Back to basics with link optimisation

by James Duthie June 10th, 2010 

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.

Surprise, South Lambeth, SW8 by Ewan-M

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 the existing links a site has earned to ensure that the business is getting 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 SEO 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:

  • PageRank
  • 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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!


James Duthie works in the fields of online marketing strategy, SEO & social media. He also writes his own blog called Online Marketing Banter. You can subscribe here.

James Duthie

I'm an online marketing strategist currently working for one of Australia's largest online agencies. I consult with our clients to develop holistic web strategies, while also managing the SEO and social media elements of the business.

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2 Responses to “Back to basics with link optimisation”

  1. John Soares says:

    James, I think the rub comes in getting those webmasters to actually make the changes to optimize the backlinks.

    What sort of success rate do you have with that?
    .-= John Soares recently posted: Donate-Tip Buttons on Your Site — Do They Work? =-.

  2. James Duthie says:

    You're right John. And that tends to be the hardest part of any link based activity. But I've definitely found this type of activity to have a higher success rate than traditional link building, as the webmaster has already granted a link.

    The highest conversion rate I've seen occurred while working with a charity. The link optimisation conversion rate for that project hovered at around 50% (everyone wants to help a charity). For other clients, it tends to be somewhere between 10-30%.
    .-= James Duthie recently posted: Back to Basics with Link Optimisation =-.