By now most of us know that any sort of automated link building (or buying) service isn’t going to go out and build awesome links in bulk. Theoretically it may provide some ROI, but it’ll likely be short-lived, and either way it wouldn’t be safe to build a whole strategy around the tactic.
Conversely, manual link building is a time-consuming process involving planning, research, content creation, outreach, and more. With a successful campaign the ROI can be tremendous despite all that time invested. Fortunately, we have some tools that provide assistance in this otherwise difficult task from SEOmoz, SEO Book, Raven, MajesticSEO and others.
But I’ve found there are still some small holes in the link builders’ toolkit, whether that be in research, monitoring, outreach, etc. The following are some of the processes that I would love to have automated by a tool, but are either too difficult to build on my own or are really just impossible. Nevertheless, I hope I can spark some conversation at the very least. Without further adieu:
Instant Alert for Citation Mentions
Will Critchlow of Distilled built a rough draft of this very tool in his post on SEOmoz. The tool monitors the web via Google Alerts, and at the first sign of an unlinked mention of a company, the tool alerts the SEO, providing a quick target for outreach.
“Hi there, I’m writing from Company X. We’re doing a bit of outreach to build company awareness, and I stumbled upon your blog post/article that mentions us. I was wondering if you’d consider linking to us where you’ve mentioned my company…”
Ideally, the tool works fast, as the author is much more likely to make a quick edit for a recent post. As an added bonus, this tool would provide the Twitter handle or email address of the post’s author, as described in a later ‘dream’ tool.
Competitor Link Monitoring 404 Follower
A brilliant link building tactic that has been discussed in the past is doing competitive research to determine where links to your competitions’ domains send a 404. Again, this provides an awesome outreach target:
“Hi. I noticed your link to Company X’s website is no longer working. I thought you might find this page a suitable replacement: URL…”
A tool to continuously monitor your competitors’ backlinks and alert you in the event of a 404 would be fantastic. Once again, bonus points if the tool could provide contact information to the linking site with the alert.
Successful Linkbait Campaign Finder
Working at a web marketing agency I’m faced with the task of getting a grasp on a niche relatively quick. New clients would love to hit the ground running with link building campaigns, and I can’t blame them. But their niche could very well be uncharted territory for me or anyone in the office. It’d be foolish to say I knew what the influencers in this niche love to share without doing some research.
That’s where this tool that locates the past successful linkbait campaigns in the niche would be invaluable. Hypothetically, the SEO could provide this tool with a seed list of domains in the niche, the tool would expand to include more within this broad ‘neighborhood’, and would return the linkbait most often shared.
An alternative approach would be a search mashup that when queried with a niche would return the blog posts, videos, infographics, and other embeds that have received the most links and shares. In other words, a modern search engine without on-page or domain level off-page signals. A bit more difficult, but I’d imagine popular bookmarking services like Delicious could provide context for URLs and domains with collective users’ tags.
Guest Post Opportunity Finder
Here’s a tool idea that is really just a mashup of a related sites or ‘neighborhood’ finder tool and a set of advanced search queries.
Provide a niche, or a seed set of related domains, and this tool returns related domains that have allowed guest posts in the past (using a simple “guest post” OR “guest author” OR, etc. query). Bonus points, yet again, for contact details of target blogs.
Ever since the demise of the effectiveness of Yahoo’s Site Explorer, I’ve bemoaned the inability to query a set of backlinks’ on-page content. I most often did this to get a feel for a company or their competitors’ link building successes with widget or other embeddable content. Oh, “linkdomain:domain.com ‘embed footprint'” query, how I miss thee.
My coworker Justin Briggs blogged about an alternative, which involved creating a Google custom search engine. This approach is brilliant, but is time-consuming and has some limitations.
My hypothetical tool wouldn’t have to be too different from the functionality that Site Explorer used to have. Provide the tool with a domain, which returns links to that domain, then allows the SEO to query the page content of those linking URLs.
An enhancement would be a tool that detects similar text surrounding a set of backlinks, so the SEOs query could be just a domain or URL, and the tool returns backlinks that may be from embeddable content.
A True Social Shares / Link Building Mashup
With an ever-growing importance on social signals, I think its time to start including this data in our backlink reports. Of course, easier said than done. But a tool that returns a top pages report for a domain, a la Open Site Explorer, combined with the number of tweets, FB shares, upvotes, Stumbles, etc., would be fantastic.
Contact Details Retriever
I’ve referenced this hypothetical tool more than once with good reason; it’s a time consuming and arduous task. I’ve also included it last on my list because not only would it be incredibly useful, but it’s probably impossible to build to return reliable results (and maybe illegal?). Shame.
But, in theory, we’d provide this tool with a set of outreach target URLs or domains, and it would return Twitter handles and email addresses on the page. Technically, not an impossible task, but how would we know we’re receiving THE contact details?
Automated link building isn’t the greatest way to build links, but automating pieces of link building with some of the above hypothetical tools would decrease the necessary investment, and allow SEOs to focus more on being creative and providing greater return.
If you’re looking for some more link building discussion, the Distilled guys are running two link building conferences – in New Orleans on 25th March (book here) and in London on 18th March (book here). The focus is on actionable tips and tricks so if you need more links, these events are the places to be.