Gillis Van

Your Guide to Link Planning

Gillis Van

If you are in a competitive industry such as iGaming, consumer finance, spread betting or property, you will engage in link building. However, there is a high budget required for this task. And how do you plan the use of this high budget to get a good result? This is where link planning comes in.

At 90 Digital we plan links based on competitor analysis to build the optimal link profile for your website. Optimal means optimized for maximum results with less money, while maintaining a natural link profile. In this blog post I will show you how you can plan your own links. 

Besides spending your money more effectively, planning links has other advantages. If you ever had problems with the uncertainty and doubt of your link builder’s result, a link plan can help. By making a link plan you make surely clear what the targets are, specified to the core of links and their quality as specified with a publicly available metric. It will be very easy to see if your link builders can deliver what you need. Finally, you ensure you are building a natural and sustainable link profile by consciously deciding which kind of links you want and which you don’t.

Step 1. Keywords and Pages

Planning your links starts with understanding which pages you want to rank, and which is the major keyword for each page. The idea is that you benchmark the top 10 results for that keywords. These pages are often your product pages. They are optimized for conversion, and thus makes sense to spend money with the aim of increasing organic traffic.

Step 2. Links Per Month

Now that you have the top 10 pages, get backlink data by month from your favorite data provider. You could plot the new links per month in a graph, as shown below, with one line for each website.

Now determine the number of links you should get to compete for this keyword. In the example, I would pick "20" because it is at the top of the pack. You are not standing out, and therefore not risking a penalty.

link plotting

Step 3. Quality Distribution

Now that you know how many links you want, you can figure out which quality you want. Measure quality in your favorite quality metric. For example, PageRank, trust flow, domain authority or Ahrefs score. The point is to make your link profile look similar, yet slightly better than your competitors. Divide your quality scale in buckets, and calculate the distribution of links your competitors have. Copy that distribution, but alter it upwards. Leave out the lowest quality bucket as you like, because chances are they will not contribute to your bottom line. You will now have a link plan that looks like this:

link plan

Step 4. Putting it All Together

Now you can do this for each of your pages. Combine them. You will find that some pages require more links than others. A sign they are more competitive: you will find the ones you know make you the most money are also the ones requiring the most links. Give a link plan like the one below to your link planners and be confident you are getting the best value for money.

link plan

Bonus Step: Anchor Text

If you like to control the anchor text as well, analyze the anchors of your sample of benchmark competitors, and divide them into categories. Instruct your link builders to follow this guideline, or use them to write the actual anchor text for each link in advance. Below is an example. You may want to leave out the exact match links to get optimal results.

anchor text distribution


This is how you can improve your SEO. If your link building budget is large, this could be your biggest quick win. Reducing your link spending by 60% while maintaining your growth in rankings is not unheard of. This could save your company thousands or even millions of dollars (depending on the size of your budget).

There is a host of refinements you can make to this model. For example, you can only include sites with a similar information architecture, include size and authority of the domains that rank, plan additional metrics such as percentage of "no-follow," and more. I outlined the fundamental methodology; I'm interested in any contributions you can make to improve it.

Author bio:

Gillis van den Broeke is Operations Director at 90 Digital. His last article for SEMrush was "Analyze Your SEO Landscape with SEMrush Data."


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