By SUJAN PATEL at Search Engine Journal
Yes, prospecting for link building opportunities and reaching out to webmasters to drive new links back to your website can be done for free – but there are plenty of great tools out there that can make the process much easier and much faster!
Check out any of the following options if you need a kick in the pants to take your link building campaigns to the next level:
Tool #1 – Majestic SEO
Majestic SEO is a website browser that allows you to see which sites are linking to your competitors’ pages, allowing you to both determine how difficult it will be to beat them in the SERPs and identify new opportunities to build links back to your own site. The program offers a free report for any site you control (which can be especially useful in ensuring link sources are still linking back to your website), though to access the full spectrum of data this site provides, you’ll need to upgrade to the paid version.
Tool #2 – Open Site Explorer
The SEOMoz Open Site Explorer offers similar features as MajesticSEO, although you’re able to access slightly more information with this program’s free version. Enter your competitors’ websites into the tool and pay special attention to their Inbound Links, Linking Domains and Anchor Text – all of which may help inform your own link building strategy. For even more access, including data on social shares across Facebook, Google+ and Twitter, consider upgrading to the paid version of the tool.
Tool #3 – Raven Tools
Raven Tools’ SEO Tools feature isn’t cheap (plans start at $99/month), but the data this program gives you access to is well worth the expense. Specifically, take a look at the company’s Link Manager program, which allows you to research potential link partners, automatically grab webmaster contact information and send standard link request messages – all from within the same, easy-to-navigate window.
Tool #4 – Ahrefs
Chuck Price, writing for Search Engine Journal, calls Ahrefs, “the best link building tool you’ve never heard of” – and a quick glance at the programs features and functionality demonstrates why. The program’s Backlink Analysis features provides an unprecedented amount of information about a site’s inbound links, including each link’s ALR rating (a measure of the estimated number of visitors following each link per month). This tool allows you to quickly prioritize link prospects and ensure the partners you’re contacting will result in the biggest gains for your site.
Tool #5 – Link Research Tools
Link Research Tool’s Competitive Landscape Analyzer doesn’t just identify potential sites you could contact for links, it goes much, much further. For example, the tool’s unique programming allows it to determine whether you should focus more on SEO or branding links, how your existing link profile compares to your competitors’ and why you may have lost rank within the SERPs. With plans starting at $199/month, this intuitive tool isn’t cheap, but can make a big difference for more advanced webmasters who are operating in competitive niches.
Tool #6 – SEOMoz PRO
SEOMoz PRO isn’t just about link building – it’s a complete SEO management program that allows users to take advantage of SEOMoz’s industry leading knowledge regarding on-site optimization practices, link building techniques and social media marketing. At $99/month, it’s priced competitively with similar programs (including Raven Tools and Ahrefs) and offers more than enough information and tools to keep most webmasters busy for quite a while!
Tool #7 – MozBar
The SEOMoz MozBar program is a free Firefox and Chrome extension that automatically displays loads of valuable link prospecting information within your browser window. For example, the toolbar highlights “no-follow” versus “follow” links, internal and external links, and the presence of specific keywords, allowing you to see – at a glance – which links and keywords your competitors are targeting.
Tool #8 – Ontolo
Like Raven Tools and Link Research Tools, Ontolo offers a comprehensive suite of link research tools for a monthly fee, starting at $97/month. However, this innovative program offers a few unique features that set it apart from these competitors, including automated link prospecting and enhanced competitor link profiling that take much of the tedious “guess work” out of link building. It’s a great option if you’re strapped for time and would rather analyze a presorted list of link prospects than generate your own.
Tool #9 – Market Samurai
Although Market Samurai tends to be more useful as a keyword research tool, it does have a few modules that can be useful for link building activities. Specifically, the “Find Content” module allows you to track down article directories, blogs and other web resources – all of which represent potential link building opportunities. And with a one-time fee of $149, this option can be a much cheaper program to add to your link building arsenal that Raven Tools, Link Research Tools and other programs that require a monthly subscription.
Tool #10 – Tout
Tout isn’t a link building program at all – instead, it’s an email management solution that helps you to extract contact information from websites, automatically create new email messages and copy in template message texts, all with the click of a single button. If you struggle with the process of contacting every potential link partner you turn up with your prospecting efforts, you’ll find programs like Tout to be immensely helpful.
Tool #11 – BuzzStream
BuzzStream offers a comprehensive link management system, including modules that focus on link research, prospect relationship management, and backlink tracking and analysis. It’s highly regarded by industry leader Search Engine Watch, and is one of the few programs of its type that offers starting plans at a price point under $30/month. This makes it a great option for beginning webmasters who may not need the more advanced features provided by programs like Ontolo, Raven Tools or Link Research Tools.
Tool #12 – WhoLinkstoMe
WhoLinkstoMe is a reporting service that provides analytics reports detailing all of a given site’s existing backlinks. The service offers various subscription levels (at various price points, of course), but overall, the program’s reports can be extremely useful in terms of better understanding your site’s existing backlink profile and identifying potential weak areas that should be corrected.
Tool #13 – Wordtracker’s Link Builder
Wordtracker’s Link Builder Tool is a relatively new entry into the link prospecting program market, but it’s already receiving accolades due to Wordtracker’s long-standing reputation for providing quality products. Where the Tool excels is its ability to identify link prospects quickly and sort them into relevant categories, allowing you to pursue only the links that make the most sense for your business. And at $69/month, it’s a cheaper solution for this specific activity than the programs offered by Raven Tools, Link Research Tools and other higher-end tools.
Tool #14 – Advanced Link Manager
Advanced Link Manager is another comprehensive SEO solution which combines on-site optimization analysis with link prospecting and relationship management tools. The program offers several different “levels”, each of which is suited to different types of users, including webmasters, SEO professionals and more. Of particular interest to some readers will be the company’s policy of giving away free licenses to industry bloggers, so be sure to check out this specific link building program if you think you might qualify.
Tool #15 – Amazon’s Mechanical Turk
Amazon’s Mechanical Turk isn’t specifically a link building platform (it’s actually a micro-hiring program that can be used to complete a number of different tasks), it is possible to automate the process of link building using this service. For more details on how to set up this system, check out Ben Wills’ article on Ontolo titled, “How to Review 5,000 Link Prospects & Collect 1,500 Contacts for $525 with Amazon’s Mechanical Turk.
Sujan Patel is the co-founder of Single Grain, an SEO Agency based in San Francisco, CA. Single Grain specializes in helping start ups and Fortune 500 companies with their digital marketing strategy.