I do about this?

  • eric_ward

    rogerthedodger wrote…

    many of my competitors are using paid
    links to do well in the rankings. And one
    competitor has a recip links scam going
    on…What do I do about this?

    Here are a few options

    1). You do nothing and hope the engines catch up to them

    2). You go black hat like they have, using tactics that mimic your competitor

    3). You bust a move to obtain legit new links they don’t have via link seeking and quality link bait

    4). You turn them in via

    5). You give up

    I can’t reco the right mix of the above tactics without knowing more about your site. But I can say that all’s fair in SEO and war…The most prudent approach is to make sure you understand how much of any specific tactic you should use, if any, and how best to execute them. I’m a notorious white hat guy, but I have also seen cases where the only hope of short term success was to go black hat. I don’t execute black hat tactics, but I’ve often sent folks to the web equivilent of Diagon Alley, to use a Harry Potter reference :)

  • rogerthedodger

    Thanks Eric!
    I’m going with 3 and 4 for now — and I’ll see how it works out.

  • Mary

    This is great info. However, I’d be interested in knowing how you evaluate which linking opportunities are most productive. Some of the industry groups or verticals you may have to pay for a link so how do you determine the most cost effective.


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