vetting prospects at scale

Vetting Prospects At Scale

What if you can have a list of factors to look at when vetting link prospects?

In that case, you don't have to wonder whether a blog is worth reaching out to or not.

In today's blog post, let's cover these quantifiable and qualitative factors when vetting prospects at scale.

vetting prospects at scale

Before anything else, vetting backlink prospects on a manual approach is a good practice.

While you can use different tools to check the website's Moz DA, Ahrefs DR/PA, and other link-based metrics, using your eyes to assess websites' quality for links is still a major difference-maker in how your campaign works out.

For major enterprises (big brand link building campaigns), they typically have standards set up already.

As a link building agency that does link building at scale, we follow certain guidelines that align with their brand requirements as well as anchored to what we believe are quality metrics as a content-based link building company.

But for the majority of websites, people are stuck as to what factors to consider when vetting prospects either for guest blogging or resource page link building campaigns.

What you'll see in the list below are some mostly applicable for blog vetting, meaning you're looking for them as content partners. Some could practically be applied to other types of link development campaigns, such as broken link building and link reclamation.

Let's get started with the list.


Considerable Factors When Vetting Prospects At Scale

1. Post Recency

This one is pretty basic. If the blog you're vetting hasn't posted in, like, three to six months, you're less likely to have a chance receiving a link, an email response — more so.

Simply look at the blog section of the site and see its posting date for recently published articles.

post recency

2. Brand Size

When doing link search campaigns, you get different sizes of websites. Mostly you'll get some really large brands.

Simply match it to what your brand can offer. Unless your content team has a solid comprehensive asset to offer to a huge brand, which in reality, has several editorial steps, you're less likely to acquire an editorial link.

Large brands have link development teams working on their own content. They would be willing to get a partner with your site for content partnership if you could offer high value well to them in terms of content assets. 

3. Websites with traffic

A lot of SEOs and outreach teams rely too much on link-based metrics, without even checking the site's estimated organic traffic.

If the site has high traffic potential, you wouldn't just get a no-value link, but a contextual link with potential to drive referral traffic and assisted conversions to your blog.

You also want to look at the quality of the traffic and not just the numbers.

So, if you're building links for an eCommerce site that primarily targets the US, it's not natural to have tons of links from sites whose primary traffic region is India, Pakistan, Australia, instead of your own site's target region.

You can use Ahrefs to quickly check the % of traffic by country of your vetted website.

sample website traffic location

4. Without Major Traffic Drops

Websites with significant traffic drops can be as a result of an algorithmic or a manual penalty. While we can't figure out which of the two is the major reason, unless we have the data ourselves, it is best to avoid such sites to be on the safer side.

You can use SEMRush or Ahrefs to check the website's traffic, and simply look at if it has major traffic drop/s.

major traffic drops sample website

5. Types of External Referential Links

What you are looking at here is the site's external links — preferably those ones that they use to refer the reader to another resource or article for more details or information about the topic they cover.

Let's say, you are vetting blogs for content partnerships. You want to know if the blog is externally linking to other content sources (e.g. blogs). If the site is linking externally, but it's only to .gov sites, it won't necessarily be a good fit for your targeted link development campaign.

That's the other way around if you're pursuing resources pages for a broken link building campaign. Resource pages from a lot of these sites have some external links to .gov and .edu sites. This could still make sense for your brand if you're doing some kind of academic type of content.

If a blog has written for us or contributor's page, it is a clear sign they accept content contributors. That is a good or bad signal if you ask me. A good sign if you're taking guest posting campaign, as you would want to see if a blog accepts outside contributors.

external referential links

However, it's a negative sign if most of their blog posts are guest posts and there is not much original content of their own.

So, check how the blog's external linking practice to help you decide for yourself what would work as a good link prospect.

6. Irrelevant Content Partners

The dilemma for most link builders and SEOs trying to hit their number of links per month is they settle for sites that link to any irrelevant content partners (guest posts on entirely irrelevant topics).

Since they don't know how many websites they should be looking for and aren't capable enough to do the necessary analysis for vetting link prospects, they ended up having guest post links from completely different niche.

If you're vetting a niche site, but you spot many irrelevant posts from different niches, it's a clear negative sign you have to consider.

7. Site's Natural Link Acquisition

A highly valued vetted site is a site that could drive your referral traffic and potentially helps your brand to be more visible to other relevant linkers. This is the site's natural link acquisition capacity.

You basically want to know if the site is capable of attracting new links every now and then.

The best way to identify this site's specific ability is to use Ahrefs Site Explorer. Go to "Best by Links" under pages. Set the HTTP code as "200 ok" to only view live sites and sort the results by the number of referring domains.

sample website best by links

This gives you an idea that their pages are capable of acquiring natural links from relevant blogs. You can take a deeper look at their best page and see what type of link they acquired.

Of course, there isn't a guarantee that your site gets natural links too, but you're now vetting on a site that has the potential to have it on your end.

Given that high-value content published on other sites will likely pick up some links in the process, either internally (from other related pages) or externally (from other linking relevant sites), you get more visibility from your contributed content.

8. Basic Design and Branding Check

If you're qualifying link prospects at scale, you could easily see some patterns when checking for quality.

Part of that is the basic design and branding of the site. You only have to ask the question, does the site use a typical free WordPress theme or they have invested in good design and branding?

How's their design theme? Are they mostly using stock photos?

If you're doing an enterprise link building campaign, no questions asked if you have seen sites without impressive design. They don't have to be pretty clever in design but must be above average than most free designed blogs.

You can't judge easily a site's traffic potential based on its current design. See this website for an example. There's nothing astounding with the design, but they get so much traffic.

website design branding

Nonetheless, as you master link qualification, you'll get a good feel of what makes a site good in quality simply by checking its design and branding.

9. Shady Outgoing Links

If you want to be more meticulous with your link qualification process, you can go to Ahrefs Site Explorer and head over to Linked Domains under Outgoing Links. Filter the results by "dofollow" and sort by "first seen".

You'll get a list of the most recent dofollowed linked domains from your vetted website.

Preferably, unless you're into these niches, you want to avoid sites that link to adult, gambling, pharma, and other questionable sites. No matter how good their link-based metrics are, you're going to get a problem getting links from them.

Experience Matters

It takes a lot of time and experience before you or your link builders could master the art of link qualification. As they involve themselves much in vetting sites at scale, they get to be more efficient in doing so, and thus, help your campaign reach more links in the results.


Hitting Your Number of Acquired Links Per Month

Setting a goal for every campaign is a critical success factor.

Without goal setting, you'll find yourself losing resources without hitting your target objectives at the end of the campaign.

In link building, most SEOs would like to hit a certain number of acquired links per month.

Is it a numbers game or are there other factors we have to consider?

In this blog post, let's discuss these considerations and dive into what really matters.



Let's face reality. If you're dealing with clients for their link building projects, they often have a target number of links to hit every month.

This isn’t because it's just a numbers game, but because they've analyzed enough their backlink profile against their competitors. This is where marketers, SEOs, and link builders should start.

There are two ways to do this.

The first is to analyze your own backlink profile specifically its link velocity. Compare your growth month over month, or year over year.

You should have seen good consistent growth in terms of unique referring domains — these means people are attracted to your site and are linking to your pages both organically and manually (manually — you building links through link request or content promotion outreach).

If your site is new, you shouldn't expect much growth in terms of links. But if you've properly published linkable content assets, you should assume the momentum of links over time.

The second analysis that you can do is to look at your competitors' profiles. These are competitors competing with you on products/services you're also providing (and not competing for just content piece or page).

How many links are they getting passively each month? Ahrefs gives you a lot of insights into this.

Using the analysis of your site/client and its competitors, you should have a good sense of how many links you should be building and their range of authorities depending on the niche you're in.

Factors To Consider For Number of Acquired Links Per Month

Brand Requirements

If you're working on an enterprise link building campaign, head of SEOs or SEO managers have their own target number of links to acquire each month.

It could be based on their own analysis and decision making.

These types of websites with solid content teams have dedicated content hubs on their site ready to be promoted to its intended audience.

That being said, you may be working for just one content piece or set of content assets. This setup provides easy insights as to the supposedly hit link numbers.

Simply look at its content competitors (primarily competing pages on search results for its main/target keywords).

Using Ahrefs' Link Explorer, you can quickly see the number of referring links each page received.

tuck lucid dream

From that, you can set a good range of target links to acquire each month.

Take note that you have to consider factors such as the competitors' brand authority, its post publishing existence (if they're the first one who covers the topic - they're likely to get initial benefits of trust and visibility), plus all other factors competitors have an advantage when they created their content assets.

Scope of Target Industries

Your target industries will play an important factor to the number of target links you want to acquire each month.

The more expandable you can be with your target audiences, the more number of links you can tap.

However, it depends on what kinds of links you want. If you're aiming for resource pages links, your target links depend on your intended linkable audiences. You can check out these two guides on resource pages and broken link building.

The bigger the scope of your audience targeting, the higher the number of acquired links you can target.

This doesn't mean you have to expand your target audiences because this will sometimes detach you from your brand's customer base.

Always check if it's feasible to expand your target audiences.

Linking Velocities of Competitors

Search marketing is a serious competition.

If the competition thrives at increasing the quantity and quality of links every month, it would be best to cope up with their speed and velocity.

You don't sacrifice quality here, but rather find ways to increase the types of links that matter to your site.

You can use Ahrefs to see your competitors' link velocity status.

ahrefs link velocity

Prospecting Lists

The larger your prospect lists, the more likely you'll get more links in your link development campaign.

You should also account for other factors such as the effectiveness of outreach pitches, response times of prospects, seasonality of campaigns, and all connected factors to link results.

That being said, when you increase your prospecting lists while at the same factor in good efforts to other contributing success factors of the campaign, you can expect a higher number of acquired links per month.

Find flexibility for websites you can reach out to. Are there any other industries or types of linkers you can tap with for content promotion?

Expand your link search capabilities.

You can use tools like Citation Labs Link Prospector to semi-automate link prospecting.

Actionable Tips to Increase the Number of Acquired Links Per Month

Uncovering Passive Link Opportunities

Link acquisition can work passively. By investing effort in the promotion of solid content assets for initial links, those pages become more visible to other linkers either through dominating the search results for its target keywords and/or getting radar on mentions in targeted publications.

Find any old evergreen content assets that are underpromoted, yet have acquired a significant number of high-quality links in the past.

Make it more comprehensive than its previous version by adding more latest data, new content formats to suffice other learnings styles (such as videos, images, infographics, etc..).

You can check out these resources on creating link assets in boring niches and link building for SaaS template pages.

Use Ahrefs' Top Pages and sort by Best Links to find your site's top linkable assets.

ahrefs best pages by links

By doing so, you're not only relying on your manual link building outreach, but you're also consistently gaining new passive links that are relevant to your brand.

Invest in organic link generation to get ahead with your monthly target links.

You can check out this latest podcast by Siegemedia on generating passive links.

Links as a Leading Indicator of Success

For SEOs and agencies, the lagging indicators are search traffic and rankings.

Links become just a by-product of pushing efforts to hit those lag measures. Links, for them, is a leading indicator.

This is an important mindset to hit your number of acquired links each month. You may opt for the number of links but later on not be able to achieve your lagging indicators.

If you're building content assets from a search traffic improvement perspective, you get high-quality links along the process.

Factors and Processes

By knowing what matters most to your link building campaign and leveraging on processes — both major and menial initiatives – you're likely to hit your number of acquired links per month.

unlinked mentions when brand name common word

How to Find Unlinked Mentions When the Brand is a Common Word

Link reclamation is a common link building technique for marketers today.

The idea is very simple: you get all those publishers or content creators who've mentioned your brand or your content but haven't linked to your site.

Then you reach out to them and ask to give you the links you deserve.

Oftentimes you gain a higher link placement rate than other link building techniques such as broken link building and guest blogging.

This is because there's already a brand connection between you and the publishers as well as an intended reason to link to you in the first place (they've used your content).

Here at SharpRocket, we've covered the entire process of this strategy in our link reclamation guide.

Like any other link building techniques, there are loopholes you have to consider by looking at methodologies that'll be effective to solve those particular problems.

In this post, we'll cover one common challenge link builders face when executing the link reclamation technique.

That challenge is finding unlinked mentions when the brand is a common word.

unlinked mentions when brand name common word

It's easy to spot pages that mentioned your brand if you have a unique brand name — i.e. Nike, Spotify, or Shopify.

There may be misspellings or typos as to how publishers may have mentioned your brand name on their posts — such in the case with Spotify or Shopify.

What is difficult to surface with are brand names with common words like Monday, or Apple. Monday is a project management software but is also referring to day itself. Apple as a technology company, while referring to a fruit.

As you go search for pages that mentioned your brand, you're likely to see different results. What do you do to sift through these results to only find relevant outreach prospects?


On Link Prospecting Phrases

Regardless of the tools, you'll be using for link reclamation prospecting, you need to have a list of words that should be associated with your brand.

In particular, these are your product types, product or service descriptions, or that one or two word detail about your brand.

Let's take Monday as our example. Monday is a project management tool. So, obvious words likely to be associated with are: 'Monday project management' or 'Monday task management'.

If you're working as an agency and this is your first client, you get to have a better understanding of your initial meetings with them. Having a good grasp of what they are and their products or services offer to the market would give you a list of words that define their brand as a whole.

You may opt into some research on Google by typing their brand.

For instance, a Google search result for Monday gives you the site's meta title and meta description. These are keywords the brand is trying to rank for in search.

monday link prospecting phrases

Add these words as your associated phrases to your link reclamation prospecting process:

  • Monday remote
  • Monday remote team
  • Monday teamwork
  • Monday remote teamwork
  • Monday processes
  • Monday enterprise
  • Monday project

Another way to discover words you can add to your link reclamation prospecting list is by going through all of the existing mentions of your brand.

You can use Ahrefs Backlink Explorer to find pages already linked to your site. I prefer checking in pages where publishers usually linked to. These include your site's homepage and landing pages (e.g. product pages).

Sift through the pages and identify anchor texts publishers used to link to your webpages. There will be variations of anchor texts — long-tail description words and co-cited way of referring to your brand.

Add these newly discovered phrases (used as anchor texts) to your current link reclamation prospecting list.

Tools to Find Unlinked Mentions When the Brand is a Common Word

Link building requires some tools to surface brand mentions. Here are some tools you can use to find unlinked brand mentions.

1. Ahrefs Content Explorer

One of the tools that can help you with the link reclamation prospecting process is Ahrefs' CE.

There are a lot of advanced search operators in CE. If you're looking to return all pages that mention "Monday" AND either remote, team, process, project, management. You simply use "OR" to associated phrases.

So, the final advanced search query would be this: "Monday" AND ("project management" OR "remote team").

ahrefs content explorer

If your brand is a very common word, make sure you choose phrases rather than single words to return pages closest to what you are looking for.

Another strong tip is to exclude terms that refer to other topics not related to what your brand is about. For Apple, that might be "recipe", "pie", "cake", or "fruit" to exclude pages about the fruit term.

Be mindful that this may be tricky for some brands. In our example, "Monday" project management tool, if you exclude terms such as "day", "week", "month" or any calendar terms, you might end up excluding pages that mentioned both "day" and "project management" (which is about your brand) in the search results.

Hence, use exclusions if it makes sense to your brand.

Kindly click highlight unlinked domains and add the domain of your site. The websites of publishers that have never linked to you before will be highlighted, which means that the brand mentions those pages are unlinked.

ahrefs content explorer highlight unlinked mentions

2. Web mention tools

In link reclamation, you can't get away from using web mention tools. These are web products specifically designed to find pages of your unlinked mentions.

Examples of these are Ahrefs' Alerts feature, BrandMentions, and Google Alerts.

The same strategy with your search query inputs can be applied to web mention tools.

You can use any of the following search queries as your alert inputs.

Again, in our example today, you can have these queries:

  • Monday remote work
  • Monday remote team
  • Monday teamwork
  • Monday remote teamwork
  • Monday processes
  • Monday enterprise
  • Monday project management tool

ahrefs alerts mentions

Exclusion and inclusion filters are also available in mention tools (AND, OR, —). Use them to your advantage to filter out irrelevant pages of your unlinked mentions.

Link Reclamation Made Simple

The most difficult challenge in link reclamation is sifted through results from your methods of link prospecting — manual and/or with the use of web mention tools.

If you're an agency, you get to master this strategy over time, as you can unpack ways to figure out how to discover unlinked mentions when your clients' brands are not common words.

Do you have any other tips to prospect for unlinked brand mentions? Let me know in the comment section below.

link search

Link Search (Link Prospecting) Guide

What is Link Search? 

Link search (or link prospecting) is one of the critical and first initiatives in the link acquisition process. Every link building tactic always start with finding links in a particular web place using free SEO tools and sorting those links in a spreadsheet based on the brand’s link standards.

Additionally, a manual and careful evaluation of link targets, if they’re suitable for your site/page, would greatly affect your content development given that you will be able to identify which type of content people are always linking to.

link search

What Do You Consider When Finding Link Targets?

There are three important things that I think every SEO practitioner like you must be aware of when finding link targets for your link building campaigns.

  • Relevance. You should be looking at domain and page relevance. It's a plus to find both domain and the page where exactly you'll get a link specifically related to your site (e.g. a link from a snoring tips page in a snoring website linking to your snoring mouthpiece brand).
  • Authority and trust. Is the site getting enough organic traffic from search? Use Ahrefs or SEMRush to check the site's estimated search traffic.
  • The link target should match to the metrics used (have high PR/DA, relevant to their “linking from” page, etc).
  • Obtainability of the link (simply ask yourself: why would the site owner link to my page?)
  • Scalability. Tools will always help you speed up your link prospecting activity.

23 Tools and Websites You Can Use For Link Prospecting

In this post, I will share 23 link prospecting tools that are free to use and would help you collect tons of link targets from different web places where your competitors haven’t obtain yet.

1. Linkbuildr

Linkbuildr is a new outstanding hand tool from From The Future. It helps semi-automate the process of content promotion for websites and blogs you mentioned in a post.

Here is what it looks like when you install the plugin in your Wordpress.

linkbuildr wordpress plugin

The tool will automatically scrape the entire post or page and see if there are any external links or references you mentioned in your content. It will then give you the list of those websites (like what you see in the picture above), and you can immediately send personalized emails without having to leave Wordpress.

2. Citation Labs Link Prospector

Citation Labs Link Prospector is one of the SEO tools for large-scale link prospecting. If you are a link building agency (or any digital agencies like us) working with different link building SEO campaigns, this tool is for you.

citation labs platform

What it does is it gives you the ability to scrape all the page results for different keywords you are targeting. You insert the search phrase (advanced search operator plus the keyword). Choose the type of link opportunity you're looking for (sponsorship, blogs, links/resource pages, etc..) and Citation Labs Link Prospector will then give you a list of link opportunities based on your inputs.

3. Ahrefs

You can't build links without Ahrefs. Ahrefs has many features for link discovery.

ahrefs best pages by incoming links

Here are a few things Ahrefs can help you with your link prospecting campaign:

  • Identifies any broken pages of any website with inbound links pointing to them (helps you with your broken link building campaigns).
  • Finds pages linking to similar content assets - which you can then reach out to and share your content piece.
  • Discovers any blog posts that target a keyword - you can then pitch these pages for link inclusion.

You can check out this comprehensive guide on using Ahrefs for backlink discovery and content promotion.


One of the best sources of links is journalists and news reporters. Often, they are looking for stories for their newest content, and if you can provide them the best suitable ones, you're likely to get mentions (and potentially links to your brand).

Help A Reporter Out (or HARO) is one of the best tools to find journalist requests or inquiries for stories or inputs on several topics.

choose haro inquiries

I have personally been using HARO to provide contributions to journalists, publishers, and bloggers looking for additional inputs or references for their own content works. By doing so, I get the reciprocal value in the form of mentions or links.

You can read this guide on how to use HARO to better maximize the power of this tool.

5. AllTop

Use the search functionality of Alltop to find websites that are related to your target keyword/topic.


When you already have a list of sites in your spreadsheet, you can start building relationships with the site owners even before the start of your link building campaign. You can easily get a link/mention from bloggers in the future if you’ve built relationships with them beforehand.

As soon as you find websites that are related to your brand, add them to your favorite feed tools (e.g. Feedly) or use the manage feeds functionality of Alltop.

You can get emails from your blog feed tools about the updated posts of your target sites. In this case, you can be the first to comment on their blog posts.

Allot 3-5 minutes to put yourself in your prospect’s radar through blog commenting, social and email outreach. This will make your link acquisition easier for the next months/years.

6. Flickr

Flickr collects thousands of albums/images that brands can use for their content pieces (because of the originality/creativity of the image, it would be a useful element to almost all types of content).

Type industry-related terms in the Flickr search bar and look for images that garnered hundreds/thousands of views.


Do a reverse image search to find pages that embed those images (use the same instructions I mentioned above).

You can again use Ahrefs or any link research tools to find pages that linked to those images.

Tip: You can also use Flickr to find infographics in your niche that are not yet submitted to and other infographic submission sites. (A good opportunity to find link targets that are not yet reached out by your competitors).

7. Google Image Search

Use the Google image search to look for images that are ranking for your related keywords. Those images are ranking high on image search results because of their alt-tags used by webmasters to optimize them.

google search weight loss

Given that the images are ranking for image search results, bloggers could easily find them when they’re looking for visual content. Most of the time, they use those visuals for their content pieces. As such, you could use it as your own advantage by finding bloggers who used/linked to those images (use Ahrefs and Reverse Image Search).

In addition, images of your brand (event photos, your CEO’s profile image, brand logo, etc..) would help you find more link opportunities.

google search content marketing institute images
cmi logo image reverse engineer

joe pulizzi google image search

joe pulizzi image reverse engineer

8. Similar Site Search

Similar Site Search is a free link prospecting tool to find similar websites of your brand (as the domain name implies).

There are several search queries that you can use to find more link prospects aside from the common search phrase (the site’s URL).

similar site search

I’ll use as my example:

  • marketing. This would give you sites that are similar to and are related to the keyword, “marketing”.
  • +marketing –seo. This would give you sites that are similar to and related to marketing but must not include seo blogs. (This is a good opportunity to widen your reach as you are able to get in touch with bloggers from other niches).
  • (then filter the language by Italian). This would give you websites that are similar to and use the Italian language.
  • (then filter the country by India). You’ll get Indian blogs that are similar to  (with .in as TLDs)


9. Twitter Advanced Search Queries

Twitter is not only a social tool to engage with your brand’s customers/influencers but also you can find great linking opportunities when you know how to use it properly. Like search engines, Twitter has its own advanced search options to make your search task more efficient and effective.

twitter advanced search operators

Here are some ways to obtain links using Twitter advanced search queries:

  • "guest post" + "keyword" + filter:link – use it to look for guest post opportunities that could not be seen in the search results (when you use “guest post by” “your keyword” or other Google advanced search queries).
  • to:influencer - track who’s sending message(s) to your influencer. This would help you identify bloggers who are linking to your influencer’s site. How would I know that? Bloggers would say in their status updates that they mentioned your influencer on their blogs.
  • @mashable -  track who’s mentioning your influencer. You can use the same trick above.
  • near:texas "weight loss" – tweets/profiles near Texas city and are related to the keyword, weight loss either placed in the user’s profile description or in their tweets.

Engage with the users you’ve found using this tactic by answering their questions or commenting on their tweets. Strong relationships with these localized users would result in lots of linking opportunities.

  • Weight loss? -  this search would result in questions that have the keyword, weight loss. Engage with the users by answering their questions (No need to explain how relationships work in link building).
  • since:2010-12-27 “weight loss”  - search for conversations that include the keyword, weight loss and get  interactions with the users (early dates would be more efficient for engagement than conversations dated from past years or months)

You can also check out this old post by Casey Henry (he listed tactics that are still effective in today’s search).

10. Facebook Graph Search

Though Facebook is not good for SEOs who’re asking for links/mentions right at the start of their conversation with their prospects (like cold emails), it could be used for setting up connections with the target linkers/influencers (who in the future could give the link/mention their looking for).

Use Facebook Graph Search to look for pages, groups, and people that are interested in your brand’s offerings and content. Type your keyword (niche, brand name, city) in the search bar and get exactly what you want.

facebook search weight loss ideas

11. AllYouCanRead

If your brand’s content strategy is focused more on publications (industry guides, magazines), then AllYouCanRead is for you. You can get an easy list of top magazines published for your niche/industry where you can contribute your content (if the magazine editor allows contributions from other content publishers).


12. Wikipedia

Look for a page that discussed a topic in your industry (use the search bar of Wikipedia or this query: “your topic” to find pages that contain the keyword you’re searching for.

Scroll down at the bottom of the page and check if the page has a list of resources/references (links to external sources). Visit each of those resources and track who shared/linked to them (use Ahrefs, Moz Link Explorer or your preferred tool for this part).

You could find great resources from that list which are mostly authoritative, credible and hosted on commercial sites (.edu, .org, etc..). Linking to these resources from your own content piece would really help you in your outreach campaigns. It will somehow increase your response rate when you reach out to the creators of those resource pages (I linked to you, please link to me – law of reciprocity).

You could also find outdated articles in Wikipedia and update them by adding more relevant insights that are timely and useful to Wikipedia readers. Find these outdated articles by using the query: “This article is outdated” "your keyword”

google search site operator wikipedia

13. Quora

SurveyMonkey is a good place to receive referred traffic for your site and increase your personal branding as you are able to share your expertise by answering thoroughly to questions most people have. Some content publishers and digital marketers would start from identifying the most frequently asked questions by industry peers on Quora before starting to create their own piece. The likelihood of crafting a useful and targeted content is higher given that answers/solutions to questions/problems comprise the overall concept/theme of the content.

Answer questions that you know you could add the most value to. Link to your blog post only when it is necessary to add it to the discussion.

The more you answer industry-related questions, the more industry folks will follow you. Engage with them by sending a personal message right on Quora or stalking to their blogs and reaching out to them through email or social platforms.

quora nutrition coach profile

14. Search Queries for the List Section of the Site

Bloggers always have a list section on their websites whether it’s a resource page, blogroll section, partners or sponsorship page. Those pages/sections are a list of internal and/or external links and are considered gold mines for link building given that you can find industry-related pages where you can place your links.

For blogrolls: Use this query: “blogrolls” “your keyword” to find quality sites that have blogroll sections.

For partners: Use this query: “partners with” OR “in partnership with” OR “partners” “your keyword” to see pages that list down potential partners in your industry. (This is a good opportunity to find brands that you can connect with, especially if you’re working in an eCommerce site).

For sponsors:  Use this query: “donate” OR “sponsor” OR “contribute” “your keyword” to get a list of websites that accept donations/sponsors from other brands. I suggest that you use your brand-related terms when you ask to place your link on the page (especially if you already targeted ranking keywords for your other link building tactics). This would give you more diversified anchor texts.

15. Board Reader

If you’re tired of using the common query: inurl:forum “your keyword” to find niche-specific forums where you could participate in the discussions and engage with forum users, you may want to try SurveyMonkey.

The site allows you to search for discussions (e.g. forums) that are related to your industry. This would make your task of finding forums easier than the manual search for forums in Google.

boardreader snoring

Here are two amazing things that Board Reader will do for you:

  • It provides you with results based on your preferences (through its advanced search option).
  • Gives you a visual graph of the posting activity of your chosen keyword. This would help you track how many people are using that keyword in your industry’s discussions (like what Google Trends tool does for you).
  • Filter the results by language and time period which helps you to create a more solid and targeted list of discussion sites.

16. People Finder

The main purpose of this tactic is to identify which edu sites in your list have their own people finder tool – a tool that will help you get a list of current students from those particular colleges/institutions together with their student emails. It will make your outreach more effective if you send emails to students than to the owners of generic emails like or The reason is that students are more active and responsive to email requests than those who have direct access to .edu sites.

It would be great if you already have a list of .edu sites (by doing a Google search: “your country” OR “your city”) and you will just have to determine whether or not those sites have a people finder tool.

How can you identify if the site has a people finder tool?

How can you find the student’s email address?

Use this advanced search query: “people finder” to determine if the site has its own people finder tool.

site ttu edu people finder

Visit the page and type in common nicknames in the search box of the tool. Get the list of his or her email address.

edu people finder

Some people finder tools would reveal the affiliations where the student belongs and also his/her personal blog, This will make your outreach more personalized if you include his/her affiliation and his/her personal blog in your pitch.  By addressing their current position in the organization, your email pitch could gain a positive response.

17. Industry Survey tools

By creating your own industry survey using tools like SurveyMonkey, you can get insights from your target audience (which composed of people you may or may not know) about the topic that you want to receive feedback.

The tool should not only be used for content marketing purposes but also for finding new link targets that you’re not really targeting in the survey. Qualify all your link prospects in this phase using your brand’s link standards (relevancy, user’s blog, influence, etc..).


The more popular your survey is, the more link targets you can get from it.

18. Plugins Directory

What I discovered is that almost all Wordpress sites from different niches use plugins to improve their sites’ user experience. The reason is that plugins can add design elements, produces industry-specific tools (e.g. weight/height calculator) and allows smooth flow in their sites’ customer journey.

For instance, when you search for the keyword, weight loss in Wordpress plugins, you will see these results:

wordpress plugin directory

These are plugins that had been used by nutrition/health bloggers to better serve their target audience

By simply looking at each detail of those plugins, you could easily find link targets and add them to your list. Here are some ways to find more targets:

Identify the creator of the plugin and his website. Add those details in a spreadsheet.

Or author profile section..

Look for people who reviewed the plugin. Get them also on your list.

Before doing your outreach to those link targets, you have to create something that will get the link to you. An example would be to create an updated version of the plugin that you see and has some errors when you installed the plugin or based on the negative feedback/reviews you’ve seen on the plugin page. Using this as your angle when pitching to your link targets would increase your response rate seeing that you offer value to them (an updated useful plugin).

WordPress plugin pages sometimes link out to the donation pages of the plugin developer. People would donate if they find the plugin useful for them and this type of donation would encourage the developer to create more useful plugins targeted for a particular industry.

Aside from getting a donation link from the plugin developer’s site, you could also set up a partnership with him.

If you could bribe/incentivize the plugin developer to create a brand-centric plugin that will be useful to your target audience, then it’s a great opportunity to earn links for your brand and widen your reach to your community by providing an awesome resource.

19. Local Event Websites

Local events could possibly be the linkable asset of your brand both offline and online (if you know how to use them properly). Knowing that you can build new relationships with your customers or with other brands during and after a local event, your brand can promote its offerings through partnerships or collaborations with other companies/customers.

Eventbrite and Meetup are a few websites where you can find events that will be held near your brand. This would open doors for local linking opportunities seeing that the audience that you might connect with either by attending or even hosting the local event could link to your brand/site from their blogs.

Let’s say I’m looking for a local event that will discuss technology, internet marketing or any related topics. And specifically, I want an event that targets students, faculty staff and personalities working in an educational institution.

By simply using Eventribe as my prospecting tool, I was able to visit this page.

eventbrite sleeping

It is an IT-related event that will be held in our university. This is a good opportunity for me to connect with co-students who are interested in what I am doing today (online marketing and SEO).

Let’s switch places..(you are now the person who's looking for local events)…

Just like what you are doing offline, a local events can make a way for you to easily reach out your local influencer through online outreach. Click on the “click the organizer” button at the bottom right of the page.


Get in touch with the local organizer. Speak about yourself and what you can offer to the event. Incentivize him by giving discounts on your products or offering a sponsorship program for the event.

Tip: Start to have an approachable personality every time you reach out to local personalities.

20. Footprints

There is a disadvantage of using simple searches in Google to find link targets for your campaign. When you search for phrases like “weight loss” “resources”, you’ll see hundreds/thousands of resource pages that list down various content pieces. This is a good linking opportunity for your brand but only to find out that all your competitors are already targeting those websites for link placement. This might actually affect your outreach response rates (as you need to stand out among the pitches from your competitors) to obtain positive responses from your link prospects.

Footprints would dig into pages/sites where your competitors may not have been targeting in their campaigns. In this case, you’re not just running behind them but actually leaving them behind the race.

Let’s have an example…

If you’re finding local linking opportunities, you might be using this search query “local events” + “your industry”. This would reveal different local events that you might want to participate for branding and promotion purposes. But as you go further searching, you would see footprint that almost all local event pages have it included.

Add this to your search query to find more local events that your competitors might not have been listing in their link prospecting spreadsheet.

Pro Tip: List down terms/phrases that you are repeatedly seeing in every page you’re visiting. Add them to your search query to find specifically targeted pages.

21. Comment section on social media platforms

Social media platforms have their own comment sections that allow people to share their own experience about the subject matter and in turn, the brand can build its own community of like-minded people.

Youtube is one of the successful social media sites and I consider it a gold mine for finding link targets (especially for video content pieces).

By simply searching for a particular keyword, you can see a list of videos that are relevant to your chosen keyword. Each video has some comments that you need to watch out for link building opportunities (unless the video uploader restricts people to comment on the video).

Go into each comment and visit the user’s Youtube profile. Click on the about section and visit the URL of the user’s site.


This is a time-consuming task but if you’re into a massive video content strategy, this should be one of your methods to find linkers in your community (given that these people are interested to watch/link to your video content).

22. Zemanta

Zemanta could provide suggestions for your content piece which lessens your time finding related blog posts targeting your keyword. Though it’s a great tool for content creation, you could also find link opportunities using Zemanta.

By simply visiting relevant content pieces, you could get a feel if the sites where content pieces are published can be considered good opportunities for link building.

23. Foursquare

Foursquare is a good place to see local brands near your city and what people are talking about in your industry. It’s an opportunity to partner with other brands for a local event (e.g. SEO for food bloggers) where you can share your brand’s offering to the local community and how important your brand’s service/vision to them.

The Best Nearby functionality of Foursquare is an easy-to-use tool to see companies that can help you promote your brand even if those brands are outside your target industries.


Link Search Tactics To Prospect Thousands of Link Opportunities

Link search is a phase in a brand’s link building campaign wherein most of the building efforts will highly depend on. This is where the success factors of link acquisition are noted, including:

  • Obtainability of links, considering the types of links being built (contextual/site-wide, local/international, homepage/deep link, etc..)
  • Standard or quality of content existed in various blogs/sites

When done right, link search will provide you thousands of link opportunities that your competitors may haven’t search for.

Below is a list of 12 link search tactics that you can use to create a giant spreadsheet of link prospects that you can later on reach out for link acquisition.

1. Discover topical blogs

If most of your efforts revolve around building relationships with bloggers, then finding topical blogs is the best link search method for you.

Simply do a Google search (“industry” blog) for niches that are not directly connected to your brand but have a community of bloggers who might be interested to link to your page(s).

For instance, this link building blog is focused more on content marketing and link building topics than other internet marketing themes. But even though, I got high-quality links from related sub-niches such as CRO, blogging, web design, affiliate marketing, and student blogs.

If I would want to expand my link territory, then I can use the following search terms when prospecting for link opportunities, knowing that other niches might find my posts useful for them and probably link to my blog from their own content:

  • “CRO” OR “conversion rate optimization” intitle:blog
  • “Web design” intitle:blog OR “blog”
  • “affiliate marketing” intitle:blog OR “blog”

In this link search method, you have to find the relevancy point between these niches and your brand, i.e. when you do outreach, you must be confident that they’re going to respond to your pitch because they are interested to what you offer.

2. Use list of lists posts

List posts are everywhere. And creating a list of these lists will give you hundreds of blogs that you can take advantage of for link building.

Searching for these list posts is easy. You can use the following search queries:

  • Top 10 “industry”
  • Top 50 “industry”
  • Best of “industry”
  • Ultimate list “industry”

If there are no list posts in your industry, then create one for your blog. You will have both a list of blogs/bloggers (that are potential linkers) and added-value content that you can use for your pitch (telling bloggers that they’re one of your followers, as such, you included them in your latest content).

3. Leverage brand partners

Putting brand partners in a list of link targets, for some marketers, would only be applicable for big companies who already had an opportunity to engage with other local and niche brands in the past. Since they had a database of existing partners, there’s a high chance to involve them in the company’s link development campaign.

However, for small to medium-sized enterprises, there are still partners that they might consider for link acquisition such as the following groups of people:

  • Suppliers/manufacturers who are connected to the brand.
  • Local non-profit organizations where the brand had engaged in the past (i.e. sponsorships).
  • Local educational institutions with specific courses directly aligned with the company.
  • PR companies or news reporters who had just covered the brand for some good stories.

These groups of people can become your list of brand partners, wherein you can easily earn their trusts because of pre-existing relationships with these institutions.

For an eCommerce client, you won’t go anywhere else finding those brand partners. Just look at their website, find a page that says, “List of suppliers/manufacturers”. Start prospecting from there and add all potential link targets to your spreadsheet. However, if there are no existing pages like the example earlier, then simply do a Google search to find you brand partners.

4. Make use of market-centered keywords

One of the key ways to collect profitable link prospects in your database is to understand your market and what your target audience is really looking for online.

For instance, if you’re working for a travel agency, you might consider industry phrases that’ll identify your market needs, such as:

  • Travel list
  • Travel guide in 2015
  • Travel guide in [city/location]
  • Best places to see in [location]
  • A travel blog with pictures

As you can see, these are the exact phrases people are searching for online to find relevant resources or content about travel, “why” and “what” type of search terms (what is travel) is insignificant to the market needs since people are more likely interested with how’s (map of going to specific location) and when’s (dates/times of best attraction in the city).

5. Reverse engineer content contributors

Showcasing your brand’s expertise through blogging (i.e. regular contribution to other related blogs) can drive traffic and referral visitors to your website. When using this approach, the common way to find prospects for guest blogs is adding the terms (“write for us” or “guest post”) to search query, “industry”.

Though you can already find a handful of blogs using that link search method, it won’t guarantee that those blogs are of high quality and could provide value to your site (referral visitors and potential conversions).

One profitable approach to prospect for content contribution blogs is finding the best author/blogger in the industry or determining the most active content manager/marketer of your competitor.

Adding the name to the following search queries will end up having a bunch of blogs where the author had contributed his content to:

  • “[Name] is a content contributor for [Competitor Domain].com”
  • “[Name] is the author of”
  • “[Name] is the blogger at”
  • “[Name] is the owner of”
  • [Name] “author” OR “blogger” OR “marketer”

google search ryan stewart

So if you’re targeting 50 high-quality niche-specific blogs, then using that link search approach above could easily help you achieve your goal.

6. Apply footprint prospecting

Finding footprints of your competitors can quickly help you search for low hanging fruits in link building. However, to some extent, if it is done on a regular basis and this is the only approach you’re executing, then you shouldn’t expect a higher competitive advantage over your competitors (since obviously, you’re just following what others had been doing in the past).

If you’re still building your brand from scratch, you can use footprint prospecting to find bloggers that you can connect with through blog commenting. This traditional link building technique still works when used as a pre-engagement activity before actually pitching bloggers for link requests or other content-led outreach methods.

A quick search query ([keyword] “leave a*” “comment”) could yield a good list of blogs where you can regularly check new posts and add useful and relevant insights in the comment section (to get into the radars of your target influencers).

You may also want to seek footprints of your competitors to find new link opportunities for your brand. Do Google searches for the following search strings:

  • [competitor] “interview”
  • [competitor] “news”
  • [competitor] “press”
  • [competitor] “author”

Then click “Search Tools” – Anytime – Past Month.

Here are a few things you can see in the search results:

  • Author updates in the blog posts (i.e. editing texts and/or adding internal or external links to improve the page’s ranking potential).
  • Text-based and video interviews.
  • Webinars, podcasts and press releases of the brand associated with the author/owner.
  • Social profiles of the author or the company.

Don’t just follow the brand and its existing authors/owners. You may also want to track the following brand elements and eventually track their future mentions in other blogs/sites.

  • Future staff members
  • Brand partnerships with relevant brands (supplier to manufacturer relationship)
  • Book names or other content assets published by the brand (i.e. whitepaper “author” OR “whitepaper” author).
  • Prominent interviewer always pops up in the search results when the search string (“competitor” OR “author” is used).

This link search method requires constant changes in search strings as it would need to adapt to updates happening in competitors’ brands and industry.

7. Utilize customer defining keywords in link search

Customers when finding products or services in search are commonly using terms/phrases that define a target audience or their colleagues (fellow members) in the industry.

So gearing your link search towards what customers are defining their group members will help you discover highly qualified prospects instantly.

For example, if you own a running blog, you can use audience terms like:

  • Runner
  • Marathoner
  • Sprinter
  • Jogger
  • Trackman

You can add more customer-defined keywords to your list by going to Thesaurus and searching for available synonyms.

thesaurus runner

You can also try visiting glossary pages in your niche and looking for specific terms that define groups of audiences.

Instead of using the head industry keyword to prospect for link opportunities, you can use those customer-defining keywords to build a large link data. In our given example, you can have the following search strings:

  • Marathoner “blog”
  • Marathoner “resources”
  • Marathoner “guide”
  • Marathoner “links”

Changing the given customer-defined keyword to other industry audience groups (sprinter, trackman, jogger, etc..) will give you another hundred of opportunities that you can’t find by simply using the head term (running) in link prospecting.

8. Discover industry thought leaders

This is pretty much the same with footprint prospecting wherein you use names of authors from your competitors’ brands and add them to your advanced search operators to prospect for pages/sites where those authors had been mentioned.

Industry thought leaders do not only represent companies they’re working for but media outlets, content sites, branded pages and communities where thought leaders participated and are credited for their works (by linking to their brands using names as anchor texts).

Take note of brands with attached multiple authors and personalities since partnering with them can help amplify your content assets to a larger audience list (considering the number of followers each of the authors has).

Consider Moz for example. The brand doesn’t just have one thought leader (Rand Fishkin) but three or more authors that are active in the community but represents one same company (Cyrus Shepard, Dr. Pete, Jen Lopez, etc..).

moz team

In this case, learning from what the thought leaders are working to build their own personal brands will best help your campaign to identify opportunities that will give good impressions for your company as well.

You may also try to determine what topics each industry leader is focusing on. Then try to invest in certain themes (one content theme at a time), then reach out to certain thought leaders who might be interested to consume and share your content.

With Moz, authors have their own themes when creating content:

  • Rand Fishkin – videos, webinars, and podcasts on advanced SEO and marketing topics (e.g. Whiteboard Friday).
  • Pete – data-based content with graphs/illustrations (e.g. Google Answer Boxes)
  • Cyrus Shepard – ultimate guides and curated content on advanced SEO topics (e.g. Advanced SEO Concepts)

Pro tip: Adding expertise phrases of authors to search strings (e.g. “guide” “Cyrus Shepard”) would give you pages/sites where content assets of authors had been mentioned.

9. Maximize product and category keywords

One of the under-utilized approaches in searching for link targets is adding the brand’s categories to search strings. This method will uncover hundreds of opportunities to target each and every type of product your brand is able to sell.

Start by talking to your clients on what types of products they are selling or simply go their website and look for brand categories.

In our earlier example, you can have these types of products:

  • Flat feet running shoes
  • High-arched feet running shoes
  • Neutral running shoes
  • Normal running shoes

Add your favorite keywords (reviews, forum, blogs) to categories (example above) to find loads of pages/websites that can potentially link to your content.

10. Use local-specific keywords

Making your search strings tailored to a local audience helps you discover and participate with local press outlets that have high chances of driving local traffic, resulting in an increase in sales.

Combine your favorite keywords (reviews, resources, blogs) and local areas (e.g. Brisbane) to find local pages or sites. You can also be specific with cities by adding region or state, as well as Zip Codes to prospect for easy link opportunities.

11. Be specific with resource page terms

Seeking for link opportunities especially resources/links pages requires creativity in brainstorming for new search strings. This is true for industries that don’t have many pages for resources.

In this case, you need to understand what industry terms webmasters are using or targeting in their existing links to your site.

In running a niche, you can be as specific as possible when doing link search (to find resource pages).

Here is an example of using very specific search terms for resource pages:

  • intitle:resources OR inurl:resources “trail running”
  • intitle:resources OR inurl:resources “kids running”
  • intitle:resources OR inurl:resources “mountain running”

google search trail running resources

The more specific your search is, the easier for you to filter out irrelevant pages in search results and only qualify those sites that are high quality.

Pro tip: Always check out related verticals as you go looking for link prospects. This might uncover opportunities that could otherwise be undiscovered. In our example, adding these keywords “fitness resources” or “personal training” resources will help you build a large database of link targets.

How to Speed Up Your Link Prospecting Activity

In this section, I’d like to simplify the process by giving two important link prospecting elements:

  • Assets (Internal)

  • Opportunities (External)

Assets are webpages that you want to build links to and help them rank high on search results using different link acquisition methods. Whereas, opportunities are linking partners or sites where you want to place your link.

Below is an asset-opportunity relationship example to help you understand how this simple link prospecting process works:

  • Homepage = Directories, Profile Pages, Social Profiles, Partners/Membership Pages, Business Directories

  • Ebook = Ebook directories, product review blogs

  • Money = Sponsorship sites, grants pages, paid product reviews sites, events

  • Blog post = Guest posts, Round-ups

  • Team Members = Interviews, Unlinked Brand Mentions

You may notice that the more you understand the link value of your assets, the more you can create a list of linking opportunities targeting a specific content asset.

This can further amplify the reach of each of your asset since you’re building a wide array of link building opportunities that are highly obtainable and relevant to your target page.

Keyword-based link prospecting

Ranking pages

This is the easiest way to get an initial list of link prospects since most of these pre-qualified link targets can come from your client’s contact list or recommendations.

You can widen your list of link prospects by applying the following tips:

  • Search for highly related websites (which should not be your competitors in the space) by doing a Google search using your target keywords and related industry phrase/terms.

  • Get more linking targets from search results by discovering new niche-specific terms that are closely connected to your link prospecting queries (scan the meta titles/meta descriptions of other content pieces).

  • Find the synonyms of your industry phrases using Thesaurus, Google Docs, and Tilde (~). Use these link query suggestions to discover link targets that may not be targeted by your competitors.

Here’s a video to explain how to apply this link prospecting method:

Link Prospecting [Ranking Pages] from Venchito Tampon on Vimeo.

Link building queries

Link building queries are essential to limit the number of pages that will show up in the search results for specific keywords/phrases. Prospecting using link queries are more efficient by combining useful advanced search queries in a single search.

For instance, you have a huge budget for paid link building tactics. You can build high quality backlinks to your homepage by finding sponsorship opportunities where you can donate money in exchange for links.

Using this query: inurl:sponsor OR donate OR partner OR grant + finance, you can find high-valued link targets that offer link placement in exchange for a certain amount of money (ranging from $5 to $50) and are related to finance niche. These are easy to acquired links using different link acquisition methods such as linker outreach with an incentive approach in the link outreach templates.

Here’s a video to explain this method:

Link Prospecting Using Link Building Queries from Venchito Tampon on Vimeo.

Tools to Speed Up Your Link Prospecting Activity

Here are the link building tools that you can use to ease your link building searches for a specific link building strategy:

  • Link Clump

  • Notepad

  • Ctrl + W

  • Excel Files

How to Speed Up Your Link Prospecting Activity from Venchito Tampon on Vimeo.

Note: This is my first time to create video tutorials so forget about all the mistakes I've made in each video. 

As I've come across several resource prospecting campaigns, I always notice little things that make part of it more efficient. Efficient prospecting means producing a highly targeted output with less amount of consumed resources (labor, time and cost of tools).

That itself requires experience through observation. So, here are four advanced prospecting techniques that hopefully can improve the efficiency of your campaigns and help expand your list of link opportunities.

16 Advanced Link Prospecting Techniques For Increase Efficiency

Agility and efficiency are essential drivers of a successful link prospecting phase.

Setting a plan to never run of opportunities for link acquisition is important since this can improve the entire campaign's prospecting rate as well as increase the average number of link prospects collected per hour/day.

By focusing on link prospect growth, link builders can expect significant improvements in the overall link development campaign, in parts such as:

  • Enables to find new audiences targeted by newly added link opportunities, which can be useful in brainstorming future content assets relevant to these audiences.
  • Grows your current list of relationships with bloggers/webmasters/journalists (new connections can be derived by reaching out to an additional list of link opportunities). 
  • Increases deliverables (# of links delivered on a monthly basis) for clients, since on a given average conversion rate, one can expect more links by sending more outreach emails to added link opportunities in the original list.

There are many viable guides and how-tos in link prospecting from different SEO experts. Some techniques are learned simply through your own observations from campaigns that you have handled. We, at SharpRocket, incorporate those observations from our own personal experiences which helped us be more productive in building links.

1. Listing down link similarities

Most bloggers use the same terms in creating links for their pages. For example, in creating a resource page, the commonly used terms are;; Therefore, we can use google queries such as inurl:niche-resources or inurl:links.html. The search engine result will give us a list of resource pages according to the niche we are looking for.  Below are other search queries you can use to find additional prospects for your client which we personally use:

  • resources/links
  • resource-guide
  • useful-links
  • useful-resources
  • niche-resources
  • recommended-resources

Though not all search queries such as resources.php, links.html, or useful-links, provide resources that are relevant to the client’s industry, it is advisable to add a distinction which is based on the client’s niche to narrow down the results in the Search Engine Results Page (SERP), e.g. inurl:useful-links “niche”. Google will then provide you results based on the keyword you used which is more applicable to your campaign.

google search resources photography

Pro Tip: Just be creative with the words you use along with being observant. If you have a hunch or an idea which you think can be helpful, it wouldn’t hurt to try experimenting on it.  Who knows, you might even be able to discover other useful techniques you can use to further enhance your link building skills. Don’t forget to check out the links on the resource page you found, for it may redirect you to a new prospect opportunity that you have not seen through the list that Google displayed.

2. Utilizing country domain extensions

As you may have noticed, some domains do not always end in .com, .org, or .edu, and other web addresses use different domain extensions depending on the country in which their website is being hosted (e.g. “.au” which is hosted in Australia or “.ca” which is hosted in Canada). By using these domain extensions you can narrow down the results based on your preferred country or target audience. You can use the advanced search operator “inurl” followed by the country domain extension that you want to focus on (e.g. You can also add a distinction to make the search query more precise. If you are looking for guides or resources you can use to enhance your skills in photography, you can use Google will then give you a list of photography resource pages with the country domain of Canada.

google search inurl-ca

Pro Tip: You can use these techniques in any niche or industry you wish to do research on. However, if you don’t have a specific country you would like to focus on, searching for link targets that end with .com first is most recommended because it is the most recognizable and highly used domain extension. You can then use the other country domain extension of your preference to gain new prospect opportunities.

You can visit this Webopedia guide for a complete list of countries and their domain extensions.

3. Identify company blogs through SERPs

By taking notice of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP), we can also pinpoint if the link is a company website or a personal blog. Though not all domain names and punctuation marks are 100% accurate, it can somehow lessen our time in checking each link just to see if it is a company website. Here are some examples:


The above query will display links that have the keywords “light” and “bulb” in the title of the article.  One result has the punctuation mark called pipe or vertical bar on the page title. It was followed by the domain name “”. Here, we can be quite sure that it is a company website because the page URL was also mentioned in the title.

Clicking the link will redirect you to the webpage.


Another punctuation mark used in identifying a company website is hyphen or dash. As you can see, the domain name which is the brand name of the company is included in the page title after the hyphen. Most of the time, em dash or the long dash is used.

Lastly, the punctuation mark colon. The difference of this punctuation mark from the hyphen and vertical bar is that you can instantly notice it at the beginning of the page title. The brand name is cited first followed by the colon and page title of the article.


We can distinguish company websites through these punctuation marks located at the page title. Just a little note, not all sites that use a hyphen, vertical bar, and colon in the page title are companies. Some content creators tend to do that as well.

Observational learning is a must in link prospecting. It helps us maximize the use of Google queries and lessen our time in clicking unnecessary links. Simple terms, domain names, and symbols might have a deeper meaning. This is why we have to keep our eyes open and our minds sharp. Noticing terms you don’t usually use but is mentioned in the client’s industry can be used as keywords for broader research. Checking on how domain names are created by bloggers can give us a better chance of generating a higher number of results. We just have to be adamant about making observation a priority.  

4. Website categorization

When starting a new outreach campaign for a client, the first initiative is to scour new link opportunities on the web from scratch. While this is good if it's a new industry you're taking on, isn't it wise to go back first to your previous list of industry-relevant opportunities and check which ones could be reused for the new campaign?

Not only does it save time, but it also saves a lot of labor consumption prospecting for links.

Website categorization does help with this. By using tags, you'll be able to categorize prospects from a topical perspective.

What you need here is a defined hierarchy of topics, to begin with. For me, I recommend BOTW as a starting point, given that they have four or five deeper-level topics such as Pro-Choice Abortion (Society) and Eating Disorders (Fitness) which is extremely important if you've got clients from a very specific niche.

botw directoryMake sure that your team agrees on certain topics to avoid any confusion when filtering your list. Having several but similar terms (i.e. I.T, Information Technology, and Technology) as your tags is trouble.

The next time you need automobile blogs, you can pull them off from a list within a few minutes.

5. Check descriptions in links to eye SEO'y content

Backlink research is the process of identifying current and potential competitors and getting pages/sites that linked to them for link opportunities.

SEOs normally identify these competitors through Google search by checking which pages are currently ranking for target keywords or creating a list of competitors' sites coming from clients themselves (as they already have ideas which brands to compete with).

While these two approaches are best practices to find your most relevant competitors, you may still miss out on some SEO'y content (as what Ross Hudgens coined it) that you should reverse engineer on (reverse engineer backlink profiles).

SEO'y content is pages or content pieces already linked out from a resource page you're trying to reach out to, that have earned tons of links from several linking root domains.

Looking for SEO'y content can expand your vertical prospecting, either from a horizontal or vertical perspective, as they aren't easily found through Google search or normal prospecting.

One way to identify these SEO'y content is to check discrepancies in the description of links. What I mean with discrepancies is that there are resource pages with full descriptions for each link and there are some with links with unusual descriptions.

I got this idea when I received a response from a webmaster putting a link to our client's page from their resource page.

local link outreach

If you skimmed the email above, you'll notice that there's nothing uncommon with the email, only does it implies that the webmaster is in a hurry not to include a description for our link - the reason she requested if we can create one for them.

Discrepancies in link descriptions—either the description is not complete or not in format with other link descriptions (see image below)—are signs that the resource page had recently given a link to an SEO'y content. and US Dish links have Titles as their descriptions while other links have longer texts that describe what those pages are about. 

links pages with unusual descriptions

It means that these SEO'y content are actively pursuing relevant link opportunities (primarily resource pages) in the same manner that you do. If you could scour their existing links (some may have been recently just acquired), it will help you gain link targets that are receptive to content suggestions. Thus, giving you a higher link acquisition rate in your outreach campaign.

Clicking on SEO'y content links and assessing if they have relevant links you can potentially use as link opportunities is a great activity you can add to your link prospecting process. 

The best way I recommend to initially check if this SEO'y content has a good number of linking root domains is to run them through LinkMiner.

The tool checks all external links on the resource page and highlights how many domains are linking to a certain external page.

6. Use Linkclump to open document links simultaneously

In link prospecting, the more you spend time checking for unnecessary links, the more you waste time that should've been otherwise spent pursuing the right link opportunities.

What I've noticed with newbie link builders is that they often click on document links (pdfs, words/spreadsheets ready to download, etc..) that are consuming seconds (if not minutes of their time) which are all useless if your main targets are links or resource pages.

The recommended approach is to use a tool that'll automatically unclick these document links once you start qualifying your list of link targets.

For example, if you have a list of pages ready to be qualified for certain metrics (DA, relevance, obtainability), copy and paste them in an opened tab tool (e.g.

urlopenerThen install Linkclump and use the filter option to add words that'll exclude links when it opens new tabs (pdf, doc, xls, etc..).

Once you right-click and drag external links from URLOpener, the action itself won't open document links as new tabs given that you excluded certain words in the tool's setting.

exclude words linkclump

7. Utilize niche phrases to expand link list

If you are familiar with your industry, it's easy for you to know what phrases are commonly used as titles in resource pages. For example, in the transportation industry, you'll see a lot of "getting there" pages. These are phrases that are only specific and be applied to a certain vertical.

But one question that may arise here is, what if it's a new niche I'm taking on, how can I identify niche phrases I can use for expanding my prospecting approach?

The best way to do that is to collect the titles of your first set of resource pages (I'd recommend that you get 80 or 100 links pages from your list for optimal results).

Use Wordcloud to see common niche phrases.

word cloud

Ensure that you click phrases only and display frequencies checkbox. Phrases only feature does what you need from the tool - to give exact niche phrases while display frequency shows you the number of times a phrase appeared in the list.

word cloud settings

If you are clever enough about using niche phrases, your list of link opportunities will expand.

Other Useful Resources:

8. Use better keywords in link search

Research is not “good research” until it is seasoned with all the right keywords. We cannot simply uncover prospects that are relevant as well as insightful if we do not employ the correct strategies. Having said that - keyword generation is, in my opinion, the heart of every campaign. After all, how can we ever expect to reach our audience without first wielding a well-thought-out string of words?

To help us navigate the waters of “keyword inception”, let us first go back to its root. A keyword is commonly defined as a word or concept of awesome significance. For us to come up with a great blog roster, we need to make sure the phrases we use in research will coincide with those utilized by our target prospects.

Another, looser translation of the term is “password”. Personally, I very much like the concept of decoding a password in relation to finding the most effective words to use for link prospecting. Not unlike our search queries, passwords unlock a bunch of possibilities.

As you probably understand, there are a lot of factors to consider when it comes to choosing your terms. In our industry, the most commonly used keywords are categorized under three types: generic, specific, and long tail.

Let’s first take some time to understand these keyword types better before we go on.

A. Generic Keywords

generic keywords

As the term suggests, “generic” keywords are unspecific and all-encompassing. You can expect to get thousands, even millions of results using this type of keywords. An example is using the words “food processor” in your search query.

B. Specific Keywords

specific keywords

This type of keyword is obviously a lot more particular than the former. In relation with our previous example of “food processor”, a specific example would be a branded version -  “SharpRocket Food Processor” 

C. Long-tail keywords

Lastly, long-tail keywords are the most common phrases or even a complete sentence typed into the search bar. Now, a perfect example for this would be “best way to operate a food processor”. Basically, a set of four or more keywords is considered “long tail”.

Going back to the main point of this article, how do we come up with the best possible keywords and/or keyword combinations for maximum results? Of course, this all leads back to a rather popular answer: common sense.

9. Use "topic" "guide" to search for content competitors

Reverse engineering has been a standard practice in link building - which is basically spying your competitors for link sources pointing to their pages.

However, that approach will leave you following the footprints of your competitors.

If you can be visible on websites they haven't acquired links from, it would be a better strategy to get ahead of them (or evenly outrank them!).

One initiative you can make is to look at other brands (not necessarily your direct competitors) that have published industry guides on similar topics.

We've found that using this search query, "GUIDE" "TOPIC" supplies a list of websites from other industries in SERPs that have topically-relevant content assets.

For example, a quick look for "veterans" "guide" can reveal this search result page.

google veterans guide

Your next step is to make a list of the people and sites/blogs who have linked to similar industry guides or have shared them via social media. You can extract these data using tools like Buzzsumo and Ahrefs.

ahrefs fundera

It is best to list them down in a spreadsheet including each prospect's contact address.

Start reaching out to them. You'll have better chances of getting links given that they're interested in the subject of your content since they've linked to a similar industry guide in the past.

Embracing competitor opportunities

Not all links will be counted with the Google link command. Some pages that will be displayed on SERPs are not all-important or relevant to what you are looking for. Yet checking websites connected to your competitors will give you an idea of where to build your links. It will provide new ideas and broader networks to associate with. You just have to embrace every opportunity that comes your way to get links or a new set of keywords to use, even if these are from your competitor.

10. Keep track of websites with consistent linkable content production  

You will not always come across a brand that publishes a solid set of content assets while gets/attracts high-valued links to its pages.

If you have found a website that matches both of the above criteria, it's worthwhile to bookmark it and try to spy and assess its content strategy (both their content creation and promotion approaches).

In our broken link building campaigns, we've spotted on and have kept track of all the websites that have continuously been producing heavy linkable assets in different industries.

Regardless of whether or not it is directly competing with our client, we monitor those sites for new content ideas and future linking opportunities.

For example, Affordable Colleges had been on my personal radar because they have been targeting new markets (audiences) through the new content they published in their resource section.

affordable colleges online

By using content analysis tools like Ahrefs, we can see the new industry guides they've invested heavily in content promotion (check Best by Links Growth feature).

best by links growth
That approach can definitely expand opportunities for our future link development campaigns, given that we can tap into new markets that are not included in our initial list of linkable audiences, such as homeless students and multicultural & diversity groups.

11. Integrate dedicated .edu pages in your search queries 

Apparently, links from .edu pages are one type of links that can impact your pages' performance on search rankings and can really damage your industry's competition if you achieved success with it.

However, before getting results from any .edu link building strategies, you'll always start with .edu link prospecting - one that's hard to build when you're starting out.

One approach that you can use to scale .edu link prospecting is to target a specific type of .edu page in your search queries.

Those .edu websites normally have sections of information resources such as counseling, health & wellness, financial aid, community resources, and summer housing - which can be individually targeted in your search query depending on the subject of your page/site.

For instance, if you're in the mental health industry, one phrase you can include in search queries is "counseling" or "student health"  to come up with the following targeted search queries:

  • "counseling" inurl:resources
  • "student health" inurl:resources

counsellling edu pages serps

Here are more .edu pages for topical-relevant pages:

  • "summer housing" - apartment categories
  • "career & internship" - job sites, portals or resources
  • "general health & wellness" - health organizations or niche-specific resource guides (e.g. sexual health)

Moreover, finding targeted pages of .edu sites can also be helpful with the kind of link building strategy you're currently using.

For example, when pursuing for scholarship links, instead of using the common search queries like ( "scholarships" "industry/topic"), you can be more targeted with your search by using the phrase, "financial aids" - which is a .edu resource page for students seeking for financial help.

financial aid page edu website

12. Start with libguides queries for .edu link prospects  

Another way to be proficient in high-authority link prospecting is to target libguides pages of .edu websites.

What exactly are libguides?

LibGuides are content management and information sharing system designed specifically for libraries. The platform allows for easy navigation through and instruction on core and relevant resources in a particular subject field, class, or assignment.

libguide page edu website

Libguides benefit students in many ways, such as:

  • It allows students to focus on the relevant and sift out the less relevant.
  • Visually demonstrates that there are great resources, in multiple formats, on even the most difficult topic. That reassurance builds the confidence of students who need to get started on their research.

You can see the other benefits of libguides to students here.

By definition and purpose, libguides are academic resource pages for students.

Given that they aren't updated that much, they usually contain broken links. Knowing that you can use broken link building as an approach to acquire links from these high-value pages.

Resource page link building (or content suggestion) can also work as long as you have a high-utility content piece worthy of being referenced to by these academic pages.

How do you find these libguides?

You can do a Google search for inurl:libguide "TOPIC" - replace the word topic with the subject of your content or website.

inurl libguide serps

Before pitching to librarians (contact persons managing libguides) with content published on your site/client, it is best to have an idea on what sorts of content, information, and content types that they prefer using as references.

Make sure you create the most comprehensive guide on the topic (or at least can match up to the resources that they've already linked to). If it's necessary to improve your content, do so to increase your chances of getting links from them.

13. Save link targets of lower metrics 

When prospecting for link opportunities, It's easy to overlook pages with lower metrics (i.e. <DA40), given that at the beginning of the campaign, link metrics have been set to use as a quality benchmark for all target pages/sites moving forward.

DA37 resource page

At SharpRocket, we've found that websites/blogs with lower metrics can be highly useful for future campaigns. Some less authoritative websites can increase their organic traffic and earn/build links over time, which will eventually improve their entire domain authority.

Capitalize future equities of those neglected websites by making a separate list or spreadsheet to include them.

This is an approach not to run of our link prospects as you can return to your list over and over again, and find new ones that have improved its domain authority (or have passed to your benchmark metrics).

14. Exchange contacts with active guest bloggers 

Building relationships with industry bloggers is vital not only when pitching them to become a guest contributor for their publications, but also in expanding your own list of link opportunities.

One approach that you can maximize in this situation is to pass on your contacts with them. Share your own lists of blogs that you have pursued content contributions.

list of contactsIt's a mutual benefit so you'll expect to get a fair share of lists from these active bloggers, too. It's worthwhile to do so given that their shared blogs have high response rates when you start emailing them.

15. Reverse engineer broken pages for more link opportunities 

A huge number of broken links on the web is the main backbone of broken link building.

Finding defunct links on a resource page and showing them to webmasters is one way to initiate conversations and eventually acquire links by suggesting link replacements (wherein one of the links is a link to the client's content piece).

The process ultimately starts with prospecting for relevant resource pages.

One prospecting methodology besides doing a Google search for common resource page queries - inurl:resources "topic;; inurl:links "topic" is finding other resource pages that are linking to broken links.

Start this process by finding broken URLs, which can be defunct links you've initially corrected in your first set of prospects (resource pages).

broken pageCheck for any other websites linking to those broken URLs using any link tracking tools like Ahrefs.

links pointing to broken page

Create a spreadsheet to collect all websites linking to broken pages.

If you've found 20 broken links and have checked that there are around 300 total pages linking to them, your initial list has now grown to an additional 300 prospects.

list of link opportunities pointing to broken page

Of course, you have to quality these additional link targets by relevance, authority, and obtainability.

But overall, the said link prospecting (reverse engineering) methodology gives you room for more link opportunities.

16. Create new lists for non-intended audiences 

One common mistake I've seen link builders do when prospecting link opportunities, specifically for resource pages, is ignoring current pages on their tabs as soon as they quickly find that these pages do not pass certain links' standards (e.g. irrelevant to their intended audience).

This tip is almost similar to the above prospecting principle (save prospects of lower metrics).

However, what I'd like to highlight in this last prospecting tip is saving prospects of different intended audiences. 

When you've landed on a page and found out that it's not relevant to your audience-targeting, you basically ignore it and move on to your next link prospect.

What I personally see a lot of value in seeking for more link opportunities (and for content generation, in general) is creating a new tab/list of other pages that don't fit to my current intended audience.

For example, when I'm looking for parenting-targeted resource pages and have come across pages that are targeted to non-intended audiences like LGBTQ, mental health enthusiasts, persons suffering from trauma, stress, and attempting suicide - I make new lists to collect them all.

This can somehow make it easier to find new audiences to target for future content assets.


If you’re just starting in audience-first link building campaigns, you can start off with Garrett French's 601 Audience spreadsheet and basic linkable audiences as a base - and add more on to it along the way.

17. Utilize the advanced search operator "links"

“Links:” search operator points out web pages that are linked to the domain you used. SERPs will, however, give you random results from its internal links and even web ranking review that’s why we have to be selective.


1. Target a specific competitor link you want to use. For example, you are looking for a resource page and saw as one of your competitors. Go to Google search box and key in the search operator + the domain name of the competitor.

links photography

Note: Make sure that there is no space after the colon.

2. Choose a url in the search engine results page that  you think can be a possible prospect.

links suss photography screenshot3. Use the “site:” command and type the keyword you are looking for, only if needed.  In our example,  we need not to use the search operator “site:” since we are looking for a resource page and’s resource page already appeared on the SERP. Therefore, we can possibly link our website to this blog, too.

suss photography resource pageWe can also use competitor links in generating keywords and phrases for our Google queries. Visiting related blog posts on their websites  can somehow give us fresh ideas.

Three C's to remember in creating keywords for link prospecting

When we do research, we sometimes tend to write words based on how we formulated it in our mind and fail to simplify terms then find ourselves easily falling into the same thinking pattern. Before we jump to the tips link builders can apply to find new niches to tap or keywords to use, below are things to consider when typing in the keywords you will use for blog research:


We can use words that are short and to the point as a substitute for lengthy words without changing its meaning.

Wordy: Newly Developed or Most Common

Concise: Trending or Popular


Choose words which form a sharp and clean meaning to eliminate confusion as to what you are really looking for.

General: My first Investment

Concrete: My First  Car Investment (stocks, bonds,house,equipment, bags etc)


Choose precise, concrete and familiar words.

Familiar words: coupon

Pretentious Words: statement of due interest

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using the Search Operator "links"


  • Since your competitors are already linking to those websites, there is a great chance that the site or blog post is relevant to your industry.
  • Websites shown in the search engine results page will give you other niches to tap as you visit them.
  • Usage of “links:” operator is easy and convenient unlike when you are using backlink checker tools.


  • There is a chance that you can’t find a related topic connected to your industry to link from because your competitor already beat you to it.
  • In checking for competitor links, you just tend to follow the blueprint instead of standing out. Being number one sometimes requires looking for other websites that are competitor-link-free!
  • Not all websites linking to your competitor are based on their preference. There are times where a blogger links to another blogger or a company just because they know the person who owns it.

18. Unleash keyword creativity

Lateral thinking is a technique that uses an uncommon approach to solve problems or to stir up fresh ideas. Yes, being concise is one smart thing for us to generate keywords for our research. However, in developing link building tactics, one must dare to think outside the box to be able to come up with new niches to tap or keywords to use.

Lateral thinking

1. Who will benefit?

Ask yourself who would be interested in the products and services  you or your client has to offer then list them down. We may review the possible prospects according to their age, gender, and needs. Think of other potential customers and readers. Let’s say you’re selling skincare products and you want to advertise these, you automatically look for beauty bloggers. Aside from the obvious people who might benefit in what you have to offer, try going beyond, like mommy blogs, health blogs, and senior blogs.

who will benefit

2. Who are the experts?

You may also consider people who are experts on your particular topic. In our example, we may choose to search for dermatologists and estheticians  who specialize in skincare.

who are experts

3. What are the problems encountered by a niche?

There are times when you finally used up all the tricks up your sleeve and caught yourself at a loss for thinking new keywords to use. You can then try searching for the problems encountered by a certain niche. There are many terms or jargons associated with skin problems that only those knowledgeable in that field or those that already experienced it knows of.   

skin problem glossary search results

skin glossary page


Tools to help you come up with better keywords in link search 

A. Thesaurus

The most obvious way to come up with a fresh set of keywords is by making use of the thesaurus. This tool has, no doubt, been introduced to all of us way before we started messing around with computers. Simply put, it gives you a little index of words in groups of synonyms and related concepts.


B. Industry glossary 

The Glossary of Industry Terms is a comprehensive list of words and expressions used by experts or trade specialists that may be difficult for others to comprehend. When you’re targeting bloggers who write specifically about your client’s niche, the most useful thing you could do is to familiarize yourself with their jargon first so as to come up with accurate results.

Industry Glossary

C. Blog post titles and URLs

Sometimes the greatest things in life are right in front of you. The same holds true for keyword generation. The best ones may just be under your nose. Pay attention to how bloggers construct their post titles and what words appear in their respective URLs. This might come in handy when you want to target articles that tackle the same topics or have roughly the same content. Using the same keywords but coming at it from different angles might just make the biggest difference to your research.

Case in Point: Instead of just using “online shopping” as your keywords, consider a different perspective - “pros and cons of online shopping”, “advantages of online shopping”, etc.

Sample Search Queries:

  • allintitle:pros and cons of online shopping
  • inurl:pros-and-cons-of-online-shopping

Blog Post Title


D. Wh and H Question Words

Since we’re on the subject of words, it’s also advisable to scrutinize the kind of language content writers commonly use. Some bloggers endeavor to answer the biggest questions about their niche with their posts. Incorporating the Wh (who, what, when, where, why) and H (how) question words in your queries will help you discover who those bloggers happen to be.

Getting links from these kinds of pages can be quite advantageous as a lot of potential customers tend to look for these types of informative articles before actually coming to a decision. Having your product or service presented to readers immediately as a suggestion can drive valuable traffic to your website.

Example: “What can you do with a food processor?”

Wh and H

E. Be open to search suggestions

What’s easy is not necessarily wrong. For other possible keywords, simply check other Google searches related to your query. A list of phrases can be found below the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) whenever you do a Google search. Though not all of these can be helpful all the time, we do stumble upon a few golden nuggets every once in a while.

Google Related Searches

F. Think outside the box

Don’t restrict yourself to just one set of keywords. If you find you’ve exhausted all concepts directly related to your client’s niche, try looking at the bigger picture. Don’t always work from the outside going in. Try the opposite.

If your client specializes in leather belts, don’t get stuck on keywords like “buckles”, “straps”, and “tongues”. Instead, visualize the belt as a little island in the middle of the ocean. The ocean symbolizes what niche encompasses your client’s (e.g fashion). Look for possibilities outside of what has been handed to you.

San Blas Islands of Panama

G. Finding opportunities in mistakes

Ever notice how people choose to dwell on another person’s faults rather than his successes? Well, the same thinking can be used for our benefit when it comes to blog prospecting. Articles that focus on mistakes, misconceptions, or myths that people believe about certain issues or topics may sound totally negative, but can present real possibilities for building links.


H. LSI graph / LSI keyword generator

The Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) Keyword Generator is a tool that comes up with a list of terms and phrases related to your current keyword in a matter of seconds.

“In a nutshell, they are keywords that are semantically linked to your main keyword. In practical terms, Google has confirmed that by using more LSI keywords, your page will typically rank better.”

LSI Graph

I. Keyword Planner

Keyword Planner is a Google  AdWords tool that can be used by new and experienced marketers for free. According to Google itself, “Keyword Planner is like a workshop for building new Search Network campaigns or expanding existing ones. You can search for keyword and ad group ideas, get historical statistics, see how a list of keywords might perform, and even create a new keyword list by multiplying several lists of keywords together.”

Keyword Planner

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anchor text definitive guide

Anchor Text: The Definitive Guide

anchor text definitive guide

This is an anchor text guide for beginners and advanced practitioners of SEO and link building. If you want to skip the first few sections and go to the meat part of it, you can click here to go to the anchor text optimization best practices section.


Anchor text is the visible and clickable text in a link.

ahrefs anchor text


To make things simple, let’s say I want to rank for the term, “link building” and I’m publishing a post for another link building blog with a link to my web page.

If I’d use these types of anchor text, here’s what the link with each type of anchor text looks like.

Exact match anchors – the anchor text is the target keyword you’re trying to rank for.

I’ve shared at SharpRocket a post about link building that includes all actionable tips you need to get quality backlinks for your website.

Partial match anchors – the anchor text contains the target keyword or keyphrase you’re trying to rank for.

I’ve shared at SharpRocket a post about actionable link building tips you need to get quality backlinks for your website.

Branded anchor text – the anchor text is the name of the brand.

I’ve shared at SharpRocket a post about link building that includes all actionable tips you need to get quality backlinks for your website.

Naked URLs anchors – the anchor text is not a word or phrase but the URL of the page or domain itself.

I’ve shared at SharpRocket a post about actionable link building tips. See it here:

Descriptive anchors – the anchor text is a description of what the page or URL is all about, it may or may not include the target keyword.

This post at SharpRocket explains what link building is all about and 101 link building tips that includes the exact step by step processes to apply each of those tips.

Generic anchors – the anchor text is a generic phrase that does not include the target keyword.

I’ve shared at SharpRocket a post about link building that includes all actionable tips you need to get quality backlinks for your website. If you want to check it out, click here.

LSI anchors - the anchor text is a synonym or related word or phrase of the target keyword you’re trying to rank for.

I’ve shared at SharpRocket a post about off-page SEO that includes all actionable tips you need to get quality backlinks for your website.

Image anchors – the anchor text is the alt text of the image.

image alt text


Before the Google Penguin update, websites can build massive article directory and guest post links with ~100% exact match anchor texts. This was not a problem for SEOs as they can literally automate everything, from prospecting link opportunities to putting these links into their desired pages, not considering the relevance between linking pages.

Private blog networks wasn’t a big option for link builders at that time too, since the usual massive spammy link building tactics is already enough in getting ranking results for websites.

But then Google Penguin came in 2012, which affect websites in different industries. As you can see in the image below, it shows a few statistics of niche websites that were hit back then.

inbound links anchor text graph


Anchor text usage on all inbound links is one factor Google considers in determining if a page should be penalized and be demoted in its organic rankings.

Aggressive anchor text or too much usage of exact match anchor text on all inbound links for a certain page isn’t a normal activity to think about. Websites with all backlinks that have more than 50% exact match anchor texts, “payday loans” for example is questionable to be natural in its backlinking method.


Google’s Gary Ilyes has been tweeted/asked questions on Penguiin 4.0 since its launched last September 23, 2016. One point he made is how Google Penguin targets a specific page. He clarified that it’s not just about the link, but rather the “source site” where the link comes from is what they also considers.

Questionable or penalized websites have much more risks to give to you when acquiring links.

To ensure you’re only building high-quality sites, you should check out the site’s organic traffic data if the linking site has a history of organic drop. This organic drop is a possible sign of Google penalty/ies.

SEMRush can aid you with this task, so be sure to have someone checking the site’s estimated organic data.

semrush organic traffic


Granular attack of Penguin to pages need to be demoted in its rankings isn’t any more new to the search engine optimization community (in Penguin 2.0, it seemed to be on page-level and keyword-level concerns already). The only thing that becomes clearer here is the word, “more”, which we should all consider as we work on the website’s link acquisition campaigns.

It’s just that Google is taking on account page-to-page or a few website parts as its consideration for penalties. In that sense, you shouldn’t be confident enough to think that spammy link building tactics you are doing right now won’t have a negative effect to your website’s health in the future.

More Google Penguin 4.0 Resources:



I’ve worked with a lot of SEO agencies and digital marketing agencies all over the world, catering 100+ clients throughout my SEO corporate experience and there’s one thing people are still confused about:

Are exact match anchors good for my rankings?

When you answer them “YES” right away, they’ll defend you with their “NO”s and just tell you to use generic anchor texts, like click here and go to this site because they think this is the best anchor text strategy.


Exact match anchor texts aren’t bad all.

In fact, Ryan Stewart had an interesting short case study of how he was able to rank for Miami SEO after he published a guest post on Ahrefs with the exact match anchor text: “Miami SEO”.

ahrefs guest post webris

You don’t have to think about the anchor text distribution percentage in your backlink profile - say 3 percent or 5 percent.

You can test for yourself building one or two backlinks to your page with an exact match anchor text.

Don’t be afraid. Your site won’t get penalized with 1 or 2 backlinks. After all, if you have hundreds or thousands of backlinks, those 2 exact match anchor text links accounts to less than 1%.

Check how the site will react to those two backlinks and see what movements your page will take you (e.g. from position 40 to position 12). You’ll then also see how tight the competition is for the target keyword you’re trying to rank for.


It’s so easy to be stuck with the idea of anchor text ratios. While having to run other SEO activities like technical audit, content creation and outreach, you still have to think about how to establish a natural backlink profile.

Instead of getting a headache with that issue, focus on link type. After all, why do you need to create a list of anchor texts with exact/estimate percentage if you’re aiming for a natural link profile.

That itself is unnatural.

A natural link profile is composed of backlinks with different link types.

Here are some examples of different link types.

1. Community-based link

inbound org community backlink

2. Referential link

reference backlink

3. Blog comment link
blog comment backlink

Don’t focus too much on anchor text variations, but ensure that you are getting a variety of backlink types for your website.

Note: There’s one exception here, I’ve seen websites that focus only on contextual (both earned and built) and resource types of links and they didn’t acquired directory or citation links, but are still dominating SERPs. But if you’re into local SEO, it’s a must to combine those contextual and resource links with local-centric profiles/association/directory links.

But if your site is plainly getting directory and citation links, with a few to zero contextual backlinks, that looks unnatural.


If you are still thinking what anchor text strategy to use for your link building campaign, let me give you one simple tip.

If you are reaching out to bloggers in your industry (assuming it is a linker outreach approach), let them choose what anchor texts to use.

As a matter of fact, they wouldn’t tell you what anchor texts they choose. They’d only give you a heads-up if they have linked to your page and you’ll see the anchor texts for yourself.

Most of the time, backlinks built using linker outreach method are in descriptive anchor texts. The advantage of that type of anchor text is that they encourage clicks from users.

While links can help increase rankings, their other purpose is to drive referral traffic.

Letting bloggers choose how and in what section of the linking pages they’ll add anchor texts with backlinks to your webpage has an effect to the number of visitors those referring sites will drive back to your site. Backlinks placed on the higher position of the content have high chances of more clicks.

more clicks more referral visits

One good example of this is the number of conversions (email subs) I’ve got from my guest post on GotchSEO. That post itself drove 100+ impression with 60+ converted email subscribers. That backlink is aimed to be clicked given that it was placed under the bonuses section.

gotchseo email subs graph

In cases where you have a control over anchor text usage, i.e. content distribution on other blogs, it’s imperative to understand LSI and Co-occurrence as part of your overall anchor text strategy.


Co-occurrence s the frequency and proximity of similar keywords across one context in a content. These are topically relevant keywords but not exactly the same with your ranking keyword.

Instead of frequently using your ranking keyword as your anchor text to be exact match, what you can do is to place your target keyword near descriptive anchor texts.

One good example of this are co-occurrences within links to Kaiserthesage. Here are a few examples:

co occurence kaiserthesage 1

co occurence kaiserthesage moz

co occurence kaiserthesage reddit

co occurence kaiserthesage searchenginejournal

Google understands the relevance of a link without having to use exact match anchor texts all the time. Adding co-occurrences to linking pages can help search engines fully identify the context theme of your website with its linking webpages.


When a linkable asset has been ranking for several long tail keywords, it’d be strategic too find untapped match keywords your content isn’t primarily catering to.

These are keywords you tend to rank (or had some impressions on SERPs) because your content has been highly perceived by search engines as worthy to rank for pages 3 or so.. (may not be visible on the first two SERPs pages).

The advantage when monitoring new keywords is that you’ll be able to upgrade your own content to cater new audiences or be more desirable to rank for newly found organic ranking keywords by adding some topical sections to your piece.

What’s the implication of this to your anchor text link strategy?

If you’ve added a new section in your content piece to service to those new organic keywords, it’d be additional anchor texts to use for internal and external manual link building. This will add more trust and authority to your content and help it dominate searches for those newly found organic keywords.


There is no such activity of finding new ranking keywords to add to your current list of target anchor texts, as you don’t want to use them all for exact match link strategy.

However, when trying to add descriptive anchor texts to internal linking pages and to manually build linking pages (i.e. guest posts), you have to know what keyphrases are thematically relevant to your target keyword. Thus, it’d be easy for you to write robust content with LSI keywords and strategically do co-occurrences on links.

Two simple ways to find related search phrases of your target keywords.

First, do a straight Google search for the exact keyword or keyphrase you’re trying to rank for. You can try two different searches, one is with quotes, second is without. See at the bottom of search pages related search phrases Google provides based on the keyword you entered.

Second, just type in your keyword and wait for Google to suggest more specific/relevant search phrases. You’ll find out that some of them aren’t included in your keyword list from Google Keyword Planner or other common keyword research tools you use. They don’t need to always have high search volume to decide whether or not they are good to target for content pieces.

Watch this video from Ryan Stewart on how he was able to drive thousands of organic visits to his eCommerce blog without solely relying on keyword research tools. He was able to gather new topics even from Instagram observation.

If you ask me, where is this going to? The answer is adding more keyphrases for your anchor text link strategy to be used for LSI keywords for internal and external content assets and to be better at co-occurrences on backlinks.


I’ve been discussing how to find new organic keywords ranking in your content, plainly because these are useful for you to upgrade your content to its next version (or to 10x content if it hasn’t achieve yet).

While you can simply just focus on your content’s search results performance alone, you’d want to try seeing new organic keywords of similar content pieces, which is normally produced by your competitors.

The only difference of this process, which I’d like to label as “Content Gap Monitoring” with the typical, “content gap analysis” is that you’re doing it regularly – as if part of your monthly SEO or content marketing activity.

SEO agencies that want to test this process out doesn’t have to worry about the time it’ll consume to run the entire process, as it is scalable through the use of Ahrefs, as our primary content gap monitoring tool.

First step is to find similar competing content, only choose content assets that are specifically ranking for your target keyword. If you’ve done a robust competitor keyword research analysis as your first SEO initiatives, you can skip this part already.

Second step is to monitor new organic keywords of competing similar content assets. Go to Ahrefs, then click into Alerts - New Keywords.

ahref new keywords

Click add alert button at the right section.

ahrefs add alerts

Choose URL as its mode, so you’ll only receive list of new organic keywords that specific page has been acquiring, not the whole domain. For volume, the default, “All” is good so you can also see low volume keywords.

For email frequency, it’s your decision whether to receive those organic keyword-centric emails weekly or monthly, but I highly recommend you go with weekly, to upgrade your existing content for potential ranking keywords as sooner as possible.

add alert ahrefs anchor text


With the recent Google Penguin update (most SEOs believe that it is indeed real-time), our activity to continuously monitor our site’s incoming links and make sure there aren’t any negative SEO isn’t anymore a tedious task for us (SEOs/link builders).

If you have read posts on Google Penguin’s specific effects on SEO activities, there’s no need to take some serious efforts in removing existing bad/toxic links to your website, as Google tends to devalue them anyway. So if site has been receiving new low-quality links from a Negative SEO attack for example, the efforts now shouldn’t be focused on removing those types of links, but on continuously acquiring new high-quality backlinks for your site (this posts of mine on how to get backlinks and actionable link building strategies will help you a lot).

What’s the implication of this to my anchor text diversification?

In cases where those incoming toxic links are on exact match anchor texts, you don’t have to focus your efforts on removing them from your backlink profile, but in driving new high-quality backlinks to your site. Since websites are dealt on a granular basis, those bad links won’t be affecting your site as a whole, only on parts where it should be affected.

Nonetheless, link audit is still a must. Google states that bad links are simply being devalued, the possibility of needing to disavow more links is unlikely. However, if you have a lot of unnatural links and never disavowed them, you need to disavow them. It may be the reason why you’re still not recovering from the penalty.

You still have to do some ground work of disavowing bad links. But keep in mind that while doing it, the focus shouldn’t just be there, but more on helping your site continuously acquire good links to boost your site’s health over time.

If it’s actually real time, your site can easily get recovered (and some have proven this to happen to some fully/partially-recovered sites) and there’s a lot more work now to be put into a higher-level link acquisition.


Other posts on link audit (which I highly suggest need to be updated) talks about managing existing exact anchor text links by converting them into branded links.

In my own experience, filtering your exact match anchor texts based on their quality should be every one’s link builders/SEOs’ first initiative.

Don’t spend time converting low-quality exact match anchor texts to branded links, as these will be devalued (if it’s negative SEO attack) or if they’ve been built by your past SEOs (do link audit and link removal/link disavow).

What you have to focus now is checking on only existing high-quality exact match anchor text links. These links shouldn’t just be any type, i.e. directory or any massive link types, but only editorial links that are manually built, i.e. guest blog post.

Whether or not these high-quality exact match links are affecting parts of your website, you should still be converting them into branded links (as possible as you can), by manually reaching out to webmasters where you’ve contributed guest posts in the past. Ask them if they are capable of changing those exact match to branded types of links. This should help some parts of your site not to be negatively affected by real-time Penguin.

Further Reading: Anchor Strategy 101

Now It’s Your Turn…

How do you diversify your backlinks' anchor texts?

Or maybe you have a question on how to implement any of the insights in our above list?

Either way, leave a comment quick below.

I'll be more than happy to reply to comments and answer questions.

So if you have a question, insight or new tactic, leave a comment right now.

how many websites your link prospector should be looking for

How Many Websites Your Link Prospector Should Be Looking For?

You've identified your link building strategy, you've designated roles for your campaign, and now, your first step is to look for link opportunities relevant to your site.

But how many link targets do you need to look for every week?

how many websites your link prospector should be looking for

This is a recent question from a community user of Traffic Think Tank:

"What is the maximum number of link opportunities that your link prospectors find? Mine are assigned 300-400 per week. I often wonder whether that's a high number or a low number. It often takes about 6 weeks before new link prospectors hit that, so I feel it might be high. But would like to know how many all of your link prospectors find on average?

The basic answer to this question is: it depends.

Before you close this page, let me explain.

Your link prospecting starts even before you actually jump onto your Google search and type in industry keywords to find blogs or sites.

You plan the link prospecting campaign based on different factors. The rate of your link discovery depends on your own concluded decision specific to your client's or your website's needs.

These are the factors that will help you estimate the number of link prospects you have to discover every week:

  • Historical data (average or estimate link placement rate of your past link building campaigns)
  • Industry links per content on average (based on links on average per similar content assets in your industry)
  • Metrics stated on agreement (for agency alike)

Since these factors may require some thinking, I'll dig into each of the factors here.

Let's start.



If you've done link building campaigns in the past, you may have a data to look at and see how many links you generated from a number of link opportunities.

Remember that the data you will combine from two or three campaigns should correspond to the type of link building strategy you use.

For example, you can't combine historical data of link placement rate (manual links acquired over link prospects) of a broken link building campaign from data gathered in a guest blogging campaign.

These two campaigns are different in their approach and have their own sets of factors to consider.


If you have two or more link acquisition campaigns — for example, infographic outreach, you can check the average link placement rate by dividing the number of links you acquired over the link opportunities you discover.

In your next campaign, you'll now set a target based on the average link placement rate. Let's say you've got 4.6% based on your historical data.

If your goal is to reach at least 15 links per content asset for the site you're working on, a good number of link prospects' goal should be 326 websites.

Realistically, 450 to 500 websites or pages should be on your list, considering the fact that there are bounced emails, broken pages (404 pages) at the timing of your pitch, and so many other factors. So having an allowance of additional 100 to 150 is highly recommended.


If you're doing it for the first time, here is a good outreach placement rate: 5% to 7% range.

Siegemedia has this 5 to 7% outreach placement rate, to say the least.

Considering that the content you deliver to prospects is linkable, you are nailing it if the campaign reaches 5% of the total link prospects gathered to be actual links.

For broken link building, it may vary a little bit. In our experience at SharpRocket, 2 to 5% link placement rate is a good benchmark.

From that, you reverse engineer the number of linking websites you should be searching for.


The form of content you are pitching to matters in how many link opportunities you should be aiming for your content - which again, will depend on the root - outreach placement rate.

If you're pitching a high-end story, very localized in targeting, you may be getting a mid-to-high conversion rate, as it is very specific and could be exclusively covered by publishers.

Meanwhile, resource guides will require 300 to 500 links pages to expect at least a minimum of 10 resource links for a given linkable asset (for 2 to 5% link placement rate).

So, when knowing how many link opportunities you should be searching for in a given week, whether you are a solo link builder or an agency, you need to consider how linkable the content asset is and if's the type of content that gets the highest link reception.


Every vertical has different link landscape.

For example, lawyers don't tend to link out compared to mommy bloggers. That's not to say that lawyers can't give you a link. If it's highly local in nature and your content is highly linkable, you'll get a chance to acquire links for sure.

mommy blogger example

There are industries that don't use blogging as their main platform to earn money besides their profession.

But for mommy and fashion bloggers, they get some affiliate commissions and earnings from advertisements of different kinds online. Thus, they get more free time to engage in any online marketing activities including SEO and link building.

Consider this fact as you decide on the number of link opportunities for a given niche client.


The higher the number of link targets you can discover, the more time you'll have to spend in personalizing outreach emails.

This is a must to consider as you don't want to sacrifice quality of pitches just because you're looking for a higher number of link opportunities per week/month.

After all, the outcome is more important than the link opportunities rate.

If you are pursuing a larger size of link opportunities, you need to consider the time spent on personalizing your email pitches. Remember without proper personalization, you'll just lose the prospects, either they won't respond to your pitch (ignoring your emails overall) or delete them immediately as soon as it arrives.


Lastly, setting a benchmark for link prospecting should be considered in assessing how many link prospects you should look for in a given week.

The higher the benchmark is for metrics, let's say DA50 and above for all link targets, the less websites or pages you may be including in your link list.

That's not to say that benchmark isn't good; it's for assessing quality as a baseline.

Nonetheless you have to consider your metrics if you want to cast a wider net in link prospecting.



While there are many factors to consider in checking the average number of link opportunities your prospectors must look for either in a week or in a month: historical link data from past campaigns, type of content, industry, time spent on personalization and metrics, make sure to increase allowances in numbers.

By increasing more of the link prospects allowed, you increase the likelihood of getting more links for a given campaign.

new audiences for links

Finding and Leveraging New Audiences for Links

Leveraging new audiences is incredibly helpful in growing your brand's online community.

It's a great way to drive more traffic to your site given that you will be able to absorb other sites' existing followers through links being placed on their pages.

Growth in terms of links and traffic is one of topmost priorities for seeking new audiences for your website.

new audiences for links

In this post, I won't go deeper into conventional methods of finding and maximizing audiences of other publishers such as creating text-based content pieces (guest posts).

I'll be sharing a few insights to leverage your own existing content assets' reach and discovering other on-the-brand linkable audiences.

Let's get right to it.


It's easy to dive into creating content assets for other publishers. As relevant as they are, it's always a practical way of increasing your brand exposure for people who might find your content useful — and eventually capturing your content because of the value your content has been able to provide.

However, there's a probability of missing out opportunities your content assets have gotten success with already.

You can start by looking at your site's top ranking pages — pages that have ranked well not only for their target keywords but also for other multiple keywords within a singular topic.

SEMRush is a great tool in discovering these top pages through Organic Research.

semrush organic research

Go dig deeper to find what keyphrases those pages are ranking for. The Top Organic Keywords report shows you the entire list of keyphrases.

Filter the results of keywords by positions 21-50, which means you only want to see terms the page is ranking for on 21 to 50-ish range of search results.

You will only see now keyphrases where your specific page is ranking from positions third page of results, and further.

For example, this page, "Cyber Safety Guide" ranks for the keyphrase, "internet safety" while dominating for other 600+ relevant keywords. By checking, you'll see that there are keywords where makes sense to create subsequent articles just for them. Examples are cyberbullying picturesmalicious parents guide, and safety message ideas

Your existing content asset may be ranking well for those keywords (as it is perceived as being relevant to those queries), yet new pages can serve well for intents for each individual keywords. This leads to more ranking opportunities and more visibilities for your site.


In the hopes of building resource links, a lot of content publishers have started creating a series of content assets for different linkable audiences.

Given that these audiences are likely to link to your resource, as long as they fit the topic (e.g. ), it would be easy to create content, get links and grow your link profile.

For example, Affordable Colleges and DrugRehab have produced comprehensive guides for similar audiences (parents, teens, kids, teaching, PSTD, disabilities, etc..). 

While this is a good link building strategy of publishing different guides for different linkable audiences, there will be some disconnect brand-wise between linkable audiences and your customer profiles, if not planned carefully.

Every content publisher has to understand deeply their customer profiles (from top-view down to their execution of content creation).

This is important in order not to go too far away from their main blog's target audience. It's easy to create content for cancer patients, but when your customer profile does not include that, it would just be an additional piece to your blog that disconnects people from visitors to customers and are less likely to bring people from point A to point B of the customer journey.

I've been doing consulting with SEO agencies and brands lately, and I constantly tell people not to stretch their brand too much for the sake of creating content pieces for contextual links.

Getting links from off-the-brand links pages can help drive referral visitors but may not actually convert into customers, as the main offerings of the site do not fit to their specific profiles. Brands may get a lot of links from different guides for linkable audiences, but may not help in lead generation or conversion-wise.

This is why SEOs and content marketing agencies find it difficult to get buy-ins from marketing teams, execs, and content teams of their clients. Clients want to target direct consumers, but SEOs and link builders want to produce assets for other audiences. 

The key here is to exhaust all possible means of identifying the most relevant linkable audiences in your customer profiles (or if your direct customers are also one of linkable audiences - that would be a big advantage on your part).

Then, go look for other linkable audiences that are still relevant to areas within your customer avatars. Reaching far from your main customer audience (five levels sidewide relevance-wise) isn't practical when investing resources for content creation.

You can check out these comprehensive guides on link building and a cheat sheet of search engine queries


Another way of increasing your reach through finding new audiences is to find any non-competing brands in your industry.

If you offer very specific products or service  (definitely targeted to niche customers), there are three ways you can approach this:

  • Find similar brands but are serving other local cities.
  • Find brands with the same target audience but provide different offerings.
  • Find brands of different types (affiliates, eCommerce blogs, etc..).

For example, if you own an affiliate blog for dog owners, you can leverage eCommerce stores that directly sell dog food, supplies, or equipment.

If you offer personal injury legal services in Texas, find medical institutions with the same target audience in your target local city.


By looking at the locality, website type, and expanding your industry horizon of topics, you can discover content opportunities you can take advantage of. Invest in building content assets on your blog first, then produce relevant pieces for other relevant sites as well.

By leveraging new audiences, you don't lock your brand into the limited efforts and resources you can reach by your own. You tap into other brands or online communities with existing reach to targeted visitors.

how to find the most receptive linkers in your industry

How to Find The Most Receptive Linkers In Your Industry

Outreach for any marketing initiatives including link building requires proper timing. When publishers are at the moment when they need what you offer, the likelihood of getting the link increases.

It is at a content creators' most receptive timing that they consider an exemplary content, which is way more effective than begging them for links when you start promoting your online asset.

In this post, we'll cover the factors that would help you and I determine the highest receptivity of potential linkers.

how to find the most receptive linkers in your industry

Normally, writers and publishers from niche blogs and other publications don't have a non-stop writing schedule for their online content. They have their own sets of phase - from content ideation, research for references, drafting, proofreading, and publishing, which allows them to secure the finest quality in every detail of its content creation process.

Consider the intent of a content creator performing a search query for his research. He includes parts of other online references - pages from other websites that will be of useful information to the content he is producing.

Content parts may comprise of any of the following:

  • Answers to questions potential customers wanted to know
  • List of industry jargons and lexicons
  • Reactions and counter-arguments to the latest big trending industry news
  • Industry concepts that require explanation and guides
  • Updated national or local laws, regulations, and implementations (i.e. PH's tax table)

You can use Ahrefs' Question Feature for discovering questions your users are looking for in your industry. There are questions where there is a need for a more detailed article or even a shoot a video for better content consumption.

You may have to find and hire academic and industry experts to help you with industry jargons - pull them off and create a list of terms and definitions that will be of use to content publishers. There are a lot of glossaries. So, one you should be putting out must cover more entries and should have highlight examples that are most commonly used in the market.

Influencers (e.g. vloggers) now have the luxury of producing video reactions to latest trending news that would get buy-in and support from other content publishers (if done with finesse quality - i.e. practical advice or information on the subject matter).

For retailers, you can invest in content pieces that compare leading products or brands in your space. Search for any productA vs product B high search volume phrases in Ahrefs and start determining if it's worth producing into content. I mostly see fact charts and tables for comparisons, but if you want to stand out, you can make little efforts to interview experts for impartial reviews or opinions.


When a website has been updated just recently - i.e. last week, last month or even last 24 hours, there is a higher likelihood for response to an irresistible pitch.

With very little efforts, one can find these very hot link prospects.

If you're doing link prospecting for a while, you would find Tools filter to be extremely valuable in refining your backlink targets. You'll be able to see newly published pages.

There are a lot of things you can leverage on this part, but one you can completely observe is there are many industries where there are missing good quality photos. So if a recently published article has a mediocre image, you can quickly send a pitch providing a list of high-quality images they can use for their blogs.

Independent bloggers normally don't have graphic artists on their team, so this is a good way to appeal to content creators in your space. 

If you have a plethora of high-quality images, you can do a massive reverse search for these visual content. This is to ensure you monitor any non-attributed images you can reach out to and ask to credit images to your website.


Sending pitches to journalists who are looking for stories to cover on their publications requires a solid strategy for PR and link builders eyeing for big exposures. While it's an extremely difficult process for some, here are some guides I've found to be helpful for pitching journalists:

Journalists have timing where they are also at their highest receptivity. This is true when they already start looking for industry people to interview..

HARO is a great place to discover journalists seeking for stories your brand may be of interest. Another channel that is often underutilized is Twitter.

With a few Twitter searches, one can find enough available niche-specific story requests from journalists.

While most publication people would include #journorequest in their Tweets, you won't find this very often to be true.

Journalists normally use very classic terms that don't necessarily include the hashtag #journorequest. Here are some of the Twitter phrases you can use for discovery:

  • "looking to speak to" -#journorequest
  • "looking to interview" -#journorequest
  • "is there anyone" expert -#journorequest
  • "can you recommend" interview -#journorequest
  • "do you know" expert -#journorequest

There would be a lot of noise in Twitter search results, so you have to filter ones that are only journorequest and at the same time relevant to your industry.

One advantage of these non-common journorequest Twitter tweets is that they don't receive pitches as much as those users of #journorequest tweets that link builders and PRs reached out to.


We all aim for the highest receptivity in outreach emails. This is only possible if we are able to know and understand the stages where these content creators, potential linkers, and journalists are likely to respond.

With the above practical tips on strategic link prospecting for most receptive link targets, you'll able to expect more results in link performance.

Further Resources:

how to find backlinks

How to Find Backlinks Using Free and Paid Methodologies

Learning how to find backlinks shouldn't be too difficult for those people who are starting out in the SEO (link building) industry.

Given that there are proven ways to source pages that you can potentially earn or build links from, you only have to discover these methods, apply it to your own link building campaign and collect a solid list of available link opportunities.

The hardest part is not really finding backlinks, but the actual pursuit of them in outreach. So why give yourself too much difficulty? Get a quick headstart in looking for backlinks.

how to find backlinks

In this post, we'll cover primary methodologies in finding these backlinks that are easy to use. Follow each process carefully and get the most number of link opportunities in your space.

The Use of Link Building Tools

Just by taking a Google search for the keyphrase, "link building tools", you'll find all sorts of articles that curate quote and quote the best SEO software. Some of these tools are designed just for link building while others aid you with every activity in the SEO process.

Note: You may want to check out my own curation of recommended link building tools.

Going back, what I highly recommended is to check and try out tools that are designed just for link building. The reason behind is that they have the best features, or are best at delivering value in terms of speed, flexibility and results for a certain link building activity.

Let's start with the most-loved link building tool - Ahrefs.


Ahrefs is one of my go-to product in having a quick look at the best backlinks of a website. Whether it's a website of a competitor, a non-competing blog that produces high-quality content assets for similar topics our client also covers about or just by monitoring similar content production trends of websites from other industries, Ahrefs can provide with a solid view of backlinks.

In finding backlinks, Ahrefs can help in:

1. Viewing the best backlinks of a competitor.

Note: What we refer as competitors are local and/or niche brands or companies you're competing with for a specific offering (either products or services) that have their own websites and maybe are also pursuing organic growth for their business through SEO. If the competitor you know doesn't have its own website, you don't have to consider them as a search competitor.

In a case you don't who are your competitors are, try this out. Do a quick Google search for your primary keyword.

First page results for the keyphrase, "plumbing florida keyword"

All websites ranking in the first top spots of page 1 are possibly your search direct competitors. Of course, some may just be in a retail business having one page ranking for your target keyword and may not be the exact competitors you're looking for. Other pages maybe a curated list of products/services — so it's very important that you manually check each one of them and see if they are actually direct competitors of your offering.

Another method to find search direct competitors is to use Ahrefs competing domains feature.

Simply enter your domain in Ahrefs' Site Explorer and click Competing Domains. This will give you a rundown of domains competing with your website.

Site Explorer > Enter your domain > Competing domains

Once you already have a list of competitors, you can follow these steps to view all backlinks of their websites:

  1. Copy the domain of the website.
  2. Paste it on the Ahrefs' Site Explorer box for domain URL.
  3. Click the search button.
  4. Click on Backlinks under the Backlink profile (located at the upper left section).

ahrefs site explorer backlinks

Note: If you are looking for backlinks for a specific page, not the entire website, use the URL option of Ahrefs' Site Explorer. But in the case of a category or blog section, you should choose their Prefix option.

2. Getting the data of backlinks.

Ahrefs provides backlink data, which are components of backlinks that will give you hints of when and how links were built or earned. These data include:

  • Referring page (the exact website or page where the links was found)
  • Anchor text (the words or phrases that link to a target page)
  • Backlink (which page of the website has been linked to)
  • First seen or lost (when Ahrefs saw the link)

ahrefs backlinks data

By looking at the first set of backlinks and their respective backlink data, you'll have a preview understanding of how natural backlinks were built.

For example, if you see that most of the top backlinks have branded anchor texts, meaning that the title or brand of the website are the clickable words and of which are pointing to content (informational page) of the website, it might signal that backlink building were naturally or customly made, and not fully manipulated. That's not absolute, but can overall give you an idea of how they approach link building in general.

3. Filtering and sorting backlinks.

Part of finding backlinks is the ability to make high use of you what you've found or collected. In doing that, you need to filter your backlinks. Filtering helps you get the most out of your backlink prospecting, as you'll be able to separate the wheat from the chaff and do so much with your high-quality prospects.

There are different filters you can play with in Ahrefs platform, but filters are based on the purpose of your link building campaign - what type of links are you trying to acquire for your website.

If you are trying to improve search performance of a newly published content on your blog, then do-follow editorial links on blogs is the type of link that will suit you best.

To look for these do-follow editorial links in Ahrefs, choose Dofollow as your Link Type, Blogs in Platform and English for Language.

dofollow backlinks

Another example. If you want to know whose .edu websites are linking to your competitors and understand how they (competitor) got these links, you may use filters Educational as Link Type and English for Language.

educational backlinks

Now, you have a list of .edu links you can manually check for further understanding of how you could actually replicate them.

Filtering and sorting backlinks isn't only necessarily to get the desired links for a campaign purpose, but also in generating linkable content ideas.

To find these ideas, instead of going through the Backlink Profile section of Ahrefs, you may move to Pages section and click on either Best by Backlinks or Best by Links' Growth.

best by backlinks ahrefs feature

Through those filters, you will see pages that have the most number of links and referring domains. This will serve you well if you're brainstorming for topics for content that have high chances of earning consistent links in your industry.

Pro Tip: You can sort through your backlink prospects from highest to lowest of potential traffic from linking pages (pages where links are seen). This would help you customize your campaign to get links from valuable pages that would also earn links over time - these may drive more visits to your webpages (which will then possibly multiply to another set of links).

backlinks by traffic growth

4. Understanding how backlinks were formed.

Ahrefs does not only help you view backlinks of a competitor, get the desired backlink data, filter and sort them through to collect the most valuable links. The said tool can also aid in figuring out what approach has been used to facilitate link placements.

For example, if you will know the recent links built to a website, it will lead you to identify some patterns that may occur, i.e. the common page being targeted by these links.

In Ahrefs, you can filter backlinks based on recency (Ahrefs - Backlinks - Recent).

ahrefs recent backlinks

Take a quick scroll and look at the first page of links. It wouldn't take you longer to see common pages being linked to. In my example below, one of the visible linked-to pages is the scholarship page. That may simply imply that the website may have executed a scholarship program recently.

There are a lot of features Ahrefs can be useful for identifying linkable asset ideas and looking for straight backlink sources. Learn best from their regular tutorials, videos and blog.

Further Resources:

Link Prospector

I have been playing massively with Citation Labs' Link Prospector as a source of semi-qualified link prospects for a client of mine recently.

When I say semi-qualified, prospects exported from reports have been run through some tests already. Relevant link type (e.g. links page), relevance and quantifiable metrics, i.e. Domain Authority that are in place can help sort through multiple pages for a search query.

If you want to try out Citation Labs' Link Prospector, I have covered a short tutorial using that tool on this post.

citation labs platform

There are other tutorials Garrett and their team have published over the past years, which are extremely helpful to get the most out of it:

Search Engines

Not everyone has the luxury to subscribe to link building tools, so let's go over how you can use free means to find backlinks in your space.

The best way to start is through the use of search engines.

It's a no brainer thing for SEO professionals to start with this link search method, but I find it strange when agencies complain about expensive link building tools and yet not utilizing search engines for quality link prospecting.

To get the highest usage of search engines, the first discipline one has to master is strictly understanding how advanced search operators work.

A search engine operator is a character or string of characters used in a search engine query to narrow the focus of the search

It would be a huge hit if there is one perfect formula for combining industry phrases with advanced search operators. Far from the reality, there's no one you can find.

However, you can actually customize your entire search query (niche words and appropriate advanced search operators) based on the type of campaign or campaign audience.

Search queries by campaign type

Campaign type is anywhere from guest blogging, resource page link building, sponsorship or .edu link building campaign. The type of the campaign varies depending on the strategy or tactic being executed to get the links.

A search query for guest blogging is different from the one you use for broken link building. Different search queries cater to different kinds of page.

I've created a resource page that lists down all of search queries categorized by campaign types. I recommend that you download the pdf on the search engine queries cheatsheet and use them even whenever you want.

search engine queries cheatsheet

Search queries by campaign audience

By using a combination of inurl and intitle, you can actually target your search to a particular niche audience.

Examples of these search queries are:

  • inurl:"for parents" "savings"
  • intitle:"for kids" "science"

You may combine your campaign audience with the niche words to populate better search results. This approach is very helpful to refine your search results pages to just the exact pages for an audience within the industry.

Proper usage of patterns in manual link prospecting

Appropriate usage of search queries for a campaign type is a good way to collect your initial list of link prospects. But expanding your list is the challenge. How do you come up with more new prospects if you use the same search query (of a specific campaign type) over and over again.

The key is to understand patterns that can result into multiple of new pages of the same type (or a different link type all throughout) — where if you are curious enough can brainstorm a new link building strategy that you can test out for your website.

To better understand this, let me give you an example.

In my post about link building for car rental companies, I covered a link prospecting strategy that some of you haven't been using for your link search.

It's the method of identifying niche opportunity phrases on pages unique to those verticals.

For instance, in the transportation niche, you'll find pages with "getting there" or "getting here" as resource titles. If you're in a hurry prospecting, you'll miss out those resource titles and use inurl:resources "transportation" instead.

getthing there keyword search results

That pattern or footprint is the opportunity phrase itself, which can lead to multiple lists of qualified pages. Combine these phrases to a variety of advanced search operators and you would find a couple more prospects to quality for.

Another pattern you can check on is the specific common url a page has been built. For example, in most .edu sites, library guides pages are resource-like pages they normally publish. The page curates all research, data, news-worthy and other highly-academic content on a topic.

And if you're pursuing resource pages, you may use the exact name URL (libguides) to search for relevant libguides.

The search phrase would now be, inurl:libguides. Combine it with the niche (e.g. psychology) and you'll find libguide pages dedicated to psychology.

libguides keyword search results

Experimenting Search Queries

How to identify patterns and experiment search queries so you can produce more lists than your current list of websites?

First, gather your initial set of qualified pages (qualified meaning they've run through the relevance test yourself). You may prospect them with automation but you have to check those individual link targets manually.

Second, you look for patterns in URL. By URL meaning, you find what are the common words that occur in URLs. Aside from URLs, you may also check each individual qualified prospects. Be curious and ask yourself, do they have similar page titles? How about titles of categories or sections?

Lastly, get all similar phrases in URLs or titles, and experiment by combining them with advanced search operators. Start with inurl and intitle and get the ball rolling.

Using search engines for link prospecting may require mastery in picking up words and understanding advanced search operators. But when you have done it a couple of times, you'll get better at knowing which search query will best produce quality and relevant link prospects.

Track Relationships

Continuing your link search will not be effective if you forget to track all relationships of your brand and your website.

Let's first discuss all your brand's offline relationships.

Offline relationships can later turn into links in the online world. By identifying which of your partners have their own websites and which have the necessary means to be able to link to your site, you'll get better prospecting rate and conversion rate in terms of links.

Apparently, the more your brand is familiar with the person you're reaching out to for a link (most especially if you have established trust and relationship), the likelihood of getting the backlink is much higher.

Let's take a look at retail and manufacturing companies. If you have this type of company (or you're working for this kind), get an inventory of all your suppliers, manufacturers/retaillers, delivery service providers and other partners involved in the operations.

Then check if your partners have their own websites and collect all their contact information (may it be email address or phone number).

That similar strategy can also be applied to eCommerce websites. In fact, I've written different methods to maximize relationships for eCommerce brands in my post on eCommerce link building campaign - you may want to check that out.

Besides offline relationships, there are online connections that have started since the brand's website has started running. These connections may be in the form of editorial, promotional affinities or operational terms. Whatever it may be, it's recommended that you track them yourself and organize all the information in a spreadsheet.

If you don't know where to start, consider these questions: have you written any online columns for a publishing website before? Any online interviews of your founders, editors, or other staff members you remember? Have you worked with a group of affiliate bloggers who promoted your product/service years ago?

Links from Recurring Domains

By identifying online and offline connections, you are on the road of either reclaiming lost links or building new backlinks from recurring referring domains.

Lost backlinks are any links (as implies) lost during a technical issue or discretion of the publisher removing the link from the content (where you originally got the link).

lost links ahrefs

Before sending an email and aggressively tell the webmaster to "could you link again to this page - (your page)", consider these things.

Figure out why your link was removed. Is the page (or even the website) hosting the link was deleted? That is one example of a technical link removal.

If it's not and the hosting page is still live and your link was removed, check if it's the only external backlink ejected. Otherwise, there may be issues with your link (or content) alone.

Review your page/content. Is it off-topic this year? If it's outdated and the linking page requires information to be relevant for current times, it's unwise to reach out to the publisher and get the link back immediately.

That is just one example of how you understand why lost links were removed. It's a caution to first look at the possible reason, see what you can make changes with your content, and make possible corrections.

New backlinks from recurring domains, assuming these sites are authoritatve in your space, are beneficial for your website, as it signals trust and authority — which increase the value of your overall domain.

Get back over websites that have linked to you in the past. And see which are editorial in nature, i.e. links coming from publication websites. If you have contributed an article or column for them, why not reach out again and submit another high-quality content?

All of these shouldn't be done casually but rather make it as a continuous (regular) activity for any new connections that will come along the way.

To help you further, we've created a definitive guide that discusses how to get links through link reclamation - it's a good strategy to maximize value from publications who have used your content in the past.

Secondary Linking Pages

Several pages on the web are interlinked to each other. So, if you have a acquired a link from Page A, it's possible that Page A also acquires a link from another page (Page C). This continues as long as Page C remains to be relevant for linking.

On the first section of this link building guide, we covered how to find backlinks by reverse engineering a competitor's domain. By entering the domain URL in Ahrefs, you can quickly find its backlinks.

You can already get the ball rolling with the first list of backlinks you see in Ahrefs Site Explorer.

But if you want more of highly relevant link opportunities, you may consider secondary linking pages.

Secondary linking pages are pages linking to pages that are linked to you. In other words, they are second-level deep.

In Ahrefs, it's easy to spot on these secondary linking pages. The Domains column can help you figure out the number of unique referring domains linking to a referring page.

For example, I've got a good number of backlinks to this link building website (below is a quick overview of this site's backlink profile).

secondary referring pages ahrefs

If I want to go deeper and find secondary linking pages, I'd look for the number of Domains column, which as of the time of this writing, Ahrefs as my top linking page has 278 referring domains linking to it.

These 278 referring pages are already second-level deep. If I want to find more backlinks, I'd take a look at them, manually check and see which of these pages are qualified to be additional target blogs for outreach.

Finding secondary pages is a methodology you can execute both for your website and for your competitors' sites. Do it appropriate for your campaign and find more link opportunities.

Testing Out and Doubling on What Works

There is no sure one method of finding backlinks that are good for your site. The reason there are different tools is for you to test them out and see which benefits you the most. Patterns in URLs and titles are also guides to keep you collecting more link opportunities for campaign.

Don't forget, it all comes down to qualifying all your given blogs and websites, whether they come from an export of links using a link building tool, or a manual search through Google or a deep look at secondary pages of a competitor's domain. From whichever source, every potential link opportunity should be checked for quality — so all your next initiatives including outreach activities will be worthwhile.

Need help with your outreach campaigns? Check out our link building services here.



Skyscraper Technique Case Study

The "skyscraper technique" by Brian Dean of Backlinko, has reached its peak of popularity because of its easy-to-follow process yet has produced effective results for most people who executed the methodology.

Of course, not all have reaped the fruits of their labor, some have missed the objective of building and earning organic links through its skyscraped content (as well as rank for keywords/search terms that might impact their overall campaign).

Here are reasons listed by Ross Hudgens why the Skyscraper technique may not be working (or can fail):

  • Assuming skyscraper content (10x content) is an output of volume, not of quality.
  • Assuming content's ranking performance on search is solely based on its own quality, not who it comes from.
  • Quality of content is realized by the volume of efforts put into creation, not by the value it provides to its users (e.g. definition of terms queries requires mediocre yet succinct content, not bigger content piece, to satisfy its users).

Apparently, the aforementioned reasons do not totally disprove the effectiveness of "skyscraper technique".

With proper strategy and thorough execution on each individual phases of the process, I'd almost guarantee that you can hit your business' objectives with the skyscraper strategy.


In this post, I'll share actual samples of my workflow and thought-process - from content ideation, content production to the extensive promotion of skyscraper content.



Use keyword research tools (like Ahrefs' keyword explorer) to find topic phrases that have substantial search volume. The data should answer the question, "are there enough people looking for the topic?".

ahrefs sleep for kids search volume

Continue doing your research by looking for keyword variations. These keyword variations can help expand your content's reach when included in your content piece (as they can help your page rank for secondary keywords and other long-phrase keyword variations).

AutoSuggest and Related Search Phrases (located below of every SERPs) are handy features of Google that can help you find keyword variations of search terms.

Tip: You can use Ahrefs' Questions feature to discover related questions (which you can later select and include those you're capable of answering in your content asset).

ahrefs question feature


Get an idea of the linkability of the topic by looking at the first few pages of search results. See how many linking opportunities does each page obtains (with Moz you can glance it quickly).

sleep for kids google search results pages


During this point of process, you can choose to proceed to either of these two directions:

  1. Create content on the linkable topic and make it better than the first ranking pages for the target keyword/phrase.
  2. Choose one among the ranking pages, check if you can feasibly do better than it, and produce a more comprehensive content piece.

Whether you choose option 1 or 2, the mindset should be in accordance to the original Skyscraper process: find link-worthy content, make something even better and reach out to the right people.

For this case study, I choose option 2.

I've found one niche website that ranked for the keyphrase, "sleep for kids," - which is a microsite of an industry organization, National Sleep Foundation.

When we review the website, it only has 50~ indexed pages. Not all of these pages have valuable information about the main subject area (a content gap we can fill in the industry).

sleep for kids indexed pages

This leads us to choose this website as our starting point for creating the 10x cotnent.

This opportunity of discovering a topic-focused site rarely happens - but if you've found one, it is best to consider the following things:

  • How long does the site hasn't been updated?
  • How many pages does the entire website has? Are they all under the same subject area?
  • Are there any important topics not yet included that you can cover on your own content asset?

Strategize how to outdo the link-worthy content by creating an outline to visualize the outcome of your own content piece.

Make sure you look for important points that haven't been mentioned in their content. You can use Quora and Reddit to spot frequently-asked questions and cross-check them with their content (to see if those topics have been integrated).

quora questions skyscraper technique

Increase chances of your content piece to rank in search by optimizing it for other secondary keywords that your competitors' have included in their content.

You can use Cognitive Content Assistant tool to identify the exact keywords your content is missing as well as keywords you should use more often or less (in the case of keyword stuffing). Their Content Performance metric gives you an idea how likely your content is to be ranked higher up.

cognitiveseo content assistant tool

Moreover, incorporate any of the following content formats to better enhance the utility of your own content piece:

  • Visual asset (turn interesting data points to a remarkable image)
  • Case studies of your own (or of other entities/personalities you've asked permission to share on your own website)
  • Audio or videos that better explains important points of your subject
  • Interactive tools or elements to improve content consumption

As an example, we heavily invest in infographics for our client's content assets, only if there are data points that are be more valuable to present visually.

For example, the question found on Ahrefs' Questions feature (how much sleep for kids) can be best answered by gathering data points and turning it into an infographic.

You can easily these other content formats to other sites or leverage them as guest blogging content (see guestographics).

sleep for kids infographic

Overall, invest in making your content asset more valuable than your target link-worthy content (and than other competitors' content).

skyscraper content


Start reaching out to people who've linked to your competitors' content.

To increase your outreach campaigns' open rate (as well as response rate), invest time in crafting catchy and effective email subject lines. Here are some useful tips by Giselle Navaro (from her latest outreach article on SearchEngineLand).   

1. Be specific about the format of your content

subject line email pitch 1

2. Mention the site when it matters

subject line email pitch 2

3. Convey the email's purpose.

4. Pitch your content to journalists in their language

subject line email pitch 3

5. Choose a journalist’s headline as your subject line when following up

subject line email pitch 4

If it's a resource page you're trying to get links from, you can approach outreach by suggesting your content as an additional reference to their links page.

Another value proposition to make is to tell them about any broken links on their resource page (if you've found any) and propose your content piece alongside with a non-competitor content as replacements to their defunct links.

This outreach activity is included in another link acquisition process. Read our broken link building guide here with easy steps to follow.


Going back to our case study - sleep for kids guide, we've reached out to .edu librarians, other link curators, and webmasters who've have linked to the competitor's content.

acquired link 1

acquired link 2

We further looked for other industry bloggers who might potentially be interested in including our visual asset as a complimenting content to their existing articles.

Then, acquire high-quality links:

skyscraper acquire link 1

skyscraper acquire links 2

Securing links from these sites is only the first step. The relationships built with these webmasters can later on translate to additional relevant links to your other future content assets.

Need help with your skyscraper campaigns? Check out our link building services here.

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