For most people, SEO is a little complicated, especially if you’re just starting out. With all of the tools to learn, it’s hard to know where to even begin. Since there are many factors that determine rank, we’re going to simplify and focus on just one: getting relevant backlinks to your site to improve rankings.
1. Who are My Competitors?
The first thing you need is a sound understanding of who your competition is. There are a lot of ways to go about this. Here are three options:
- Google: One of the simplest ways to find competition is to type the keywords you want to rank for in the search bar. You’ll most likely see your competition on the first page of the results.
- SEMrush: Go to SEMrush, click on ‘organic research’ and then on ‘positions.’ Once you type in your domain, it will show you the competing domains along with how many common keywords you have.
- Spyfu: Type in your domain. Organic and paid competition, along with shared keywords, will display.
2. How Do I Compare?
Now that you’ve found your competition, go through each one and see how you rank next to them. I would suggest comparing against at least five different competitors.
The goal: find domains that are slightly higher than yours and work to move up the rankings.
One of the ways that I like to compare rankings is using Link Explorer with Moz. Go to this URL and type in your domain. https://moz.com/link-explorer/. Then click on compare link profiles and add your competition. This will give a breakdown of the page authority and backlinks going to these domains.
3. Can I Outrank?
Once you’ve compared yourself to your competition, it’s now time to ask yourself if you think you can outrank them. If one of your competitors is a big company like Nike, then it is unlikely you’ll outrank them. Remove unrealistic competitors from your list and focus on similar competition.
4. What Keywords Should I Rank For?
Now that you know where you stand against your competition, it’s time to create a list of the keywords you should go after. Again, use your competition as a guide.
SemRush has a tool that can help called “Keyword Gap.” Type in the domains of your competition to see the common keywords between them. Add as many as you can to your list along with any others you can think of. If you don’t have access to SEMrush, use Adwords Keyword Planner to find keywords.
5. How Do I Pick Keywords?
Once you have a list of keywords, go through and pick those that are most relevant. This can be tricky. Think of these three things as you trim down:
- Think like a customer.
- Pick keywords for your overall goals.
- Understand Long Tail Keywords
6. Are These Keywords Worth It?
Now that you have a list of potential keywords, it’s time to dive a little deeper to understand how often they’re searched and how competitive they are. Are they worth ranking for? These three things will help you decide:
- Volume: How many times is it searched for?
- Competition. How competitive will it be to earn rank? The highest-volume keywords tend to have the highest amount of competition. It is important to find a balance between volume and competition.
- Relevance. Does it apply to my business? This is probably the most important factor. Google wants its users to have a good experience, so keep your keywords relevant. Irrelevant keywords hurt rankings.
7. Which Keywords Do I Delete?
Go through that list and remove the ones you don’t think are worth the work of ranking. These will be keywords that have very little search volume, are super competitive, or don’t relate to your business.
8. Do I Have a Page for My Keywords?
Now that your list is pretty spot-on, it’s time to figure out if you already have pages for the keywords you’ve picked. One of the easiest ways to find out is using Google Webmaster Tools. Here’s how it works:
- Log in to Search Console.
- Click on Domain.
- Click Overview.
- Click Open Report.
- Click Queries.
- Change Dates to Last 90 Days.
- Go to the bottom of the page and show 500 rows instead of 50 rows.
- “Control F” and find a keyword.
- Click Keyword.
- Switch from Queries to Pages.
- See what pages show up for Queries.
The page displayed is what is currently showing up for that keyword. You can either work on that page to better optimize or you can create a brand new one.
9. Do I Have Backlinks to My Page?
What if you already have backlinks and you don’t even know it? It’s easy to find out. Thanks to another great tool, Ahrefs, simply follow these instructions:
- Go to ahrefs.com.
- Go to Site Explorer.
- Type in the URL for the Keyword Targeted Page.
- Make sure the search is for the exact URL.
- Look under backlinks to see what you have.
10. How Many Backlinks Do I Need?
One link, two links, what’s the right amount? The best backlink strategy involves slow, steady, quality links. But that still doesn’t tell you how many you need. The honest answer is each keyword requires a different amount of work. As a rule of thumb, there’s danger in only focusing on quantity. However, as a reference 50 is a pretty legit benchmark for any given SEO campaign.
- Go to ahrefs.com.
- Click on keyword explorer.
- Enter the keyword.
- Look under keyword difficulty.
11. Can I Get that Many Backlinks?
Anything is possible. But keywords are quite different in the amount of work required to achieve a certain ranking. The important determination to make is whether or not you think it is worth the time and effort to get all backlinks needed to help a specific page rank in any given keyword.
12. Where are My Competitors Getting Links?
If you’re ready to go after backlinks, a great place to start is to build a list based on what your competitors are doing. This gives you insight into what other sites allow guest posts and offer linking. This saves an immense amount of time. To check other sites, access Ahrefs again.
- Go to ahrefs.com
- Click on keyword explorer.
- Enter the keyword.
- Look under SERP overview.
- Pick a result and check out their backlinks.
- Find the contact with the sites giving the backlink.
13. How Do I Secure Relevant Backlinks?
With a list of who to approach for backlinks, there are a handful of ways to go about it.
- Write a Guest Post
- Do a Sponsored Post
- Find Broken Links from Competitors
- Reach out to Authors of other sites.
14. How Much Time Do I Have to Get Links?
In Steps 8 and 10 you found the page and amount of links you needed. Beware, this entire process can take time. Writing content, outreach, and awaiting responses isn’t always a speedy process. One thing to keep in mind though the process is the quality of the link. Take a look at sites like Spam Score. This will help you decide if a certain link is worth it.
15. Can I Outrank on My Own?
Backlinks are just one essential part of SEO. In fact, there are many other factors that go into the ranking process. If you don’t have the time or feel lost in the process, contact an SEO expert at Big Leap. They can help carve out the best strategy for you.