In my experience, it’s not difficult to find link prospects – it’s very difficult to find link prospects that are highly qualified, relevant, and have a high likelihood of linking to your website.
Link builders can spend hours upon hours vetting link prospects – the end result only being a handful of worthwhile link prospects.
In the end, link building is a numbers game. The less time you can spend manually weeding out dud link prospects, the more time you can spend on outreach and landing links.
Before visiting any URLs, these are a few of the steps I take when pruning a big list of link prospects to help cut down on the amount of time needed to build links.
TLDs – Non US Pages
There may be non-US Top Level Domains (TLD) in your list of link prospects that are worth weeding out. I tend to automatically exclude TLDs like .cn, .jp, and .ru. You may or may not want to exclude other English speaking TLDs like .ca, .co.uk, and .co.au. I will sometimes leave in domains like .de or .fr where a high percentage of the population can speak English.
Anchor Text Foreign Language
Similar to the logic behind excluding certain TLDs, it’s fairly easy to filter out anchor text that does not use the Latin alphabet. Those link prospects should likely be excluded from your final list.
Check Page Titles
We use Majestic as our backlink analysis tool, and they provide page title data, which comes in handy for vetting link prospects.
If you have a list of links pages, for example, you should probably avoid link exchange pages, reciprocal links pages, or other pages set up in a way that Google would deem manipulative of their ranking algorithms.
Two sites that link to each other in a natural and tasteful way is not necessarily a bad thing. However, pages that are set up for the sole purpose of exchanging links and are done so in a blatant and obvious way can generally be seen as a red flag. Adam elaborates on this in his post Link Exchange in 2018: Yes or No?
Use Excel to filter out any pages that contain “exchange” or “reciprocal” keywords. You can also do the same for any page titles that are in a foreign language.
Same logic as checking page titles. Pages that are set up for the sole purpose of exchanging links are often set up as something like /reciprocal-links or /link-exchange. Use caution and your own discretion when vetting these link prospects.
Majestic has a handy feature that lets you know about backlinks that may not be ideal link prospects. These can include:
- Nofollow links: A nofollow tag was added to the site, instructing crawlers (like a Google bot) to not “follow” or crawl the link
- Frame: The webpage has embedded another webpage
- Deleted: The link was recently removed from the webpage
- Image: The hyperlink exists as an image instead of anchor text
I find that I always have better luck with short URLs. Static URL pages like /resources are generally set up as evergreen content that will be revised on an ongoing basis. Whereas dynamically generated URLs, blog posts, and other pages that are not designed to be edited on a regular basis tend to have much longer URLs.
Use the =len function in Excel to find the character length of URLs, which should give you another way to prioritize your link prospects.
Source External Links
Any sites have guidelines or restrictions on the type of sites that you link out to, like only linking to government agencies or non-profits. There’s no easy way to identify those sites from the get-go but you can look at something like source external links to see the total number of external domains that a webpage is linking to.
The logic is that if a page links to many sites, they are more likely willing to link to your website as well. That is not always the case, and this doesn’t mean that you should avoid link prospects with low external links numbers. It’s just another factor to consider when prioritizing link targets.
Wiki & Forum Sites
Sometimes forum sites are a great avenue for link building, but typically I find that forums are only worthwhile if they are highly relevant and are reputable.
Wiki sites, or sites that are designed so that anyone can edit the page, are typically low-quality link prospects that provide little to no SEO value. In the early days of SEO, wiki sites were used to quickly create links with unnatural anchor text that were created for the sole purpose of gaming Google’s ranking algorithm. To this day, Wiki sites carry a bit of an ad reputation in the SEO world. It’s usually best to exclude them from your link prospects list.
Both of these website types can be found by filtering URLs and/or page titles (see above).
Got any other tips for refining your list of link prospects or weeding out bad ones? Let me know!