Backlink Generation Tips

The Importance Of Reverse Engineering Link Targets

Tom Buckland 21 April 2018
Ahrefs Screenshot

The below post outlines exactly how we start a link building campaign for clients. It also includes why we can generate super fast ROI by using effective strategies that start by analysing where the most important place on your site is to build links. The example used throughout this post is not a client or a contact in anyway. Remember to share, like and get in touch if you have any questions.

Reverse Engineering Rankings & Links – Relating it back to ROI

Marketing is essentially an ROI equation. If you can generate consistent return on investment from your marketing campaigns, you will have a successful business. Link building is one of the highest ROI marketing strategies for small and large companies. The reason is simple. A few high quality links can make a massive difference in organic rankings, hence more organic revenue. Previously, you would have to go down the PR route and pay £20k to get anything decent. Nowadays, if you reverse engineer, it can take 3 hours and a couple of hundred pounds to achieve great results.

It is about competition

As with everything in digital marketing, it is all about your competitors. Building a campaign that generates a 10X positive ROI is very easy. Especially if you target the correct terms based on your budget, or the “quick wins” as we like to call it in house.

These quick wins are keywords and URLs that already rank, but are not quite at the top of the SERPs. This means if we build a few great links, these will “tip” over onto page 1. Consequently, the difference in traffic and sales will be extremely positive.

We use Ahrefs to build these quick wins out, as it is a frecking awesome tool. Below is the exact process we use.

Part 1 – Site Explorer Review & Organic Keywords/Traffic

In this example, we will use the ecommerce store: Please note I am not associated with this store.

The store itself sells clothes that are eco-friendly based on my 3 second review on their site. Luckily, we do not need to look too much into the site during this process. This is thanks to our reliable data driven approach. All we need to do is paste the homepage into the Ahrefs site explorer and start digging.


Above is the general overview of the domain. As you can see, it has 3,300 referring domains, a DR of 69 and an Ahrefs rank of 115k. Organic traffic estimates are around 55k/month and increasing the value is approximately $40k.

A quick note on Ahrefs traffic value. We have found this to be very very low as an estimate, generally speaking. Data of what our clients are earning through organic traffic vs the estimates coming from Ahrefs have a high disparity. Usually you would be looking around a 5-10X increase. For example, $40k/month would more like be closer to $300-$400k/month. The screenshot below shows an estimated traffic value of $480k/month for an eCommerce site. We know based on the Google analytics of this client, they earn approximately $5M/Month through organic traffic only. So just be aware, figures are usually a lot higher than what they seem.

Another client makes $130k/month through organic traffic, estimates stating only $7k. So remember to take these numbers with a pinch of salt.

Next, it is important to double check the backlink profile looks natural. We want to check if it has been spammed in the past.

To do this, we simply look through the anchor cloud from Ahrefs. Then we can see if the links coming in are mainly branded, URL, relevant and natural. 99% of the time this is the case, but it is essential to check, even if you have not received a manual unnatural link penalty, disavowing links pre-penalty is still very important.

As we can see in this example, the anchor text phrases are extremely natural. There are no issues with spammy links, or anything of that nature.

Organic Traffic & Rankings

Probably one of my favourite parts of Ahrefs is the organic rankings and traffic estimates. Even though they are underestimated in many cases, they are good benchmarks. These can be used to estimate how effective specific link building campaigns will be in the future. As well as how competitive SERPs are for a specific keyword.

In our example, we can see this site ranks for 38,000 keywords. However, of those keywords, we want to refine down. Additionally, we want to build out specific target pages and anchors that will give us the fastest ROI. Luckily, this is pretty easy with filters on this page.

On the organic keywords page, you will see the filter options at the top of the page. These range from positions, search volume of keywords, estimates of how much traffic the website generates based on that specific keyword and the ranking position, some SERP features and even if you want to search with a specific keyword included or even excluded. These are essentially a link builder’s/Technical SEO’s wet dream.

Organic Keywords Filters

This site is targeting the US market, with close to 30,000 keywords rankings in the SERPs.

The filters we use to build out our “quick wins” targets are below;

Organic Keywords position filter tab
From position “5” to “15”. The specific numbers change based on the client, but we want keywords that are ranking on the bottom ofpage 1 or top of page 2. This means we only need a couple of links to push them onto the top of page 1.
Search volume filter ahrefs
The search volume filter. From 200 upwards. We only want to check what keywords have a decent search volume, as link building is the resource intensive part of SEO.

Usually those are the only 2 I use, unless it is a very large client. Integrating these two filters and playing with the numbers slightly depending on the type of client, search volumes and niche should be enough to give you a list of a couple of hundred keywords that are highly searched and where the client is “almost” ranking. Again, this means that building a few links to each one of these pages generates an extremely fast and positive ROI almost instantly.

In our example we have over 300 keywords to look through.

Part 2 – Build Out Targets & Anchors

Once you have these filters in place, it is time to build out the targets and anchors in a Google sheet. Of course you can use anything for this, but in-house we love Google sheets. This is so our team and clients can all work and view one document, just makes everything easier from a project management point of view.

Our link building template is below, the targets tab simply has 4, sometimes 5, columns that are priority, URL, type and keyword.

From here, all we are looking to do is build out this spreadsheet based on the budget of the client, number of pages, anchors and data from Ahrefs.

The information to put into each one of these columns is pulled from Ahrefs. However, some common sense and link building knowledge is required just to ensure you are not pulling irrelevant, or hyper competitive keywords into this targets document. This is so our sole goal for positive ROI can be met as quickly as possible. The below examples are all highly commercial, mainly product based keywords. They are actually, believe it or not, relatively easy to get links to if you look into the blogger outreach, influencer marketing route rather than content, or guest posting.

From these ideas, we simply integrate the content across and build out the targets tab based on the budget and specifications from the clients. Again, I would recommend checking the competition of each keyword before adding it to the document, but if you are looking for longer term ROI, it is not that much of an issue. Below is a quick example of how simple the doc looks after all the research.

Example of Targets Sheet

From here, we build out the relevant link building strategies based on the client, pages, niche and execute the link building process.

The Example: How We Would Generate Links Within 3 Hours

Based on the above information and the example store, we have developed the strategies we would implement for this style of link building. If you were doing this yourself, you could most likely acquire 10+ links in 3 hours. If you are good at building rapport and connections, you can probably make a profit on the front end, driving traffic, as well!

1.) Fashion Bloggers

Simply get in touch with them and ask if they would like to write about one of the specific targets. Very simple, and you will most likely have to send them a few samples for a clothing review haul style post. This can be seen as paid linking, but in over 100 campaigns we have never had any issues. When 10 figure brands do this, mentioning no names, we are not worried.

I would recommend targeting the middle tier of bloggers in this example. Anyone at a high level will want $5,000+ to review a product, whilst anyone at a very low level will not be worth it. So the middle tier is usually the place to be, you might have to pay an “advertising” fee, but most likely, it will be on receiving a few free products.

2.) Industrial Specific Guest Posts

The classic, but when done well, it is still the single easiest, most effective way to do white hat link building. The great thing with guest posting is you control the anchor text when you write your own content. This means you can add multiple links where relevant and not worry about anything sounding unnatural. This makes it very easy to do and incredibly effective. Also, guest posting is the easiest value exchange, if we are writing content for another website that will generate them traffic, as well as money through ads/services/products, then of course we should receive something in return too.

3.) Suppliers, Manufacturers & Retailers

Where you already sell your stuff!

This is a huge one that is so easy to do. Simply ask your suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, vendors even customers to link back to specific pages on the site. Many people overlook this, but if you have well known suppliers, they will likely have very very powerful websites. Subsequently, as you already have a relationship, they should link to you with no questions asked.


Build links based on potential ROI. Relevancy & authority are king, always will be, but directing those elements to the correct places on your site is very important!

If you have any questions or would like to get in touch about our one way link building service campaigns and services please feel free to contact us.