My love of SEO software and tools doesn’t come down to laziness (I think the SEO who physically relies upon software is the worst kind of SEO) but because I like for me and my team to be able to utilise a suite of apps which take the heavy lifting out of our day to day roles, freeing up our time to perform real analysis and put the data output to good use.
One tool we use frequently is Open Site Explorer (OSE); you may have heard about OSE and if you haven’t, to put it simply it is a backlink search engine, explorer and research tool. Many use it for competitor research and finding backlink opportunities.
Here are just some of the ways we get more out of Open Site Explorer…
#1 – Identify Guest Post Opportunities with Traffic & Conversion Potential
Guest posting is a time consuming channel to pursue but it is so worthwhile – it offers unrivalled opportunities for exposure, traffic, strong backlinks and actual sales. I’m always on the lookout for ways to identify strong guest post opportunities and I came up with this method a few months back…
- Find 5-10 websites of clients you would like to work with
- One-by-one enter them into Open Site Explorer
- Since most comments are no-follow, select the option to filter by ‘only no followed’
- You get a list of blogs that your prospects are engaged enough with to comment
- Identify common blogs (where a number of your target customers spend their time)
- Pitch them with your guest post – you get a strong industry link AND the traffic and conversion potential of a spot on a blog that is well-known to your target customer base.
This technique saves you the time and hassle of searching around for the right blogs. This method means you get a list of blogs that potential customers read, know and respect – perfect for pitching to since you can say with some degree of certainty that time invested in creating content for this site will be worthwhile.
#2 – Look at top pages as part of your linkbait research
Creative linkbait is awesome fun but in order for your hard work to have maximum impact it is smart to try and reverse engineer the kinds of linkbait that are working in your industry. You might also get some inspiration.
If you are an SEOmoz PRO member then you will enjoy the benefit of social metrics as well as the standard link data which is useful enough in itself.
Phase 1 – Competitor research
If you think one of your competitors is doing a particularly good job at leveraging content to attract links and eyeballs then it is prudent to take a look behind the scenes and try to build a picture about what is working and in particular what is working best for them.
Make judgements and form opinions based on the data that OSE presents…
- Does a type of content standout as being the most effective?
- Has a subject area worked well? Why do you think that is?
Phase 2 – ‘Superstar’ research
There are of course internet top dogs that we can all learn from and OSE can help us do this in a scientific manner. Take a look under the bonnet at your favourite blogs and dive inside their top pages. Learn from their triumphs and work this into your linkbait production.
#3 – Team up with Excel to make things more manageable
It can be easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer amount of data that Open Site Explorer outputs – this isn’t a criticism, because I love having loads of data to play with, but knowing how to manage and work with it is essential.
Microsoft Excel is very useful tool that can be used in conjunction with OSE. There are numerous plugins and tools out there SEOGadget’s Link Categorisation and Niels Bosma’s SEO Tools for Excel to name but two that I like using.
A simple way to use Excel to make the most of OSE data is as follows:
- Perform a search for a competitor URL
- Filter for external links that are followed or 301 (add extra filters if you wish)
- Download to CSV all the links
- Use the filter functionality within Excel to identify specific link opportunities
Directories (a much maligned form of linkbuilding which still has a place in my opinion) for example can be easily identified by filtering the page title column to display links from pages with ‘directory’ in the title. Similarly other types of links can also be easily identified. You can then scoop up low hanging fruit and make hitlists of link opportunities that require more leg work – a real productivity win
Filtering in Excel isn’t watertight but there again if you were to trawl manually through a huge list of links I doubt the small extra reward would be worth all that extra time.
#4 – Look beyond your bubble
There is a focus on researching competitor websites and whilst this is a useful place to start, entirely replicating your competitors link profile may not prove as smart a strategy as you had hoped…At worst, some links that they have may be harmful to your website and at best you will simply ‘match’ the power of your competitor’s website when the real aim is to surpass them.
One way to do this is to think laterally – don’t just analyse your direct competitors.
- Analyse other websites based in your geographical area – geo-specific links?
- Analyse other websites based in other parts of the country or world – diversify your industry links?
- Analyse other indirectly competing websites – Broaden your link profile?
In linkbuilding, you’re looking for the edge, competitor based linkbuilding is common practice these days so if your competitors are investing in SEO then chance are they are looking at your backlinks and your mutual competitor’s link profile – your job is to find new pastures to feed from.