Identify your business and link building goals

1. Create a document with your performance over the past 6-12 months to establish a baseline: include your referring domains, backlinks, keywords, organic traffic and referral traffic.

Referring Domains: The number of new referring domains that you got monthly, their average Domain Rating or Domain Authority.  Backlinks: The number of new backlinks that you got monthly, their average Domain Rating or Domain Authority, anchor texts, the website pages that they point to, so you see what is your most popular content.   Keywords: Have a list of keywords that you want your website to rank for (or rank better), the current ranking, estimated search volume, and keyword difficulty (if you’re using Ahrefs). This keyword report will show you where you have gaps and need to create new content, and where you might need to optimize existing assets.  Organic Traffic: Open Google Analytics and navigate to Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels to see how much traffic you’re getting now from organic searches.  Referral Traffic: Open Google Analytics and navigate to Acquisition > All Traffic > Referrals to see how much referral traffic you’re getting now on a monthly basis and from what sources.

2. Analyze your competitors with tools like Ahrefs or SEMrush or use a tool that automates this like Look at how you compare and what it would take for you to reach their level.

The goal of this step is to build a list of your competitors’ top-performing pages (content) and analyze what made them attract those backlinks. You want to identify your competitors’ best-performing content format, topic, and design.   In Ahrefs, go to Backlinks > New and select the time frame you want to analyze. Go to Referring domains > New to see the same report, but only referring domains. Download the lists of backlinks and referring domains and compare this data to your website, on a month-by-month basis, to see how many backlinks you acquire compared to your competitors. The goal here is to see how many backlinks you need to fill the gap and catch up with your competitors. Turn your data into charts to better visualize your performance. In this example, My websites needs about 6000 backlinks to catch up with Competitor 2. At the current rate of ±100 new backlinks/month, it will take My websites 60 months to reach that goal if no new strategy is applied If you want to speed up this process, shows you how many links you need to build to catch up with 2 other websites. It also shows you how many backlinks you need to get a page in Google Top 10 for 3 specific keywords.

3. Set a clear business goal you want to reach through your link building campaign, and KPIs that will help you track progress.

Adding business goals and KPIs to your link building plan will help you speak the same language with your stakeholders. Set a measurable goal, like a percentage increase in: Organic traffic Referral traffic from new backlinks Rankings for targeted keywords Organic and referral traffic.

4. Plan the website content you need to create, optimize, or target to reach your goals and estimate how many backlinks you need to build to get them rank in Google Top 10 or another search engine.

If your website is fairly new, and you’re just starting to add content and work on SEO, first calculate the gap between your website and your closest competitor. That can serve as a general link-building goal for your first 6 months to 1 year.  If you work for a big website, with lots of content already, start with the list of keywords you built earlier and prioritize that list by ranking, monthly search volume, and difficulty to reach the Top 3, 5, or 10 in search results. Focus first on keywords that have a relatively high monthly search volume and medium-low difficulty.  Where you already have content for a keyword, but it’s not ranked in the Top 20 or higher, plan to optimize the content on those pages and build links to it.  For the keywords that are important to your business, but you don’t rank for at all, plan to create the content and build links to it.  For each keyword, look at the current pages that rank in the first 10 results of your target search engine and calculate the average number of referring domains that point to them. That will give you a sense of how many backlinks from unique websites you need to build to get the content to rank and deliver the business results you are looking for – like organic traffic or referral traffic.

5. Plan how you’ll acquire those links - outreach, digital PR - and set up specific campaign goals for every month of the following period.

Set up specific monthly goals for how many links you want to build, to each page and establish quality metrics. For example, link from websites with Domain Rating over 50. Use advanced project management tools to keep track of your work and communicate with colleagues. Trello, Asana, Teamwork and Notion are popular tools that can help you organize your campaigns. Use a CRM to keep track of the contacts you build.  Keep track of how your backlink profile evolves and periodically measure against your baseline.