There is arguably nothing more important to a link builder than their tool kit. Using the right tools can save hours of banging your head against the desk trying to find quality websites that might be interested in adding links to client’s pages. In fact, not only will the right tools save time, but are likely to return better results in terms of both likelihood to acquire a link and its quality. Here are my five favorite tools that I find myself returning to time and time again;
5. Raven Tools
At Vertical Measures we use Raven Tools for every one of our clients to organize our work. Although the tool itself is very powerful and includes elements of backlink analysis, keyword rankings and Google analytics, I have included it in this list for its link management capabilities. By installing the Raven toolbar in Firefox you can organize your links as you work, easily adding URLs of pages you find, webmasters you contacted, and links you are actually able to acquire.
Not only does it then save and organize these pages by website type, but it can also periodically go back to these pages and check if the link disappeared, and notify you when nice webmasters add your link, but don’t email you to let you know!
4. Search Operators
Believe it or not, one of my favorite link building tools is developed by the search engines themselves, and uses their entire index! This is because one of the best ways to find great link opportunities is just by knowing what to search for in the first place.
I was once told that if you know how to use search well you can find anything you want, and knowing search operators is certainly a large part of this. I don’t want to give away my favorites, for fear of them being abused, but there are plenty of great resources (http://searchengineland.com/21-link-builders-share-advanced-link-building-queries-29848) and tools (http://www.seomoz.org/labs/link-finder/index.php) out there to get you started, and then get creative.
3. Competitive Link Finder
My third favorite link building tool is SeoMoz’s Competitive Link Finder tool in their Labs section. This tool will tell identify all of the websites where multiple competitors are being linked to and identify whether or not your website is being linked to also, clearly identifying which websites to reach out to. The reasons why I love this tool so much is because not only are these sites also likely to be relevant to an industry, but they also have a much greater chance of being willing to add additional links to other relevant pages, i.e. your client.
There are a lot of tools out there that do this exact same thing, but the reason why I choose SeoMoz’s tool is because I like their web index, which they continually grow, and also because it means buying only one subscription!
2. Open Site Explorer
My second favorite link building tool, is another SeoMoz creation, their Open Site Explorer, which I have made a full switch to from Yahoo Site Explorer since it came out. I find myself using this tool every day, particularly for researching a new client’s current backlinks, as well as investigating competitor’s backlinks for ideas and suitable websites to add links.
Not only can you break down this information by internal or external links, nofollow, 301s etc., but it also displays the authority of the page, and the anchor text, used to save you from even having to load each individual page and see for yourself. I feel like I can save hours scanning down this list to get a quick idea of how various competitors are ranking for certain keywords. I can then check out those sites that seem to offer the best quality links, in more detail and directly contact each webmaster to recommend my client’s websites for inclusion.
- For my favorite link building tool, I’m going to slightly contradict what I said earlier in that there is nothing more important than a link builder’s toolkit, and say the number one most important tool is a link builder’s brain. While this may seem like a bit of a cop out, I believe that this is becoming more and more important every day, as the old tactics of link building become less effective. Whereas a few directories or article submissions was once enough, link building has grown and it requires more creative thought to get the high quality links that will make a difference.
No tool can replace these thoughts and creativity that are absolutely essential for any link builder. While the 4 previous tools will help you to discover and organize your links, it is this tool that will separate the best link builders from the rest.
This can range anywhere from thinking creatively to find websites that your competitors haven’t gotten links on, which by definition won’t appear in any other tools, to reaching out to webmasters in ways that will get you what you want. My best links have come from trying to do something extraordinary to befriend webmasters by writing honest emails that show that I have read their blog, and am trying to connect with them on a personal level.
My advice to any link builder out there would be to develop this tool as much as possible through trial and error and experience. It’s tough, but any link builder has to learn by contacting webmasters, learning what works and what doesn’t, and by getting a feel for which pages will add the most value for a client. Unfortunately, there’s no tool that can automate this.
What do you think? Did I leave out any tools? Let me know in the comments section below.