Link building is a black box to most. In short, there are 3 main ways to get links:
- Guest posts and advertising.
- The dark side. PBN’s, hacks, Forums etc.
The general consensus from most that never worked in highly competitive niches is, “don’t buy links“.
That said every link you ever acquire will come at a cost.
Whether it’s the cost of the content you publish, the investment you put into PR & marketing campaigns, or buying expired domains and repurposing them for link building.
You cannot get links without forking out funds somewhere. That means that every link you ever acquire comes at a cost.
At Gain Changer, we work with data to get predictable results, in a very unpredictable industry, SEO.
This article outlines how you can determine the cost of ranking on specific keywords.
In this example, we’ll check how difficult it is to rank for the key phrase, “buy toys online” in the United States, in English.
Note that all the data seen in this post is fabricated for demonstration purposes.
So let’s begin…
Start by keeping a spreadsheet with the columns shown in Figure 1.
Note that this is a broad model for beginners & initial research.
Figure 1. Keyword competitor research
- Brand, keyword, search volume: Record the brands that are competing on Page 1 of Google for your selected keyword. It’s important to be aware of your competitors.
- Position, Matching anchor, Density: This is where you take a recording of which position your competitors occupied on Google at the time of running this investigation. We recommend taking note of the top, middle and bottom of search results. Also, take note of the amount of referring domains pointing back to the URL or domain which is ranking.
- Important: Ensure you take stock of how many of the referring domains are using exact match anchor text for your target keyword, in this case, “buy toys online”. Anchor density tells a story about the competition’s risk appetite and tactics. So pay attention.
- Total to page, site and monthly velocity: Here is where you will understand the gravity of your decision to compete on this keyword. You’re always going to come up against older domains with larger backlink profiles than yours, but be very cautious with competitors running continuous activity. Specifically on the URL which is ranking, or directly on the homepage.
Note: The data in Figure 1 is fabricated for the purpose of this example.
Lastly, think about the effort, content & marketing costs required to achieve those links.
Achieving backlinks and publishing content comes at a cost.
Take stock of your costs or they will catch up with you real quick during the execution phase.
The questions you want to answer here are:
- How much money is it going to cost me to rank?
- How long is it going to take me to rank?
Note again that this data is all simulated and for demonstration purposes only. No animals were hurt in the fabricating of this data.
Figure 2. Ranking timeline and cost
Figure 2 includes the assumptions below:
- The average price to build or place a link (buying backlinks) in the USA of the quality range and taxonomy required to rank for the keyword “Buy Toys Online”, is 50$.
- The competition has paid roughly this price on an average per link.
We’ve set our target to reach position 10 on Google. Meaning all the stats are based on where “Your Site” is right now vs “Competitor 3” at position 10.
Figure 3. Competitor 3 vs Your site
The first key takeaway is that Competitor 3 has spent considerably more money up until now and at a higher velocity monthly than Your Site. Therefore to catch up at a reasonable rate, you need to at least triple Competitor 3’s current monthly velocity.
You also need to factor in that you are jumping from 4 referring domains per month to 39 per month.
Figure 4. The catch-up gap
Now to catch up with Competitor 3 it will take you 3 months at that rate, though competitor 3 would also have built links at a pace of 13 links per month at that time.
All adding to the total amount required to meet your competition.
Considering that your current link pacing or link velocity is at links from 4 referring domains per month, it would look rather unnatural to jump up to 39 per month all at one go.
Figure 5. Link pacing or velocity
Therefore to avoid triggering any alerts, pace your link building strategy steadily until you hit maximum velocity and slow down to hit your target proportionately.
Pro tip: Always add what I like to call a buffer budget. To work on diversifying your strategy to at least a 30% branding & PR strategy.
This formula is a starting point and not the end of your forecasting. It doesn’t factor in quality ratings and other important factors. It also needs to be repeated every couple of weeks. As competition and Google both change, you will also need to adapt the strategy accordingly.
Keep adding keywords to this file and factor in an overall, spread out & natural strategy. The off-page activity you run on other keywords and pages will factor into your overall results.
Therefore it’s important that you create a budget and forecast for a comprehensive and overall strategy.
At Gain Changer, our team of experts have been doing this for over a decade. This basic method is where we started from way back.
The information in this guide is a great place to start but is only the top of the rabbit hole. There is a lot more granularity to explore before drawing truly informed decisions.
If you are looking for a predictable outcome to your SEO efforts, get in touch with us today.
Gain Changer co-founder Sean Bianco is well-versed in determining market trends. Emphasis is placed on understanding relationships between technical problems and customer impact, resulting in customer-driven products and services.