We recently shared 5 link prospecting tools that most people wouldn’t think to use. It’s important to find the link prospects that your lower-tier competitors aren’t finding if you want to have any kind of competitive advantage.
We’ve all been in this long enough to realize that content is only half the battle, and that you need influential people to take an interest in that content for it to do you any good.
Realizing just how important this is, I decided to point out a few more tools you can use to build high quality links. Just like last time, we’re focusing exclusively on tools that most of your competitors aren’t using.
Let’s get started.
I know what some of you are thinking. “I thought that buying up expired domains was something blackhats did to build up private blog networks and manipulate the search engines for high risk short-term gain.” And you would be right. But we’re not talking about buying up expired domains and building a private link network. We’re talking about link prospecting.
So, what on Earth do expired domains have to do with link prospecting?
Well, this all about a tactic called “broken link building.” The idea behind the tactic is simple. You contact webmasters and let them know that one of their links is broken, and then you suggest your link as a possible alternative.
There are a few SEOs who use this strategy a bit too much, so I’d like to stop right now and say that if this is all you’re doing to build links, you need to reevaluate your strategy.
Nonetheless, if you help webmasters by letting them know that one of their links is broken, they’re more likely to listen to what you have to say, and it can be a good way to capture a reference from a high quality site.
The trouble is, many SEOs who do broken link building are all using the same tools, such as Check My Links, to find broken links. In many cases, this means that the same webmasters keep receiving messages from SEOs who want to let them know about their broken links, and this ruins your competitive advantage.
The thing is, most links that people would consider broken aren’t really broken. Rather than pointing to a page that doesn’t exist, they usually point to a site that went out of business and is now for sale from a domain provider, or to a site that has gone through some serious rebranding, or to a page that redirects somewhere else. These links aren’t technically broken, because they do point somewhere.
And that’s where expired domains come in.
You can use ExpiredDomains.net to find sites that recently expired. This means that the domain went out of business and is now for sale from a domain provider. Any links pointing to the old site would almost certainly be considered “broken” by the webmaster who built them, but since they technically point to a page on the web, tools like Check My Links won’t count them as broken.
The best thing about this particular site is that you can sort the results by SEOKicks Domain Pop, the number of unique domains linking to the site (in the column labeled DP):
Now you can just take these domains and plug them into OpenSiteExplorer, or my personal favorite, Ahrefs (since it lists more links), and find the most authoritative sites that were linking to that domain.
Now all you have to do is contact those sites and let them know about the broken link, and suggest one of your resources as a possible alternative.
By the way, I wouldn’t recommend posting a link to your resource in the first email. Instead, I would let them know about the broken link, and ask them if they would like to take a look at your resource as a possible alternative.
If you want to take things to the next level, you could also take a look at the individual pages that were being linked to, specifically the ones with the best page authority, and then use the WayBack Machine to see what the page used to be about. This will allow you to compare your resource to theirs, or even build a new one that is comparable. This will make your outreach more targeted and relevant.
Be careful when you use this method, or any broken link building method. These sites are expired for a reason. It’s possible that some of them were using manipulative tactics and got burned. Make sure that you are only contacting high quality sites with real visitors and real traffic to send your way. The goal isn’t to capture an expired site’s entire link profile.
2. Google Reverse Image Search
Alright, I know I mentioned just how important Google is as a link prospecting tool last time, but reverse image search is such a cool piece of technology, and it can be very valuable as a link prospecting tool.
For those of you who don’t know, reverse image search allows you to find copies, or near copies, of an image. So instead of using text to search for images, you use an image to find other copies of that image.
There are a few different ways to use it. Start by going to images.google.com. Once you’re there, you can just drag and drop an image right into the search box. If you don’t have the image file handy, you can click the camera icon on the search bar:
Then you can either paste the URL, or upload an image from your computer:
There are a few different ways that you can use this for link prospecting.
The most obvious method is to seek out people who are using copies of images that you hold the copyrights to. For example, you could use it to find copies of an infographic that you produced. Then all you need to do is ask those people if they could give you attribution by pointing a link your way.
But that’s not the only way to use this to find link prospects.
Let’s say you find a blogger you like, and you want to find places that they’ve guest posted. While you can certainly use a link analysis tool like OpenSiteExplorer or Ahrefs to do this, there will be a lot of clutter from other types of links as well. As an alternative, you can just do a reverse image search for their avatar and see what comes up:
This will allow you to quickly find other sites they’ve been featured in, and that you can approach with guest posts of your own.
On a related note, you can use this to see where else your commenters might be posting comments. This can help you find forums and other blogs where your target audience and like-minded people spend their time. These communities can be a powerful place to connect with others and ultimately build/earn links.
Here’s another example. Suppose that you conducted original research similar to this mobile research by Flurry, and you were putting together an infographic or chart that you wanted to promote. How would you know who to contact about it?
A reverse image search would be a good place to start. Just find all of the sites that used the chart by Flurry. Odds are good they would be interested in seeing your resource too:
And, of course, you can repeat the process with several other similar charts and infographics. This will put you in touch with tons of sites, many of them high quality, who would love to take a look at your chart or infographic.
WeFollow is a social search engine that, in my opinion, beats the pants off of Topsy, SocialBakers, Folowerwonk, and pretty much anything else I’m aware of. While the other tools certainly have their place (Topsy for realtime search, SocialBakers for analytics), WeFollow seems to be well on its way to becoming the Google of social search.
What makes WeFollow different is the fact that it uses an algorithm that’s actually pretty comparable to Google’s PageRank. The authority and relevance of influencers is determined not just by their number of followers, engagement, etc., but by who is following them:
WeFollow also uses data from all the major social networks: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
I’ve found that Topsy, Followerwonk, etc. aren’t very good at finding influencers in “boring” niches, and that they tend to return results where your keyword is in the username more often than they should. The results from WeFollow tend to be more branded. After visiting the social profiles, and associated websites, I’ve been reassured countless times that these really are popular sites with actual visitors and human activity.
Unlike the other unexpected tools I’ve mentioned so far, this one is pretty self-explanatory, since its intended use really is to find influential people and organizations to connect with. The reason I included it on this list of “unexpected” link prospecting tools is because people bring up Topsy and Followerwonk all the time, but this gem seems to go unnoticed, even though in my opinion it’s the best so far.
Swayy.co is easily my favorite content marketing tool, but I love using it as a link prospecting tool as well.
A lot of link prospectors will recommend taking a look at AllTop to find the most popular news stories in your industry, and the influencers associated with them. AllTop is still a good tool to use, but I’ve found that Swayy has pretty much replaced it for my own personal use.
What separates Swayy from everything else is the fact that it isn’t based specifically on links, social signals, upvotes, or anything else that we’ve really seen before. Instead, Swayy uses a machine learning algorithm to predict which content will be most useful to you, and then presents it to you in a Pinterest-style board:
Swayy is a perfect fit for content marketers because you can easily select which topics to get updates on, and you can easily share the content directly from the Swayy interface. The amount of time-saving this brings to content curation is ridiculous.
But this is a blog post about link prospecting, not content curation, so let’s get down to why it’s useful in that area.
First of all, it’s an awesome cure for keyword myopia. Similar to StumbleUpon, Swayy brings serendipitous discovery into the equation, but it does it in a way that’s easy to scroll through, and more relevant to the present moment. I’ve found loads of top-notch blogs, media sources, and online discussions that I never would have found in Google, simply because of the fact that I wouldn’t have thought to look for them in the first place.
I’m the first to admit, some of the sources that show up in Swayy’s feed are too authoritative even for my tastes when it comes to link prospecting. I always emphasize shooting for the stars, but even I have limits. A lot of the sites that show up in this feed will probably be out of your reach.
However, there’s no shortage of hidden gems that haven’t quite gone mainstream, but that you can tell are just on the verge of blowing up. The prospects that I’ve found directly in Swayy’s feed have been phenomenal.
Also, keep in mind that you really should be trying to earn press on the best of the best every once in a while. We’ve had success on mainstream online media outlets before, and the payoff is worth it.
Swayy is a useful link prospecting tool for other reasons as well.
When we link prospect with traditional tools and Google searches, a lot of the leads we find tend to be focused on “evergreen content.” There’s nothing at all wrong with this, and in fact it’s probably the best strategy for most bloggers. At the same time, getting in touch with bloggers who cover more current events can expand your network, and put you in touch with opportunities that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to find.
Even if you don’t contact the site listed in Swayy directly, taking a look at the page’s link profile in Ahrefs will give you an entirely different perspective of the web from what you’re probably used to seeing. You’ll find blogs that cover cutting-edge subject matter, oddities, and other, more social-friendly topics.
While you might need to branch out of familiar territory a bit in order to produce resources that these prospects will be interested in, you’ll be glad you did.
A word of caution: if you rely on this strategy too much, you might end up dealing with a lot of “me too” blogs. Look for bloggers who reference current events, but who bring something new to the table as well. You don’t want to build links from too many sites that merely regurgitate the latest news.
When it comes to link prospecting, if we want to beat our competitors, we need to escape the SEO “filter bubble.” While tools can never replace strategy, some strategies are nearly impossible without the right tools. If we wish to find prospects and build influential relationships, we need tools that can point us in unique places that we wouldn’t think of on our own.