Using tools is a necessity for client link building. But how, why, when and who should use them?
5 "Opportunity Discovery" Tools
1. Majestic Site Explorer (paid)
Majestic has gradually become a go-to link building tool. Its results are so fresh that you'll often able to find new links you've earned through broken link building that went up on pages you didn't ask about. Anyhow, here's how it can be used:
- Bulk Backlink Checker: When you've found a batch of dead pages or sites, submit them all to the bulk link checker and set it to return results based on linking domains. Presto! You've got a list of dead sites or pages ordered by the number of inbound linking domains.
- Find Linkers to Dead Pages: I haven't taken the time to master their reports, so I'm stuck with the top 5,000 backlinks. And this will include all the backlinks from a single domain. Typically in batches of 5,000 there are about 1,000-2,500 unique domains. Of those, usually about 500-1,000 are still actually live with links on them.
- Find Links Pages for Dead Site Discovery: Start with a .gov site in your conceptual neighborhood (fda.gov for a health site) and then download linkers just to its home page. Then look in the URL strings for "links" or "resources." This will help you find hundreds of topical links pages that will undoubtedly contain some dead sites or pages.
- New Link Reporting: In broken link building in particular it isn't always easy to find the results of your handy work – primarily because the page you request a link on isn't where you always end up. Since Majestic is updated so frequently, you'll often find new links on pages you didn't target, but from domains you did. For projects that are XX-links-per-month this is vital. Note: ahrefs.com (paid) can be used for this purpose as well – their index gets updated daily.
2. Link Prospector Tool
I designed this one. This tool facilitates web research, and in particular, link prospect discovery for a particular link building tactic.
- Guest post opportunity discovery.
- Links pages as BLB seeds: When starting a broken link building campaign you need a set of links pages to scrape so you have resource-oriented URLs to check. Helping fix a broken link is a much better foot in the door than "you link to our competitors."
- Target site discovery: "Target site" sounds vague, but if sites exist at large scale (i.e., high school websites) there will be a footprint. Find it and you can find large numbers of these types of websites.
3. Keyword Combiner
I still use the heck out of a keyword combiner tool, for combining prospecting phrases rather than SEO keywords. There's one built into the link prospector but here's the one in my Chrome toolbar: Keyword Combination Tool.
Be warned though, some don't allow for quotation marks or other advanced operators. And the one linked to here is defaulted to doing a double combo.
This wonderful tool scrapes Google's suggestions, giving link prospectors instant access to the "problem space" around a given phrase. This is useful particularly at the early stages of a campaign.
Test it out with something like: "how do I" to get an idea of what it does. Then narrow in on your space. For example, try: "link building for" which leads Ubersuggest into helping you discover what people are actively searching for.
5. Outbound Link Scraper
Majestic and Google aren't the only tools for opportunity research out there... There are also lists, glorious lists ripe and succulent for the scraping. Whether it's a list of blogs for outreach or just a list of links from a page that we're checking for URL validity a link scraper is an awesome little tool to have handy.
8 Prospect Processing and Qualification Tools
Prospecting is only half the fun. Well, probably less than half the fun if you're counting time. Once you have those raw opportunities you have to have tools for deciding which ones make the cut to move on to the next stage.
1. The URL Status Checker
This one's dead-dumb simple. Input a list of URLs you want to check and then hit submit. You will need to check your dead URLs a couple times and still end up weeding through a few false positives.
2. Regex Filtering Tool
Up in the Majestic section above I describe pulling backlinks to authority sites and sifting through them for links and resource pages. This nifty little filter tool provides regular expressions for this.
3. Pick Shortest URL Per Domain
Sometimes you only need one URL from a domain, but you have hundreds (all mixed in with URLs from other domains). This free tool (login required) picks the shortest URL per domain and dumps the rest. Good for cleaning up lists of possible outreach targets.
4. List Comparison Tool
Sometimes you need to dedupe two lists without combining them. For this you need to use the list comparison tool. This thing can handle tens of thousands of URLs at a time. I've never pushed it farther than that – hopefully it doesn't get shut down after sharing it here!
5. The Super Deduper
Actually it's called just the dedupe lists tool but I prefer super deduper. This tool removes duplicates from lists of URLs, but be sure to remove the www. from your list first or you'll still have multiple instances of the same domain.
6. The Contact Finder
This tool (paid) finds between 20-80 percent of contacts from a list of URLs. Hand off the output of this tool to your human contact finding team to handle the email address selection and to go site by site to find the rest.
While anchor text can provide ample clues about the content of a page or site, nothing beats Archive.org for piecing together the purpose of a page. Some BLB outfits "repurpose" content from Archive.org.
8. The URL Opener
Numerous tools can open multiple tabs in your browser when hand-qualifying sites. I try to hand qualify as little as possible these days, but when I do I use the URL opener (also made by the Super Deduper guy).
2 Focus Enabling Tools
Do you spend time "researching trends" on Reddit? With a handy work timer and site blocking tools, you can more effectively regulate your intellectual indulgences.
1. Pomodoro Technique and App (work timer)
I'm not sure why this simple app and technique works, but it does.
2. I-AM-STUDYING BLOCKER
For those of us with chronic "I'll just check Facebook for a second-itis" this app shuts down all access to problem sites simply. It's made for studying but the interface is simple. If you don't like to think of yourself as studying you could try Stay Focused or Nanny.
4 Tools On My Radar
These are tools that I simply haven't made the time to either learn fully or implement yet:
- The Link Building Toolbar (review here)
- BuzzStream (Gosh, wouldn't it be great to record who not to outreach to in the future?)
- Social Crawlytics (via BuzzStream post)
- Trello - simple, free project management tool.
Folks now it's your turn. Please add the tools you use, and why/when below.
Image credit: elyob/Flickr