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The Link Builder's Guide to Competitive 'How-To' Content Analysis

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When entering a new keyword space with content-based link building, we like to know all that space's "how-to" content. Why? How-to content speaks broadly to an industry's pains. Solving pains with content leads to links and targeted traffic.

Let's look at the process for quickly creating your list of must-have "how-to/tips" content and then how to use this content for developing links to your site.

1. Select Appropriate Keywords

You will use two or three high-level market defining keywords (MDKWs), as well as one or two informative content descriptors such as ["how to"”, [tips”, [guide to”, [Top * Ways”, etc...

2. Construct Your Competitive Content Analysis Queries

For a quick check, only create one or two queries. If you're building out a bread baking site your queries could look like: ["bake bread" "how to"” and ["guide to" "baking bread"”. In these cases, the MDKWs are "baking bread" and "bake bread," while the content descriptors are "how to" and "guide to."

Once you have an idea of how the process works and you're ready to really dig into your space, consider using 10 or more carefully grouped queries that are appropriate to your niche (note: not every industry titles its informative content with "how to").

3. In Advanced Search, Set Your Search Engine to Deliver 100 Results

Before or after searching your queries, set your favorite search engine to deliver you 100 results on a page.

4. Copy and Paste the Organic SERPs into a Text Pad

Once you conduct your search, carefully select all the title and snippet content from the organic section of the SERPs. Copy this content and paste it into a text pad. Repeat this process for all of your queries, being careful not to paste over your previously pasted SERPs!

5. Count Phrase Occurrences Within the Ranking How-To Content

To identify what topics occur most frequently in the ranking how-to content in your space, paste all of the content from your text pad into the Phrase Occurrence Content Analysis Tool. Look at the most commonly occurring six-, five-, four-, three-, and two-word phrases from your SERP set.

6. List Your Informative Content Titles

By adding 200 SERP listings from these two searches ["bake bread" "how to"” and ["guide to" "baking bread"”, we find common phrases, such as "beginner's guide to baking bread" (11 times), "a guide to whole grain breadmaking" (six times), "bake bread on the grill" (five times), and "bread without an oven" (six times).

We also uncover some important bread-related concepts, such as "bread the five families of bread" (six times). Who knew bread had five families? Well, the content experts in your space knew that. Now you do too and you can research and then reference them when creating your how-to content on baking bread on the grill.

7. Create Better How-To Content

Simply rewriting the how-to content that exists won't cut it. Once you have your content list created, go back and review the content that's ranking well for the titles you selected.

Now, how can you one-up this content? See what's missing such as great pictures, a video, a group interview with industry experts on how they solve this how-to problem, an intuitive organization, exhaustive detail, a downloadable spreadsheet, a simple tool/widget that makes a process easier, etc... Then start creating content.

8. How to Find Link Prospects for Your How-To Content

There are several ways to source prospects for your how-to content. The first is through backlinks to competing content.

Use Yahoo Site Explorer or Open Site Explorer to find out who links to great bread-related how-tos out there. The second is through link building queries such as [(MDKW) intitle:"round up"” (finds round up writers in your space who consistently link to notable content), [(MDKW) "blog list"” (finds lists of bloggers who write about your topic), and [(MDKW) Twitter users” (shows you lists of Twitter users related to your subject).

Also see "29 Queries for Content-Based Link Builders." If you're willing to part with your content, you could potentially publish it on other peoples' sites as guest content with links back to your site. Finally, explore methods for discovering broken how-to pages on your competitors' sites, and then chase down links from people who have dead links to this page.

Analyzing the most frequently occurring how-to topics in a search engine result set can frame an industry's primary pain points for you. The content topics you find this way are "must-have" and industry-standard topics. If you trump the existing how-to content -- and then promote it -- you'll find yourself consistently developing more and stronger backlinks.


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