A Roadmap for Safe and Efficient Link Prospecting

Link Building January 10th, 2017

Outreach is an essential part of SEO, and I’m sure not even Matt Cutts would argue that. But with almost 1 billion websites live on the internet and counting, you may be struggling to find the right sites to contact. Between finding sites relevant to your niche and making sure they aren’t toxic to your link profile, a lot of time and effort can be spent prior to even sending the first email! Learn more about the benefits of a strong link profile in our post on link juice.

This post is going to show you step-by-step how to drastically speed up your outreach prospecting while maintaining the health of your current backlink profile.

Step 1: Get the right tools

Just as Bruce Wayne is not Batman without a utility belt, all good SEOs need an extensive toolset. Here is a list of the extensions and services we will be using in this tutorial:

 *Note: For our purposes today, the only subscription required is Majestic SEO.

Step 2: Link Prospector by Citation Labs

The good folks at Whitespark teamed up with Citation Labs and made an awesome tool that really takes a lot of the legwork out of the job. The Link Prospector comes with one free trial (they’ll email you a credit or two pro bono a couple of days after your first report) or there are five different account tiers to choose from. If you’re unfamiliar with the Link Prospector, Point Blank SEO put together a great tutorial that I advise checking out right now.

Once logged into Link Prospector, create your new Campaign and click on the ‘Find Prospects’ button. There are several report types from which you can choose, however for this tutorial I recommend selecting “Guest Posting”. After you’ve entered in your research phrases and clicked Submit, it usually takes the prospector 10 to 15 minutes to complete the report.

video source: citations labs

Once your report has been generated, it’s important to click on the ‘Add SEOmoz Domain Authority’ button which is to the right of the ‘Export Paths’ button at the top of your report. You should see a green confirmation box appear:

Step 3: SEO tools for Excel

If you do not already have the SEO Tools for Excel plug-in by Niels Bosma installed, it’s time to do so right now. Don’t worry…I’ll wait!

Okay, so right now you should have SEO Tools installed and your export sitting in front of you. Click on the ‘SeoTools’ tab on your Excel ribbon and then click the MajesticSEO button.

You will be prompted to authorize access to your Majestic account by supplying your credentials. Excluding the header, copy column A (Domain) and paste into the Url(s) portion of the plug-in. Uncheck ‘Item’ under Fields and place your cursor in cell G1. Click ‘Insert’ at the bottom of the plug-in to begin pulling in the MajesticSEO metrics.

Now that the Majestic SEO metrics have been populated we need to find the ratio of Trust Flow to Citation Flow for each site. This ratio is an important metric as it is a nice high-level indicator that a website might have potential issues in its link profile. A site that is high in Citation Flow but low in Trust Flow can indicate that the site has a risky backlink profile. Sites that are higher in Trust Flow than Citation Flow tend to be higher quality and safer sites. Ideally, we are looking for a ratio of TF/CF that is 0.70 or higher.

In cell I2 enter in the formula =h2/g2 and use the Excel fill handle to populate the remaining sites. Next click Copy > Paste Special > Values on column I to work with the actual numbers rather than the formulas. Name this header ‘Ratio’

Step 4: Format Your Prospect List

Now that we have all of the necessary data it’s time to make this data manageable. This is very easy to do and accomplished in only a couple of steps. First, hide all of the columns except ‘DA’ & ‘Ratio’. Next, we need to remove the noise. This is done by highlighting column A and going to ‘Conditional Formatting’ which is located on the ‘Home’ tab on the Excel ribbon. Under Conditional Formatting click on Highlight Cell Rules > Text That Contains… and a dialog box should appear:

Replace the word ‘Domain’ with ‘wordpress’ and click ‘OK’. Repeat this Conditional Formatting again, except with the term ‘blogspot’. Repeat a third time with the term ‘tumblr’. Feel free to repeat this process as many times as you need to remove as much noise as possible (I’m assuming you don’t want to put effort towards earning links from Blogspot and WordPress subdomains).

Next, place the data set into a dynamic table by selecting cell A1 and pressing Ctrl+T on your keyboard. A ‘Create Table’ dialog box should appear:

Press OK.

Click the newly appeared filter arrow for column A and click on Sort by color > Pink cell. Now select all the colored rows and right click > delete.

It’s now time to color code your prospects for easy identification. Select your ‘DA’ column and go to Conditional Formatting > Highlight Cells Rules > Greater Than…

Change the number in the dialog box to a value just below the minimum Moz Domain Authority that you’d be willing to target for placements. As a rule of thumb, we use 29.99 but different thresholds are used in different situations. Change the drop down to ‘Green Fill with Dark Green Text’. Click ‘OK’. With your ‘DA’ column still selected go back to Conditional Formatting > Highlight Cells Rules > Less Than…

Put 30 (in this example) into the dialog box and leave the drop-down as ‘Light Red Fill with Dark Red Text’.

We will now do the same thing to our ‘Ratio’ column except with different numbers. Select your ‘Ratio’ column and go to Conditional Formatting > Highlight Cells Rules > Greater Than…

Change the number in the dialog box to 29.99 (or whatever threshold you choose) and the drop down to ‘Green Fill with Dark Green Text’. Click ‘OK’. With your ‘Ratio’ column still selected go back to Conditional Formatting > Highlight Cells Rules > Less Than…

So right now, aside from any #DIV/0! errors, all of our numbers should be color coded. The last step is to filter your ‘DA’ column from ‘Largest to Smallest’ and then start your outreach campaign!

Although this isn’t the end all be all, following these steps should prove quite helpful in reducing the amount of time and clutter when starting an outreach campaign. I recommend adding two additional columns: ‘Outreach Date’ and ‘Comments’ to help keep track of your progress, or upload this list into your preferred contact management system.


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Author Bio: Originally from New Jersey, Brett Bastello relocated to San Diego after graduating from the University of Pittsburgh. Currently working in SEO, Brett’s primary duty is white-hat link building. His likes include Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, the Pittsburgh Penguins, and hip-hop music. He dislikes ketchup with a seething passion.

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