You must go through a process of identifying targets at the start of direct request link building. The old fashioned way of doing this was backlinking your competitors. This is easily done using tools such as Linkscape or Majestic SEO. Either of these tools allow you to see details about which sites links to your competitors (or other industry Web sites that are potentially authoritative).
However, backlinking competitors isn't the only way to do this. We'll use a site related to chiropractic medicine as an example. Mining lists from industry association Web sites or finding lists of all the schools in the U.S. offering chiropractic programs are good tactics here. The best approach is to use a combination of methods to generate thousands (or tens of thousands) of potential targets.
Prioritizing the Targets
If you have used a tool to backlink a site, you now need to come up with a way to prioritize the output of the tool. If you've used Linkscape to backlink http://www.mit.edu, and you have exported the results into a spreadsheet, your initial output may look something like this:
This report was obtained by using Linkscape to produce an "Advanced Link Report," and then filtering out the links from the same domain (from somewhere on mit.edu back to some other part of mit.edu). The eighth column in the output is "URL mozRank Passed" and the output is sorted in descending order on this column. This is one measurement of the value of the link.
It's interesting to see that the first link listed passes URL mozRank of .00135 and the 50th link in the list passes URL mozRank of only .00001 (135 times less)! So with little effort you have one step of your prioritization work done.
Let's go a bit deeper. Links aren't just about the juice passed by the URL. Links also provide trust value to the site receiving the link. For that reason, I like to take this output and slice it two other ways:
- Domain mozTrust, in descending order.
- URL mozTrust, in descending order.
This provides two other slices at the data, and can you help you pick out high value link targets that may not have high URL mozRank Passed values, but still are important targets for your site.
Ultimately, you want to go through exercises like this for many different backlink reports, as well as use other means to generate high value link targets. Once you have all this data in hand, decide on some cutoff points. Links that meet one or more criteria can get included in a direct request link building effort (e.g. perhaps you include all links whose mozRank Passed score is .00001 or higher).
Then you can begin the process of figuring out who to contact and how to contact them. We generally use Web savvy college students or work at home parents, who are relatively inexpensive, to do this research. The key to success with this approach is the prioritization. Because you're using manual labor to do work, you want to make sure you focus it the best way possible. While it may not be expensive labor, the time lost in building your link profile is costly if they focus on the wrong things.