Most SEOs know that winning the battle for top search terms is in the links. They regularly check the back links of top rankings sites to get a clear picture of the “external relevance profile” of those sites. From this they learn:
How many incoming links the site has
The source of such links
The anchor text of those incoming links
If you are familiar with Google Webmaster Central you know that you’ve got almost everything you need when you pull up the external links report, including all the incoming links and link text that Googlebot is aware of. The problem is that this data is available only for your own site, not for competitive analysis of your rivals. Also, most sites competing for top terms have thousands of links, yet competitive link analysis tools are currently limited to just a thousand results.
There are a couple of ways around these problems. I’m going to share one of my most closely guarded SEO tricks… Warning, this requires a little programming!
Option 1: Get access to your competitor’s Google Webmaster Central account by setting up a phishing site, breaking into his/her home, or bribing the technical support staff to place a Google file validating you as the owner.
Okay, obviously that option was a joke. Now, let me explain the real deal. The idea is to use Yahoo’s Site Explorer and Yahoo’s powerful link command on the competitor. In order to pass the one thousand links mark, we need to add a keyword to the link search. For example link:http://sitename.com keyword1, link:http://sitename.com keyword2, etc. Save all the links, concatenate them together and filter the duplicates. You can use the keywords you have already generated in your keyword research analysis for this process.
For example, let’s see how we can extract SEOmoz’s two million links from Yahoo.
1. Extract a list of relevant keywords using Google’s tool
2. Use Yahoo Site Explorer to determine the total number of inbound links (You need to be logged in to Yahoo). Choose “Show Links Except from this domain to Entire Site”
3. Use Yahoo Search link command and add keywords to extract subsets of incoming links. One thousand at a time. Here I do a search adding “seo” and another adding “social media”
Although you can get the full list of links using this trick, the list includes links that are ‘nofollow’ that clearly do not pass any link juice. There are also sitewide links (blogroll links, and links included on every page of other sites), links coming from the same domain, IP block (class C), or owner (from the registrar information), as well as links that are not ‘nofollow,’ but which Google may be preventing from passing link juice. Any of these may increase your link count, but will not necessarily provide the same value as links coming from multiple, unaffiliated sites.
To take things to the next (useful) level, we need first to carefully organize the links by domain, IP block and ownership so that we can identify what I call unique link sources. Second, we need to filter out the links that are ‘nofollow.’ Finally, we need to visit the pages where the links are and see if they pass link juice, as I explained in the post about testing paid links.
Once the process is complete, we can collect all the anchor text coming from those links to get a complete external relevance profile. Now you can see how and why your competitor is listed and use it to form a solid link-building strategy. You have a highly-targeted list of link sources to pursue.
As you probably guessed by now, this is something that is far easier to do with a tool (stay tunned 😉 .)
I was a little bit hesitant to share this, so I would really appreciate if you let me know in the comment if you found this useful.