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Analyzing links

From: SEO: Link Building in Depth

Video: Analyzing links

We've learned a lot about links in the last few videos. We've looked at what they are and how they can help us. By now you should know the structure of the links we need and a few things to watch for, things that can devalue our links or even make them completely worthless. Pretty soon we need to get started actually building links, but there's one more thing that's worth doing. We need to learn about link analysis. What I'm talking about here is analyzing the links that point to a particular website. You'll want to analyze the links pointing to the site you're optimizing of course.

Analyzing links

We've learned a lot about links in the last few videos. We've looked at what they are and how they can help us. By now you should know the structure of the links we need and a few things to watch for, things that can devalue our links or even make them completely worthless. Pretty soon we need to get started actually building links, but there's one more thing that's worth doing. We need to learn about link analysis. What I'm talking about here is analyzing the links that point to a particular website. You'll want to analyze the links pointing to the site you're optimizing of course.

You need to know where you stand and it's a good thing to have some kind of baseline from which you can measure improvement. But you may also want to analyze the links pointing to your competitors, for a couple of reasons: you'll discover what you're up against. It can be disheartening when you discover that your competitor has a hundred thousand links pointing to the site, but on the other hand you may discover that the competitor actually has very few links and your job is going to be easy. But you may also find some great places to get links from. If you have a competitor sitting at position number one in Google for the keyword phrases you want to rank well for, what could be better than knowing how they did it? And as important as page optimization is, very often it's mainly the incoming links that make a site rank well.

How then do we find out about links pointing to a site? Well, first I'm going to tell you about Google's link syntax, not because it's a good way to find out about links, it's not, it's terrible, but because it's there and you might as well know it doesn't work. Go to Google and type link: domain name and press Enter. And in theory, Google will return a list of pages that contain links to that page. However, it will only be a small subset of links. In general, no where near all the links pointing to that site.

Here's what Google shows when we search for the number of links pointing to lynda.com. Of course, if you try this yourself right now, you'll probably see a different number. You'll see later that in fact lynda.com has a much larger number of incoming links than Google is showing us. So now you're seeing the link colon syntax, you can forget about it. There are much better ways to find incoming links though they may cost you. Yahoo! used to have a pretty decent link tool, but unfortunately that disappeared when Yahoo! began using Bing results. So all we're left with are the commercial tools, such as SEOmoz, Wordtracker, SEO Elite, Majestic SEO and others.

There are basically two methods used by these tools. The first method is for the tool to query the search engines for information. You tell it the domain name and the tool goes to the search engines asking for data. The other method is to actually create an index just like the search engines do. SEOmoz and Majestic SEO do this. They have their own searchbots retrieving and indexing pages and examining all the links in those pages. Majestic SEO, for example, taps into a vast community builds index of a trillion URLs and over 360 billion pages.

Let's take a look at Majestic SEO and see what it can do for us. This is my current favorite as it has the largest available link database, but you can still get useful data from other tools if you prefer them. You can begin using Majestic for free, and in fact, as long as you're only looking for information on links pointing to your own site, you never have to pay. Majestic will provide you with a verification text files that are placed into your own website, so it knows you own or manage the site. Begin by going to majesticseo.com and registering for a free account.

Once registered, I suggest you go to the Site Explorer page, then enter your domain name. I generally use the Fresh Index to get more recent information. If you use the Historic Index, you'll get information on a lot of links that are no longer present. Click Explore and within a second or two, you'll get basic information about the links pointing to your site. L ook at this. There are around 700,000 links pointing to lynda.com. Remember the Google link colon syntax? Google return information on a little over a thousand links.

Now you can see why Google's link information is not worth bothering with. You have lots of data on this page. In fact, Majestic SEO can be a little complicated because it throws so much information at you, but it's worth spending the time to figure it all out. As you can see on this page, Majestic is telling us that there are more than 18,000 domains pointing to lynda.com. It even breaks it out, telling us that around 5,000 links are coming from about 600 different EDU domains, a really good thing. It even gives us a breakdown showing us around a quarter of a million links are image links, unfortunately, and more or less 170,000 are nofollow links.

The tabs at the top lead us to more information on the top backlinks, the domains linking back, and the pages within the site they mostly link to. We haven't yet created a full report though, so click the Create Report button. If you own the site you are currently analyzing, use one of these links to find out how to verify your site and get free information. In this case, we'll assume you're looking for information on a competitor, in which case you need a page subscription currently around $50 a month. I'm going to create the full report to get the most information.

We then go to the reports page and click on the report we created. Now here's where we get to the really important information. We're going to create a download file by clicking here and then on the Prepare Download button. Then we'll go over to the Downloads page and click the report name to download the file. It will be downloaded as an archive file, so you need a program such as WinRAR to open it or StuffIt if you use a Mac.

Inside the archive file, we'll find a .csv file, which can be opened in a spreadsheet program, such as Microsoft Excel. So what do we have? Each line is a link. The first column shows the page that the link is pointing to. The second column shows the ACRank of the page. ACRank is something Majestic calculates, a page value based on linking similar in concept to PageRank. Next we see the URL of the page on which the link is found. In the fourth column, we again see an ACRank, this time for the source page.

Finally, in the fifth column, we see some of the most important information, the anchor text of the link. As we scroll down this list, we can see some good links, some bad. In this case, anchor text that say lynda.com actually are not ideal. Search for lynda and lynda.com comes up number one anyway, and would do so without too many links pointing at it. Links such as these, however, are much more useful containing keywords that could help lynda.com rank well for various phrases, such as computer-based training, computer learning, computer online software training, and so on.

You'll also want to look at the Source URL column carefully too, especially when looking at competitors link reports. Spend some time digging around and you'll probably find lots of ideas for links that you can build to your own site. You may find out your competitor is getting links from directories in which you should be included too, or maybe links from blogs that could provide good targets for some kind of online PR for your site. One thing you'll often find, if you dig deep enough, is that your competitor is also buying links, something we'll discuss in a later video.

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SEO: Link Building in Depth

30 video lessons · 12590 viewers

Peter Kent
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