Link Prospecting Methods: Backlink Analysis vs. Search Queries

Link prospects are people who publish websites that you'd like to have linking to you. There are currently two major methods for finding link prospects at a large scale - Backlink Analysis (covered in our 3 part series at SEL) and Link Building Queries, for which we have created a free link building query creation tool.

Backlink Analysis:
In this method of developing a link prospect list, link builders compile massive lists of urls that link to the websites of 5, 10, or even more competing businesses. These linking sites are considered prospects because they have demonstrated that they will link to competing, related businesses.

Some link builders make use of "multiple citation analysis" which identifies websites and URLs that link repeatedly to more than one of your competing websites. This type of analysis provides another layer of prequalification of a prospect.

Competitor backlink lists - even those analyzed with multiple citation techniques - still require a great deal of by-hand link prospect qualification to ensure that there's a real incentive for the prospect to actually link. Further, some link building experts suggest that by "chasing" the backlinks of your competitors you will continually play catch up and never overtake them in the SERPs.

Despite these limitations, backlink analysis should remain a part of any link building campaign, as link builders will uncover sites there that have developed an audience an influence within the target market.

Link Building Queries:
Link building queries, especially when executed at large scale, enable link builders to identify link building prospects based on on-page, textual indicators, sometimes called "foot prints." If link builders query widely enough, query for opportunities that line up with their linkable assets, and with other market-appropriate queries, it's possible to create a thorough representation of an entire market's link opportunities.

When link builders compare competitor backlink lists to a list of prospects from link building queries, they will inevitably find overlap. However, link building queries are more fluid and flexible, and can discover link prospects far beyond the existing backlink profile of a market's SERP dominating websites. Looking beyond the existing link graph enables link builders to establish link relationships in addition to what the competition currently has. Link building queries enable link builders to overtake the competition.

One further downside with analyzing competitor backlinks is that the percentage of URLs that you analyze which end up being real opportunities for backlinks is very slim. On a good backlink profile, one out of every 20 URLs you qualify and review might end up being approached for a link.

However, with effective link building queries, it's possible to yield an even higher percentage of link opportunities. We've found as high as 50% with well-constructed queries and backend analysis. Imagine if you had link prospect lists that yielded even one out of five URLs as link prospects you would approach. This is a key difference between backlink analysis and effective link prospecting queries and analysis.

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