Why Link Building is a lot like Game of Thrones
If you haven’t been preparing for the imminent zombie apocalypse you may have heard about Game of Thrones. If, like me, you are a total geek then your mind has been blown the last seven weeks while watching the show. For everyone else who isn’t into epic sprawling fantasy Game of Thrones is a show on HBO based off the book series A Song of Fire and Ice by George R.R. Martin. How does this tie into link building though Jordan? Good question inquisitive reader. At first I thought the quick blurb at the top would be enough and then jumping out in paragraph two and yelling surprise we tricked you and did it for the queries and linkbait would suffice, but a sense of déjà vu traveled over me. Therefore, I’m going to do my best to parallel a cornerstone of SEO practices with a fantasy show. Yep. So how is an epic fantasy series comparable to Link building?
It’s Confusing as All Hell
While watching the first episode I was bombarded with about a thousand characters in roughly 60 minutes. The series is so massive the wonderful Magda Maslowska at Haute Slides made this nifty infographic detailing all the relationships in Game of Thrones. Heavy, I know. If you have ever tried digging through the countless columns and rows of data pulled from the tools you use when looking at links you’ll agree it can be just as overwhelming, if not more. The show did a wonderful job of pacing out all the information and by the end I was craving more. Just like the show a few simple actions can make sorting through all that link data a lot easier. The first step would to have a thorough keyword list. There are several areas I like to keep track of for my keyword list:
• Traffic volume
• Keyword difficulty
• Ranking for the Site
Understanding what you are specifically trying to rank for quickens the process and you can grab the results and color code them. I use SEOmoz’s KW difficulty tool to export the results and then double check through Google as well. The data SEOmoz gives out is the Page Authority and Domain Authority saving me the time of having to go through each site. Additionally, I like to see who keeps showing up and who is a onetime outlier. I just use the find function and work my way down coloring light orange for one time sites, blue for multiples, and yellow for the site you are working on. Then you’re left with a nice picture of common competitors and potential one time sites that may have an interesting backlink structure, which I base on PA and DA for them.
You can grab the multiples and interesting one time sites and put them in another sheet or an entirely different excel sheet. For organization purposes I tend to use another file for the following steps, therefore if I mess up royally, pun intended, I can go back to earlier versions.
Everyone Wants to Be on Top (and will kill you to get there)
Okay, that’s kind of harsh. I have yet to receive any death threats or sword attacks by having high ranking sites up in the SERPS. Still you can’t deny that certain terms are fiercely competitive and determining the effectiveness of your site against competitors is the difference between a victory and countless hours of wasted work. So now you’ve got a nice section of multiple sites and interesting outliers that have shown up and you’ve put them in their own file. Now it’s time to open up the trusty Open Site Explorer and start to dig into some links. Setting up the filters to only focus on followed + 301, External Pages only, and focusing on all pages on the Root Domain.
I export the data from OSE and sort the entire list by Domain Authority from largest to smallest using the sort feature through Excel. Then I copy the first 100 URL results from column A into the pre-existing file we created for the time being. Using the find and replace function I eliminate all the http:// then use the text as columns feature in Excel to pull out each individual part of the string allowing me to look at anything unusual or interesting.
I make a note of anything interesting and then delete all the columns except for the main domain, which would be column B, then delete Column A. Going back to the original CSV file and copy in everything and go through a couple final steps:
• Delete the first six rows (superfluous data)
• Get rid of every column except URL, Anchor Text, PA, DA
Giving you something like this:
This leaves me with a nice sheet full of the main domain, the actual URL, Anchor text, Page Authority, and Domain Authority. From here I can group the backlinks and start to look for common trends. I do this for every URL from the main page of data we created. I also make sure to cross-reference this data with a backlink analysis of the site I’m trying to build links for so I’m not wasting time on shared link prospects. In no time at all you’ll be looking at a list of over 1,000 links all ready to gleam insights and see if any can be used to gain a high level link or online partnership down the road.
Knowing Secrets about your Enemies is Golden
After setting up a decently robust list of data looking for groupings and outliers continues as a theme. By grouping similar sites you can start to get a better picture at the areas that tend to link to assets your competitors have. Even if your site is lacking in similar content make note of this and add it into your content plan. Additionally, it is worth noting localized assets even if they don’t affect your site. For instance, if a Competitor from Virginia got a great .gov link for a specific law but your client is based in Maryland; don’t disregard that piece of information. With that knowledge you can use the similar terminology but search within Maryland, possibly granting you a .gov link as well. You shouldn’t dismiss using that information at the correct time as it is the difference between ranking higher or being double crossed by a man with a magnificent mustache (These two things have nothing in common).