Sometimes when you take on a clients SEO campaign, you can hit a brick wall when finding new link opportunities. There are a number of great strategies you use to find new links. Of course you can chase citations if it’s a local campaign….and all successful campaigns also nowadays normally have a strong social component. Depending on what’s working for you, you may also be into PBNs, or guest posting, or both. If you haven’t tried it already, you can also try broken link building. I wrote an article on it here: How To Use Broken Links To Your Advantage – Dead Link Building Strategies.
However finding links relevant to your market, or thoise your competitors alreadt have, is another great strategy.
Below I explain two strategies I use regularly. One is using software, and one is manually finding competitor links, with the help of free, or semi free tools.
Software – Citation Labs Link Prospector
Citationlabs.com have been around a while and provide a range of paid tools for both enterprise and smaller clients. Their tools include link prospecting, broken link building, co-citation tools, and outreach. I use the link prospecting tool quite a bit, and it produces pretty good results normally.
To get started, sign up here: https://linkprospector.citationlabs.com. Create a new campaign and name it. Click “Find New Prospects” and you’ll be taken to a screen where you can select the type of link to prospect. These include commenting, blogs, guest posts, forums, and many more. Click to the next screen and here you can add in your keywords / research phrases. The advanced tab also allows you to select locations and other options, which is handy for local campaigns.
Once you done, hit start, and the software will start prospecting for relevant places you can add a link relevant to your key word or research phase.
You’ll will be emailed the report, at which point you can take the required steps to gain a link.
Prices are based on credits. You can choose to pay monthly, or pay as you go, which is how I use it normally. Minimum purchase is 5 credits at $1 per credit, which will get you five campaigns.
I pretty well use the software if I’m in a rush, or exhausted manual prospecting. It normally provides good results if I can’t find any others manually.
Using Ahrefs.com Link Intersect To Find Competitors Links
Ahrefs.com does provide limited free use, so it’s worth using it for a range of strategies. However you can also sign up to a free 7 day trial, before they charge you $99 per month.
As mentioned above, a great way to find quality links is reverse engineering your competitors.
Let’s use an example of “flower delivery”. If you had a site for flower deliveries, it makes sense to try and obtain links the same as or similar to those website that are ranking well already.
So I’ll simply do a Google search for “flower delivery“. Keep in mind this is a very broad example, and I would normally be much more granular, such as using the location, or type in the search.
From the page 1 results, I might then choose 2 sites that are doing well.
Copy and pastes these links into a notepad, and head on over to ahrefs.com. Select “More” from the menu, and then select link intersect. Add the competitor domains in the top fields, and your link target domain in the bottom field. For this example I found a site on page 3.
Hit “Show Link Opportunities” and it will bring back a list of all the links that the other two sites have in common, and importantly that your site does not. So essentially it uses co-citation to determine common link prospects that your successful competitors have.
What I really like about this strategy is that it’s super simple and fast to implement, but the concept is sound and makes so much sense. One thing you should be aware of is that not all sites can be treated the same. ie, a very large directory site may have a large amount of low quality links. The site can absorb them due to it’s strength, but these links may not be beneficial for your smaller sites.
For this reason, I always try and select sites of a similar nature to the one I targeting. The results that are pulled back are much more likely to be relevant to your target.
Blog commenting has always had it’s place in the tool box for an SEO. It has a bit of a chequered history, and recently (the last 2 or 3 years) the benefit they actually have to an SEO campaign has polarised much of the industry. Inherently a blog comment on a blog has a positive impact both for the blog and the commenter. They are simply to create and add a backlink. Because of this it wasn’t long before creative gurus were developing software to build comments en masse. Popular software that can do this include SENuke or GSA Ser. Quickly blog commenting gained a reputation as being overly spammy. 35,000 comment links to your site will do that!
I still use comment links all the time. IMO, it’s not if, but how you use them.
What Is A Comment Link?
Most blogs have a section at the bottom of a post for adding a comment. The foundation idea is to engage with the author of the post and interact with the blog. Inherently this is a good thing. It’s shows the blog post is quality content, people are taking interest, and interacting, and it further produces user generated content for the blog. When you add a comment, many times there is a field to add a URL, or even add a naked URL or HTML in the comment text field. When the comment, is published, it creates an inbound link to your URL. Links can be a mixture of both do-follow and no-follow, and also either be indexed or not indexed. There is a pretty good explanation here on that.
So wouldn’t it make sense that if you comment on a quality post that is relevant to your website, that it should be beneficial as an inbound link. Absolutely. I cringe when I hear people say that blog comments don’t work anymore, and will even hurt your site. Yes that can be true if used in the wrong way.
The way I used them is two fold. First I want a quality comment, then I want to build authority and trust thought that comment to my site. So the first thing is, you need to know how to find quality blog posts to comment on.
How To Find Quality Blog Posts To Comment On
You can use manual search string queries to achieve this, but it’s easier to use a free cheap tool to do this for you. DropMyLink.com is a fantastic free tool that’s easy to use.
For this example I’m using the comment software Intense Debate(the reason for this will be made clear later on, but with my strategy it’s very important). The other comment software I target in this strategy is Disqus.com. To clarify, there are a number of different comment systems that bloggers can use on their websites. Intense Debate can be targeted with DropMyLink. Disqus is not integrated into DropMyLink, but I’ll show how to find these later in the article.
How Filter The Blog Comment Urls
DropMyLink will generate a search query string in Google for the criteria you have set. Each of the URLs delivered, theoretically should have a section to add a comment, in this case using the Intense Debate system.
When I first started chasing comments, I simply used the DA and PA parameters as shown in the image above, to determine the quality of a blog post. The days I get much more granular. The blog post must be highly relevant, have some authority, and I’ll generally do a further audit for the page and site using SEMRush or Ahrefs.com. I want to know that the blog post has some quality. Another quick check is how many other comments the post has. If it has over 100 I’ll probably pass, as it can be and indication of comment spam (bad neighborhood). I want to see a few comments already as then I know the page is getting traffic and is somewhat engaging.
Adding The Comment
So if you’ve never implemented comment linking before, it’s pretty easy to assume that you just simply add the comment and move on to the next. In this example, we are only wanting to use blogs that host comments with wither IntenseDebate.com or Disqus.com.
The reason I like using these two platforms (and this is the key to the whole strategy) is that both have a profile dashboard. Just like anyother profile dashboard, you can add a heap of information and other links, plus all blogs you’ve commented on will be linked as well.
Here are example dashboards of both:
A Disqus.com profile includes a “nofollow” URL. IntenseDebate has a “follow” tag on the outbound link to your other properties including your website.
Disqus Profile Indexed In Google
If you’ve following this post all the way through, you may of had that “light bulb” moment already. But some of you may be asking, “ok that’s great, but how does is benefit my site?”
The reason I like this strategy is firstly I can go and simply find high quality, highly relevant blogs to post a comment and add a link back to a profile quickly and easily, which then links out to my site or properties. Both IntenseDebate and Disqus are highly trusted sites in their own right. IntenseDebate.com has a Moz DA of 76, and an ahrefs DR of 64, and Disqus.com has a DA of 97, and a DR of 79.
So essentially, as you accumulate comments and start to build the profile with highly relevant content (from the comments), you end up with highly relevant, quality comment links, inbound to the profile page which is also highly relevant and trusted, which then links to your website or other properties. You could almost call it “comment syndication”, or comment stacking.
With both platforms, you also have the option to just leave your website link as you would with any other comment platform, so if you don’t want to link through the profile you don’t have to.
So in my humble opinion, I certainly don’t believe comment linking is dead. It just requires a little more tought and context. With all SEO strategies, you sometimes need to block out the noise and work it through rationally yourself first before you form an opinion.
Broken link building has been around a while. It’s probably a little more advanced than some strategies, but it can be a very effective way of finding powerful links that otherwise would seem out of reach. The typical way is to reach out to a blog or site within a market you are promoting, find their broken links, tell them about their broken links, and maybe in return ask that they add your site as a resource. This is obviously a very white hat strategy, relative to other ways to do this. What I show here is not exactly white hat, and certainly are against Googles webmaster guidelines, but it’s effective.
What Is A Broken Link?
A broken link is simply a link on a website that does not go any where, or renders a 404 error when clicked. There are a number of reasons this can happen. The website where the link goes to has been shut down or expired. The page has been removed, or even the URL is incorrect. The broken link on the site is considered not great practice by Google. It makes sense, as if a user tries to click on a link and they get an error, it’s not a great user experience. So you can consider this a negative ranking signal in Google. To check if you have broken links, there are plenty of resources.
So broken links are not great on your own site, but how can you use other peoples broken links to help your strategy? Essentially the concept and theory is that by finding broken links on another relevant site in your market, or even a large authority site such as wikipedia.org or a major news organisation, with the right tools, you can quickly and easily drill down to the links that you can “acquire as your own”. Once you “own” that link, you can do what ever you want with it. You can direct it your site, a social property, or anywhere that you deem appropriate.
A Word Of Caution
This strategy can easily get you into trouble if you don’t know what you are doing. For that reason I recommend you test on a site you can afford to lose. Not so much due to the process of acquiring that link, but you need to have experience and understand how to do the research to understand if that link will provide enough quality and relevance to your campaign
How To Find Relevant Broken Links
So the first thing you need to do is find the links. The 2 tools you can use are ahrefs.com, or one of my favourites Domain Hunter Gatherer. While I mentioned in a another post that SEMrush and Ahrefs.com are my two most used tools, DHG comes a very close 3rd. I actually only started using it about 18 months ago, and I’m kicking myself I didn’t use it earlier. It’s basically just a scraper, but dedicated to finding auctions and expired domains quickly and easily at the click of a button. The filters are very very good, and it also now has and expired Web 2.0 finder.
Using Ahrefs.com To Find Broken Links
As an example, let’s say you have a website in the UK. A great link to acquire would be from bbc.co.uk. This site obviously has a massive amount of trust (in googles eyes) and one of the largest in the country. A link from this site is beneficial. In the post FRED update however you probably still want to be careful how you use it. More on that later.
Head on over to ahrefs.com and type in the domain you want to check for broken links. Keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be a massive authority domain, but it will be more likely there will be more broken links to find. You could search a competitor (these are awesome links), or a larger site within the particular market or niche.
Once you are on the next screen, you’ll be provided a list of broken links on the website. You can then export them to a .csv file.
How To Use The Broken Links
So now you have a list of links, what so you do with them? Firstly, you need to clean them up, meaning you should trim the links to the root, so you end up with a list of domains. Also remove any duplicates. I’m not going to show you how to do this here. There are some simple Excel tutorials on Youtube you should look up.
Then head on over to Namecheap bulk domain search and enter the domain names in bulk. I like Namecheap as they consistently have the cheapest domains around, and also have a very easy to use interface. I also find that their DNS changes are very fast, so I don’t have to wait a day for DNS changes to take effect. They have had some bad press in the past but I think they’ve really improved in the last year. Great support also.
Keep in mind that you can only add 50 domains at a time.
Next you’ll be presented with a list of domains, and hopefully some will be available. If not, check the next 50 until you find one.
So now you have found a domain that has a link from bbc.co.uk. At this stage before purchasing, I will go and do some further checks, including backlinks, and audit with SEMRush and also a check with the Whayback Machine.
If I’m happy with the domain I will purchase it. These days, I will get quite granular with the domain checking process. ie, for what purpose do I want to use it? Is it relevant? Does it have other quality links? etc. etc. Auditing the quality of a domain is a whole other process. But for the simplicity of our example here, we now can own a domain with a link from the BBC.
At this point you have a number of options. You could build a PBN site on this domain, you could 301 redirect to your site, or you could 301 redirect to a buffer site. ie. to a web 2.0 or social property. It’s completely up to you, but be aware you need to be know of what you’re doing.
Using Domain Hunter Gatherer To Find Broken Links
Using Domain Hunter Gatherer is much simpler and essentially a push button method. I’ve had good success using this software, and also doing manually as above. The nice thing about DHG is that you setup up the crawl to find broken links in about 2 minutes, and then let it run in the background while you continue with other tasks.This how I use the software, and it works really well. The stats that are pulled back also reduce time in then checking the metrics of the domain.
Rather that go through a step by step how to guide, DHG already have some great tutorials on how to use it and the features. The video below shows how to find expired domains with links from authority sites.
Which Method Is Best?
To be honest I use both methods all the time. For me it actually depends how much time I have, and what sort of mood I’m in. They both work well, and you will also at times find different results. Neither will scrape every single domain on the net, even though they say they will.