Authors Note: This is part 1 in a 2 part series on link building. You can now check out part 2, "Scale Outreach Using Pareto's Law"
Looking to step up your link prospecting game but don't have a budget for expensive tools?
Or maybe you're just looking for a new approach or strategy. Either way, I've got you covered.
I've done a good chunk of link prospecting since I've been at SEER and although we have access to some great tools I have actually found that this combination of free tools and docs works the best for my personal style.
Before we get started, here's a list of everything you'll need to add to your toolkit if you don't already have it.
1.) My Keywords Into Queries GDoc
2.) LinkClump Plugin for Chrome
4.) Scrape Similar Plugin for Chrome
5.) SEO Gadgets Contact Finder Tool
6.) The unshakeable knowledge that you will destroy your competitors and watch their rankings crumble beneath you.
The name of the game here is speed. I've used this combo to get the kind of prospects I'm after while decreasing my time to do so by over 50%.
I was recently prospecting baseball and softball blogs for a giveaway I was working on. I'll use that research as the example as I go through my process. The last step before we get started is to set your Google per page results. I like to set them at 30 because we are going to be using a lot of similar queries "best, popular, 2012," for the primary keyword so we'll be getting the cream of the crop (and them removing duplicates later).
In Google search, click on the gear icon ---> search settings. Choose results per page 30:
Step 1: Build Your Query List
I like to start by going to Ubersuggest and doing a search for my primary keyword. In my case I was looking for queries related to "baseball blogs" and "softball blogs". Look through the list and only add relevant queries. I get rid of any Tumblr or Blogspot queries as I want unique root domains. Once you have a keyword list you are happy with, click the "get" button to get a list to easily copy and paste into excel or Google Docs.
From here, I paste all the main keyword ideas into a blank Google or Excel doc. I then like to add advanced search parameters to what I feel will be the most effective queries. I won't go into a tutorial on that today so here is my go-to article from Search Engine Land on the subject. The goal with creating this list is to cover all our bases around the primary keywords(s). Get creative and unorthodox and build as strong of a keyword list as possible without losing relevance.
Step 2: Turn Keywords Into Queries
I used to spend a ton of time opening up new tabs to put queries into Google. I got sick of it so I created a doc that concatenates your keywords with a Google search. Once you have your list of searches you can quickly open all of your queries with inkclump or Ontolo. - Quick Shoutout to @NicoMiceli for helping me put this together.
- Go to the Keywords Into Queries Google Doc, make a copy of the doc and then paste your keyword list into column A.
- Highlight columns B, C and D in row 2 and drag the formulas down to the end of your keyword list.
- Open the queries using Linkclump.
Step 3: Scrape Your Query Results
Go through each of your search results and use scrape similar to extract the URL's to Google docs. Simply highlight part of one of the URL's then right-click on the highlighted area and choose "Scrape Similar". If the results don't load correctly, right-click in the scraper box and choose the reload option. You may have a lot of tabs open at this point so I recommend copying the URL list into one excel file and then closing the Google docs out as you go.
Step 4: Remove Duplicate URL's
I had an entire section ready here explaining how to remove duplicate URLs in excel and filter out domains you may want to avoid (blogspot, tumblr, etc.) but I realized with all the screencaps it would almost double the length of the post. I'm hoping most SEOs (even beginners) have a bit of excel experience and can figure this out through their own searches or from Distilled's excel guide for SEO
In optimizing your keyword list you should have used a lot of terms that will net you similar results ("baseball blog, best baseball blog, most popular baseball blog, college baseball blog, etc.) so it is critical to remove duplicates and come away with a clean list. If you need a few minutes to figure this out don't worry, I'll be right here when you get back.
Step 5: Retrieve Contact Info with SEO Gadget's Contact Finder Tool
Now that we have a clean list of URLs it's time to drop them into what I consider (IMHO) the greatest tool to ever happen to link prospecting. I get legitimately upset when I find out that people at SEER aren't using this for link-building. I also almost don't even want to spread the word about it for fear it becomes too popular and somehow gets shut down or has limits placed on it. With that said, for the greater good I implore you to use it and save yourself some major time whenever you are link prospecting.
- Go to SEO Gadgets Contact Finder Tool and sign in with Twitter.
- Add the site you are link building for in the URL column
- Drop your link prospects (up to 200) into the link URL's field.
- Test results and when they are generated then export them to a CSV.
- If you have more than 200 prospects then run it again and compile them all into a master list. You'll see that in addition to seeing whether a site already links to yours you will find SEOMoz metrics and all kinds of contact info like Twitter, contact page URL, and e-mail addresses. As I said before, this tool saves me hours and I would non-stop high-five the SEO Gadget team if I ever met them.
Step 6: Find the Missing Contact Info
As good as the SEO Gadget tool is, I've found that it normally only gets about 50%-60% of the prospective site's contact info. This is still phenomenal and better than any other contact info tool I've seen before. However, we still need to get the contact info for the remaining 40-50% of the sites.
Before we start collecting that data I like to cut a bunch of sites with low DA now that we have all the domain metrics. This is of course up to you and dependent on the type of link-building you are working on.
After you cut any low-value sites then filter in excel to all the sites that don't have enough contact information. Take that list of URLs and go back to the Keywords Into Queries GDoc.
In the last tab, we have a "Site Contact Search" function. The goal here is similar in that we're trying to cut down on the time it would take to build out these searches across separate tabs. The search query we are building this time will do a site: search looking for contact information for each site.
The process is the same as last time and all you have to do is:
- Paste your URLs into Column A
- Highlight the remaining columns starting in cell 2 and drag them down to the end of your URL list.
- Start opening the queries in Column F with LinkClump.
- Use Ctrl + F and the Tout Chrome Extension to quickly find e-mail addresses on the sites.
- Here's what it looks if you were to add SeerInteractive.com to the Site Contact Search Sheet and then open the query. I've found across a lot of prospecting that this query returns contact page links a high % of the time.
Step 7: Outreach Time
If you're ready for outreach then by all means get started! Part 2 of this series on link building covers how to scale outreach using Pareto's law.
- Ryan O'Connor on Twitter