Websites don’t get backlinks by accident.
They build them by investing a lot of resources in identifying their link targets, creating link-worthy content assets, and reaching out to the editors and website owners who can give them backlinks.
That first part, identifying link targets, is called link prospecting in SEO terms.
The success of your link building and SEO strategy heavily relies on your link prospecting.
This article will explain how link prospecting works, share the steps involved in it, and the different methods you can use to find link-building opportunities.
Link prospecting is the process of identifying the websites from which you can get backlinks to your content. It helps you optimize your link-building efforts and reduces costs by allowing you to focus on the backlink sources that matter.
Prospecting is a crucial step in the link-building process, one that requires careful planning and a blend of technical and creative skills.
Link prospecting tells you a lot more than just the URLs of your target sites.
Here are some of the main things you learn with link prospecting.
- The exact pages/articles you can target for link building
- The highest and lowest value links in your niche
- What link-building strategies you’ll need to use.
- The number of links you need to rank for a keyword
- How long it would take you (days/weeks/months) to get backlinks
- The resources you’ll need to invest in link building
- The type of content you need to get backlinks
- The content quality you need to create
- The link-worthy assets you need to create to increase your chances of getting links
- The people you need to connect with to get backlinks
And many other important things.
Investing resources into link building without link prospecting is like putting money into a business without knowing whether it’s profitable or not.
And no, running a few Google searches to find guest blogging opportunities is not link prospecting (it’s only a small part of it).
So read the rest of this article carefully if you don’t want to waste your SEO and link-building budgets on useless and irrelevant links that’ll hardly move the needle for your site’s rankings.
Link prospecting for SaaS websites is different from regular blogs and affiliate sites. You need to consider the long-term impact of a link on your site and mostly focus on high-quality white-hat link-building opportunities.
Here’s how you should perform link prospecting for your SaaS website.
Link prospecting always comes before content creation.
Why? Because, ultimately, your objective with content creation is to drive relevant traffic to your site from search engines.
This is, of course, not possible without getting high-quality links to your content.
It doesn’t make sense to jump to the content creation phase without knowing where you’ll get your links from.
This is the reason why the vast majority of websites (more than 95%) have zero backlinks.
This also explains why more than 90% of web pages indexed in Google Search get no organic traffic at all since there’s a direct relationship between links and search rankings.
Performing link prospecting before content creation is essential because without analyzing the content that’s currently ranking for your target keywords and understanding why it has so many backlinks, you can’t plan your content.
Are sites linking to it because of its images, data, or a unique perspective on an old topic?
You won’t know what kind of content to create unless you perform detailed link prospecting.
The first step in link prospecting is identifying the kind of backlinks you want to build to your website.
Not all backlinks are equal.
Backlinks from relevant and high-authority sites can boost your rankings, while too many links from shady and low-quality sites can get you penalized by Google’s search algorithms.
So before you start looking for links, define your search criteria.
Here are the things you need to consider when evaluating a site for link building.
Domain Authority(DA)/Domain Rating(DR)
Moz calls it DA, and Ahrefs calls it DR.
Both are pretty similar concepts, and Google officially endorses neither.
But they still matter.
DA/DR score of a website shows its overall search authority based on the quality of its backlink profile.
You can view it using Ahrefs or Moz’s free Chrome toolbar extension.
Backlinks from high DA/DR sites are more powerful and increase your rankings faster.
However, it’s generally challenging to get backlinks from sites with a 50+ DA/DR score.
But you also don’t want to get links from sites below DA/DR 25 because they’re either low-quality sites or sites with weak link profiles.
Your best chance of getting reasonably strong links is by targeting the sits between DA/DR score of 30-50. That’s the sweet spot.
As your site gains more backlinks and authority, higher authority sites will also be happy to link to you.
Links from sites relevant to your niche or connected in some way to your topic are more valuable than links from entirely irrelevant sites.
Too many irrelevant links can get you in trouble with Google’s algorithms and might get you penalized.
For example, links to a cosmetic brand website from a health & wellness blog make sense. But links to the same site from an automobile blog or a pet training blog won’t make much sense.
So when you’re evaluating link opportunities, make sure the sites you shortlist for link building aren’t completely irrelevant to your site’s topic.
A Private Blog Network (PBN) is a chain of seemingly unrelated sites owned and managed by the same entity.
Without going into the details, just understand that links from Private Blog Networks (PBNs), or sites with too many PBN links, can prove fatal for your SaaS website.
Before shortlisting a site for link building, run background checks to ensure it’s not a part of a PBN or has too many dubious links pointing to it.
But identifying PBNs is hard, which is why I’d recommend consulting an SEO expert to filter out any such links.
TrustFlow is a score assigned by Majestic (an SEO tool) based on the quality of links pointing to a site (the higher, the better).
Generally, you should avoid getting links from sites with a TrustFlow score of under 10.
What kind of link-building tactics are you ready to use for your site?
For example, you might find that your competitors have lots of links from blog comments, web directories, article submission sites, and even PBNs.
Are you ok with replicating those links to your site? If not, do you have any alternate source for links?
If you’re looking for ideas, do read our link-building guide for different ways to get backlinks.
Once you’ve defined your backlink criteria, it’s time to target the lowest-hanging fruits first.
I’m talking about finding the top content that’s currently ranking for your target keywords and targeting the sites that have linked to it.
For example, if you’re targeting the keyword “email marketing tips”, you know that the sites linking to this keyword’s top-ranking content are already interested in this topic.
Now you can create more articles in their niche and offer it to them, or even try to outdo the article they’re already linking to with your own content.
After that, your only job is to send outreach emails to all those sites and persuade them to link to your article.
Here’s how you’ll find these link opportunities.
Go to Ahrefs Keyword Explorer, and search for your target keyword.
The keyword we’ve mentioned has around 2000 monthly searches.
Scroll down to the SERP overview report, which shows the top-ranking pages for this keyword.
Focus on the Domains column in this report. It shows the number of unique backlinks to a page in the SERPs.
All the sites linking to these pages are your potential targets.
Click on the number in the Domains column for the first page in this list.
You can now see all the websites that are linking to the first URL in our previous screenshot (“https://coschedule.com/blog/email-marketing-tips/”)
Many of these sites have linked to multiple pages on Coschedule.com.
You can view the linked pages for every site in this list by clicking on the dropdown in the “Links To Target” column.
Now your job is simple.
Shortlist the sites that are linking to this page based on your backlink criteria. Do this for every one of the top ten search results for your target keyword.
This will give you hundreds of potential sites that are already interested in your topic and are perfect link prospects.
Let’s flip our approach and analyze your closest competitors to find their top link sources.
This is even easier.
Search for any competitor in Ahrefs Site Explorer.
Let’s continue with our email marketing example and search for ConvertKit, a popular email marketing, and automation tool.
Ahrefs shows ConvertKit has more than 45 thousand unique domains pointing to it.
Most of them will be ideal targets for your link-building campaigns as well. Let’s click on the Referring Domains score to view its full report.
Apply the Dofollow filter to this report and sort the results by DR score.
This will show you the highest authority Dofollow links pointing to your competitor’s site.
Click on the “Links To Target” score of any domain to see the exact pages they’re linking to on ConvertKit.com.
You’ll find that most of these links are going to different articles on the ConvertKit blog. You can easily replicate this and reach out to these sites for links.
Guest blogging is a proven and 100% white-hat method to build high-authority links to your site. Additionally, it increases your brand’s credibility, sends you referral traffic, and opens up new partnership opportunities.
Finding guest blogging opportunities (that meet your link criteria) needs to be one of your top link prospecting activities.
But how do you find relevant guest blogging opportunities in your niche?
By using different Google Search operators.
Start with the simple ones like
[your niche/topic]+guest post
[your niche/topic]+guest author
[your niche/topic]+guest posting guidelines
[your niche/topic]+write for us
[your niche/topic]+become a contributor
If you enable MozBar in your browser, you’ll also be able to see the Domain Authority of every result for your search query. This makes it easier to decide if a site is worth publishing on.
Next, try different inurl search queries to find guest blogging opportunities.
“[your niche/keyword]”+ inurl:guest-posts
“[your niche/keyword]”+ inurl:write-for-us
“[your niche/keyword]” + inurl:guest-post-guidelines
“[your niche/keyword]” + inurl:profiles/blog/new
“[your niche/keyword]”+ inurl:category/guest
“[your niche/keyword]”+ inurl:contributors
This query type helps you find pages that don’t mention guest blogging in their content or title but have it in the URL.
Similarly, use the intitle search operator to find pages with guest blogging mentioned in their page title.
[your niche/keyword] intitle:write for us
[your niche/keyword] intitle:contribute
[your niche/keyword] intitle:guest post
[your niche/keyword] intitle:contribute
Twitter is another excellent place to find guest blogging opportunities.
Why? Because most authors happily announce and share their guest posts on Twitter. If a site is publishing their guest posts, why would they refuse yours (if they’re good enough)?
Again, just search for your keyword/topic + guest post/write for us/contribute, etc.
Every site you find using these search techniques is a potential guest blogging target (if it meets your criteria).
Add them to a spreadsheet so that you can reach out to them later.
Some of your best backlinks will come through broken link building.
What is broken link building?
It is the process of finding backlinks on high-authority sites pointing to pages that no longer exist.
Once you find broken links, you need to create a page/article/resource on the same topic, reach out to the site with the broken link, tell them about it and offer your content as an alternative.
It works like a charm.
The first step, though, is to find broken link-building opportunities.
Here’s how to do it.
Go to Ahrefs Site Explorer and search for any of your top competitors.
Let’s use Buffer.com, a leading social media scheduling tool, as an example.
As you can see, Buffer has more than 81K unique backlinks. However, many of those links are coming to pages that no longer exist on Buffer’s website.
To find them, click on “Best by links” under Pages in the left side menu.
Apply the “404 not found” filter to find the pages that are no longer there on Buffer.com
As you can see, dozens of websites are linking to these pages.
For example, the second link on this page is about “actionable social media strategies” and has 82 unique backlinks. You can view all the linking sites by clicking on the backlink count under “Referring Domains.”
If you can create a new page on your site covering the same topic, you can reach out to all the sites linking to this URL, tell them that it no longer exists, and offer your link as an alternative.
You can also use broken link building if you want to get backlinks from a specific website.
For example, search for Neilpatel.com in Ahrefs Site Explorer and click on “Broken Links” under Outgoing Links.
This will take you to the Broken Links report that shows all the dead pages NeilPatel.com is linking to.
This report shows the page with broken links, the broken link itself, and its anchor text.
The fourth page on this list links to an article on econsultancy.com about “15 content marketing tips”. That page doesn’t exist anymore.
You can publish an article about content marketing, reach out to Neilpatel.com, and get a backlink from it.
Still, just to make sure that it’s worth recreating this page, hover your mouse pointer over the broken link to see how many other sites link to it.
As you can see, apart from NeilPatel.com, 45 other sites link to this URL.
All of them are potential link-building targets once you have an article on the same topic.
Resource pages are another vital link source you should look for during link prospecting.
These are simple lists of the best resources on a particular topic. You’ll find them on academic sites, blogs, and aggregator sites as well.
To find them, search for a competitor’s domain in Ahrefs Site Explorer, and go to the Backlinks report. Here’s the backlink report for NeilPatel.com
To find resource links, filter this report for the word “resources” in the titles of the referring pages.
If you look at the screenshot, all the links are resource lists featuring different useful tools and blog posts.
These are valuable link sources that you can use if you reach out to them with high-quality guides/articles/tools.
You can easily find “Best Tools” and “Alternatives” posts for your product irrespective of your SaaS niche.
“Best Tools” posts list the top products/tools for a specific objective.
For example, “best email marketing tools”, “best content marketing tools”, “best invoicing tools”, “best social media tools.”
Similarly, you can find articles that list the alternatives of your top competitors. For example, “getresponse alternatives”, “hubspot alternatives, “ahrefs alternatives”, etc.
You can target both these article types in your niche to get easy backlinks for your product.
In the prospecting stage, list down the URLs of as many of these articles as possible in a spreadsheet. You can reach out to them later with your proposal.
As we’ve already discussed, guest blogging will be a significant link source for your site.
However, it doesn’t mean you’ll need to do all the guest blogging yourself.
The faster, better, and more scalable approach is to team up with professional guest bloggers who already have access to the top sites in your niche and hire them to get you backlinks.
In the prospecting phase, your job is to find as many of these guest bloggers as possible.
Here’s how to do it.
- Find the websites in your niche that accept guest posts using the same methods I shared earlier in this article.
- Find the most frequent contributors to your shortlisted sites by going through their archives.
- Note down the authors’ names that have contributed more than one article to your target sites.
- Now search for their names on Google Search using search terms like “[author name] guest post”, “[author name] contributor”, “[author name] guest author”, “guest post by [author name]”, “author [author name]”
Below is an example of a search.
This way, you can find all the sites a particular author contributes to.
You can reach out to them for a paid guest blogging project and offer them a fixed rate for every guest post they publish with a link to your site.
If you want links on a specific site, e.g., entrepreneur.com, find the most frequent contributors that are not on their staff writing team.
List all such potential guest bloggers in a spreadsheet and reach out to them with paid guest blogging gigs.
If you follow the methods I’ve shared above, you will quickly identify a ton of link-building opportunities in your niche.
But to ensure that you approach link-building systematically, organize all your findings in a spreadsheet.
Here’s what your spreadsheet should contain
- The URLs of your target sites
- The DA and Trust Flow scores of your target sites
- Type of link opportunity (broken link, a roundup post, a guest post, etc.)
- Whether you have existing content or need to create new content to get links
- The kind of content you need to create to get the link
- The email addresses/social media profiles of your target site owners that you need to reach out to for links.
Having all of this information in one Google Sheet will help you remain focused and get things done faster.
Finally, you need to create content for your site based on your link prospecting phase (if you don’t already have it).
What does that mean?
Suppose you found that there’s a broken link-building opportunity that could potentially get you 75 to 80 backlinks in the long run.
Based on your research, you’ll know that the broken link was pointing to a 1000 word guide about email marketing tools. To get that link, you’ll need to create a 3000-word guide on the same topic.
You studied your competitors and found that their 500-word article about “7 content marketing tips” has 200 links. To get some of those links to your site, you’ll need to create a much superior article on the same topic (say 5000 words).
Once you have the right content, you reach out to your target sites in the link-building phase.
Link prospecting set you up for success in the link-building phase.
It tells you exactly how many links you can get by to a piece of content on your site. This allows you to create a more informed SEO strategy since you’ll know exactly how much work you need to put in to rank for your target keywords.
Once you complete this phase, you need to kick off the link-building phase in which you’ll actively recruit guest bloggers and reach out to your target sites to get backlinks to your site.
You can read more about it in our link-building guide.
If you have any questions about link prospecting or want to discuss your link-building needs, just shoot me an email, and I’ll get back to you.