A Few Things We All Can Learn From The Top Link Building Sites

Last week Majestic SEO posted a really cool table that you probably didn’t see unless you regularly read a lot of SEO blogs. The table is made up of the Top 200 domains ranked by referring domains. (Majestic, by the way, is one of my favorite SEO tools.)

For those of you unfamiliar with SEO fundamentals or the basics of  search engine optimization, this table lists the websites from around the world that have the most unique domains linking back to their site. So, for example, let’s say your website has a two websites linking to it. One of them is WebsiteA.com and the other is BWebsites.com. That would mean your site has 2 referring domains. Not to mention a lot of work to do to get on Majestic’s next list!

For me – an Internet Marketing consultant who helps companies get more links through content strategies – here are five interesting tidbits I noticed while perusing the list:

1. Volatility isn’t limited to the stock market.
Admittedly, we’re dealing with huge websites and tremendous link volume, but the table shows that things will happen to cause even the biggest websites to make significant moves up or down the list.

Take a look at the biggest movers up the list:

  • dot.tk moved up 187 spots from #200 to #13
  • verizon.net moved up 117 spots from #183 to #66
  • t-online.de moved up 114 spots to #3 from #117
  • gmgp.org moved up 83 spots from #128 to #45

Other than the endless rumors about the Verizon iPhone, it’s not obvious at first glance what caused these other movements. We could, however, find out more with a more in-depth competitive analysis. And while we’re on the topic, look what all of that chatter about a product that doesn’t even exist yet did for Verizon…it gave them tons and tons more links!

Flip around the numbers and look at the sites that have fallen down the list. Xanga.com, for example, fell 82 spots to #160. Keep in mind this doesn’t mean xanga.com all-of-a-sudden suffers from worse search rankings now than they did two years ago because they didn’t build links as fast. They could still be a dominant player. It does mean they didn’t build links from new domains as aggressively as the other sites on the list. So this is a good reminder that we can’t rest on our laurels and stop trying to build links. That’s the worst Internet Marketing strategy. We gotta keep building. And building. And building.

2. What happened to eBay?
Ebay’s move downward is worth noting on its own. The auction giant moved from #4 down to #31. You have to wonder what happened there, especially when you see that the other players at the top of the 2008 list (Google, Yahoo!, Facebook, YouTube) all stayed in the Top 10. Why is eBay building links at a far lesser rate now than they were 2008? Or did they do something to lose a ton of links over the last two years?

3. The BBC is tops for media.
I thought this was sort of a surprise. The BBC’s website, bbc.co.uk, is the top-rated media website at #24. (By media I mean a site run by a traditional media company.) Cnn.com is the next highest at #26 with nearly 125,000 less links than the BBC. The NY Times’ website, nytimes.com, is ranked #34. I’m surprised because New York is the #1 media market in the world, and the Times is supposedly the most revered newspaper in the world.

Other things interesting about the media-related sites:

  • Foxnews.com (CNN’s chief rival) ranks at #121 with nearly 800,000 less domains referring links as CNN
  • The Wall St. Journals’ site, wsj.com, ranks at #82
  • Despite the flourishing state of the so-called celebrity media, none of tabloid sites for gossip made the cut. I would expect that to change in the next two years as more people start to get their news from sources like TMZ.

4. School websites rake in the links.
Out of the top 200 sites listed, 11% are domains for schools. And just about all of them are the big brand names in education.

Here are the top 5 schools on the list. Just for fun I’ve listed the school’s rank in endowment (PDF) in parenthesis to see if there’s any corollary between wealth and domain referral popularity:

  1. mit.edu: #73 overall (6)
  2. stanford.edu #79 overall (3)
  3. berkeley.edu: #83 overall (78)
  4. harvard.edu: #87 overall (1)
  5. cornell.edu: #124 overall (18)

Way to go Berkeley! They are raking in the domain referrals despite not having huge endowments like the others in the top 5. By the way, MIT’s website ranks ahead of sites for entities you’ve probably heard of like NASA and weather.com.

Biggest surprises on the list? How about Yale at #167 despite having the second largest endowment? Or the school right in my backyard, UC San Diego. They make the list at #197 despite having the 175th largest endowment.

5. Link-building technique don’t have to be obvious.
Ever hear of  #64 on the list, homestead.com? On the outside it’s Intuit’s answer to a Blogspot (#7), Macromedia (#16), WordPress (#17), and Joomla (#52) – a product that builds websites for small businesses. Some might wonder why the heck Intuit offers a such a product. Well, this lists tells you all you need to know. It’s for the domains referrals and links! I’m assuming that every site built using their software links back to Intuit. This may not be a huge revenue generator for Intuit, but it’s a gigantic SEO score for them. It’s a good lesson in how creativity goes a long way to getting links.

Lastly, while a lot of companies would be happy with 50 quality referral domains, the lowest amount on the list has more than 229,000 different domains linking to it. Of course all of these sites are huge sites for big brands, but it’s a good reminder that enough is never truly enough. Never be satisfied with the amount of referring domains and links coming in to your site. Keep striving for more. Your site probably won’t ever make this list, but there’s a huge difference between 50 quality referral domains and 150. Go for it!

What else do you notice on the list? Let’s discuss in the comment section below.

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