Ask any link builder what link issues they’re consistently asked about and one of them will be linking tools. Link building is such a time consuming and detailed process that it’s only natural people look for tools and techniques to maximize their time. Those who spend a lot of time link building are familiar with standard linking tools, but a number of non-commercial tools, resource sites, and “find me” tricks aren’t as well known. Below, some tools and resources you may not know about that can streamline your link building campaigns.

When to use each tool

While linking tactics vary, each relies on a sole point to be successful: you need lots of links from quality sites in order to rank well and build brand. This means that a big part of the link building process is finding the best sites to request links from and being notified when new opportunities present themselves. You can’t go after a site or watch a resource if you don’t know about it. Search engines alone don’t always provide the information or leads we need to find the best link partners, and that’s where using good tools can help.

Tools help in the research phase of link building but I don’t recommend them much beyond that. Some of the commercial applications offer email templates for mass mailings or assistance in creating link directories, but it’s best to avoid those types of tactics. Automatic form-filling tools like RoboForm are a definite plus and extremely helpful in tactics such as directory submissions, but the email template thing…not so much.

Getting started

Before you start any SEO campaign, it’s a good idea to check the links on your site and make sure they’re in working order. Broken links frustrate people and drive them away from your site. Don’t belittle your content with broken links or poor navigation.

Xenu’s Link Sleuth (TM) checks for broken links and verifies “normal” links, images, frames, plug-ins, backgrounds, local image maps, style sheets, scripts, and java applets. Link Valet does the same but doesn’t require download. Both are very fast and run an easy to read report.

Authority Links

After determining which set of keyword terms you’ll target, most link building campaigns begin by looking at the competition’s backlinks for leads and well-ranked sites. We’re after sites that rank well in multiple engines and link to the competition. To locate sites ranking well on more than one engine, you can try The Langreiter Tool or GoogeGuy.de. Both compare the top 100 results for a keyword term on Google and Yahoo!

To locate URLs with links to related authority websites, use Hub Finder. This tool uses Yahoo! but can also check Google if you have an API key.

Once you have a list of authority sites to mine and analyze for backlinks, several tools will pull and collate backlink data based on the number of inbound links, the anchors being used, PageRank, and outbound link counts.

Link Harvester provides all of the above, along with unique linking domains, their IP addresses/unique c blocks, plus info on .gov, .mil, or .edu domains linking.

Backlink Analyzer is the most thorough non-commercial backlink checker available. It grabs data from all three engines, exports to a spreadsheet, and provides excellent anchor text analysis and outbound link data in addition to providing the information Link Harvester includes. Note that it requires an API key for Google results.

Both SEO Link Analysis and Link Diagnosis are Firefox extensions that gather PageRank information, the anchor text used on the link, and nofollow status.

Once you’ve spent time analyzing backlinks, you’ll start to see linking patterns and similar sites in what you’re mining. Pull URLs that both link to competitor sites and are authoritative pages, as well as those showing high PageRank scores/low outbound link counts and add them to a spreadsheet. From this point you’ll want to do a little background check to see how long they’ve been online and what kind of company they keep.

Domain Age Tool provides the calendar age of a site as well as a thematic snapshot of the site when first launched. It’s great for checking if a domain has been resold for PageRank.

Bad Neighborhood Tool scans links on your website plus the pages your website is linking to. This can be particularly helpful in determining if the sites you’re linking to have less than desirable inbound links. Remember – you don’t control who links to you, but you’re in total control of your outbounds links. Be sure the site you’re linking to is as conscientious as you are.

Utility Linking

Utility linking tools SoloSEO and BackLink Builder find sites that host your keywords plus utility search phrases such as “submit site” and “add link.” They also return directories, article directories, and forums in a niche. Both tools make it much easier to find thematic sites to add your links to without having to do individual searches constantly. Even with the tools, this linking tactic is time consuming but worth it. Budget time to do a handful of terms a day and you’ll see results.

Niche Linking

Resource sites such as Directory Big Boards (database of forums), ISEDB (niche directories), and Blog Catalog are constantly updated resources of blogs/sites that can be mined for links.

Instead of regularly taking time to search for new leads in these resources and other mega directories like them, set up alerts to bring new additions to you. Sites like BotABlog and Blogarithm can be used to send alerts to you (via email) each time a new site is added to a directory resource. When a new directory/resource is added, you get an email and can add your site before the masses do. Let the bots work while you sleep.

Social media tools

Shareholic allows you to select any webpage you’re on and send it to your favorite bookmarking and social news site. It also has an added feature of being able to tell (with a right click) how many people saved or ‘dugg’ the page you’re on. This little time saver helps boost your authority by developing your presence on the bookmarking/social news sites and helps you find popular and high traffic media sites and blogs.

A couple of other fun social media tools that help you locate sites being talked about are What’s the Buzz and Social Alerter. Both help find popular on-topic sites you can participate in and ask for links.

Yesterday on Twitter problogger posted a URL to a new WordPress plugin called Increase Sociability that senses when people are coming to your blog from Digg and Stumbleupon and encourages them to vote up your blog post. I haven’t used this, but I did send the tool to a couple of savvy social media people and early reports are good. More traffic may lead to more links, and who doesn’t want that?

And finally…

It would be remiss to do an article on linking tools and not mention Marketleap. They’ve been around forever and provide an easy way to compare general backlink results at a glance. I still use it every time I link.

No matter what type of link building you do, it all starts with research. Some of these tools will help determine a site’s “worthiness” and others act as your eyes and ears. No matter which one you use, any of the tools outlined will help in your linking efforts and make the tedious job of hunting for partner sites easier while not costing you a dime.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | How To: Links | Link Building: General | Link Week Column

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About The Author: of LinkSpiel.com and Alliance-Link is based in Fairfax Station Virginia and offers link marketing consultations and content partner services.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn



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