How We Prospect a Good Link
When we at Web Vitality embark on a new link building campaign for a client, after starting with some content that is actually worthy of a link we then build out our outreach lists.
Over the years we have changed our technique for link prospecting over and over again. Rather than just build indiscriminate lists to outreach to we have found that being more selective with our lists produces much better response rates and results.
In the interests of transparency, we have decided to share with the world exactly what we look out for when link prospecting.
High Domain Authority
Like everybody else, we used to check the Google Toolbar Page Rank score first. Domain Authority from Moz has now replaced this and we generally only add websites with a DA of more than 20 to our list.
In some cases, a DA of 20 is too low depending on the niche. For starters though, this is where we begin.
DA is the overall score from Moz but we are not happy with just this and like to combine a few metrics to kick us off. In addition with a DA of 20 and above we also like to build with a Majestic Trust Flow score of 15 upwards.
The reason we do this is because domain authority alone in some cases can still produce poor results so if we combine it with a completely different source for trust we can be fairly certain that the link will be OK from a Penguin point of view.
Who else do they link to?
It’s important to take a quick look at who the site already links to. We obviously can’t spend too long on this as link prospecting would then take forever. It is important to take a quick look though as they link out willy nilly then you could be in danger of getting a link back from a bad site regardless of their other metrics.
What you are looking for here is links to other relevant websites and links that actually make sense to be there.
Ads On Pages
Websites with lots of advertisements on there should generally be avoided as they probably exist for that reason alone. These ads will be how the site makes money so they will focus on low-value content and try and get lots of it so they can generate more traffic to their own site.
Google also takes a very dim view of sites with too many ads for this reason.
We have in the past struggled with this one as in some cases we have ignored the relevance of the site we want the link from because it was a very strong link so we don’t simply want to tell everybody to make sure all your links are relevant.
If the site is really strong and you think you can get the link, then we would advise you to add it to your list.
The reason why we check for relevancy is that naturally it will look better to Google and will generally reap better results if you are contacting sites that are relevant to your site and the content you want the link to.
Does The Site Post Content Themselves?
We check for this so that we know the site is a legitimate well cared for site. How does this prove this I hear you say? It doesn’t 100% but our belief is that if a site owner is taking the time to publish their own content then they love their site and if they love their own site then it is probably a safe place for a link.
If the site only publishes other peoples content, then it probably only exists for search engine purposes so it is not worth the effort.
Real Social Profiles
This is a huge indicator for us. We like to see that our link prospects are not only active socially but they have real social profiles.
By real social profiles, we don’t mean profiles that just post the content that is on the site but profiles that actually get engagement i.e. comments, shares likes etc.
You don’t have to go mad with this but it is always good to see real people commenting and engaging with a profile and boils back to the trust element of the site existing for legitimate reasons rather than just links.
Make sure it’s not part of a link network
Google is cracking down on public and private blog networks so we always do a quick check to try and spot if our prospect is part of one. Depending on how clever the site owner is this might not be as easy as it sounds.
Don’t worry too much about it as it isn’t immediately obvious. Meaning, if you can’t spot the connections to other sites immediately and if the site stacks up to all of the other checks go for it.
Google will not penalise you for this they just won’t count the link. It’s worth checking though.
Most sites turn blog commenting off because they are sick of being spammed but d a check at the bottom of the sites blog to check.
If they have them switched on then see if the receive blog comments. If they do and they appear legitimate then we would definitely add this site to our list. We would do this because legitimate comments highlight that the site has a following so all other metrics after this would generally fall into place.
Only brave sites have comments turned on.
Out linking Page Authority
We want to make sure that the effort we are going to, to obtain the link will be worth it so our next check takes us to the pages where the site already links out.
We want to make sure that if the site offers followed links that they are worth getting. We take a look at links from say one or two months back and see if the page has any Page Authority (PA)
If it doesn’t then we make a decision on whether it will still be worth it. This largely depends on the size of our outreach list and the time it would take to get the link.
If it does (even some) then it gets added straight away.
Does the site charge for links?
We all know this is a massive grey area. If the site obviously charges for links, then we avoid it like the plague.
The truth is most sites will not blatantly say they charge so it’s difficult not to include them in your prospecting list. Instead once you outreach to them, they will contact you and say they charge and offer you a price.
Paying for links is bad so we will let you decide how you move on from that email.
No Follow Vs Followed
Always check if your prospecting sites links out using followed links or no followed. Our advice here is not really to care and just to be aware.
Although no followed links don’t pass any SEO strength it does help you diversify your link profile and help keep it natural. If the site passes all other trust metrics, then it’s worth adding some no followed opportunities to your list.
Not something that makes or breaks a site but if you can find an email address you can sure your outreach email is more personal.
There are services out there that scrape the site looking for email addresses so if there isn’t an obvious address still add it to your list and come back to it at the end.
If there is no email address, there might be a Twitter handle or a contact form. When this is the case we usually say this in our spreadsheet so we can outreach to the sites with an email address first as these generally get better responses.
Has the site suffered any form of penalty?
Unfortunately, this is a deal breaker for us even if they have now recovered. We know it shouldn’t be but our thinking is that if they have been penalised before they could be again so we tend to leave them out of our lists.
We don’t want to say that you must do this as a lot of sites that have been penalised will have learned their lesson and won’t do anything wrong again. If your list is healthy without adding them, why take the risk? If it isn’t then we would suggest making a note of it and using them only if you have to.
Any easy way to spot previously penalised sites it to run them through a service like SEMrush or Search Metrics and map their traffic against known update releases. If you see large dips around these dates, then that’s a big enough indicator.
Is there an opportunity for long term relationships?
These are our favourites. The probably with links is that depending on where they get placed they can diminish in strength as time goes on.
When looking for links we always check for the possibility for regular spots. This way we can continue to contribute content and keep our links fresh.
Top quality sites, in general, will always look for regular contributors and will generally stack up to the other metrics. Remember the biggest link building successes come as a result of long-term relationships so try and build them where possible.
To summarise when looking to build out a link prospective link we take into account all of the above and try and tick as many boxes as possible. It is almost never possible to tick all of the boxes so we urge people to use your best judgement and focus on the trust indicators. After looking at thousands of links spotting the good from the bad becomes second nature.
Until it does though using the above will help keep you on the straight and narrow.
For help with your online marketing check out our SEO services page and get in touch with us.