Link Building 101: Simple Linkbait Co-Citation Analysis for Link Prospecting
Uses for This Process:
- Identify linking prospects for specific pages of your site.
- Quantify the proven linking audience for a potential linkable asset you haven't created yet.
- Compliment your link opportunity inventory for a particular piece of content.
Problems with This Process:
- It can take a bit of time, maybe 30 minutes if you're looking at backlinks to 5 different linkbait pieces.
- There's no "quality control" in that scraper "noise" can easily appear frequently.
- It doesn't remove sites that already link to you.
- It doesn't discover prospects beyond who currently links.
Tools You Will Need:
- At least 2 similar linkable asset pages from competing sites
- Open Site Explorer (login required) or Yahoo Site Explorer
- URL and Hostname Counter
- Unique Hostname Sorting Tool
1) Identify at least 3 Similar Highly-Linkable Assets
To illustrate, let's say we'd like to further promote our link prospecting query tool to editors, writers and resource curators. We first identify other similar pages in our market. Namely, other link prospecting query tools and articles that contain lists of link prospecting queries.
For example we could analyze:
- SEOBook's Link Suggestion Tool
- SoloSEO's Link Search Tool
- the SEOMoz Long List of Link Searches
- 21 Link Builders Share Advanced Link Building Queries
Note: If the pages you're analyzing have less than 30 or so unique domains linking then you should consider either finding more similar pages or looking for a more linkable asset. 50+ unique linking domains is better... (Ignore this note if you're in a link-poor space.)
2) Pull Backlinks with Open Site Explorer
Filter OSE's "Linking Pages" results to show "All," "External Pages Only," and "This Page." Then click the "Filter Results" button. Lastly, Export your results to CSV. Save all the CSVs to your desktop, or other temporary storage spot and move on to step 3.
3) Run Each List Separately Through the "Unique Hostnames" Tool
The Unique Hostname sorting tool takes a list of URLs and reduces them to single occurrences of the hostname. This removes duplicate urls as well as multiple URLs that are different but all from the same hostname. This reduces the overall range of information you could derive from co-citation analysis, but it makes it much faster and simpler to get at the most frequently linking hostnames.
Run the URLs from each CSV through the Unique Hostname tool and paste the results into a new sheet of your spreadsheet - you can put all of the hostnames together at this point since they are now "scrubbed" and ready to get their occurrences counted.
4) Run The Complete List of Hostname Prospects Through the URL/Hostname Counter
Though we designed the URL and Hostname Counter for counting the frequency of URLs and hostnames in the SERPs, it works just as well on URLs pulled for backlink analysis. Now's the golden moment in which you input your entire list of harvested backlinks into the URL and Hostname Counter and see what comes out. Link geeks will get a little tingly at this point.
5) Analyzing Your Co-Citation Results
In our analysis for our link prospecting tool we looked at 326 total unique hostnames - that's how many OSE found linked to the 4 link prospecting resources mentioned above in step 1. Of these unique hostnames, only 3 sites link to all 4 resources. They are:
These three sites linked directly to all 4 of the resources above, which makes them worth investigating. These direct-to-resource links indicate that these prospects are all highly interested in link prospecting queries and worthy of further qualification and possible outreach.
Since we've published content at all of these sites we'll have to move on to the 7 sites with 3 co-citations :)
Here a few more prospects emerge, though there are certainly some "usual suspects" ;) We can continue on investigating the sites that link to 2 of the pages and, lastly the sites that link to 1 of the pages, though each level of co-citation takes longer and longer to qualify.
6) Link Prospect Qualification: Next Steps for Link Builders and Other Content Promoters
Your next steps should be to qualify prospects to make sure they meet your quality needs, as well as to make sure they fit your angle of attack - that is, to see how your linkable asset lines up with their link opportunity. For our tool we've consistently earned links through articles we've placed off site. So for us, next steps could include evaluating whether or not the sites accept outside content submissions, evaluating their twitter reach with Backtweets, checking if they have a newsletter, and looking the sites over for "link building tool" resource pages.
Your qualification efforts will be different, depending on what you're promoting, how it's commonly discussed and shared in your market and how effectively you engage with your prospects. A little preciprocation won't hurt, no matter what industry you're in ;)
>> Wrapping Up
Note, this article is essentially a missing step from 17 Ways to Accelerate Links to Your Link Bait (and Other Highly Linkable Content). It could be considered part of the qualifying stage. It's also an elaboration of a process outlined in an upcoming Search Marketing Standard print article.