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Active Link Building Process: Prospecting – Finding Links (Part 1)

Link Building ProcessThis is the first post of our Active Link Building Process Series. It will mainly focus on non-paid tools that you can use to start your link building process.


I’m assuming you’ve already conducted your extensively-awesome keyword research that contains all of the keywords you want to rank for and your content includes those keywords. If you’ve never done any keyword research some good resources are:

Tools you’ll need:

There are two main sources from where you can obtain your links: “Query-based” and “Backlink based.”   Query-based builds on terms related to your target keywords and Backlink based are obtained from a competitor(s) or existing links. This post will cover Query Based Link Prospecting.  I will not discuss the other types like “Niche” based e.g. “Blog Comment Lists, Directories, etc.. as most of these lists can be found pretty easily.

Keyword Based Link Building Process Prospecting

This is probably the most common way to build links, where you simply enter a phrase into the search engines. For example:

Google SEO + Submit Site - Link Building Process

To speed things up learn more about “advanced link building process queries” or use a free tool from Ontolo:Link Building Query Generator. This tool will provide you with a variety of queries based on 3 query types: Asset, Opportunity or Content. An asset would be something that you own: a deal, cash, tool, etc. An opportunity revolves around link types like guest posts, directories, resources, etc. Finally, a content type revolves around a site’s content. Note that some of the types are interrelated. I highly recommend that you try the tool out yourself by imputing your keywords and selecting the appropriate query type.

SEO Quake Settings

So now that you have your queries, be sure to set up the relevant parameters you want in SEO Quake.

I prefer to have: Page rank, Google Index, Yahoo Links, Yahoo Link Domains, Webarchive age, and SEMRush Rank. I usually include SEOMoz parameters as well, but you need a membership.

Google Settings

By default, Google (and most search engines), only show 10 results per page, we need to change that by disabling Google Instant.

  1. Go into your Google Preferences
  2. Click the “Do not use Google Instant” radio button.
  3. Save

Now you have three options you can do:

  • Change your results preference from 10 to 20+ (not recommended to go over 20, unless you’re using proxies)
  • Add &num=20 to the end of the query every time you enter a search phrase.
  • Create a Query URL. (Some excel knowledge is needed)

Creating a Query URL in Excel

To create a Query URL in Excel, begin by entering your search queries into column A and be sure to find and replace all pluses (+) with %2B. The next step is to build the URL.

Set up your columns as follows:
Column A: Queries
Column B: http://www.google.com/search?q=
Column C: &num=20    (or however many you want, I recommend not to go over 50, unless you have proxies).
Column D: =B1&A1&C1
So you would have the following:
Link Building Process Queries

Opening the URLs

If you have proxies you can open more URLs at once, but if you don’t, I recommend just opening them up 2-3 at a time.  Give it some time to load and so all the data propagates.

Gathering the List

If you’re using Firefox: you can simply append the results to a file by clicking the “Append to File” icon.  It will continually add to the list until you’re finished.
If you’re using Chrome: You’ll have to manually copy and paste the results into excel.
  1. Click “View as CSV” so that it shows “View as Raw”
  2. Copy the text into Excel
However, you may notice that all the data is in one column, this can be easily solved with my favorite function in Excel “Text-to-columns.”
Text to Colums

How to make columns from Text in Excel:

  1. Select the entire (should be Column A).
  2. Click the Text-to-Columns button under the data tab.
  3. Select the Delimited radio button
  4. Check Semicolon (ensure all other checkboxes are unchecked).
  5. Click Finish
Viola, now you have a list of links to a prospect with most of your favorite metrics alongside them.  Now you can sort by PR, Links or whatever your heart desires! Here is the excel file just in case you want to look around.  It has two sheets: “Queries” and “Prospects.”

Final Thoughts

This should set you up for the basics and here are some additional tips to follow:

  • If you don’t use proxies or a good computer, limit your results to 50 or less.
  • If you just need the links (no data), be sure to change your SEO Quake settings

Coming Soon

  • Backlink Based Link Prospecting – How to find competitor links. We’ll utilize various advanced search parameters and tools to discover competitor links.
  • Qualifying Prospects – How to evaluate links, learn to qualify up to 300 prospects an hour!  I’ll discuss methods of pre-qualification and link evaluation methods.
  • Outreach – How to effectively build quality links. How to email webmasters and documenting your efforts.
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