Understanding the importance of backlinks and obtaining quality backlinks is critical to the success of your website. Here’s what you need to know about backlinks, and how to ferret out the best places to get quality backlinks from for your site.
John Maher: Hi. I’m John Maher, and this is “Digital Marketing Madness.” This podcast is brought to you by McDougall Interactive. We’re a digital marketing agency based in Danvers, Massachusetts on the north shore of Massachusetts north of Boston.
Today my guest is Jesse Wade. He’s a link‑builder here at McDougall. We’ll be discussing common backlinks with link research tools. Welcome, Jesse.
Jesse Wade: Thank you, John.
Common Links & Back Links Defined
John: Jesse, let’s start at the beginning. What are common links or common backlinks?
Jesse: Well, common backlinks, also referred to sometimes as competitor backlink analysis, is essentially any external links pointing at your competitors’ websites that they have in common. You want to focus on the links that they have in common, but you have not yet obtained those links.
John: The idea here is basically that if all of your top competitors or a number of your top competitors — and by “Competitors” in this case, we mean those websites that are coming up for the search terms that you want to come up for.
If all or a lot of those sites have the same people linking to them, that might be a good sign that those are good links to get. Google was maybe putting some weight on those links, because all of the top sites that are ranking for that keyword have the same backlinks in common.
Jesse: Exactly. As you mentioned, not just who you perceive are your competitors, but anybody ranking for the same search terms that you want to rank for, and such should be considered your competitor as well.
John: Right. Not just the store across the street who’s selling a similar product to me. They might be my competitor in a physical sense, but the competitors online are often different from those types of companies.
Jesse: Yes, exactly. Key terms that you want to rank for, anybody that’s coming up in the search engines for those terms as well should be taken into account as your competitor.
The Value of Common Backlinks
John: Why are common backlinks valuable?
Jesse: Well, as you mentioned, if they have the link you also want to try to obtain the link. It’s probably a good link if they’re outranking you and they have that link. In cases they can be a little bit easier than just waiting to organically get links, or doing a lot of outreach on your resources to try to gain more links.
Oftentimes, after running a report you’ll identify some great local resource pages that you might have overlooked that you can get mentioned on.
John: Right. It could be just as simple as a town website that has a link to a bunch of different businesses in your town or something like that.
Jesse: Exactly, and you’ll see a lot of that. You’ll see some good quality niche directories that you might not have known existed, local memberships, that sort of thing to take into account.
John: Right, and we want to caution people not to go out and just get a ton of directory links from anywhere. There’s a whole lot of directories that are out there that try to be a little bit like Google, and be a directory of everything on the whole Web. Generally, especially the free ones, you want to stay away from those.
If it’s a niche directory like you said, something that is specific to the industry that you’re in. For example, a directory of metal‑working industrial sites or something along those lines. Then that can be OK to get a directory link like that.
Jesse: Certainly. As you mentioned, you do want to check out every website, and every link before you do spend your resources to try to obtain that link and get placed there.
Link Research Tools
John: Right. What about link research tools? What is that, and how do you run a common links report in link research tools?
Jesse: Well, link research tools is a platform of a lot of other tools, specifically in this case to run a common backlinks report. They do have a tool specifically called the common backlinks tool, simple enough. You would get a list of competitors. With link research tools you can include up to 50 competitors.
As we stated before the competitors can be the store across the street, the store the next town over, but also anybody ranking for the terms that you’re looking to rank for. You might want to identify any specific keywords or key phrases that you’re trying to rank for. You can simply Google them, take the top 10, for instance, from each one.
You’re going to have some overlap in websites. They get repeated. You’re going to filter them out. You can insert 50 websites, so 50 competitors, into your report to be processed.
John: You’re going to get a good report then a lot of links, if you have 50 sites that you put in that you’re checking the backlinks to.
Jesse: Certainly. You can get hundreds if not thousands of websites that you then want to go and filter into more detail.
John: Right, and decide which ones look like they’re good links, which ones might be possible for you to obtain a link from.
John: It could be, “Oh, wow. Geez. Five of my competitors have a link from that ‘Industry Magazine’ or something like that. Maybe I need to try to get into that magazine online, too,” or something like that. It can just open your eyes to what your competitors are doing in terms of obtaining backlinks, and then allow you to do the same thing.
Jesse: As you said, we like to separate the opportunities. We’ll have a bucket of maybe public relation opportunities to get into a magazine, or we’ll have more local business lists or associations, et cetera, stuff like that. We’ll put it into different categories so we know how to obtain the link and such.
What Happens Once You Get a Competitive Links Report
John: Anything else that you do with that competitive common links report once you get it?
Jesse: Well, once a report’s actually run you can have as little as 50 links to thousands depending how many competitors you put in and such. You will want to review it. Before you’ll scan through you want to look at SEO metrics definitely. You want to take that into account. You want to take into account if they’re paid links or just low‑quality websites.
The eye test is a great way just to see the last time it’s been updated, if it’s still maintained, that sort of thing. We’ll just really process the report, filter it down into different categories, and look if we want to try to obtain the link and if it is even possible to obtain the link.
John: You prioritize and make a list out of, “Hey, here’s some good links that look like they might be fairly easy for us to get. Let’s go after those ones first.” Then, “Here’s some good links, but they might be a little bit harder to get. Let’s do those ones next.”
Then, “Here are some links that are OK but are still easy to get. Maybe we’ll put those off and do those last. Then anything that doesn’t look like it’s a good quality link at all, we’ll just ignore those.” That kind of thing.
Jesse: Exactly. Most of the work in this report is front‑loaded, a lot of analyzing the data and stuff. Then from there the easier part is trying to obtain the link.
John: You mentioned checking SEO metrics. Does the link research tools’ common links report give you those SEO metrics for each of the sites, or do you have to use a different tool for that?
Jesse: It does provide some metrics. The tool’s great. Sometimes with a lot of links it gets a little bit skewed, so you definitely want to do your own check additionally just to double‑check everything.
You can use tools such as Open Site Explorer or SEMRush just to check some basic things like page rank and page traffic, and make sure there’s been no glaring dips or anything like that in their organic traffic.
A Word of Caution on Poor Quality Backlinks
John: Of course, as we know these days link‑building is tough. Google has cracked down with their Penguin algorithm that doesn’t give you as much credit if you have poor quality backlinks. It could harm your site if you have poor quality backlinks.
You want to be a little bit careful and cautious as you’re going through this process and make sure that you’re not just obtaining backlinks from anywhere. That said, this is a great tool and a great way to be able to find some good quality backlinks that might not be difficult for you to obtain. They can help you.
Jesse: Once the data’s all analyzed it is a great way to build upon your link profile, but as you mentioned you want to do healthy websites, and do it in a positive way to comply with Google.
John: All right. Well, that’s excellent information, Jesse. I appreciate you talking to me today.
Jesse: Thank you, John.
John: For more information about digital marketing you can visit McDougallInteractive.com, and make sure you subscribe to this podcast on iTunes. I’m John Maher. I’ll see you next time on Digital Marketing Madness.