That’s right! Had the opportunity to be involved in an amazing group interview on backlink analysis conducted by Garrett French for Search Engine Land. The first part of this three part series went live the other day and if you haven’t read it already make sure you check it out here. Got to say it was a real honour being included with the likes of some of these names including Aaron Wall, Eric Ward, Ann Smarty, Debra Masteler and many other of the creme de la creme of the link building world.
The first post asked some great questions about covering backlink analysis in campaign design. You can check out my answers and additional insights below:
1.) When and why do you perform backlink analysis?
Backlink analysis is absolutely crucial to get a solid insight into what previous efforts have been done for a client or for a potential client. Before starting on any SEO campaign for a client (or even when pitching clients) I do a complete, exhaustive backlink analysis to see both the amount of links, and the different types of links (articles, directories, blogs, social media sites) that have been built already. Even more importantly is to thoroughly analyze the anchor texts used in order to give you a complete insight into their current “link profile”. This helps determine what kind of link building strategy I need to execute both in terms of link velocity and link variation.
So basically my answer was every single time when either pitching or working on a client site. But I also perform backlink analysis whenever evaluating sites that I buy for my own network, or sites that I may be interested in trying to acquire links from. You really can’t tell the authority of a website without looking at its backlinks and evaluating its link profile.
I mentioned a few things above but also forgot some basic elements like the PR and age of the backlinks, but that’s pretty much a given. However aged links really are weighed more heavily so felt I should include this point even if it goes without saying.
2.) How does backlink analysis inform or affect your link building campaigns?
Backlink analysis has huge implications on any link building campaign. As I mentioned, by analyzing the current amount of backlinks you can then set your campaign strategy both in terms of link velocity and link variation. For example, if a client had very few backlinks, you know that you need to take your time and only use the absolute safest link building practices with lots of anchor text variation. On the other hand, if the client has a massive amount of backlinks with lots of link and anchor variation already then it’s a completely different story. In this case, you know that you don’t need to be as concerned with the speed at which you build links, but need to concentrate on higher end link building strategies with focused anchor texts as the basics have already been mostly covered.
Don’t really have that much additional input on this question, it’s pretty common knowledge for any good link builder that each client or website is a unique case and therefore needs a customized link building campaign that is tailored based on its current link profile. The quantity and quality of backlinks will give you an immediate indication as to how easy or difficult the project is going to be and also gives crucial insights as to what link building efforts have been done in the past. You really need to gather this information accurately so that you can correctly analyze their link profile and then set your strategy for online ranking domination 🙂
3.) What elements of a backlink profile are most useful/telling in competitive analysis?
Great question, after a while all the different factors kind of blend together to tell a story when comparing one site vs the competition, but for those starting out I’d definitely say to first focus on looking at the anchor texts in each backlink profile. You obviously want to see a focus on your targeted keywords but want to ensure that good link variation was properly utilized.
Although the number of backlinks is obviously important, the link variation used is actually a more telling sign of the power of that link profile. Ideally you want to see a variation of link building strategies (articles, directories, blogs, social media, etc. etc.) as well as authoritative mentions (.org, .edu, online newspapers, clubs and business associations). The overall number of links can easily be inflated: whereas getting high authority mentions online cannot, so really can’t stress this point enough.
I was a bit surprised to find that not many others in the group interview focused as much on the importance of anchor text as I did. I really can’t stress this point enough, for example Search Engine People for years was getting some seriously authoritative links, but we didn’t rank that well for specific regional terms like SEO Toronto until we really started focusing in on that anchor text within our link building efforts. I’ve seen it time and time again with clients too, lots of great links with terrible anchor texts like “visit here” or “click here” or “read more”; sure you may get a nice PR and sitewide links for your brand or domain name but you’re not going to rank for ANY COMPETITIVE KEYWORD without really having keyword targeting anchor texts in your backlink profile.
However, that being said I should mention how easy it can be to rank some major brands when they have all these high authority links but have very few keyword rich anchor texts. Google is literally begging these sites to express what they’re really about through the anchor texts of their links; because as soon as you start some basic link building with keyword targeting they skyrocket up the rankings. So authority mentions are still extremely important, but at end of day I know that the anchor text used is definitely one of the most, if not THE most, important things to analyze within backlink analysis.
Really pleased by the amount of interest this group interview is already getting and can’t wait to see everyone else’s answers for the remaining 6 questions, which will be featured in parts two and three of this three part series on backlink analysis. So be sure to stay tuned and check out Search Engine Land frequently to catch the next post in this great series.