Last week we talked about how to get lots of link prospect URLs fast, and in this post we'll walk through how you can then qualify the big list of links you accumulated in step one.
As we mentioned in that post,
In fact, most of the people you'll identify as possible prospects through traditional means will be some combination of:
- Irrelevant - Some of the potential targets you pull up in your research won't really be targets at all (often you'll find competitors, sites that are dormant or don't link out, etc.)
- Unresponsive - If you are creating content and generating a "traditional" link outreach list, a large number of possible linkers won't respond to your emails.
- Slow to Respond - Additionally you'll also often run into linkers who just take their time getting around to your request.
So it's important to try to layer filters on top of your data so that you can spend your time and energy in only the highest impact areas. Let's get started.
Understand What Type of Link Building You're Doing
After we posted our article on linkbaiting and getting a link from the New York Times, Adam from the Seer Interactive blog (which is excellent by the way) had a really well-thought out response. There was some agreeing to disagree in the exchange, but the main take-away in this context is that there are a lot of different types of links, and a variety of ways to drive traffic and sales via link building. Before you start to qualify link prospects, you want to understand what your focus is.
For our purposes here, we'll assume we're not taking a spray and pray type of approach and are going to try to identify viable prospects who are high-quality targets we can have a legitimate exchange with.
Since the process for outreach here is going to be time-consuming once we select a final list of targets (we'll want to evaluate each site, understand the types of content they link to, and compose a personal email, and hopefully develop a relationship for further link building) we want to make sure we do a good job floating the highest-return outreach prospects.
Filtering Your List: Three Tips for Prioritizing Outreach
In the first post in this series, we got a list of "raw URLs" that we think, based on the fact that we identified them via specific query operators using Ontolo's Link Building Query Generator, could be good link prospects (link "suspects"). Now we'll take that to the next level and narrow the list using one (or more) of the following three methods:
- Use SEO for FireFox Data to Filter Your List
- Use Custom Filters in Excel to Remove Less Interesting Link Prospects
- Review the List Manually
1. Use SEO for FireFox Data to Filter Your List
An SEO for FireFox exportation, which we mentioned in the last post, can give you all kinds of great data. First you need to configure the tool to determine what the output of the tool will look like:
Some great items for you to start to sort by to prioritize your link outreach include Google cache data, Yahoo Page Links, OSE links to the page, and Page Rank.
All of the above metrics are directionally indicative as you look for link prospects -- you won't conclusively find better prospects based solely on any one or combination of these metrics, but they are fantastic metrics for prioritizing which links to hit first within a list of link prospects.
I find that page rank is increasingly less useful for sifting through link prospects, mainly because it seems to be less frequently updated. I love cache date as a measure of the relevance of a page in link outreach (as cache date is the new Page Rank) and I find a combined metric that tallies the Yahoo! page links and the OSE page links is also a nice metric for prioritizing link outreach.
You can leverage this data in a variety of ways, but a process I find helpful is:
- Apply conditional formatting to the cache date column to see which URLs are being crawled frequently
- Create a new column for a "total score" that uses a formula to incorporate the link numbers and the page rank metric
- Sort by the total score you've created and scan for high alert (read: recently cached) opportunities based on your conditional formatting
This typically does a great job of surfacing the best link outreach opportunities.
2. Use Custom Filters in Excel to Remove Less Interesting Prospects
If you used the Really Simple Google Results bookmarklet or if you just want to add on an additional filter for your SEO for FireFox list refinement process you can do this by applying some filters to the list of URLs in Excel. Here are two ideas that often help eliminate bad prospects:
- Content Mills - A great way to clean up any link prospecting list is simply to remove all of the content mills publishing content around basically every topic on the Web, as you won't find anyone to contact there to help you add your content to their lists - you'll develop a list of your own over time but a good starting point would be excluding:
- Outreach Stop Words - In much the same way that you'd use negative keywords in a PPC campaign, there are probably some irrelevant terms you're already aware of through your outreach that you want to avoid in URLs - filter them out now so you're not spending time eliminating this URL manually later on.
This won't get you to a well-refined list and certainly isn't as powerful a process as the first idea outlined, but it does give you a nice filter to eliminate some junk.
3. Filter the List Manually
If you have a pretty solid list of a few hundred emails, you can actually mine the list manually. Using SEO for Firefox output data or using either the SEO Book Toolbar or the SEOMoz Moz Bar you can quickly identify good link prospects yourself.
Alternatively, if you have a larger list of outreach prospects you can actually outsource much of the review process for relatively cheap using services like ODesk or Mechanical Turk, or if you have interns available they can also help with this qualification process. Ben Willis from Ontolo has a couple of great videos on each of these processes:
Moving from Prospecting to the Active Outreach Phase
You'll have to find your own process for qualifying link prospects. It may not look exactly like any of the above, but hopefully the pieces outlined here will provide you with some useful tools for widdling down your link outreach list so that you can actually perform the outreach. In the next installment of this series, we'll talk about another part of the link building process: making your link building list "outreach ready".