Link Building Prospecting: Tips for Successful Link Building Campaigns
Being successful at link building requires a consistent prospecting strategy. At the end of the day, it is the numbers game. The more emails you send and relationships you build result in more backlinks.
Link building prospecting” is like looking for the right spots to add links for your website. It might feel like you’re doing the same thing over and over again, but it’s really important if you want your link-building plan to work. We have a few methods to keep you finding new, worthwhile spots.
Some people might think that building as many links as possible is a good strategy. But, actually, this can create problems:
- It could lead to a long list of links that don’t really do much for your website,
- Google might punish you by sending less traffic your way,
- All your hard SEO work could be undone.
On the other hand, getting high-quality links from respected websites doesn’t cause these problems. Instead, these types of links help bring more people to your site, boost your website’s authority, and could even get your site on the first page of search results.
What Is Link-Building Prospecting And Its Importance?
Ever played Blind Man’s Buff, the blindfolded version of tag? Doing link-building prospecting is like taking the blindfold off. You still have to chase websites for backlinks and/or churn out authoritative content that can drive traffic, but prospecting takes the guesswork out of the equation.
It allows you to prioritize building backlinks that will generate traffic that converts.
- which keywords to target,
- how many backlinks you’ll need to rank for those keywords,
- the kind of content that will earn those backlinks, and
- the websites to reach out to.
Before you start, you’ll need to acknowledge a few home truths. The first is that backlink profiles cannot be strengthened by quantity alone. You can’t substitute one backlink from a Domain Rating (DR) 75 website with three from DR 25 websites.
The second is that patience is key. You are bound to need more than one attempt to nail your link-prospecting strategy. Coming up with content ideas that resonate, following up with prospects, and even waiting for Google to index the page containing the backlink will all take time.
Link building Prospecting: A step-by-step process
Link-building prospecting, even for professionals, can be complicated and long-wrought because of the sheer number of possibilities involved. We’ve broken down the process into seven steps that discard the fluff and let you focus on the finer details.
#1: Select a Link Building Strategy
If you have an entire team at your disposal, you can pursue more than one strategy for link-building. But if you’re just starting out, or have limited resources, try these strategies on for size one at a time.
Guest posting involves creating content with the intention to publish it on a collaborating website in return for a backlink. Since the websites you pitch to are all well-established blogs, a link from them back to your site improves visibility on search pages, establishes authority, and grants exposure to a broader audience.
Most guest posts are unpaid, so this strategy works for anybody on a tight budget. All you have to do is come up with suitable content ideas and abide by editorial guidelines.
Link insertions, or niche edits, leverage existing content to add a link to your site. By convincing the website owner to replace a competitor’s backlink with yours, you can get highly specialized traffic.
Instead of creating multiple pieces of content as in guest posting, the focus here is on creating a singular outstanding piece containing a study, tool, infographic, or some other similarly value-rich, highly-linkable resource. You can also search for roundup posts and unlinked brand mentions to score easy backlinks.
ABC link swaps are three-player exchanges between websites in the same niche, and work especially well where good content isn’t enough incentive to win a backlink. Since the link exchange is indirect, they’re harder to detect than traditional link swaps.
Guest post partnerships work on the same principle of link-for-link. Find a non-competing website in a relevant niche, and pitch them your offer. Partners get a backlink (or more) each plus fresh blog content, making it a win-win situation for both.
You can also collaborate with a partner to produce original research or a tool useful to both your target audiences.
#2: Choose Your Target Metrics
Before looking for prospects, define the target criteria. Ahrefs allocates a value called Domain Rating to websites as an indicator of their authority, so it’ll be prudent to have a minimum DR limit (usually anything lower than 30 or your website’s DR) to weed out unsuitable prospects.
Other useful indicators include URL Rating which measures the authority of a particular page instead of the whole website, and Site Traffic, to give you an idea of how much a backlink from that site is worth.
Balance authority with the relevance of the website and the page itself. For example, if you sell multi-vitamins, a sports equipment website linking to you is a relevant backlink that will fetch you better results than a backlink from a higher-ranked website selling car accessories.
You also have to be on the lookout for link farms or PBNs when prospecting. Before you pitch your offer or agree to a backlink from them, check for discrepancies between domain rating (high) and traffic (low) or a high number of broken links.
#3: Create Your Prospecting Lists
You don’t have to be an SEO whiz to find link-building opportunities. Here’s how you can look for prospects.
Use Google operators
A simple search with phrases like “write for us” or “submission guidelines” in quotation marks along with your niche shows you which websites accept guest posts.
Google search operators like intitle or inurl followed by phrases such as “contribute” or “category/guest” can get more specific results.
And help to find competitor backlinks as shown here.
If you want to find link insertion opportunities for a target URL about, say, pet food, search for a related long-tail keyword like “how often should i feed my cat” or “can i give my cat treats every day”.
Resource pages also make for excellent link insertion material. Look for them using the word resources and the niche, like “digital marketing” or “tips digital marketing”.
Ahrefs is a popular tool for SEO and link-building. It’s particularly handy for:
Analyzing your competitor’s backlink profile tells you where they are getting backlinks, so that you can pitch to those websites, too.
Step 1: Search for a competitor in Ahref’s Site Explorer to extract their backlink profile.
Step 2: Click on referring domains to view all the websites with backlinks to their site.
Step 3: Click on the do-follow selection and then sort them by DR.
Step 4: The ‘Links to target’ field will tell you which pages the links redirect.
Step 5: Use the skyscraper technique to create superior content on the same topic and pitch it to your competitor’s referring domains.
Finding relevant content
Ahrefs’ Content Explorer lets you look for top-ranking webpages in your niche that you can reach out to.
Step 1: Define your target keywords.
Step 2: Search for the topic in Ahref’s Content Explorer.
Step 3: Select the ‘In title’ filter, similar to the Google operator, to see more relevant results.
Step 4: Apply the ‘Dofollow’ and ‘Blog’ filters to omit pages that offer little value.
Step 5: Find websites publishing content on those keywords and sort the results.
#4: Refine list of prospects
The authority of a website is the single most important element that makes it a great link-building prospect. You can install Chrome extensions to check the site rating of prospects on the Google search results page itself.
But there are other factors to be considered.
Once you’ve exported the prospects you’ve found using Google and Ahrefs, start cleaning the list to filter out ineligible websites.
Sort websites by:
- Domain rating
- Average traffic value
- Number of referring domains
- Social media engagement, etc.,
to observe how credible and relevant each website is.
As a rule of thumb, websites with DR <30 can’t provide you with impactful backlinks. The same goes for websites lagging behind in the other attributes.
At the same time, be realistic about which websites you can pitch to. If your website’s DR is 20, it’s unlikely that a high-authority website like Business Insider or Forbes will link to you.
Even if you’ve already decided on the page on the prospect’s website you want a backlink from, go through their other content and make sure their visitors are the kind of audience you want to be attracting.
Sorting through the prospects on your list can help you determine which websites
- Are most important to you
- Are most likely to respond
so that you know where to aim outreach efforts.
#5: Find contact information of decision-makers
Many websites list the names and email addresses of their chief employees on their About Us page. If not, LinkedIn can give you a fair idea of who their Editor or Content Marketing Head is.
You can connect with them on LinkedIn, or any other public social media channel like Twitter. But if you’re looking for a more scalable option, email is the way to go.
You can find all the email addresses associated with a domain and then sift through to look for the job titles mentioned above.
But if you already know their name, all you have to do is type that in, along with the domain name.
The email address is automatically verified to minimize the chances of invalid contact information.
You can add these verified email addresses to your prospect sheet along with at least one backup point person per prospect.
#6: Create personalized outreach campaigns
What a lot of marketers fail to understand is that it’s always harder to acquire backlinks when the content you’re offering is not tailor-made for that website. It is a time-consuming exercise, but study each prospect’s previous link-building collaborations — their blog post titles, the presence of images, or their preference for a particular style of writing — before reaching out to them.
Mention some of these ideas in the email copy. You should also explain how your content is a good fit for their website in the email.
If you want to do cross-promotional guest posts, outline how they’ll benefit from it. The staples of email marketing apply here too — an original subject line, concise copy, and making the recipient the center of attention.
You’ll have to send regular follow-up emails if you want to improve response rates. Sites with DR above 50 can prove difficult to contact, so be prepared to follow up multiple times. An automation tool like Hunter Campaigns makes it easy to create outreach sequences.
You can use it to track opens, schedule follow-ups and use write your own outreach copy.
#7: Negotiate & build strong backlinks
Blog-runners get multiple requests for backlinks on a daily basis, so don’t be surprised if initial emails go unanswered.
To improve your chances of clinching the deal, include a strong value proposition in the offer email. Any blog-runners’ top priority is traffic, which means you’ll have to convince them that your content will bring in readers to secure yourself a backlink.
You can do a Content Gap analysis using Ahrefs between their website and a competitor’s and pitch them post ideas accordingly.
Or you can offer to rewrite one of their less popular blog posts with an assurance of better content and rankings.
Every process will involve some back and forth until both of you can reach an acceptable trade-off, so keep an open mind and be prepared to offer extra benefits, like a free product trial, shout-out, or guest post for a valuable backlink.
At times, link-building deals invariably involve money, so it’s better to allocate a budget for it.
You can do the scouting, outreach, and negotiation yourself, or hire a team of link-building specialists like Outreach Monks to do it for you.
Once everything is in place, you will witness a surge in website traffic, provided your backlink profile is being bolstered by quality links.
Link-building is the pillar of any SEO strategy. Instead of undertaking a frenzied quest for backlinks without caring about the source, take the time to vet referring domains.
Effective link-building prospecting requires careful planning, research, and a personalized approach. You’ll have to decide on a strategy, lay down eligibility criteria for prospects, and create tempting offers to get them to link back to your website.
Even if the whole process goes through without any major hiccups, it will still take at least 3-6 months to see an impact on your ranking.
Throughout the link-building campaign, monitor and evaluate results regularly. Adjust strategies accordingly, and prioritize quality and relevance over backlink quantity. It will take a while to see results but if done right, you’ll be building a future-proof backlink profile that only gets better with time.
About Author: Antonio Gabrić
Antonio is an outreach manager at Hunter. He is passionate about testing different outreach tactics and sharing results with the community. When he is not connecting with industry leaders you can find him on his motorbike exploring off-the-beaten paths around the world.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is link building prospecting?
Link building prospecting is the process of finding and evaluating potential websites for acquiring backlinks.
Why is link building prospecting important?
Link building prospecting helps you find quality websites for valuable backlinks, improving search rankings and online visibility.
What factors should I consider during prospecting?
Consider relevance, authority, domain metrics, traffic, spam score, and website reputation.
How can I find potential prospects?
Methods include manual research, competitor analysis, SEO tools, guest blogging, directories, and influencer outreach.
What are some best practices for prospecting?
Set goals, research your audience and industry, use multiple methods, focus on quality, personalize outreach, build relationships, and track results.