Want to drive a TON of organic traffic to your website?
Here’s the basic formula:
- Pick a topic/keyword
- Create an exceptional piece of content around that topic
- Promote it. Build links to it. Rank it.
Sounds simple, right!?
I’ll let you in on a little secret:
It is simple, but only if you use the right tools for the job.
What do I mean by that?
Well, there are a ton of questions you need to answer before you get started, such as:
- Which keywords/topics should you be trying to rank for?
- Is it even possible to outrank the competition?
- What kind of content should you create? (e.g. blog post, infographic, interactive content, etc)
- How many links do you need to build to rank for your chosen keywords? (and can you build that many links?)
In this post, I’ll be showing you how to answer all these questions (and more) with only one tool: Ahrefs.
What You Will Learn
Let me make one thing clear:
My aim here isn’t to list everything Ahrefs can do.
(If that’s what you want, you can find a big list of features here.)
My aim is to show actionable ways to use Ahrefs (and no other tools) to get more organic traffic to your website.
Here’s everything I’ll be teaching you:
- Getting Started: How to get started with Ahrefs and set yourself up for success (note: do not skip this stage, it is very important).
- Backlink Health Check: How to identify (and fix) any backlink issues that may be holding your website back in the SERPs. WARNING: Fixing these issues can lead to an instant rankings boost!
- Keyword Research: Ahrefs Keywords Explorer is perhaps the best keyword research tool on the market. I’ll show you how to use this tool (and a couple of other Ahrefs tools) to build an initial keyword list for your website.
- Keyword Prioritisation: How to prioritise your keywords list and identify “low-hanging” opportunities that can boost traffic FAST.
- Content Research: How to figure out EXACTLY what type of content you should be creating to rank for your chosen keywords.
- Link Building: How to build links to your website using a variety of methods (note: this is where Ahrefs really shines!)
- Site Audit: How to diagnose and fix errors with your website (note: this is highly recommended, as on-site errors can hold back your success, even if you’ve done everything right thus far!)
- Analyse your Progress/Success: How to use Ahrefs to make sure you’re on the right track and that things are improving with your website.
I’ve made a big effort to lay this out as a checklist, rather than a random list of ideas and tactics.
This means that if you follow this guide from start-to-finish, I guarantee you will see results.
What Is Ahrefs (And Why Should You Care)?
Ahrefs is a powerful—and complete—SEO analysis tool.
It does pretty much everything you could ever need to do from an SEO standpoint, including:
- Keyword research (via Keywords Explorer)
- Content research (via Content Explorer)
- Backlink research (via Site Explorer)
- Rank tracking (via Rank Tracker)
- Competitor research (via Site Explorer, Link Intersect Tool, etc)
- Site auditing (i.e. diagnosing site health issues, etc.) (via the Site Audit tool)
Right now, the only important thing Ahrefs can’t do is manage or send link building outreach emails. But you can use Gmail for that.
Everything else is covered.
You can search a database of 4.9 million keywords in seconds with Keywords Explorer.
You can search 700+ million pieces of content to find content ideas that will generate a ton of traffic, with Content Explorer.
You can search the world’s largest index of backlinks (over 13 trillion!) to see all your competitors backlinks, with Site Explorer.
You can find and fix hundreds of on-site issues in seconds, with the Site Audit tool.
And that’s the tip of the iceberg, really.
But, impressive industry-leading stats aside, what does this mean for the average Joe?
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It means you have everything you need—under one roof—to grow your website traffic like crazy.
This post will walk you through the process of doing this, step-by-step.
Getting Started With My Ahrefs Review
In this short section, I’ll show you how to get started with my Ahrefs review and how to set up your account for success.
So, first things first, head over to Ahrefs and sign up for a trial.
Note: It’s $7 for a 7-day trial. I recommend trying the “Standard” plan.
Once you’re in, Ahrefs will prompt you to add a project (i.e. website) to your account.
This is pretty straightforward—give your project a name and hit “next”. Make sure to use the http + https naming scheme.
You’ll then be asked to add keywords that you want to track.
Ahrefs actually suggests a bunch of keywords that your website is already ranking for. Basically, the higher up the list of suggestions they are, the more traffic those keywords are sending to your website.
I recommend adding the first 4-5 pages worth of keywords.
Why? Because this allows you to track your most important keywords (i.e. the keywords that are the most traffic to your website).
Step #3….add some competitors.
Again, you can either add competitors manually (if you know them) or choose from the suggestions Ahrefs gives.
I recommend adding 5 competitors from the suggestions Ahrefs gives.
And finally, add some branded keywords to track.
I really recommend taking a moment to set this one up. We’ll be using it later in the guide.
Note: By default, Ahrefs sends you daily emails about these keywords. If you prefer not to have daily emails flooding your inbox, go into the settings and change this to weekly (or monthly).
That’s it. You’re ready to rock!
Backlink Health Check
Backlinks from spammy, low-quality websites.
Backlinks with over-optimised anchor text.
These types of backlinks can spell disaster for your website.
At best, they’ll prevent your website from ranking as well as it should.
At worst, they’ll lead to a Google Penguin penalty.
That’s why you need to nip any “bad” backlinks in the bud before you invest time, energy, and money optimizing your website.
How do you do this?
Like I said earlier, Ahrefs has the largest backlink index on the planet— this makes it the perfect tool for identifying and fixing any “bad” backlinks.
NOTE: Ahrefs just released a new Site Audit tool to help diagnose even more issues with your website. I’ll be running through this later in the guide.
#1: Look for “Dodgy” Links in the Backlinks and Referring Domains Reports
Enter your domain into Site Explorer, then navigate to the referring domains tab.
By default, this will show you all referring domains ordered by Domain Rating (DR)—highest to lowest.
You’re looking for low-quality links, so reverse this (i.e. order by DR low to high).
Look for domains that look low-quality or suspicious, such as:
- Anything you don’t recognise
- Foreign-language websites (e.g. .ru, .dk domains, etc)
- .xyz domains
- Low-quality wiki pages
- Article directories
- [empty anchors]
Of course, it would be pretty time-consuming if you had to check every backlink manually.
But, luckily, Ahrefs has a few filters to help you out.
If you move to the Backlinks report, there are filters for both languages and platform.
I recommend filtering by languages like Russian to find spammy backlinks, as Russian sites are kind of notorious for link spam.
Note: You can get even more specific with languages by filtering for exact TLDs (e.g. .dk, .ru, etc.) in the Referring Domains report.
You can also easily uncover low-quality Wiki pages with the Wikis filter in the Backlinks report:
But remember, even if something looks super-dodgy, always check out the link manually before making a judgement.
Otherwise, you run the risk of disavowing links that may be helping your website.
If you can confirm that the link is “bad”, hit the checkbox next to the domain.
You can then simply click “disavow links” to send them to your disavow area + create a disavow file.
NOTE: You can only see checkboxes if the domain that you’re reviewing is added to Ahrefs Dashboard. This should be the case if you added your domain(s) in the “getting started” section above.
#2: Look for Unnatural Anchor Text Issues
Anchor text is the clickable text within a link.
The anchor text for this link is “this link here”.
Anchor text helps to tell Google (and potential visitors) what your website is about—that’s why it remains a Google ranking factor.
Anchor text over-optimisation (i.e. too many keyword-rich links) can trigger a Google penalty.
If your website has an unnatural link profile with tons of exact match (or partial match) anchor texts, this could be an issue.
Here’s how to identify—and fix—these issues with Ahrefs:
Enter your domain into Site Explorer, then go to the Anchors report under Backlink Profile.
This will show you exactly what anchor text is being used within the links back to your website.
If you have a healthy backlink profile, most of your anchors will probably be:
- Branded anchors (e.g. “matthew woodward”, “matthewwoodward.co.uk”, etc.)
- Generic anchors (e.g. “click here”, “this post”, etc.)
What you don’t want to see is lots of exact-match anchors. This is a sign of over-optimisation.
If you spot anything that looks dodgy, hit details > referring domains to see which sites are linking to you.
Right now, you can’t disavow these links directly from within the anchors report.
However, you can simply hit the export button then upload the file manually to the disavow area.
#3: Look for LOTS of Links from the Same C-block IPs
Every website has its own IP address that looks something like this:
In simple terms, while you may be used to typing in matthewwoodward.co.uk to get to my blog, that’s really just a memorable way of navigating to an IP address where my website resides.
Because humans are better at remembering website URLs than a random string of numbers, we let the browser do the work and translate a URL into an IP address behind the scenes.
Now, IP addresses are separated into blocks: A, B, C, and D blocks, like so:
If we have the following two websites:
We would say they’re on the same C-block.
In internet terms, these sites are neighbours.
Note: More information on IP addresses here.
Why does this matter?
Lots of links from the same C-block IP can be a bad sign. This is because it signals to Google that these sites may be closely related (e.g. a PBN) and therefore, not the most natural links ever.
Luckily, you can use Ahrefs’ Referring IPs report to find these.
Enter your domains into Site Explorer, then hit the Referring IPs report under Backlink Profile.
Ahrefs groups referring IPs by C-blocks by default—very useful!
In the example above, you can see that the first few results look a bit dodgy—there are thousands of links, from hundreds of domains, all on the same C-block IP.
Let’s take a deeper look.
Yep, they’re spammy. They need disavowing/removing.
Again, there’s no way to disavow these directly from this report but you can export the domains to a .csv and upload them manually.
#4: Find (AND Fix) Broken Backlinks
Building backlinks is d*** hard.
It’s laborious. Time consuming. And costly.
It makes sense to ensure that you’re getting the full benefit of the links you build, right?
Unfortunately, links sometimes break. And when this happens, you won’t feel the benefit of those links.
That’s why fixing broken links is a quick way to regain some valuable link juice and increase rankings.
Here’s how to do it:
Enter your domain into Site Explorer then go to Pages > Best by links.
Then, add a filter so you see only pages with a 404 status code.
You will now see all 404 pages on your website ranked by the number of referring domains they have.
Here’s how to reclaim the “link juice” for these pages:
- Restore the broken page—this should be done if there is an actual error on your part (i.e. you’ve accidentally deleted a valuable page at some point).
- Add a 301 redirect to the broken page—this should point to either the new location of the page, a suitable alternative, or the homepage.
- Reach out and asking the website owner to fix the link—this is your best bet if there’s an actual problem with the link such as incorrect formatting.
So, just restore these pages or redirect them to something relevant to preserve all your link juice.
Do this for any valuable broken links and you’ll see an instant boost!
#5: Remove ALL Low-Quality (or Irrelevant) Outbound Links
Spammy inbound links are BAD.
But outbound links are also extremely important.
You, therefore, need to make sure that you’re not linking to low-quality (or totally irrelevant) websites.
Here’s how to do it:
Enter your domain into Site Explorer then go to Outgoing links > Linked Domains > add a dofollow filter
By default, Ahrefs shows the most linked-to domains first.
Reverse this list.
When I gave this report a quick onceover for my own website, everything looked pretty above board (phew!)
BUT…this isn’t the case for all sites.
Here’s an outbound link I found on Moz.com:
This is clearly a spammy domain.
If you find anything like this, remove (or replace) the links on your website.
Sometimes, you’ll find that your website is linking to a particular URL many times.
Upon closer inspection, we can see that this is a WordPress theme link present in the theme HTML.
In all honesty, this probably isn’t going to cause any huge issues. However, as it’s a dofollow link across (almost) every page of the website, at the very least it’s diluting authority for no good reason.
I recommend that you remove anything like this from your website’s HTML, too.
#6: Fix Broken Outbound Links
Broken outbound links lead to a bad user experience.
Not only is it annoying to click a link on a website and be taken to a broken page but also, it leaves the visitor questioning the validity of your content.
Because they’ll assume your website hasn’t been updated in awhile.
Or that you simply don’t put much effort into your content—certainly not enough to curate resources that actually exist.
Also, if Google thinks your content is going to lead to a bad user experience, they certainly aren’t going to rank your website.
Luckily, this is easily fixable.
Enter your website into Site Explorer, then go to Outgoing Links > Broken Links.
If anything shows up in this report, there are issues to be fixed.
Looks like I have 56 broken outbound links on my website 🙁
You should fix these links by either removing them or replacing them.
Note: Here’s a checklist from Vertical measures that goes into detail regarding exactly how to deal with broken outbound links.
Fixing the errors outlined above should be enough to give you a small traffic boost.
Now it’s time for the big guns.
No matter what website you’re working on, your SEO strategy should follow roughly the same blueprint, which is:
- Find keywords you want to rank for (and that you already rank for)
- Prioritise keywords/topics into long-term opportunities + short-term opportunities (i.e. low-hanging fruit)
- Create some content (or improve existing content) around those keywords
- Build links to content (wherever appropriate/necessary)
- Analyse what did/didn’t work and refine your strategy/plan going forward.
- Rinse and repeat all of the above
Do those things, in that order, and I guarantee you’ll see a HUGE traffic increase.
So, let’s get started with the first step: keyword discovery.
#7: Pop a Few “Seed” Keywords into Keywords Explorer
Keywords Explorer is the first place I turn when I want to discover keywords for a new (or existing) website.
That’s because all you need is a few “seed” keywords and it’ll give you thousands of ideas.
Here’s the process:
Go to Keywords explorer and enter a few seed keyword ideas.
Note: There’s no exact process for coming up with these. Just make an educated guess.
Hit the search button.
Note: Make sure to select the appropriate country (e.g. United States) before searching, otherwise you’ll see keyword volume estimates and whatnot for a country unrelated to your business.
Go to the metrics tab.
This shows you monthly search volume, Keyword Difficulty (KD), and tons of other information.
If a keyword looks good (i.e. it has some decent search volume and is relevant to your business), save it to a keywords list.
Note: If a keyword is super-relevant to your business, it makes sense to prioritise it, even if the search volume for that keyword is quite low. As I’ll mention later in this guide, search volume isn’t always the best indicator of traffic. However, it is a good starting point and it’s still worth looking at.
#8: See Other Keyword Ideas (Based on Your Seed Keywords)
Right now, Ahrefs has the biggest keywords database in the industry.
Because of this, Keywords Explorer will show you with a bunch (and I really do mean a bunch!) of other keyword ideas based on your seed keywords.
Just hit one of these 6 options on the left-hand menu:
Personally, I usually just select “all”.
However, this will usually give you a few million keywords to play with (see, I told you they had a lot of data), which is pretty d*** impossible to work with.
So, I tend to play with the Keyword Difficulty (KD) filter to narrow them down.
Your best bet is to filter for keywords with a KD score of less than 10.
Why? Because anything below KD 10 means that top-ranking results have less than or equal to 10 backlinks on average, so it should be fairly easy to rank for them.
I usually just tick anything that looks good and add it to my keywords list.
And if you prefer to get a little more granular with your keyword suggestions, you can learn more about what “phrase match”, “having same terms”, etc. mean here.
Note: Ahrefs presented me with 32K+ keyword suggestions from just the 8 keywords I entered above…so you certainly won’t be short of ideas!
#9: Find the Keywords/Topics that Send the Most Traffic to Your Competitors
Enter a competitor’s domain into Site Explorer, then go to Organic search > Top Pages
Here you will see which of your competitors pages are attracting the most organic search traffic.
You’ll also see the top keyword that page ranks for, along with the search volume for that keyword.
Note: It’s also worth paying attention to the RD (Referring Domains) column as this shows how many ref.domains are pointing to that page. If you can identify pages that receive a lot of traffic, yet only have a few RDs, it’s most likely a topic that you can rank for pretty easily!
Pretty cool, right!?
BUT it gets even better…
This report also shows you all of the other keywords these pages rank for (in order of the amount of traffic they drive to your competitors page).
This is not only useful for generating additional keyword ideas but also, finding keywords/topics/phrases that you can sprinkle into your content to increase relevance (i.e. LSI keywords).
#10: Analyse YOUR Competitors to Find Keyword “Content Gaps”
Content gaps exist when your competitors rank for keywords that you don’t rank for.
Think about it:
If you could see what those keywords are, you could create content to compete with them (and ideally outrank them).
Here’s how to find those keywords with Ahrefs:
Enter your domain into Site Explorer, then go to Organic Search > Content Gap
Now, enter the domains of (at least) three competitors plus your domain in the “but the following target doesn’t rank for” field.
Hit “show keywords”.
Bingo…here are hundreds of keywords that (at least) one of your competitors rank for, yet you don’t.
Tip: Enter competitors with a similar Domain Rating (DR) score. This will ensure that the Content Gap analysis kicks back keywords you stand a chance of ranking for. If you enter Moz.com as a competitor and you have a DR 40 site, the sad truth is that you’re probably never going to outrank Moz.
I recommend paying particular attention to any keywords where your competitors are ranking in the top 10.
Because if they’re ranking in the top 10, chances are you could, too!
Keyword Prioritisation (PLUS How to Identify Low-Hanging Opportunities)
At this stage, you should have a big list of keywords that you could try to rank for.
Just because you can target these keywords doesn’t mean you should.
- Some will be easier to rank for than others (in fact, you may not even stand a hope in h*** of ranking for some of them).
- Some will drive a lot of traffic (while others will drive very little).
- Some will require creating new content (others won’t).
Analysing keywords for certain attributes will allow you to prioritise your list, and divide your ideas into long-term and short-term topics.
Here are a few tips:
#11: Find Keywords That You’re Already Ranking for in Positions 4-6
Already ranking in positions 4-6 for some high-volume keywords?
These are your low-hanging fruit.
Why? Because CTR increases exponentially within the top 5 positions.
Therefore, it only takes a ranking increase of one position to see BIG traffic boosts from these keywords.
And improving rankings by 1-2 positions can be as simple as building a handful of high-quality links.
But how do you find these keywords?
Enter your site into Site Explorer, then go to Organic Search > Organic Keywords
This will show you all of the keywords your website is currently ranking for.
Note: By default, they’re ordered by the amount of organic traffic they send to your website—neat!
But here’s the trick:
Add a positions filter to show the keywords you’re currently ranking in positions 4-6.
These keywords are your low-hanging fruit—they should be prioritised when it comes to on-page optimization and link building.
#12: Find Keywords AND Topics with High Traffic Potential
Sometimes individual keywords won’t have a particularly high search volume.
Example: “best keyword research tools”
If you were to rank #1 for this keyword, you would receive roughly 30% of these clicks.
That’s a measly 75 visitors/month (approx.)
Hardly worth bothering, right!?
Not so fast.
Looking at individual search volumes for a single keyword rarely shows you the true ranking potential of that topic.
This is because pages almost always naturally rank for TONs of variations of that keyword (i.e. “long-tail keywords”).
So how do you figure out the true ranking potential of a topic?
Check how much organic traffic the top ranking pages for that keyword are getting.
If it’s a lot, the topic/keyword has a high traffic potential.
Go to Keywords Explorer and enter a keyword.
Scroll down to the SERP overview and you’ll see who’s ranking in the top 10. You can also see how much organic traffic these top ranking pages are attracting (across all keywords).
These are the SERPs for “best keyword research tool” and as you can see, the top ranking pages are getting WAY more than 75 visits/month.
So, this topic DEFINITELY has a high traffic potential and is worth prioritising.
(you’re off to a good start!)
But…you ain’t going to rank for any of those keywords without creating some EPIC content around them.
Obviously, some of the keywords you’ve found (e.g. the low-hanging opportunities in positions 4-6) won’t require new content. You just need to optimise—and build some extra links to—your existing content.
For others, however, you’re going to need to create something new!
BUT here’s the problem:
It’s NOT always easy to discern exactly what you should be writing about solely by looking at a keyword.
Let’s take the keyword “keyword research”.
It’s a great keyword with a ridiculously high search volume (at least for this niche).
BUT, it’s also massively competitive.
If I was to write a reasonably generic guide to keyword research, I probably wouldn’t stand a chance of ranking in the top 3 for this exact keyword.
However, that doesn’t mean that I can’t write about keyword research at all…I just need to “niche down” a little and write a UNIQUE piece of content.
#13: Find UNIQUE, EASILY BEATABLE Content Ideas Using Content Explorer
Ahrefs has an index of 800+ million pieces of content on various topics.
They also add 5+ million new pieces of content to this index every 24 hours (which is absolutely INSANE).
But, data and stats aside, what benefit does this have?
Well, it means that you can enter (almost) any keyword into Content Explorer and it’ll kick back a TON of content ideas.
That’s 3900+ content ideas for “keyword research”.
And this is only results where the phrase “keyword research” is in the article title…
You can also search for content where the phrase is mentioned anywhere in the article content, which will return exponentially more results!
BUT, like I said, it would be VERY difficult to rank for this exact keyword without “niching down”.
This is because the “big guys” (e.g. Moz, Ahrefs, etc) are currently dominating the SERPs for this topic.
However, we can use the in-built filters in content Explorer to find ideas that:
- We can actually compete with
- Will actually generate traffic for us
Here’s the setup:
Here’s exactly what we’re doing here (and why!):
- Filtering for only English results: Pretty self-explanatory, right!?
- Filtering ONLY for results from websites with a DR between 0-59: Because the DR of my website (matthewwoodward.co.uk) is also 59, I only want to see results for sites with the same (or lower) DR. Why? Because these are the sites I’ll be able to compete with easily.
- Filtering ONLY for pages with <5 referring domains AND >500 organic visitors per month: This is the important part! By looking for pages that are receiving 500+ organic visits AND have very few links, we can uncover pages that will be VERY easy to outrank. Stealing their traffic will most likely require nothing more than creating better content and building a handful of links (at the most)
Here’s what Content Explorer found for my search:
This page talks about how to uncover keywords by looking at YouTube tags.
It receives 525 organic visits per month, has 0 referring domains, and is 183 words long.
If this isn’t easily beatable content, then I don’t know what is!
Note: Remember, if your search doesn’t return many results, you can always find pages containing your keyword anywhere in the content (using the “in content”) filter to broaden your horizons.
#14: Find Content Ideas That People ACTUALLY Care About with Keywords Explorer
Nobody understands search intent like Google does.
Their algorithm relies on showing users what they want to see.
Because of this, there’s no better way to understand the intent behind a search term (i.e. what people are actually looking to find) than analysing the top 10 search results.
Let’s take a keyword like “SEO tools”…
Now, there are plenty of SEO tools—some free, some paid—on the market. If we wanted to rank for this keyword, maybe a winning formula for a piece of content would be to create a list of all of these SEO tools, right!?
Again, not so fast.
Let’s go to Keywords Explorer, enter the keyword, and scroll down to the SERP overview.
This shows us the top 10 ranking results.
Instantly, I spot a pattern…
Although most of the results are lists of SEO tools, a lot of them are actually lists of free SEO tools.
In fact, 7/10 results contain the word “free” in the title tag.
This tells me that although people are generally typing in “SEO tools”, they actually appear to be looking for a list of the best free SEO tools.
It would, therefore, be much smarter to go down this route when creating a piece of content around this keyword/topic.
Keywords Explorer tells us how many links (and referring domains) each of these pages has, allowing us to quickly spot topics with great potential to attract a TON of links.
I’ll let you in on a (sad) secret:
You ain’t going to rank for any worthwhile keyword/topic without links.
Sure, less competitive keywords may only require a handful of links whereas more competitive keywords may require many more links (sometimes even thousands) but still, the bottomline is this:
You. Need. Links.
But here’s the good news:
Ahrefs shines in this department.
Not only do they boast the largest live link index on the market, they have a TON of tools that can help you with the task at hand.
In fact, I don’t know any serious link builders that AREN’T using Ahrefs.
It really is that good.
Here are a few ways to use Ahrefs to build all the links you need:
#15: Use Branded Alerts to Reclaim Backlinks
Remember those branded alerts I told you to set up at the beginning of this guide?
If you set them up correctly, you’ve most likely received an email that looks something like this:
Basically, this tells you whenever anyone mentions your name (or any other branded terms) on the web.
If someone mentions you personally in a blog post, you’ll know about it.
If someone talks about your brand (e.g. Apple) in a review, you’ll know about it.
Just because someone has mentioned your name (or brand name) in a piece of content doesn’t necessarily mean that they remembered to link to you.
And if they didn’t…getting the link is usually as easy as reaching out and asking for it.
If you look closely at the screenshot above, you’ll see that I was recently mentioned in this article about starting a membership website.
Here’s the part where I’m mentioned:
Weirdly, they didn’t link to the tutorial they mentioned in that paragraph.
It’s highly likely that they simply forgot, or made a mistake.
Getting a link from this article would likely take nothing more than a simple email asking them to add a link.
#16: Monitor TOPICAL Keyword Alerts (Then Convince People to Link to You)
Monitoring branded keywords is a good start.
BUT, that’s the tip of the iceberg…
In Ahrefs Alerts, you can monitor for mentions of ANY keyword.
For example, here’s an alert I set up for “link building”:
Now, each week, I get an email from Ahrefs showing me any newly published content containing that term (i.e. link building) from the past 7 days.
That’s 93 new mentions of “link building” in just one week!
BUT…how does this help to build links?
Basically, you can use these alerts to discover content that could be improved by adding a link to your website (or a particular resource on your website).
Take a look at that 2nd article (the one by SearchEngineLand.com).
It talks about “7 Reasons Why Your Broken Link Building Campaign Isn’t Working”…
It’s a great article, BUT…
I get the feeling that readers of this article are likely struggling with link building in general.
Scrolling to the end of the post, it looks like the author also thinks this…that’s why he’s chosen to include a few links to additional link building resources.
It just so happens that I also have a TON of great link building resources on my blog, such as this list of 44 link building strategies.
Because this would also be a great additional resource to include at the end of that SEL post, I could simply reach out to the author of that post (Kevin) and suggest that he add a link to my post in that final section.
This is a great, simple way to build links to any piece of content 🙂
#17: Monitor Competitor Links AND Brand Mentions
You can learn a lot from your competitors.
Did you know that monitoring your competitors can be a great source of link prospects?
Basically, if you can identify where your competitors are being mentioned AND linked-to, you can often steal these links/mentions from yourself.
Here are the top 3 Google results for “long tail pro”:
Right now, I’m ranking in position #3.
BUT…I’d really like to rank #1.
This means that my competitors for this keyword are longtailpro.com and dumbpassiveincome.com.
Right off the bat, I could throw these URLs into Ahrefs Site Explorer, look at their backlinks, and see if there are any easily replicable links I could steal for myself.
BUT…that’s a different strategy altogether!
What I want to talk about is monitoring both competitor links AND branded keywords to give you a constant supply of link opportunities.
So, let’s start with backlink monitoring:
Like I said, one of my competitors is dumbpassiveincome.com—they have a similar Long Tail Pro review to mine.
However, I personally believe my review to be better. I also updated my review very recently, so it’s super fresh.
I, therefore, believe that anyone choosing to link to my competitors Long Tail Pro review would be better off linking to mine.
So, I want to monitor my competitors review for new links.
If they get any, I can then reach out to the person linking to them and suggest that they link to my review instead (as it’s better).
Here’s how to set up an alert for these links:
Go to the Backlinks section within Ahrefs Alerts and hit “+ New Alert”.
Enter the URL of the page you want to monitor for backlinks, choose “New backlinks” under the “Scope” option, and enter your email address.
You’ll now receive an email whenever there’s a new link to your competitor’s URL—you can then swoop in and steal the link for yourself.
BUT…competitor backlinks aren’t the only thing worth monitoring:
You can also monitor competitors branded keywords.
Because I have a review of Long Tail Pro, it would be worth setting up an alert for branded keywords like “Long Tail Pro”.
If someone is mentioning Long Tail Pro on the web, their readers would find a review and tutorial for the tool rather useful.
So, whenever I see Long Tail Pro being mentioned, I can simply reach out to the website owner and suggest they add a link to my review within their post.
Here’s how to set this up:
Go to the Mentions section of Ahrefs Alerts and hit “+ New Alert”.
Add your keyword, add any blocked domains (e.g. your own website), and your email address.
Now you’ll receive an email alert whenever your keyword (e.g. “long tail pro”) is mentioned on the web.
#18: Find “Skyscraper” Link Building Opportunities (AND Prospects)
Ahh, the infamous “skyscraper technique”…
It’s perhaps the most famous link-building technique there is!
And for good reason, too—it’s super powerful!
For those unfamiliar, here’s the basic process:
- Find a piece of content with a TON of links.
- Make something even better.
- Contact anyone linking to the old, inferior piece of content and suggest that they link to yours instead.
Note: Here’s Brian’s full post on the Skyscraper Technique.
How do you find “skyscraper” content (i.e. content with a TON of links that you can build upon) in the first place?
Here’s a super simple method:
Enter a well-known competitors domain into Site Explorer, then go to Pages > Best by Links
You will now see every page on the domain ordered by # of backlinks.
The two posts I’ve highlighted above have thousands of backlinks.
If I was to put-together an even better version of any of these posts, I would have thousands of prospects to pitch to!
Note: You can gather a list of “skyscraper” prospects by checking the backlink profile of that particular URL in Site Explorer. Just sift through all the links and choose prospects to reach out to.
What if you already have an EPIC piece of content and you want to build some links to it?
Here’s a simple trick that I haven’t seen anyone talk about before:
Enter a keyword into Content Explorer, then filter ONLY for pages with 100+ referring domains.
Let’s say that I wanted to build some links to my list of 44 link building strategies.
I would enter the keyword “link building strategies” into Content Explorer and add a referring domains filter.
This gives me 76 results—all of these are (a) about link building strategies, and (b) have 100+ referring domains.
Now, the trick is then to sift through the results looking for content that is very similar—yet inferior to—your content.
Here’s a good example:
This page has 109 referring domains, yet it only lists 31 strategies where mine lists 44.
It also hasn’t been updated since 2014!
Anyone linking to this page is a prime “skyscraper” prospect for my post—I just need to reach out and suggest they change the link to my page (and tell them why they should).
#19: Broken Backlink Building (with the top pages – 404 report)
Nobody likes broken links.
You know the ones…
They take you to pages like this:
It drives me crazy whenever this happens!
Broken links are a link-builders dream.
Why? Because if you can find a broken link with a TON of backlinks, you can build links with this simple 3-step process:
- Find out what the broken link used to be
- Create a similar—but better—piece of content
- Ask anyone linking to the broken content to link to your content instead
However, before you can do this, you need to actually find a broken link with the following attributes:
- It has a TON of links pointing to it
- It’s relevant to your website
- It can be replicated without too much work
Here’s how to do this:
Enter a well-known competitors domain into Site Explorer, then go to Pages > Best by Links.
This shows you the most linked-to pages on that domain.
BUT…we don’t want to see all pages—we want to see broken pages.
To do this, filter the list to show ONLY 404 errors.
Most websites will have at least a few broken links.
Simply sift through these pages looking for broken links that have a decent number of backlinks AND would be relevant to your website.
Note: You can use Wayback Machine to see how any page used to look.
If you identify a page that meets all of the criteria mentioned above, create a similar piece of content then publish it on your website.
It’s then just a case of reaching out to anyone linking to the old broken link and suggesting that they fix the link by replacing it with your link.
#20: Find Worthwhile Guest Post Prospects
Guest posting is one of the oldest link building tactics in the book.
It goes something like this:
- Find websites that accept guest posts (in your niche)
- Reach out to them and pitch a post idea
- Write the post, land the link
If you’ve ever done guest posting before, you’ll know there’s no shortage of opportunities around.
Google finds 4,000+ “write for us” pages (i.e. websites that are accepting guest posts) for search term “SEO”.
That’s a LOT of prospects!
BUT there’s a problem…
While you could write for thousands of websites, it’s important to remember that guest posting takes a lot of work.
Not only do you have to pitch the websites, you also have to write a top notch article, too.
This can be pretty time-consuming (or, if you’re outsourcing it, expensive!)
And, because we want people to actually read our guest post, there’s ZERO point writing posts for websites that get little/no traffic.
So, the question is: how do you know how much traffic a website gets?
Simple…just enter the domain into Site Explorer and Ahrefs will show you an estimate of organic traffic.
BUT…what if you have a long list of prospects?
No worries, just paste the entire list into Ahrefs Batch Analysis tool like so:
Note: Make sure to select the option for “domain with all its subdomains” under the mode drop-down.
Here’s the result (ordered by organic search traffic):
This is a great way to cut down your list and ensure that you’re ONLY writing for websites that actually get traffic!
Keyword discovery and research…DONE.
Link building…DONE! (well, link building is never done, but you should have at least made a start!)
Here’s the good news: that’s most of the difficult stuff out of the way.
But, even if you’ve executed everything perfectly thus far, the truth is that simple on-site errors can often hinder your success.
I’m talking about rogue “noindex” tags…
Missing meta descriptions…
And so forth.
This is where Ahrefs Site Audit tool comes in handy.
In a nutshell, it will diagnose pretty much every on-site issue you could think of, without you really having to lift a finger.
Here are a few useful things you can do with it:
Note: I’m not going to cover how to set up a project or run crawls in the Site Audit tool because, honestly, it’s pretty self-explanatory. But, if you’re struggling, this post (by Ahrefs) explains exactly how to do it, along with a lot more!
#21: Find Slow Loading Pages (Using the Performance Report)
Go to Internal Pages > Performance and you will see a report that looks something like this:
At first glance, this may appear as nothing more than a myriad of pie charts.
But, this is actually showing you the number of pages on your website that are slow to load, in various ways.
I recommend paying particular attention to the “Load time” chart:
The red section of the pie chart shows the number of pages that are too slow to load (and thus, need fixing).
If you click on the red section, you will see exactly which pages these are, along with how slowly they actually load:
One cool thing to note here is that Ahrefs also shows you the amount of organic traffic these pages are receiving.
If you spot a slow loading page that is receiving a lot of traffic (like my Buzzbundle review, for example), I recommend prioritising the speeding-up of that page.
Why? Because chances are it will attract even more traffic if you improve the visitor experience.
#22: Find HTML Tag Issues (e.g. Rogue “Noindex” Tags) with the HTML Tags Report
Mistakes with HTML tags can wreak havoc on your website.
For example, if you accidentally add a noindex tag to a page, Google won’t even index that page.
This means that even if you write great content and build epic links, it ain’t going to rank.
And, while not all HTML tag errors are potentially this catastrophic, they’re still worth fixing.
Ahrefs’ Site Audit tool makes this super-easy, as it uncovers all the errors for you.
To view them, just go to Internal Pages > HTML Tags:
Here, it will list all of the issues the crawler has found with your website.
In the example above, you can see that I have a few missing meta tags, along with a few other errors.
To learn more about where these errors actually occur, just click on one of the errors:
It will then tell you more information about the errors, including the pages on which the errors occur:
Because Ahrefs does the hard work for you (i.e. the discovery of these errors), you can usually fix them pretty easily just by editing a bit of HTML code.
#23: Find Incoming and Outgoing Link Issues (e.g. Broken Outbound Links) with the Incoming/Outgoing Links Reports
Earlier in this guide, I showed you how to check for (and remove) toxic backlinks.
This is super-important.
But, there are other link-based issues that can impact the performance of your website.
I’m talking about broken outgoing links…
“Nofollow” internal links…
HTTPS pages internally linking to HTTP pages…
And so forth.
Luckily, the Incoming and Outgoing Links reports in the Site Audit tool will help you to uncover and fix these issues.
Let’s start by taking a look at the Incoming Links report:
In this example, you can see that there are a few issues with my website—namely nofollowed internal links.
This isn’t always cause for concern but generally, your internal links should be used to send “link juice” to important and relevant pages.
Therefore, they should be dofollow links.
Note: I have a full guide on internal linking best practices here.
If you click any of these errors, you will see exactly where they reside:
Let’s take a look at the Outgoing Links report, too:
Again, we have a few errors, including:
- Pages that link out to broken pages (these should be replaced and fixed!)
- HTTPS pages linking to unsecure internal pages (this is definitely not the best practice!)
- Pages without outgoing links (some studies have found outgoing links to have a positive effect on rankings)
If you want to investigate an error further (and see exactly where the error occurs), just click through to take a look.
And this is only the tip of the iceberg—there are plenty of supporting graphs, data visualisations, and other pieces of information in these reports.
Recommended reading: This is the new Site Audit tool by Ahrefs (an overview of the Site Audit tool written by Tim Soulo from Ahrefs)
Analysing Your Progress/Success
SEO is hard work.
That’s why it’s important to keep your eye on progress and make sure that the grunt work is having a positive impact on your website.
Google Analytics will be your best bet here.
BUT…if you’re anything like me, you’ll probably end up seeing your Ahrefs dashboard much more than your Google Analytics account.
Here are a few things to look for in Ahrefs to make sure you’re heading in the right direction:
#24: Increased Domain Rating (DR) AND Decreased Ahrefs Rank
Are you building a consistent flow of links to your website?
If so, you should see your Domain Rating (DR) increase over time.
Here’s what it looks like on your dashboard:
If it increases, you’ll see a green arrow appear alongside this number with the amount of points it’s increased (much like with the URL rating below).
Similarly, you should start to see your Ahrefs Rank decrease.
Basically, the lower your Ahrefs Rank is, the better, so keep an eye on it.
Note: Don’t obsess over these metrics. However, they are a decent indicator as to the overall status of your website.
#25: Improved Rankings (for Your Tracked Keywords)
Remember during the Ahrefs setup process when I told you to track a bunch of your top keywords in Ahrefs?
Well, that’s because these keywords also show up in your dashboard, like this:
Basically, this shows how many of your tracked keywords are ranking in the top 1-3, 4-10, 11-20, and 21-50 search results.
As rankings improve, they’ll show up here.
This is my personal favourite way to keep an eye on what really matters—if I see improvements here, I know that my traffic is probably increasing, too.
Of course, if you want to take a more granular look at keyword rankings (with graphs and whatnot), you can use Ahrefs Rank Tracker.
This can also show you some super-cool data such as the number of featured snippets you own, and much more.
Useful Tools (That Work with Ahrefs)
Before I wrap this up, I want to mention a handful of tools that incorporate Ahrefs data.
I know from talking to Tim (Soulo) that Ahrefs are very picky about which tools they allow to use their data. That’s why this list is quite short.
Here are the tools I can personally vouch for:
- URL Profiler: Pulls in a bunch of metrics (including Ahrefs metrics) for a list of URLs. This is one of my personal favourites. Free trial available here.
- Ninja Outreach: Use the free trial of this tool to contact thosuands of backlink opportunities/broken backlinks itc in a couple of clicks. They have a range of link building email templates built in!
- Screaming Frog: Industry-leading crawling tool. A must-have for anyone who’s serious about SEO. It now also allows you to pull in metrics (e.g. DR, Ahrefs Rank, etc.) from Ahrefs directly. More details here.
- Link Miner (Chrome Extension): Analyse and extract links from any web page. Perfect for finding broken links and quickly assessing them by pulling in metrics from Ahrefs.
- SeoTools for Excel: Excel add-on that’s absolutely packed with functionality. If you want to pull Ahrefs metrics directly into your spreadsheets, this one is for you! More details here.
And here are a few more tools that integrate Ahrefs data (although I haven’t tested these personally).
Wrapping It Up
Ahrefs is an incredible tool.
Not just for link-building, but for (almost) everything else, too.
Seriously, if I was limited to using only one SEO tool forever, Ahrefs would probably be my #1 choice.
BUT…enough with the praise…
Here’s a quick recap of my surefire process for increasing traffic in my Ahrefs review-
- Make sure your website is healthy (i.e. there are no bad-backlinks, broken links, etc)
- Find all of the best keywords
- Prioritise your keywords AND find low-hanging fruit (i.e. quick-win opportunities)
- Research and create some EPIC content
- Build links to your EPIC content
- Use Branded Alerts to Reclaim Backlinks
- Monitor TOPICAL Keyword Alerts (Then Convince People to Link to You)
- Monitor Competitor Links AND Brand Mentions
- Find “Skyscraper” Link Building Opportunities (AND Prospects)
- Broken Backlink Building (with the top pages – 404 report) / VIDEO TUTORIAL
- Find Worthwhile Guest Post Prospects
- Complete a site audit and fix all outstanding issues
- Keep an eye on your progress and make sure you’re on the right track!
Do this, in this order, and you won’t go far wrong!
How do you use Ahrefs in your SEO campaigns?
Ahrefs Review – 25 Ways To Increase YOUR Search Traffic was originally published on Matthew Woodward