The Best Tools for Link Building
If there’s one thing that we can all agree on, it’s this: Link building is hard. Here are 10 tools that Vertical Measures considers crucial for a link development team’s efficiency, and helps ensure we’re finding the highest quality opportunities for our clients.
1. Advanced Search Commands (Free)
The oldest and most reliable method for identifying linking opportunities are advanced search commands in Google. If you have brands or clients that are frequently mentioned on Google and/or Google News, a simple search such as: “Company” –site:companywebsite.com, will often turn up dozens of opportunities, depending on how often your brand is mentioned across the web.
The advantage of “Unlinked Brand Mentions” is that, if your business is already being mentioned on a website, it’s only natural for webmasters to link out to the website they’re already mentioning to create a better user experience (UX) for their site’s visitors.
Advanced search commands can be great for identifying resource pages for leveraging a linkable asset. A search command that our team uses frequently is a combination of a targeted keyword phrase and “inurl:resources”.
For example, “digital marketing” inurl:resources, will turn up resource pages that are directly related to digital marketing.
2. Moz (Paid)
Moz is the single most helpful tool for qualifying linkable opportunities. While it’s far from perfect, Domain Authority and Page Authority are the two best indicators of how healthy a site is and the benefits that will be gained by earning a link.
The MozBar is convenient when scanning the SERPs for the top opportunities. At Vertical Measures, we strive to only acquire links with a domain authority of at least 30 and having the MozBar activated allows us to be more efficient. In addition, the ability to look at the number of backlinks for both the page and domain level is helpful for understanding the value of any given opportunity.
3. Majestic / Ahrefs (Both Paid)
Majestic and Ahrefs serve the same purpose for link development. While Ahrefs will usually identify more links than Majestic and has a great feature for identifying broken links for additional link building opportunities, I like the user experience for Majestic much better and feel like the information is more reliable.
The two biggest benefits from these tools are identifying existing backlinks and top linkable assets on both your site as well as the competitions’. These tools are crucial for understanding what content has the highest likelihood of attracting links, as well as what types of domains your competition is currently earning links on.
If you’re just starting out a link development campaign, examining backlinks and top-linked to content is a great place to start. Look at what your competition is doing to earn links, and produce something of higher quality.
4. URL Profiler (Paid)
URL Profiler only serves one purpose for our team, and that’s to identify Domain and Page Authority for all the backlinks we want to examine from Ahrefs/Majestic/Moz. Typically, I will compile a master list of backlinks from Ahrefs, Majestic and Moz, deduplicate the results and upload all at once.
Once a list of backlinks has been compiled, we run them through URL Profiler so that our team can be more efficient when searching through a backlink profile with thousands of potential opportunities. To make the process even more efficient, I’ll often run this same list of URLs through Screaming Frog to look at just the 200 status opportunities.
A “200 Status” is the standard response for successful HTTP requests. When our team run a spider (or crawl), these status codes help us identify pages that are still considered “live”. This helps us avoid combing through 404 status pages or 301 redirects that might bring us to a page we’re not expecting. In other words, it allows us to be more efficient when looking through all the data.
5. SEMRush (Paid)
While the main function of SEMRush for most SEO teams is to track keywords, our link development team uses a combination of traffic estimates, top organic keywords, top anchor text and top backlinks to determine if a site is reliable. Reviewing these factors in conjunction with Domain Authority helps our team feel confident that the opportunity they’ve identified is, “penalty-proof”.
- Traffic Estimates: We look to see if the traffic has consistent traffic and if there have been any recent drops that would indicate a penalty.
- Top Organic Keywords: Verifying that the ranking keywords for the site make sense and there isn’t anything irrelevant.
- Top Anchor Text: Like the “Top Organic Keywords”, verifying that there isn’t any anchor text that looks out of place.
- Top Backlinks: Identifying any large quantity of backlinks that are coming from a questionable source.
SEMRush has a clean look and is easy to navigate, making it easy to grab useful information quickly.
6. BuzzStream (Paid)
BuzzStream is a really important tool if you have more than one person on an outreach team. The platform allows link specialists to send personalized, relationship building outreach without the concern that anyone on the team is contacting the same webmaster.
The customer support is second to none, and they constantly check in to see how things are going and if there is any way they can improve on their existing platform.
One of the best features of BuzzStream is that it automatically reminds our link development team if they should send follow-up e-mails from their initial outreach. We’ve found that at least 10% of our links come from our follow up emails, so having the ability to follow-up efficiently is a great feature of the platform.
Another feature that saves our team a lot of time is BuzzStream’s link monitoring. Instead of our link developers spending time manually checking to see if a link has been added from their thousands of outreach e-mails, they automatically informed when a link has gone live.
7. Google Alerts & IFTTT (Free)
Setting this up takes a long time on the front end, simply because it is a multi-step process for each term you are looking to track. However, it will pay dividends for clients in the long run, especially if it is a brand that is mentioned frequently on Google news.
While there are other tools that will alert you when your brand is mentioned, I’ve found that having these all go to a centralized google document helps me keep all my outreach organized in one place. Furthermore, you can customize your spreadsheet however you want. Even going as far as to sync with outlook to send out pre-drafted e-mails with the click of a button.
If you check your Google drive, there should be a folder labeled IFTTT. If so, you’ve set everything up correctly, and depending on your brand presence, you should see the sheet start to populate over the next 24 hours. This same approach works for any of your branded keywords, as well as non-branded keywords that are relevant to your business.
The advantage to this approach is that you don’t need to retroactively go back and find unlinked mentions from the past year. You can pick the top opportunities and reach out immediately after your brand has been mentioned.
This is an extremely helpful tool for our team at Vertical Measures and cuts down on time manually searching for unlinked mentions and increases the likelihood of success because of the timeliness of our outreach.
8. G-infinity (Free)
Simple in nature, G-infinity makes it easier for our link developers to review a lot of domains in the SERP without having to navigate between multiple pages. The other benefit to G-infinity is if a link builder is looking for a specific keyword, “Ctrl + F” can scan more metadata at once for a specific keyword.
9. Bulk URL Opener (Free)
Of all the tools that are mentioned in this post, Bulk URL Opener is probably the least impactful, however, it does save the annoyance of manually entering individual URL browsers hundreds of times. I recommend using batches of 10 URLs at a time, anything more than that can become difficult to navigate.
10. Check My Links (Free)
Check My Links is another easy to use tool that is great to use while identifying opportunities. The program scans the page that you are looking at and highlights any valid, redirecting or invalid links. Our link developers are trained to use this tool when researching opportunities, and if a broken link is found, it is a great ice-breaker for starting out an initial outreach e-mail.
If you can equip your team with these tools, they will go a long way in improving the success of a link development campaign. If your company only has the budget for a couple of the paid tools above, the most beneficial to have are Moz and SEMRush, because of the variety of features they both offer. Everything else that these tools do not cover can usually be managed on their own, depending on the size of the campaign you are running.
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About Billy Adams
Billy Adams started his career in 2011 working for a marketing agency in Boston, MA where he worked closely with clients such as Toyota, Verizon and UMASS Football. Since joining the Vertical Measures team in 2015, Billy has moved from a Link Development Specialist to SEO Specialist and now heads up the entire Link Development side of the business.
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