Developing and acquiring high-quality links is a challenge, let alone being able to effectively scale the process. Luckily though, there are a number of tools which will help with a lot of the heavy lifting which frees up your time to really get down and dirty developing those relationships and actually scoring the links.
Here are 20+ tools and resources which you may find useful when it comes to finding prospects, organising and evaluating them and finally researching them ready to be contacted.
Link Prospector from Citation Labs is a superb tool for finding and identifying prospects that are relevant to your campaign. For a very reasonable monthly subscription you get credits to run reports specific to the type of link building you would like to do e.g. blogger outreach, infographic outreach and so on. You can set all sorts of parameters including domains and geographical location as well as use the plethora of features such as keyword combiner which helps you set custom harvesting footprints to quite literally find any kind of link you want.
Here’s a post I wrote on the Citation Labs blog about using the tool to uncover the hidden guest post opportunities.
Yes, yes – you can use Scrapebox for all those things you think of when you hear the word scrapebox… like comment spamming for example. However, there is also a very useful feature within Scrapebox which allows you to enter a number of footprints into the harvest module and watch it go off and find hundreds or thousands of potential link opportunities.
The lists you get back are a little “raw” but after refining your footprint search phrases a bit and trimming down your list you have a set of prospects near enough ready for contacting. Scrapebox can also go off and fetch the PageRank which is another quick way to sort the viable opportunities from the junk.
My Blog Guest
My Blog Guest is one of the original guest blogging communities connecting websites and bloggers looking for guest with bloggers and writers looking for new websites to guest post on. It is free to join and there are plenty of opportunities in a variety of industries.
There is an active community and plenty for the newbie link prospector to get started with. As with all of these tools and resources, be sure to use as many as you can to ensure your outreach lists are as diverse as possible.
Blogger Link Up
Another guest blogging community worth mentioning is Blogger Link up which is an email-based community run by Cathy Stucker which helps connect websites looking for content with bloggers and marketers looking for guest posts.
You will receive emails Monday, Wednesday and Friday and there is very often a handful of gems in here worth adding to your outreach list. Get in touch with them promptly though as they’ll also be receiving emails from other BLU members.
Competitor Link Research
Using your favourite site explorer or link research software you can quickly and easily find a number of link opportunities that your competitors already have. This can save you quite a bit of legwork in the sense that you are piggybacking off the hard work of them. Be warned though, this approach isn’t always a smart one: competitive research by its very nature will mean you are always following behind the competition and second of all you’ve no idea if they know what they are doing so keep your quality radar on at all times and only target the high-value opportunities that fit into your current strategy.
Try this search query
You might also try this search query in Google (replacing yourcompetitorsite.com with you actual competitor’s site) to quickly identify footprints left by the person doing guest blogging for your competitor.
yourcompetitorsite.com + “guest post by” -yourcompetitorsite.com
This highlights the need to cover your tracks when doing link building (not because it is shady but because it increases your competitive advantage) – obviously you’ll never be completely invisible to your competitors but try and make their job just a little bit harder.
If you already have a set of relevant blogger prospects, why not double or even treble the number of prospects by harvesting their blogrolls? This free tool from BuzzStream is very straightforward; enter a list of URLs and it will return a list of blogroll links from those URLs.
Granted, you are trusting the judgement of the bloggers and not all of these prospects are going to be high-quality or even relevant but more often than not we find a gem in the blogroll which for one reason or another hasn’t shown up via one of our other methods.
Lists of blogs
A common argument against some methods of link prospecting is “Why bother?” since most of the information is already accessible and has been compiled by someone else. In most mainstream industries you will find a blogger or publisher who has compiled a list of the most authoritative blog. A simple Google search using common phrases such as [ "Top 50" "The ultimate list of" "25 best" | travel bloggers/travel blogs ] should herald the kinds of results you are looking for, obviously change up the topic keyword to the one you are working on.
You can also use Citation Lab’s Link Prospector and their custom footprint functionality to locate these kinds of lists en masse.
Google related site search
We commonly use this as a final step in building link prospect lists for clients. More often than not it will yield a number of other relevant opportunities for us to take advantage of.
Very simple method by often highly effective.
There are quite a few social media research tools out there but we have stuck with Followerwonk for sometime now. It can be really useful in identifying who the key influencers are in a given space.
We use it to find social media power users who don’t necessarily have a high-profile or authoritative blog of their own but are really active community curators – this makes Followerwonk truly valuable for building outreach prospect lists.
Guest Post Opportunities Tool
If you are looking for a free tool to help you find guest posts, try the GPO tool we built in Google Docs. It uses common guest posting footprints to help you find relevant opportunities in your industry.
It isn’t perfect and thanks to the wonders of Google Docs ImportXML limits, it often dies but it is free so if you are just getting started with guest posting, it is still a handy little tool to be able to use. Please remember to “make a copy” before merrily plugging away inside the tool that everyone in the world can access.
Guest Post Opportunities via Twitter
Developed by Ethan Lyon from SEER, this is another Google Docs based tool which pulls in guest post opportunities from Twitter conversations.
Here’s the post on how to use it > Want Guest Post Links? Find them on Twitter
The method for this was borrowed from Jason Acidre who illustrates just how SEOQuake can be used to generate huge prospect lists with metrics already populated.
Another tool that we frequently use is Spyonweb which is a research tool that uses digital footprints such as Google Analytics code, IP address and so on to draw connections between websites.Handy for finding a web publisher with more than one website which may be suitable for you to publish to.
This isn’t about uncovering a blog network to shove a load of posts onto, this is simply about unearthing further opportunities with the same individual – which is a real efficiency win. Bear in mind that if a blog is on shared hosting for example, the tool will frequently return irrelevant results because there is simply a connection between these sites even though they are owned by different people.
Organising and evaluating
(See also our post on Link Outreach – setting yourself up for success with the right toolset)
Yes it is a very simplistic way to organise and evaluate your prospects but if you are just pulling together a small list and evaluating based on only a handful of metrics, some of the other tools can simply be overkill. Google Docs is simple, free and allows for easy collaboration with other team members.
If you are a Buzzstream subscriber then you will have access to their Bulk Contact Info Research feature. This pulls in all the relevant contact and social media data for each prospect to allow you to build a picture of the individual before reaching out to them. This helps with evaluation as you can compare metrics at a glance and it helps you to understand the likelihood of success – are they an elusive individual? for example.
Buzzstream also has a number of features which make campaign/project organisation extremely streamlined.
The SEOBook Toolbar and SEOmoz Toolbar are two of our favourite for quick site evaluation. The SEObook toolbar in particular offers a good range of metrics without slowing down your browsing.
Using a toolbar fits with our workflow because we do a fair bit of manual site evaluation to ensure every link opportunity matches the client’s strategy.
The Link Building Toolbar also gets an honourable mention because although we have yet to use it, when it is ready for public use, it looks like it is going to be a really useful tool.
SEOTools for Excel
If you are a big Excel fan then you are going to adore SEOTools for Excel by Niels Bosma. It is an Excel add in which makes the spreadsheet software infinitely more useful from a link evaluation perspective.
You can quickly and automatically pull in metrics like PageRank, Social signals, approximate number of indexed pages and more. Richard Baxter from SEOgadget runs through a number of the things that SEOtools for excel can be used for.
Ahrefs Batch Analysis
There are various tools on the market that allow for batch analysis of URLs which you can then export and use the metrics to manipulate that list into high-value and moderate-value prospects (to maximise outreach efficiency) – our favourite is from Ahrefs.com
It pulls in social metrics as well as link counts and even things like IP address to help you avoid picking up too many links from closely linked IPs.
CustomRank from Raven Tools
This tool really doesn’t get the credit it deserves. It is an innovative, free and easy to operate “DIY scoring system”. We have found it to be very useful in training our link evaluation teams in terms of what we are looking for from a link strength perspective.
You create your own “Rank” by setting how much each metric (such as domain authority, Alexa rank etc) impacts on the overall score. This then gives you the opportunity to set a standard of site or minimum score with the metrics that matter to you impacting the score the most.
Time to do your homework on the prospect to ensure maximum chance of a positive response, here are some of the tools and resources we use:
The target website
There is plenty to be gleaned from the target website; everything from contact details and social media accounts to things that matter to the individual and their current interests. We always start with a manual review of high-value prospect’s websites.
Email research tool
This is a semi-automated tool which helps you find an individual’s contact details by generating common search queries that may yield a positive match.
Enter the name of the prospect and then let BuzzStream put together the appropriate queries for you to then use and do the investigating. It takes some of the legwork out whilst enabling you to increase accuracy because you’re still involved in the process.
There are numerous community and industry websites which allow you to do your homework on any given individual. Journalisted and SEOmoz are good examples of this. Journalisted is a UK focused “search engine” for media contacts which allows you to find contact details for individuals, locate their recent articles and even search at a topic level to find the key journalists in the space.
There are various other sources like this which allow you to browse the individual’s profile and gain a better understanding of the issues that matter to them within their industry (look at their recent articles, forum posts or blog comments).
This Gmail addon will show you everything you need to know about your prospect right inside your inbox.
Admittedly it becomes more useful once you start to build up a rolodex of contacts but the information it can provide to you is really insightful and very useful for personalising your pitch email.
Contact Finder in Citation Labs
Another very useful tool from Garrett French’s Citation Labs. This allows you to enter a number of URLs and the tool will attempt to locate the contact details as listed on the website. A real time-saver – read how Doc Sheldon harvested over 700 emails in less than 5 minutes.
The downside to tools like this is that it encourages the equal treatment of prospects when in actual fact you’ll get a better response rate by segmenting your prospects and doing the appropriate research for the high-value opportunities.
What tools do you use? Let me know in the comments below…