An Actionable Guide to Building a Backlink Strategy for SEO

Updated on May 27, 2018

Have you ever wondered why your competitors' websites are showing up ahead of your own in Google's search results? A major factor that comes in to play when ranking organically is the strength of your backlink profile. In this guide I'll explain how you can action a practical guide for achieving greater visibility online.


An overview of the five main steps to follow

1. Identify who your competitors are
2. Find out who is linking to your competitors
3. Review your competitors' backlinks
4. Evaluate link building opportunities
5. Build out a roadmap of tactics

1. Identify who your competitors are

Every off-page or link building strategy begins with research. In this instance it's imperitive that you understand the tactics being deployed by the competition in order to know what works for them in boosting their online visibility. Let's drill down on this by introducing a measurement called share of voice.

In the context of SEO, share of voice indicates what percentage of the organic search results are owned by your website. For example, if web pages for competitor A are in position 1-10 then it has a 100% SoV.

So it's important to know not only who your brand competitors are but also who is trying to rank for keywords that are likely to bring is traffic and conversions for your products and services. You can calculate a share of voice by reading this expert guide. And in the diagram below you can see what a SoV might look like.

A share of voice report highlighting which websites within a specific niche are dominating organic search results.
A share of voice report highlighting which websites within a specific niche are dominating organic search results. | Source

2. Discover who is linking to your competitors

The next phase of the process is finding out the exact volume and quality of backlinks pointing to all websites. We want to know this because, backlinks being one of the biggest ranking signals, it presents a foundation for building your own link building strategy.

I tool I recommend for this exercise is Ahrefs Link Intersect, which compares backlink profiles to show you the websites where links are being acquired from. The more challenging your industry is the greater the number of backlinks your competitors will have, and in contrast, you can expect websites wrestling for SERPs space in low competitive niches to have few backlinks.

Import the urls of 9 competitors into the Ahrefs tool and you should end up with a comparison table like this...


There are over 12,000 results within this intersect report which sounds like an awful lot to break down. The intersect column comes into play here by telling us exactly how many competitors are acquiring links from common denominator websites.

3. Review your competitors' backlinks

Stick with the intersect column for a moment, as this is key to determining which sites you should include within your backlink strategy.

Extract the full data within Ahrefs and open as a fresh Excel spreadsheet - the websites should remain positioned exactly how they were before, but a few extra colums may appear - if so, remove them so you have a spreadsheet that reads something like in the chart below.

Add in a filter and toggle the data by Intersect from highest to lowest.

Link Intersect is the number of times a third party website has linked to each of your competitors. Domain rating is the SEO value of the referring websites.
Link Intersect is the number of times a third party website has linked to each of your competitors. Domain rating is the SEO value of the referring websites. | Source

4. Evaluate link building opportunities

You can now add in a custom algorithm to give a clear opportunity score, by which we mean the true value of a backlink from any referring domain listed. To do this, add a fresh column on the far right called Opportunity Score and populate the first cell by writing the formula: =SUM(B2*C2)/4

Drag the formula down to the very last cell in this column. Now filter so you can see the Opportunity Scores from highest to lowest.

Notice how the order of the referring domains has changed, and this is based on how important they are for acquiring a link from. If each of your competitors are earning a backlink from a referring domain and it is of high domain rank, then chances are it will show up with the top opportunity score.


5. Build out a roadmap of tactics

With research and analysis now complete its time to piece together the link building roadmap to help your website rank higher in search results. But before you action this, firstly describe the type of website for the top 30% of results.

Labelling the websites will allow you to categorise your tactics and hence keep your link building strategy neat and efficient to see through.

Here are my suggested domain types, which I refer to as opportunity types. This is essentially a list of methods by which the competition has acquired a backlink.

  • News coverage
  • Article submissions
  • Personal blog submissions
  • Partner network submissions
  • Directory submissions
  • Forum submissions
  • Visual content and social media submissions

Keep a running tally for each of the opportunities that lie within the categories above and use this as your guide for the number of tactics you can include in your link building strategy.

Remeber, this analysis is only a snapshot of what the competition is doing so weave their tactics into your own link building calendar, rather than let it cannibalise them.

Set out a 6-12 month calendar whereby each month is dedicated is auctioning one of the tactics mentioned here. Momentum is key for link building so start with quick wins like directory submissions and build your way up to high value tactics like news coverage and PR. Here is a table to help you understand what resources you might need during the roadmap.

Difficulty Level
Submit company profile
Engage in topic / thread
Information portal
Submit website as a resource
Personal blog
Request content collaboration
News site
Pitch news story idea

Final thoughts

By carrying out the actions above you will now be confident of understanding how to boost the backlink profile of your website, and in doing so, earn more trust from Google. You can expect to see a shift in the organic rankings for your web pages if they have acquired backlinks through these tactics mentioned above. The results may not be instant but aim to review the impact using tools such as Ahrefs and SEO rankings software on a monthly basis to make an informed analysis of your progress.

And to help you on your way here is a handy SEO checklist to refer back to at any point.

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This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

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