Finding quality sites to target is at the heart of any effective linking strategy. ‘Quality sites’ are not the ones that are easiest to get links from but those that will drive most relevant traffic to your site. To find quality sites, you've got to do methodical research before you start - lots of it.
Before you begin
Make sure you bookmark interesting sites immediately and at the end of each research session sort your bookmarks into categories - do not under any circumstances leave it until later. Get to know how to organise your bookmarks in Internet Explorer or use a handy bookmark program like Acqurl.
When you do find an interesting site do a backwards link search on Google. Say you're looking for ezine sites and come across Zinos. Press the backward links button on the Google Toolbar or do a search for ‘link:http://www.zinos.com’. Either method returns about 346 web pages that link to Zinos. Scan through these quickly - about 10 seconds per page and on page 16 (under 3 minutes) there's a link to a site that has compiled a list of over 40 sites like Zinos.
So now that you're ready to begin here are six powerful ways to identify quality sites:
1. Mine your referrer logs
Check your referrer logs every day (if you don't know how then check with your ISP). Cut and paste that day's referring websites into an Excel spreadsheet, then review once a month. Take the sites that refer most traffic and do a backwards link search looking for similar sites that you could also approach.
2. Find out who links to your competitors
Logic says that if sites link to your competitors, they could also link to you. But don't stop at just sending ‘me too’ link requests. Look carefully at the sites that link to your competitors. What market sectors do they come from? Are there any surprises? Is there a niche market that you haven't thought about. Again for every useful site do a backwards link search.
3. Drill down through directories
Start with DMOZ, Yahoo and Looksmart. Look specifically for information sites or industry specific directories. Be comprehensive and explore as many relevant categories as you can.
4. Scan the blogs
Search engines love blogs because they are full of fresh content and extensive links. They're useful for linking because:
- Blogs are great pointers to useful interesting sites
- When you make a comment, you often get a link back to your site
- You get a feel for the real news of the day
You can find a whole range of blog search engines in The Search Engine Journal.
5. Look for ezines
Ezines generally provide more in-depth content than blogs and are published less often. You can also do a Google search so if you're looking for ezines on photography you can just enter the search term, ‘photography ezines’.
6. Cultivate journalists
Get to know the traditional media in your market sector and watch what they do online. Start to keep a record of key journalists and the type of stories they cover. Do some searches on Google News - and note the latest news in your industry. If you find this useful you can also sign-up for Google's news alert service.
This methodical approach takes time but results in a long list of highly relevant link targets and an important overview of your market online. Now you've got the list, go get the links.