When tackling a new keyword or before you enter a new niche, the first and toughest question you need to ask is how many links do I need? Before you can even hazard a guess you need to look at your competitors, you only need to beat what’s in front of you. The first thing you need to look at is the strongest competitors back links, like most people I use the Yahoo Site explorer, this is only the first step though and if I like what I see and I think I can beat them I dig a little deeper, Yahoo will tend to list a pages back link in order of importance, with what they perceive as being the best will be closest to the top.

Google Ranking TipsSo what to look for in a link profile :

If a sites link profile is made up of a lot of directory listings or article submission sites there is potential, if their links are coming from wide variety of sites that are all loosely based in your niche this could mean trouble and would warrant a further investigation. It is worth spending as much time as you need on this part, as it is better to spend the time now rather than working on a site for 6 months only to realise the competition is too strong for you to beat.

So now you’ve decided that this is a niche that you want to enter, it’s time to watch your competition for a few weeks to try to decipher who the movers and shakers are, what you want to find is the site that is actively building links to that page or site. I track most sites through Google Alerts, if you find a lot of links popping up for a particular site, these are the ones to watch as they are making a push for the top, now just watch what they are doing for a couple of weeks look at what tactics they are using and what effect if any it is having on their rankings, if they are using relatively low level tactics and it seems to be working for them, this is good news, as it will generally mean that the competition is relatively weak, if what they are doing is having no effect you will have to step it up a gear in your link building efforts. Ideally what you are trying to do is to find a site that will help you take the guess work out of what will work and what won’t.

Another tactic I employ is to try to decipher how I can potentially rank for a keyword, is to forget about the top 9 rankings and look at the site that has just about made it onto the first page, do a full analysis and what their links are and see if you can beat them. The basic idea here is that if you can get a foot hold on the first page you’ll have an incentive to push on and move up.

With these methods the only thing you can’t really account for the age of the domains that you are trying to dislodge from their positions, if you are tackling well established sites that have held their rankings for a long time it can take a lot more effort to try to dig them out of their positions. In these circumstances I would normally try to get a site to rank on the first page and then leave it sit and age, maybe throwing the occasional link to help it preserve its position, the longer you can leave a site like this the more receptive you will find it is when you do decide to start building links to it.

Knowing your competition is vital to any company’s success, link building is no different. Know your enemies and know their weaknesses before you jump into battle.

Guest Writer : Neil is currently working as head of marketing for eMobileScan, one of the Uk’s leading rugged handheld computer specialists, the companies aim is to provide a solution to their clients that will cut costs and improve productivity.

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