You've probably seen a story like this before. You win a new client. They've got an extensive network of stores. They've got a good level of consumer awareness. They've been in business, and online, for over 10 years (hello domain authority!). So far, so good. But the news isn't all great.
They sell high consideration products with a purchase decision process that stretches months, not days. Online sales aren't feasible. As a result, the web site has received far less attention than it deserves (we all know that story!). They've only generated 700 inbound links in 10+ years on the web.
So link building immediately becomes priority number one right?
Sure... link building will be an important part of a holistic SEO plan, but before rushing down that path, don't forget about your foundation!
Quite simply, link optimization is the process of reviewing existing links a site has earned to ensure you get maximum value from them. Practically every site on the web can benefit from it, because relatively few legacy links are optimized for maximum SEO benefit.
Furthermore, we all know link building can be a tedious and fruitless exercise at times. So taking the time to optimize links that have already been earned is an obvious place to start. After all, your success rate is always going to be higher for someone that has already granted you a link, as opposed to a webmaster you are contacting from scratch with a link request.
My favorite link optimization tools are Link Diagnosis (free service) and Majestic (paid service). Simply enter the specific URL, and both tools spit out a report listing the inbound links a site has accrued. The Link Diagnosis tool also outputs a range of parameters for each link including:
- Anchor text
- Outbound links on the page
- Age of page
- No-follow links
This data makes it simple to identify the most powerful links a site has earned, SEO Majestic also weights the authority of each inbound link based upon the number of links the referring domain has accrued. Both enable the immediate identification of competitor links that are passing serious Google juice (and are therefore prime candidates for link optimization efforts).
Once the most powerful existing links have been identified, I generally aim to optimize two elements of the link:
- Anchor text: Links from third party sites will rarely use your preferred anchor text. Therefore, return to your keyword research and determine the anchor text that is most appropriate for the context of the site/page.
- Link destination: Many webmasters also fail to point users to the most relevant page, opting for the home page instead of a deep link. Determine the context of the content surrounding the link, and choose the most relevant deep page for that link (and the chosen anchor text).
With the parameters of the chosen links defined, you're now in a position to contact the webmaster and request changes to the link. Naturally, common courtesy and graciousness will go a long way towards having that request honored.
Only after the link optimization phase is completed should you consider new link targets. Because an optimized existing link can be just as valuable as a new one (if not more so). Don't forget it!
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* Lead image adapted from fensterbme