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Linkbuilding is one of the hard and most tedious tasks of SEO work. I have to be honest with you: I usually hate building links. I hate the low response rates, the uncertainty of link strategies, and the tediousness of pounding through lots (tens and hundreds) in a short time period. I’d much rather be doing keyword research, writing content, and finding the website issues that gum up the search engine bots. But alas, linkbuilding must happen.

Because I hate linkbuilding so much, yet realize the need for it, I have tried to develop some ways to make the process less painful for me. These strategies work fairly well for me because of the ways I process and work to be organized in gathering information, so you may have to tweak my processes a bit to fit your individual style.

Please note: I will not be talking about content writing here. Content writing is a process that should occur along with some of these steps, especially keyword research, but is not directly involved with the process of research and emails.

That said, I give you Step 1 in my Beginner’s Process to Linkbuilding.

The Beginner SEO’s Linkbuilding Process

Point 1: Keyword Research

In order to build links, you must first know which terms you are trying to target for your page. If your page has to do with, say “online masters in education”, you need to find the keywords that will enable you to achieve the rankings you need.
Hopefully you have been writing and publishing good content, or your client has a decent amount of content on their website.

Here are the steps I take to narrow down keywords:

1) First I look at the page and find the words that it seems we (or the client) are trying to rank for, or the most relevant terms to the content, or the terms I am told that we are trying to rank for. I write these down in an Excel spreadsheet.

2) Second, I point my browser to SEOmoz’s Rank Tracker tool. This neat little tool allows you to plug your keyword into the keyword field and the specific URL you are trying to rank into the URL field. Click “Find My Ranking” and within a few seconds they will tell you where you rank in the search engine you specified. Do this for all of the keywords you have identifiedand you will have your starting position.

keyword examples

Keyword competitiveness from AdWords

3) Use the Google Keyword Tool to find the search numbers (be sure to choose the
Exact option, otherwise your data may be dirty) for your term. The GKT will also tell you the competition for the term. Look at the Global and Local monthly searches, then compare the competition levels. You can also use the SEOmoz Keyword Difficulty tool to find how hard it will be to rank for your desired terms.

4) Use AdWords campaigns to find the potential earnings for the keywords. After all, if your goal is not just to rank well but also ultimately to earn some cash for yourself or your client, you need to target terms that are highly searched and in-demand. Adsense will tell you how much it will cost to buy traffic. Probably the higher the AdWords cost, the more competitive, and therefore valuable, the term will be from an economic perspective. I know some will disagree with me on this, but I do think it is a good general rule. Once again, this is just a piece of the keyword discovery puzzle.

5) Beside each term in my Excel sheet, I put my current rankings, the number of global and local searches, as well as term competitiveness, from Adwords, and the cost of the keyword in your AdWords campaign. Using these numbers, you can find the terms that will be accessible for you short-term, because of your current rankings and the anchor text to target in your linkbuilding outreach for both short-term and long-term keyword rankings. Use the competitiveness and your current rankings together to gauge expectations for your clients.

Next time

Next time in part 2 of this series (I don’t say how many because I do not know how many I will write) I will talk about ways I gather link prospects on the broad level. We’ll also explore how to further weed out the rubbish so that you have some quality link opportunities.