How I assemble a big ass link building list

August 02, 2015 | 9 Minute Read

Basic rule of SEO link building is "match and exceed". Eli told me so. Once we're 100% sure we want to dominate SEPRs in a certain niche, one of our to-do items would be to gather a big list of websites who already link to our competitors. To match and exceed their link mass. Boom.

Today we will look at the process I use to gather a big list of websites that could potentially link back to a website of a certain niche.

The list could then be used to approach editors of those websites. We can offer content contributions to score an authorship credit, which hopefully links back to our website or a social profile. There are other ways to get backlinks though, but this one is really a win-win, IF you are offering great piece of content that fits the target audience.

I will reserve listing other ways you can potentially get link juice in another post. Right now, let's get back to assembling a huge link building list.

Best way to demonstrate the approach is by example. So what we will do is gather a list of competitors for a Bitcoin wallet & ATM card service. When choosing competitors, pick the ones that rank well and closely resemble your product / service (you may already know most of those if you're in business for some time).

Note: I will be using paid version of Market Samurai for the process. This software takes its SEO competition and backlink data from Majestic SEO, which could also be used but is a subscription service.

Finding competing websites with good link authority

First - if you were working on your project for a while you may already know most of your direct competitors that get good organic positions. You can just use them.

If you want an extensive list, get your keywords handy and open Market Samurai tabs for each necessary keyword. One at a time. I will focus on just 2 keywords. "Bitcoin credit card" and "Bitcoin ATM card".

Go to "SEO COMPETITION" tab in Market Samurai for the first keyword, and click "Generate Results", then do the same for other keywords.

Generating SEO competition results for a given keyword.

Now let's check out what websites in the results have best Citation Flow (CF) and Trust Flow (TF) parameters and offer similar product to the one we will be building links for.

How SEO metrics stack up among competing websites for a given keyword.
Citation Flow and Trust Flow are metrics Mejestic came up with to measure backlink authority.

From this list, best candidates are #2, #3, #4, #8, #9 and #10. Other aren't services we are competing with, they are publications, magazines or wikis.

Let's note those and move on to the competing services we will find using our next keyword and so on.

Note: you can easily find competitors using Majestic, SEMrush or any other similar service. I am using Market Samurai just for convenience.

Export backlinks of competitors

Let's make our first pick to start assembling the link building list. Click caret to the right of the URL. Then click "Citation Flow Analysis" in the expanded menu.

Getting to Citation Flow Analysis.

You will get list of backlinks to the website which is sorted based on the influence it has on the rankings of our competitor. The more authority the link passes to the domain, higher it will be on the list.

Citation Flow Analysis for a given website.

It's worth noting that if website backlink is situated in a sidebar or other element that appear cross-website, a single domain may appear multiple times in the results:

Multiple backlinks from the same domain.

We will ignore this for now. Next steps are to export all those pages that link to a competing website. Click "Export Anchor Text Data" button in the bottom-right of the current window:

Exporting Citation Flow Anchor Text Data for a given competitor.

Save the file as a .csv with the same name as a competitor, for convenience.

Saving Anchor data to a .csv file.

Repeat this until you have export files for multiple competing websites. For my example, just 2 will be enough. But you should aim at getting each one with great authority and similar service.

Two .csv files on my desktop.

Creating the link building list

Now that we have our .csv files with all the juicy backlinks that point to our competitors, time to merge them into one big ass list.

Let's use Google Sheets. Create an empty spreadsheet file.

It's time we import all our exported backlinks. Go to "File > Import..."

Importing to Sheets.

Use Upload tab and upload your first .csv file.

Drap .csv file to upload to Google Sheets.

Important: use "Append rows to current sheet" and click "Import":

Append rows to current sheet.

Your file will be imported:

Imported first competitors backlink data file.

Repeat the process again for each file, until you end up with a big ass link building list.

Note that you may end up with a header row between each file, but it's not a problem right now:

Imported multiple header rows.

You can avoid this by deleting header rows from all the .csv files that you import (but the first one).

Removing junk from the list.

One thing that we need to do is get rid of all the duplicate domains. To do that we first need to end up with root domain URLs instead of page urls. This Moz article shows a good way to do it.

We will add a "Root URL" column C in the file, and place this formula and expand it to all other cells in column:



Root URLs column in backlink Sheet file.

Now that we added root domains to our file, we need to remove duplicate entries. Here is a video that explains a way to do that.

What I suggest is:

  1. Move "Root URL" column closer to "Citation Flow":

Moving root URLs column. 2. Add a few columns next to them and use "=UNIQUE()" formula to remove duplicates:

Removing duplicates. 3. Copy newly created "=UNIQUE()" columns and paste it as values:

Copying and pasting columns. 4. Remove all columns but the unique ones (if you didn't do 3rd step, your "unique" columns will disappear.)

Removing unnecessary columns. 5. Fix & style file header :)

Fixing link building list headers.

We're done. Keep in mind that there may still be some duplicates left in your list. For example www/non-www versions of the domains or http/https, but you can simply remove them as you move along.

Duplicate root level domains imported.

What's next?

Now, this list represents all the websites that you need to get a backlink from. Good news is that if a website is on this list, for whatever reason they are already linking to your competitors' website, so you can achieve this too.

Bad news is that it's a lot of work. But if you do everything right, your product will dominate search engine result pages. How can it not when your link mass closely matches the trust and authority of all your competitors.

A lot of work

For next steps, the workflow may be different for everybody from this point on, but here are a few tips:

  1. Sort the list by "Citation Flow". The higher is this value, the more valuable is the link from this website. Do whatever it takes to persuade them to get a backlink. They don't answer email? Get whois data on the domain and try to call them.
  2. Treat the process like salespeople do. Get into relationship with them if possible. When sending a cold email, do research in advance, point out in the email that you are familiar with their website and read it from time to time. Bonus points if you actually do this.
  3. Track status. I add conditional formatting for cells depending on the status. Record contacts and the content that you published. You may need it later on. Conditional formatting added to status of the link building progress.
  4. When pitching your content, show samples which are already published on high authority websites.
  5. You have to "sell" yourself to publishers. Is their audience interested in reading your content? Will you share it via social channels? Did your content perform better than average on the websites where you published? The answer should be "yes" to those questions and your prospects should know it.
  6. Be respectable if people deny working with your or don't reply.
  7. Keep an eye on published articles. Engage with people that comment on it.
  8. Revisit the list. Send another email to people that didn't reply. Send emails catching up with those that did. Offer more content or possibilities of other collaborations.
  9. Treat the list like a CRM. You're selling your content. Website pay you by publishing your content. Sell them good product and they will buy again.
  10. Note that there are paid (and maybe free) tools that help you streamlining this process, for example BuzzStream. I like to approach it via a big ass spreadsheet list because it can be done in bulk and gives you more freedom.

That's about it. Let me know if you have any questions.

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