Stop thinking one link at a time.
I promise, there are plenty of backlinks to go around for all of us.
It doesn’t matter if your competitor scores one incredible backlink—there are 100 more quality backlinks where that came from.
Yes, SEO is competitive, and there are only so many spaces at the top of the Google SERPs.
You do need good backlinks to get good SERP rankings, and linkbuilding often proves to be one of the biggest challenges marketers face.
There’s work to be done, for sure. So, where do you start?
Once you’re thinking this way, all that’s left is to create your linkbuilding plan and get hustling.
You need to know exactly what to do each day to build quality links to your site.
You need to keep making progress every day, growing your link profile to the point where your competitors have almost no chance of catching up to you.
We swear by this 5-step plan.
All you need to do is keep the ball rolling with a little bit of linkbuilding work every day.
Abundant Backlinks: The Large-scale, 5-Step Link Building Plan
Step 1: Backlink Research and Analysis
Frequency: Once a month
The first step you should take when creating a link building plan is to perform a backlink analysis of your site and your top competitors.
Running backlink analysis with a tool like Monitor Backlinks will show you how many backlinks your competitors have and where they’re getting links from. (If you’re not already a Monitor Backlinks user, check out this guide to see how our tool helps you conduct a quick and painless backlink analysis.)
Not only that, but you’re going to need a thorough backlink tool on your side to create, execute and evaluate your linkbuilding plan, so you may as well get set up with one now. Sign up for your 30-day free trial of Monitor Backlinks now, and you can follow along with the rest of this guide to get a clearer picture of how a linkbuilding plan can work.
Backlink analysis of your site
Performing a backlink analysis of your own site will show you where you’re at by comparison as well as reveal any spammy backlinks.
Spammy backlinks sometimes build up naturally (the webmasters of those sites don’t realize they’re hurting you by linking to you) or maliciously if competitors get jealous of your success and run a negative SEO campaign against your site.
For example, here’s a screenshot of a backlink analysis for monitorbacklinks.com:
A quick look at the backlink profile shows that we’re getting several links to our blog articles and backlink tool pages from bloggers, question-and-answer sites and SEO-related business pages.
In this image, you can also spot a few warning symbols that are letting us know to more thoroughly check out the quality of a few choice backlinks which might be spam or otherwise bad for SEO.
If you find an excessive amount of spammy links, you should use Monitor Backlinks’ disavow links tool to neutralize them before launching your linkbuilding campaign. With this handy tool, you can quickly choose lousy links to disavow and submit the file to Google. To automate things, you can even set rules for the domains you’ll always want to disavow backlinks from, and Monitor Backlinks will stay on top of this for you.
Backlink analysis of competitors
A backlink analysis of your top ranking competitors shows you where they’re getting links from and how they’re marketing themselves. For example, here’s what we see when spying on the backlinks that ahrefs.com has:
It’s very similar information to what you see for your own websites: domains, webpages, anchor texts, links embedded, status, quality signals and more. You can get a clear sense of how you stack up to your closest competitors (and if you’re really in the fight to win, you can have Monitor Backlinks send you automated reports when your competitors gain and lose backlinks).
So, how can we use all this information to our advantage?
How to make linkbuilding plans based on backlink research
If our business was competing with Ahrefs, we could see that their blog is frequently being linked to, and plan to step up our marketing game. Seeing which articles people linked to might give us ideas on topics that we could also write about, or elements that we could add to our posts to make them more linkworthy, like bold featured images, GIFs and infographics.
We could also reach out to the specific websites that reviewed Ahrefs firsthand, and let them know about our product. Perhaps those web teams may be interested in trying out and reviewing our product as well.
Of course, what you end up discovering and pursuing in terms of linkbuilding strategy will vary greatly based on niche.
- Are you competing with local businesses that have backlinks from local area directories, guides, blogs and news sites? Start applying to those directories and reaching out to those local people online or offline.
- Is your competitor getting lots of reviews from other bloggers and journalists? Consider reaching out to those bloggers and seeing if they want to review your product.
- Are they using guest blogging to build their site’s backlinks and authority? You can pitch the sites they’re guest posting on to see if they’ll accept guest posts from you—more often than not they will.
- Are they naturally getting mentions within other industry news sites and blogs? You can reach out and make a case for these sites to link to your superior resource instead of, or in addition to, your competitor.
Step 2: Set Goals and Define Metrics
Frequency: Once a month
After you do your backlink analysis, you should set goals and define metrics to track so that you can measure your success.
Define metrics and begin tracking
So what metrics should you track? Here are a couple of recommendations.
Inbound links — The number of inbound links to your site should increase as time progresses. If you are doing content marketing or other publicity generating activities, then the number of links your site receives should start to accelerate over time.
Set up Google Search Console and mention monitoring with a tool like Monitor Backlinks to track new links. Set aside time on a weekly basis to review new links to your site and check your progress.
Search engine positions — You’ll want to monitor search engine positions to make sure that your site is ranking for its keywords. Many websites use Google Analytics and Google Search Console, which are nice, free tools that can show you some of the keywords that are driving search traffic to your site. However, Google only provides limited data, so you should consider using other tools as well.
With Monitor Backlinks, you can enter the keyword phrases that you are trying to rank for and Monitor Backlinks will keep track of your Google ranking for that keyword phrase:
Setting SMART linkbuilding goals
Goals make all the difference.
Be sure to make them SMART goals (crash course on SMART goals here).
For example, if you decide to use guest posting as a linkbuilding tactic, and your competitors have hundreds of powerful backlinks that you need to catch up with quickly, then you can set a goal of doing 3 guest posts per week.
But that’s just one type of goal.
There are goals for results you want to achieve, which are your output goals.
Then there are productivity goals you might have for your day-to-day activities, which are defined as your input goals.
Here are some examples of solid linkbuilding input goals:
- Complete a full backlink analysis for our site and for competitor sites once per month.
- Find 100 good linkbuilding opportunities each week.
- Send 50 linkbuilding outreach emails each week.
- Follow up on all linkbuilding outreach emails once per month.
And some great examples of linkbuilding output goals are:
- Increase referral traffic by 50% by January 1st, 2019.
- Improve average keyword rankings in Google by 20% by the end of the third quarter of 2018.
An aggressive linkbuilding campaign can boost traffic to a brand new site right away, but it can take 6 months to a year to rank for competitive keywords. So be sure to set reasonable goals and a realistic time frame for your SEO campaign.
Alternatively, for an aggressive linkbuilding campaign, you might commit to sending 50 outreach emails every day, targeting all the webmasters who’ve already linked to and mentioned your competitors in their blog posts.
Step 3: Create a Linkbuilding Schedule
- Schedule for full linkbuilding plan: Once a month
- Schedule for daily linkbuilding tasks: Every day
Now that you have a good understanding of what your competitors are doing, have set goals for yourself and are tracking metrics, you can create a linkbuilding schedule.
- how much time you have to work on link building each day (or how many total man-hours your team can invest)
- how many people will be involved in the project
- which tools you’ll use to manage backlink research, metrics tracking, goals traffic, contact information acquisition, email outreach and follow-up outreach
Here’s an example of what a linkbuilding schedule for one person, one day, might look like:
9:00 am – 11:00 am — Guest post writing
11:00 am – 11:30 am — Take a break
11:30 am – 12:30 pm — Perform backlink analysis
12:30 pm – 1:30 pm — Lunch break
1:30 pm – 3:30 pm — Email outreach
3:30 pm – 4:00 pm — Take a break
4:00 pm – 5:00 pm — Reply to emails and other miscellaneous tasks
A linkbuilding schedule breaks everything down into very specific tasks so that you and your team know exactly what steps to take and when to perform each activity.
If you have multiple people working on link building, each person can also have their own customized linkbuilding schedule. Assign people and resources to complete required tasks.
Note that the activities that you add to your linkbuilding schedule will depend on your linkbuilding plan.
For example, if your niche isn’t very competitive, you may only need to spend one day (or even just a few hours) on this each month.
If you’re in a competitive niche with big, authoritative websites fighting against you for top spots in the SERPs, you may want to plan out a full week for aggressive outreach, or a more gradual, long-term plan (which is much more sustainable) where one day a week is dedicated to linkbuilding work.
Step 4: Begin Linkbuilding Outreach
So now you know that you need to create a linkbuilding schedule. But how do you choose what activities to add to your schedule?
Your initial goal with linkbuilding should be to catch up with your competitors. You may want to consider “stealing” your competitor’s backlinks to start off.
The backlinks research you’ve completed in the first step has told you which activities you need to start doing to catch up with your competitors, like using email outreach to contact other websites that have already linked to the competitor site. You can then email these prospects to let them know about your business and try to convince them to link to your site as well.
Now, it’s finally time to take action.
For email outreach, you’ll have to do a few things including:
1. Create an email template for email outreach — You should be able to create a simple template in under an hour. This Monitor Backlinks article has some email outreach templates that you can view for inspiration.
2. Find email addresses for the people you are reaching out — Finding emails takes time, so you’ll want to include this activity in your linkbuilding schedule. You should be able to find 20-30 emails an hour, but time it yourself to see how long it takes. Hunter.io is a great tool to assist in finding emails and you can find some other tools from this list by Beamery.
3. Send emails to your outreach prospects — After you’ve found everyone’s emails, you can start sending emails to your outreach prospects. Although you’ll be using your template, you may want to personalize emails whenever possible. I like to send a maximum of 50 emails a day (to prevent setting off bulk email triggers) and this task can usually be completed in an hour or two.
4. Keep track of email outreach efforts — Finally, you may want to track the results of your email outreach to gauge effectiveness. If your initial emails aren’t getting enough response, you may want to consider sending a follow-up email or revising your email template.
Also, submit your site to relevant directories and sites. You should be able to complete directory submissions in just a few hours at most.
Step 5: Make Your Site a Backlink Magnet
Want to make it nearly impossible for your competitors to get more links than you?
Once you’ve completed reaching out to other websites that linked to your competitors, you should consider investing in other linkbuilding tactics to secure your position in the search engines. If you continue to accumulate links to your site, competitors will have a difficult time catching up to you.
Here are a few tactics you should add to your linkbuilding schedule to continue to build links to your site:
1. Content marketing — According to research done by Hubspot, businesses that blog receive an average of 97% more links than businesses that don’t. If you decide to get into blogging, you’ll need to schedule time to decide on content topics, write articles, edit your articles and promote your blog. Figure out all the activities you’ll need to perform to successfully grow your blog and add these activities to your marketing calendar.
2. Guest blogging — Another way to build links is by guest blogging on other sites. The time required to write a guest post will vary depending on the site’s editorial guidelines and requirements.
For a guest posting campaign, you’ll need to factor in time to write your article, time required to find sites to guest post on and communication time for emailing back and forth with site editors. Be sure to allow more time for creating a guest blog article because it will likely take more time than writing an article for your own site due to differing editorial requirements from the host blog.
3. Link monitoring using Monitor Backlinks — Your competitors will likely be getting links on an ongoing basis, so you should monitor their backlinks and be prepared to pursue any new opportunities. Monitor Backlinks keeps track of your competitors and alerts you whenever they receive new backlinks or lose backlinks.
Then you can swoop in and steal the backlinks they lose, or try to replicate the new backlinks they earn.
Depending on how many backlinks your competitors are getting, you may want to set a weekly or even daily schedule to check their backlinks and schedule an email outreach to reach out to anyone who links to your competitors.
You don’t have to do all of these activities, but pick ones that make sense for your business, break them down into individual tasks, estimate the time required for each task and then add them to your linkbuilding calendar.
Step 6: Track and Monitor Linkbuilding Progress
Remember the metrics you decided to monitor in Step 2? Don’t forget to set aside some time on your linkbuilding calendar to review those metrics.
You can use a spreadsheet and Google Console to track new links each week or you can use a tool like Monitor Backlinks to do it automatically. In Monitor Backlinks, you can just click on the backlinks tab to view your progress:
Using the data, you can make intelligent decisions on where to focus your linkbuilding efforts.
Are you getting more links from guest posting than from email outreach? Then perhaps you should shift more resources to that activity.
Monitor your progress each week and re-evaluate the effectiveness of your linkbuilding plan each month. Then make adjustments to improve your linkbuilding plan so that you are focusing on efforts that are generating the best ROI and getting you the most links.
To Sum It Up
Are you ready to get out there and dominate your competition? Then start working on your linkbuilding plan today before your competitors beat you to it.
Link building is time consuming and overwhelming for many people, but you can succeed at link building by breaking everything down into specific tasks, estimating the time required for each task and then assigning someone to complete that task.
Start by analyzing your competitors’ backlink profile and using email outreach to convince other people that linked to your competitors to link to you as well. After you’ve done that, consider using tactics like content marketing, guest blogging and link monitoring to make it really difficult for competitors to outrank you in the search engines.
You’ve probably read lots of articles about SEO and maybe you still felt stuck and confused. But it’s simply a matter of breaking everything down into individual steps and turning it into a step-by-step system.
Follow all the steps above to create your own linkbuilding plan and you’ll be dominating your competitors in no time.