Link Prospecting: A Simple Guide
In this post, we will examine an important aspect of SEO—link prospecting. This will help you understand what kinds of links to use and how to get quality backlinks.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming that all backlinks are good for your website as you could harm your SEO with bad backlinks.
Your website will only receive a rank reward from search engines for quality backlinks.
So, let’s discuss what link prospecting is, what are its benefits, and dive into the whole process.
What is Link Prospecting?
Link prospecting is the process of searching for and identifying quality backlinks that you could use to get backlinks to your website as well.
Backlinks are important for every brand and website owner—newbies and professional bloggers alike, which makes link prospecting an important aspect of off-page SEO and the foundation of many outreach campaigns.
If not properly done, however, your entire outreach campaign will fail.
For instance, when a prospects list is poorly researched, the outreach will likely fail even if every other aspect is solid—the prospects determine the quality of the link.
To learn more about why backlinks matter, head over to our other guide: SEO Best Practices For Beginners
Benefits of Proper Link Prospecting
Google looks at your website’s backlink portfolio when examining its quality and deciding how to position it on its search engine.
It considers the following:
- The number of websites linking to yours
- The authority of those websites
Backlinks from high-quality websites are proof that your website is relevant enough in your niche to be cited and referred to, and this will increase the ranking of your website in the search engine result pages (SERPs). On the other hand, backlinks from lower quality websites will reduce the ranking of the website.
Proper link prospecting will give you access to exceptional websites and backlinks. If you properly prospect for backlinks and build links from quality websites, you will get:
- A boost in the domain authority of the website.
- Your website will become a recognizable brand and an authority in the niche.
- Once the ranking of your website increases, other authority sites within your niche will want to interact with your brand.
- Your visibility will increase due to the higher rankings in the SERPs, which will increase the number of organic traffic your website gets.
- The number of quality do-follow (meaning they pass SEO authority) backlinks your website has will naturally increase. Keep in mind that websites positioned on the first page of search results have about 5% to 14% more do-follow backlinks.
While all these results sound amazing, your link building outreach campaign won’t bring them if you are reaching out to low-quality websites. That’s why link prospecting is an inevitable part of link building strategy.
How to Prepare for Link Prospecting
The first thing to do while preparing for link prospecting is to have a list of keywords to target.
Keywords and backlinks are interconnected and for your link building to be successful, every backlink must be relevant to your website. There is little point of building backlinks from beauty websites if you are in the cat food industry.
If you don’t find the right keywords, you will not discover the best linking opportunities.
Determine the keywords most relevant to your website that you should use, then check how relevant they are and how many searches they get per month.
To get the best out of your keyword list, you need to try different variations of the phrase you select, otherwise you will hit a wall pretty soon. To have a steady stream of link sources, use keyword synonyms and switch between broader terms that define your niche or market.
Keyword and the accompanying query are two main parts of link prospecting, but the keyword is more important to nail right.
Let’s say you are in the sales industry. Your keyword list can go from broad, industry terms, to detailed, long tail keywords, and look something like this:
|Best sales toolsSales development representative|
Diversifying or using keyword variations helps you get the desired result faster.
Link Prospecting Process
Now that you have prepared a list of relevant keywords to use in link prospecting, we can jump right to different ways of finding link opportunities. First is finding websites on Google.
1. Find Opportunities on Google
Google receives over 3.5 billion searches daily because the search engine makes it very easy for web users to find anything they are looking for online, including websites for link building.
Google remains the top choice for webmasters to search for websites that accept guest posts as contributions — a common method for building backlinks.
As we mentioned, keyword and search query complement each other and serve to pinpoint the right opportunities for backlink acquisition.
Below are a few search formats you can use when searching for guest posting opportunities on Google, always remember to use synonyms.
- [keyword] + “guest post opportunities”
- [keyword] + “write for us”
- [keyword] + “contribute to our site”
When you type this in, Google will display a list of websites that accept guest posts, like this:
Don’t restrict the search to only your niche, also conduct searches in niches that complement or are relevant to your niche, this will broaden your opportunities.
For our sales example, those niches could mean growth hacking or even marketing.
Asides conducting regular searches, there are also advanced ways to find guest post opportunities using Google search operators. Some of these methods are highlighted below.
This entails checking popular or authority websites in your niche to see whether there is a change of a guest post opportunity.
See the example below:
When doing this, go through the website to see their guidelines for guest posts. If there are no guidelines, you can go through the existing content on the website to see what writing style they use. Also, ensure that you go through the list of topics that have already been written.
If you pitch a topic that has been written multiple times your chances of getting accepted for a guest post are slim.
While site searches are easy to conduct, it’s crucial to note that building a relationship with the content team of the website can help speed things up and improve the chances of your pitch being accepted.
The “OR” Operator
Using “OR” in your Google search will enable the search engine to display any or both of the terms you searched for in the search results.
This is helpful because there is no universal word that all websites use when referring to guest posting, so making use of alternatives and synonyms will broaden the reach of your search.
When using the Or operator you can type the word “OR” or use the pipe symbol “|”
For example, while searching for a guest posting opportunity you can type either of the following
- [keyword] + Write for us | Guest post guidelines
- [keyword] + Write for us OR guest post guidelines
It is important to write the “OR” in capital letters. If you write it in lower case Google will interpret it as part of the search term and won’t show any favorable results.
Inurl search has to do with searching for websites that have certain keywords embedded in their URL.
Many websites embed keywords like “write for us” in the URL of the page that guest posting opportunities and guidelines are highlighted. By embedding these keywords in your search, Google will give you websites that have these keywords in their URL.
Also, remember to make use of synonyms in your search.
Here is what an inurl search should look like:
- inurl: “write for us”
And this is what your search results might be:
Keep in mind that Google is not a perfect tool, and your results will rarely be 100% accurate, no matter what keyword/query combination you use, but trying out different options will lead you to some interesting link opportunities.
This is like the inurl search and can be used together. It entails searching for websites with a specific keyword in the page title.
Using a lot of variations and synonyms makes the search more effective.
Here is what your search query will look like if you are using this method:
- Intitle: “contributor guidelines”
Reverse Image Search
You can find guest posting opportunities by copying the URL of the image of an influencer in your niche from the author bio of a guest post they made and paste the image URL in Google search bar.
Once you click search, Google will show you other guest posts written by the influencer. And voila, you have some websites that you can pitch.
2. Analyze the Backlinks of Your Competitors
A good way of getting quality links for your website is to analyze your competitor’s backlinks. However, keep in mind that replicating their links may not be possible due to the difference in their relationships with various sites.
Nevertheless, these insights will give you an idea of what type of links you should go for.
Analyzing your competitor’s link will help you understand their link building strategies, what kinds of links generate more traffic, what type of content gets the most links, and what links to avoid.
You will also see whether your competitor has written guest posts and on what sites so you can do the same.
Finding your competitors’ backlinks is easy, just search for the brand name of your competitors on Google. The first twenty backlink results you see are the most preferred by Google.
While searching, you can exclude your competitors’ website from being displayed in the search result by typing – site:competitorwebsite.com.
Once you type in the website of your competitor and search, over a hundred quality links with each link belonging to a domain are displayed. This way you will see the sites linking to your competitor and also the new backlinks that are being acquired by your competitor.
Pro tip: you can automate this with SEO tools. Try our prospecting tool for competitor analysis.
3. Leverage Social Channels
Did you know that 95.9% of bloggers promote their blog posts on social media?
You can also use these platforms to your advantage and find link opportunities, whether it’s in the form of a guest blog, expert roundup, or other content forms.
A good thing about using social media for link prospecting is that it allows you to connect with the owners of websites or content managers even before you try to get a backlink.
Building a relationship with them will increase your chances of being accepted for a guest post,interview, or anything else.
Pro tip: Don’t put an end to the relationship once you have your guest post published, the relationship will still be useful in gaining backlinks in the future.
Social media platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn take the lead in finding brand owners, connecting with them, and finding guest posting opportunities.
It’s a lot easier to find guest posting opportunities on Twitter than LinkedIn as the latter works better for building connections so you may not see many results when you search for guest post opportunities.
With Twitter, however, searching is easy and there are more options.
If you are searching for guest post opportunities on Twitter, this is what the search string will look like:
- [topic] guest post.
Once you type this in and search, you will see a list of websites that have published guest posts on the topic you searched for, you can then pick out the best websites and reach out to them.
Also, ensure that you make use of hashtags. Many hashtags are used on Twitter and other platforms for link building and outreaches and an example of such hashtags is #bloggerrequest.
Besides conducting manual searches for guest posting opportunities, you also need to connect with brands, bloggers, journalists, and influencers on the different platforms.
If you join blogger groups on these platforms and engage in conversations, you will build meaningful connections most naturally. Join platforms such as Quora and Reddit, answer people’s questions, and when necessary, include a link to content on your website that answers their questions.
4. Qualify Your Link Prospects
The next thing to do after collecting link prospects is the vetting links to see which ones are worth pursuing. It’s like a funnel. You will have a lot of link opportunities when you devote to search, but you will contact perhaps 20% of them. It’s a natural selection process.
It is advisable to do link vetting before contacting the website owner, as this will save you the stress of pursuing a guest post opportunity that you won’t be needing.
One of the first things you should look at any website on your list is the overall quality of their content. If the content makes little sense and adds no value to the reader, then that is likely a spammy website that should be avoided.
Also, make sure that the website has a human touch. If it doesn’t have an “about us” or “contact page”, or it hasn’t been updated in a long while, getting a link from that website will do you no good.
When it comes to backlinks, quality is superior to quantity, and two quality backlinks are better than ten bad ones.
There are many websites developed strictly for SEO (as link farms), and these sites usually add no value to the reader. You will recognize that their articles link to other pages with over-optimized anchor texts(that sound like a pure commercial).
Here’s an example of content with over optimized anchor text:
5. Reach Out to Your Prospects
Once you vetted your link prospects, the next thing to do is to reach out to every website on your list.
The “ask” in your link building outreach can vary: it can be a guest post, request to update a broken link with yours, a request to add a link to your content in their existing content — the options vary.
Regardless of that, the best way to reach out to them is by sending an email. You can find the email addresses of most websites in the “contact” or “about us” section of the website.
While emailing is easy, the recipients can easily ignore it, especially if they do not know you, so you need to take advantage of social media and build a relationship with many influencers in your niche before reaching out.
To increase the success rate of your outreach, you need to:
Personalize the Email
Personalized emails have a 32.7% better response rate than emails that are not personalized.
Know that personalization goes way beyond personalizing the subject line or addressing them by their name. You need to prove you are relevant to them, comment on their article, or find any other topic to connect with them.
Here are some ideas for connecting with anyone:
- Weather in their area
- Their recent blog post
- Their recent Tweet
- Their name was mentioned somewhere
- Their recent achievement (personal or professional)
You catch my drift — with a little imagination, you can connect with people over anything.
Also, infuse details about the brand or their content in your email, this will make them keep reading the email. You could include some topic ideas in the mail but make sure that the topics will be useful to their audience.
Don’t fall into the temptation of copying and pasting one email to many recipients at once without adding a personal touch to it.
Structure and Format the Email Nicely
Let your email have a defined structure, this makes it easy for you to write a concise pitch.
If we are talking about a guest post pitch, after the introduction, the next thing should be the topic offer and finally a call to action.
Format the email properly, this will give them an idea of how your content will be. Punctuate properly and break up each section of the email into paragraphs.
Avoid Long Emails
If your email is too long, the recipients will not read it. So go straight to the point and avoid fluff.
Your choice of words should be simple, and your message straightforward. Also ensure that your grammar is perfect, sending emails with lots of grammatical errors will cost you many guest posting opportunities.
Only 8.5% of outreach emails receive a response.
If you do not get a reply to an outreach email you sent, don’t give up, follow-up on the email. The recipient of the email is probably busy and might have forgotten about the email and to reply to you, and it’s also possible that the email landed in the spam folder.
Don’t assume that they read your mail and ignored you, and send a follow-up email 3-4 days later to see if they have any feedback for you.
If there is still no reply after the first follow up email, you can try sending one or two more emails. Following up on the same contact leads to 2x more response, but if there is no response after the third attempt it is possible that your idea does not interest them.
Link prospecting is a continuous process, and even if your website’s ranking has increased significantly, you still need to have quality backlinks to remain relevant.
No matter how high your website ranks in SERP, don’t settle for low-quality links, and remember to vet every link in your link prospects list before pursuing the opportunity.
Try to build relationships with influencers and bloggers in your niche through social media, as your chances of getting a backlink are higher if you create a relationship with them.
Good luck with your link prospecting and link building!