How to find and choose domains for link building

Anastasia Kurmakaeva

Written by Anastasia Kurmakaeva

Off-page optimisation of a website consists of various techniques, focussed on improving SEO in terms of popularity and authority. Amongst them we can include social media marketing, influencer marketing, guest blogging, branding awareness strategies, etc.

Undoubtedly, link building is one of the most effective and most important off-page optimisation strategies, but it is also, perhaps, the most delicate and the one with the most complicated background in the history of SEO.

#LinkBuilding is one of the most effective and most important off-page optimisation strategies, but it is also the most delicate and has the most complicated history in #SEO ☝🏻Click To Tweet

I’ve spoken about link building on several occasions, focussing mostly on how to build a cleaner and more natural backlink profile for your website. For this post, however, I would like to delve a little bit more into other aspects, such as indicators to take into account to measure the quality and authority of a domain, or ideas on how to look for websites where we could request links towards our own site, as well as types which are more in tune with our own field. As you already know, it’s important that there is a degree of correlation between the content from which we are being linked, and the content of the target page. Otherwise, search engine algorithms could think something suspicious is going on with our website, and it’s the last thing we want to transmit!

🔔 It's important that there always exists a correlation between the content from which we are linked ↔️ the content of the target page.Click To Tweet

Indicators and tools to measure domain quality

There are several indicators provided by SEO tools like Majestic, Moz’s Link Explorer or Sistrix, which gather some very interesting information about a website. We can (and should) use this data to select possible candidates we would like to receive a link from. Let’s see:

Domain Authority

Domain Authority (DA) is a Moz indicator, more specifically, its Link Explorer tool, which evaluates a domain on a range from 0 to 100. While this is a very reliable metric, it’s important to consider put this this score in perspective, and analyse it in conjunction with other indicators, too.

Link Explorer Moz

Obviously, reputed media outlets like Spain’s El País or El Mundo get a much higher score. It doesn’t make much sense to compare the authority of a leading online media outlet at a national level, with millions of links coming in from all types of websites and social networking platforms (without mentioning its daily traffic volume), with a small website, which will never reach the same audience that a newspaper of such renown does.

Domain comparison with Moz's Link Explorer

And that’s exactly why we should consider ourselves within our context, and same goes for websites related to us. Usually, a DA over 30-35 is considered to be pretty good. In any case, it’s always important to juxtapose different types of indicators, some of which we see later in this post. This way, we can decide whether it’s interesting for us to request a link to a domain or not.

It's always important to juxtapose different types of indicators provided by the different tools, to evaluate whether we should request a link to a domain or not 👁️‍🗨️⚠️Click To Tweet

Trust Flow and Citation Flow

Majestic’s Trust Flow indicator serves pretty much the same purpose as Moz’s domain authority. Trust Flow also ranges from 0 to 100, and it’s particularly interesting to study it in combination with Citation Flow.

  • Trust Flow: is weighted by the number of clicks from a seed set of trusted sites to a given URL or domain.
  • Citation Flow: is weighted by the number of citations to a given URL or domain.

Majestic Site Explorer Trust flow and Citation flow

Ideally, we want Trust Flow –both ours and other websites’– to be higher than Citation Flow, as this will indicate that pages receiving links are frequently visited, because they are relevant, and because the website placing these links is trusted by its users, independently from the amount of mentions they get. If Citation Flow is higher than Trust Flow, it’s likely there are many links pointing to a website, but they are not visited very frequently. This can happen either because these links are not very relevant or interesting, or they’re not trustworthy enough for users to click on them.

Visibility index

The visibility index provided by Sistrix is always interesting to examine for many reasons, not only for link building purposes. Nevertheless, in this post we are going to exclusively focus on information it can contribute on a website from which we want to get a link.

Visibility index Sistrix

A website’s visibility development must be analysed in the mid to long term. Oscillations (be they positive or negative) from one week to another shouldn’t be taken too seriously, as it’s perfectly normal for the website’s visibility to fluctuate regularly, to a certain degree.

When looking for domains on which to get links, we want their evolution to be mostly positive. If we observe a downward trend on a domain, which has been happening for some time, it’s best to put your trust on a different one with an upward trend, as the contribution from a declining domain will probably be of little to no relevance, thus, the impact won’t be the same than from a growing domain. It can even do us harm, if the visibility decrease happened as a result of a penalty, although it’s true that this would be the worst case scenario.

Blacklisted domains or domains sharing the IP address

Getting numerous links from domains with a shared IP can look rather suspicious in Google’s eyes, as it could be interpreted as a manipulative attempt to boost our popularity using unnatural ways, through somewhat shady agreements, following the advice of “Expect the worst and you won’t be disappointed”.

Another unfortunate scenario could be that the IP address of a domain we find interesting has been blacklisted, or that it shares the IP with other conflictive domains (websites with a spammy, pornographic, etc. nature).

To ensure this isn’t the case before pointlessly investing money and hampering –at best– our popularity profile’s development, we should check this information using tools like:

  • Spyonweb, to detect domains related by their IP address.
  • Hackertarget, to detect whether a domain has a shared IP address.
  • Majestic, and its “Neighbourhood checker” feature, to see neighbouring IPs of a domain.

If the domain of our interest has a unique IP and doesn’t have any conflictive neighbours, we can add another positive point to it and include it in our final selection.

Tools from which to get suggestions for requesting links

Link building platforms

There are different tools like Coobis, Leolytics, or Publisuites, among others, which help us to simplify and automatise the process of searching, selecting and requesting backlinks, in return for an additional percentage on the final price of each sponsored link, established by a website. If our budget has some leeway, it’s a very comfortable solution, as these tools’ search engines and powerful filtering features allow us to filter by industry, domain authority, fees applied, and other specifications. This, in addition to the possibility to hire links directly through their platforms, makes link building much easier, as it prevents us from having to:

  1. Search for domains using slower and more complex methods.
  2. Look for website manager contact information, and then personally write to each of them.
  3. Request media kits or updated fees to interesting websites.
  4. Manually manage the publishing, once the sponsored content link price has been accepted.

Nevertheless, it’s not always the best solution, and having an unlimited budget for link building is not exactly the most common scenario in most cases, especially when it comes to smaller websites or ecommerce shops.

Competition

Another interesting and more low cost way is to see how our competitors are handling link building on their sites. How?

Projects on SEMrush

SEMrush, for example, has a project module, where, amongst other tasks, we can thoroughly monitor our popularity profile. Moreover, we can also see exactly where our competition is getting links and we aren’t, on websites, the topics and explored areas of which also cater to our content. This tool from the SEMrush project module is called Link Building. While it’s still BETA and its selection is not always 100% accurate, it’s still worth a try, to at least get some fresh ideas.

Link building using SEMrush projects module

If you go to the “Prospects” tab, you can see suggestions on where our competitors are linked, and add possible candidates to a list, which you can later review more in detail, and contact those, which really sparked your interest.

Cognitive SEO

With Cognitive SEO we can analyse backlinks targeting our competitors’ websites. We can export the full list and order it by the domain’s influence, from high to low. This way, we can quickly discard domains with the lowest authority.

cognitive seo link explorer

Majestic

We can conduct the same backlink analysis of the competition using Majestic.

Given that we can’t order links directly within the tool, we recommend you to export the link data in full to an Excel document or a .csv file, and order them by their Trust Flow inside a worksheet.

Using this method we could actually use any tool registering historical backlink information, export and order the data by their domain authority or a similar indicator: Ahrefs, the aforementioned Link Explorer, etc.

Types of websites and links

Depending on the industry our website belongs to, we have to also look for the types of websites that best match our interests. A simple and more common solution, easily catering to any business field are online media outlets. How so? There is a vast sea of general media outlets out there, either focussed on latest news as a whole, or on very specific topics, like IT, health, science, music, cinema, and a long, long etc. You will definitely find more than one media outlet related to your field, which will match your website’s content subject matter.

Blogs and influencers are a similar option, but depending on our field they might not be the best choice for us. If we belong to popular B2C sectors, like fashion, technology, or food and nutrition, for example, then we’ll never run out of personal and professional blogs dedicated to these topics, where we can request new links for our site. Evidently, there are other industries besides those, so it’s important to try and find our match, to be able to reach our target audience, as it will take us much farther.

Being familiar with our industry and our audience can take us very far, in terms of #LinkBuilding and any other #Marketing action.Click To Tweet

Other very interesting methods can be event sponsorship, collaborations, client testimonials, links in forums… The first two usually imply a rather considerable money investment, but they can also give us an increased visibility, which is out of our reach if we go for a different type of backlinks. Partaking in industry events can also bring some referral links from the organisation, but their “cache”, so to speak, is not as significant as a sponsor’s.

Link specs

If we want our links to be taken into account by Google and have a positive bearing on our rankings, they have to have certain special characteristics:

  • Follow or nofollow links. If we want for a link to transfer popularity to us, we should always get dofollow links, as nofollow links do not transfer popularity Google can quantify. They still give us visibility in terms of users seeing and visiting the website, but search engines do not take into account nofollow links for calculating the website’s relevance, so in terms of rankings they won’t contribute anything to us. It’s also important to note that in case of advertising links, namely banners, they should always carry a nofollow attribute, so as to prevent the risk of them affecting us negatively. Given that a banner is a non-crawlable link, it’s irrelevant whether we use keywords in its anchor text.
  • Anchor texts with or without keywords. When we get external links, it’s better to avoid optimised anchor texts on backlinks pointing to our home page, as a high number of links using keywords can be detected as manipulative by Google, especially if they target the home page. So, when the link takes the user to the home page, its anchor text should always be either branded (Human Level) or use the domain address (humanlevel.com). In cases of links targeting other internal pages of our website or blog posts, we can use 1) branded anchor texts or combinations similar to the likes of “click here”, “this link”, “this post”, etc., 2) the post’s headline (when it’s a blog post) or 3) anchor texts with keywords used on the link target page, so long as they are thematically related, and we’re being mindful of optimised anchor texts not exceeding neutral or branded anchor texts in number. In other words, it’s best for optimised anchor texts to be in minority with regard to other types. Ultimately, it’s about learning to walk the fine line between usability and natural optimisation.
  • Situation within the page. Links replicated throughout all pages of a website, also known as sitewide links, are more important in terms of relevance, but they’re also the most difficult to manage, especially when they’re mutual, as Google could see them as being fraudulent if the domain placing the link and the targeted domain have nothing in common. They’re usually located within the header, the sidebar, or the footer, which are elements appearing all over the website. It’s best to give preference to unique links inside a page’s main content, but if we do have sitewide links, they should carry the rel=”nofollow” attribute when they’re made with advertising purposes in mind. In any case, as we’ve already said, sitewide links should not be our priority or focus when working on our link building, because it’s rare for these links to be used in a natural way, and search engines know this too, so in terms of SEO they won’t benefit us whatsoever.

Of course, let’s not forget that many of these specifications are set by websites providing the links, so unless we agree with their terms, we have no other choice but to look for another website, which will suit our needs better.

And remember:

Link quality should always take precedence over link quantity. When researching and selecting domains for link building, always choose the best possible options, consider all popularity indicators carefully, and look at what your competitors do, especially those who are faring much better than you.

Link quality ✔️should always take precedence over link quantity❗☝🏻Click To Tweet
Anastasia
Autor: Anastasia
International SEO consultant and translator at the Human Level online marketing agency.

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