How To Find The Websites Likely To Link To You

In my column two months ago for Link Week, I described ways we can use what we know about pages that rarely link to us to our advantage when link building.

Certain page-level characteristics are immediately identifiable as being a standard characteristic of sites that won’t link to us. This is most frequently big businesses, and sometimes .edu’s and .gov’s when our content isn’t strong enough. By eliminating these immediately identifiable non-linkers when prospecting, we improve our efficiency and therefore, increase the number of links we can obtain per hour and scale our campaigns more efficiently.

If we flip our mode of thinking in this regard, we can also identify websites that frequently link to us more often than most. Just as big, established businesses are the most likely to not link to us, it is those less sophisticated webmasters who are often the most likely to link to us.

This is because they are often unaware of the value of their website, are philanthropic sites or non-commercial minded, or otherwise, just aren’t that “with it” as it comes to understanding the most prominent version of currency on the web, the link.

These websites may have older, near-extinct methodologies of website design and content structuring. These methodologies can frequently be picked up with an intelligent search query. Used appropriately, a savvy link builder can filter through much noise to locate those less sophisticated webmasters who are more probable to link to them.

Locating The Link Opportunities

These add-ons are most effective in large, broad verticals such as online shopping or travel where there exists a large mass of relevant websites to draw links from that are relevant to your site.

In those more segmented verticals, it may be more appropriate to only use those reductive queries to take advantage of every potential linker.

When relevant targets abound, maximizing return of high-ROI targets may be preferable in your strategy – especially when there is pressure to deliver links immediately due to client or internal pressures.

  • inanchor:”Site Award” KEYWORD
  • inanchor:”Site Awards” KEYWORD
  • “Website Award” KEYWORD
  • “Site Award” KEYWORD
  • “Site Awards” KEYWORD

Websites who quickly accept website awards and/or have accepted enough to actually host a special page on their site or are very casual in nature, and/or can be easily utilized to grab a link from. If the vertical match is there, it is also paticularly easy to think of a piece of egobait of your own to contact these webmasters with to get an easy link or hundred back to your site.

Similarly, you can use the website award given to track all other sites given the same award – if they’re similar of nature (and worthy of another award, of course) – you have easy access to a garden of potential backlinks for your website.

If you’re in the market for linkbait, I would also suggest just searching for [allinanchor:"Site Awards"] – you’ll get a plethora of sites that have received multiple website awards that you can get ideas from.

  • “Contact the Webmaster” KEYWORD
  • “Site maintained by” KEYWORD
  • inanchor:”Guest Book” KEYWORD
  • inanchor:”Guestbook” KEYWORD
  • “Guestbook” KEYWORD
  • “Guest Book” KEYWORD
  • “Sign the Guest Book” KEYWORD

The phrasing “Contact the Webmaster” and “Site maintained by” are things that frequently occur in older, less sophisticated websites. It’s a loose, non-tightened way of what could otherwise be phrased as “Contact”. It is these little continual drips that inform us of sites which be more likely to link to you with a sophisticated pitch.

Similarly, guest books are something that can aptly be described as archaic – you may find that some of these sites will have difficult to find contact information or otherwise will be rather old and possibly left abandonend, but when it’s possible to contact them, linking can come rather expediently.

For these kinds of websites, make sure to check WhoIs information, as it’s also unlikely they anonymized their contact information.

  • “Number of Visitors To” KEYWORD
  • “Visitors to our webpage” KEYWORD
  • “Hit counter” KEYWORD
  • “You are visitor:” KEYWORD

Counters like this certainly are a sign of aged sites. But they are also still maintained by webmasters out there, somewhere, who has chosen to re-up their hosting and let this old, aged domain remain. Or, they simply aren’t conscious of how much an outdated eyesore these counters really are. Either way, they are prime targets to be contacted for a link.

  • inanchor:”Advertising” KEYWORD
  • inanchor:”Sponsorship” KEYWORD
  • inurl:”Advertising” KEYWORD
  • inurl:”Sponsorship” KEYWORD
  • “Sponsorships” KEYWORD
  • “Sponsor Our Website” KEYWORD

Although more costly than the previous efforts, finding advertising and/or sponsorship opportunities for events through these same kind of efforts can be a great tactic as it comes to scaling campaigns and putting out a large quantity at links – although at a notably higher cost than link begging and other types of “free” links.

On my panel at SMX Advanced, I suggested using price anchoring as a methodology of lowering the cost of these links. This is a superior technique for lowering event sponsorship costs at scale.

Underneath The Code

Another page-level characteristic which correlates well with links back to your website is music on-page. I know we all dislike terrible music on a website, but we as SEOs, should also love them – because they mean that webmaster is pretty likely to link back to us because they aren’t too cognizant of what the web thinks, or what the outside world thinks.

Unfortunately, I haven’t figured out a way to detect these kinds of sites through search – the most obvious way would be to locate a .midi, .mp3 or other audio format in the source code and then return it. If you have any suggestions on how to do this, I’d love to hear it in the comments.

Finally, if you have any other common characteristics of linking websites we can use to segment our searches to find those “high probability linkers”, I’m sure others as well as I, would love to hear those as well.

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

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Link Week Column


About The Author: is the SEO Manager at Full Beaker Inc, a Seattle online media company. Ross is accomplished link building expert with a history in a diversity of roles, from in-house, consultant, agency, to a hybrid of all three. His strengths are in content creation, and also, rambling on link building strategies and theories over at his SEO blog.

Although he originates from Southern California, he is not a reasonable surfer, nor a model, and most certainly, not a reasonable surfer model. You can follow him on Twitter @RossHudgens.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter


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  • Dave

    Great article Ross.
    How have you found is a great way to establish that link connection?
    For example, I am currently in the process of coming up with a link building campaign for a company I work for. One strategy I would like to use is the reciprocal psychology technique.
    Basically we contact them about doing an article on our blog completely out of generosity. Through our interview, this well known web site will then learn a lot about OUR company as well.
    The generosity of the well written article will entice this site to either link to the blog post, or return the free favor with a post of their own about our company.

  • Daniel Deceuster

    With regards to finding music on a site, the word “playlist” or “favorite song” is likely to be on the page, that would be a good place to start. Another really great one is to get the bloggers who readily list their favorite website. “My favorite sites” or “my favorite blogs” are excellent searches to find those who put these lists on their site.

  • Ross Hudgens

    @Dave – each website is different depending on the keyword/content offering – this is really just to find the sites most willing to accept your content offering. I wouldn’t suggest the reciprocal method as it generally tends to not pass value (or so it seems). But building relationships is always good and will reap dividends.

    @Daniel – I like “My favorite sites” and “My favorite blogs”. Searching specifically for “playlist” or “favorite song” would unfortunately probably give a lot of travel songs because Google is trying to find that content relevancy in the text and it’s too broad.

  • Bill Rowland


    I appreciated your approach as far as the “mindset” of those that still have these use this type of terminology on their sites.

    One additional method to grab the attention of webmasters with dated and mostly abandoned sites may be to purchase the site for a modest sum if it makes sense.

  • euan

    Really liked this article – over the years I’ve collected various search operators; the ones to find aged sites using \hit counter\ KEYWORD is a real stroke of genius!

  • C.I.M.

    haha, good stuff — thanks! :-)

    i get the feeling that these somewhat outdated sites aren’t well maintained — how many does one have to go through to get a webmaster that’s still alive?

  • George Whittaker

    Good stuff, especially for a newbie like me!

  • Nrg Movers

    nice one

  • Nrg Movers

    nice one


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