Our link building tool review series continues today with Link Prospector by Citation Labs. A joint venture between Garrett French and Darren Shaw, Link Prospector is headquartered in Raleigh, North Carolina and has been online since February 2012. Garrett and Darren continue to add features to the tool, foreign-language support and an API are scheduled to be added in the near future.
Let’s take an overall look at Link Prospector plus a couple of cool tips I found when using it and finish with a review of pros and cons.
Link Prospector is a link building research tool designed to find and return lists of potential partner sites. Built for speed, the tool can return a huge amount of data link builders can sift through to find link building opportunities. The tool has a clean and simple interface and has the ability to export what it finds.
There are two help videos on the site as well. Before you launch the tool you will need a complete list of keywords and an idea of the type of sites you want to prospect for.
Getting Started Running The Tool
After selecting a name for my campaign, I picked the type of sites I wanted the tool to search for. There are 14 categories to choose from:
I wanted to find pages to host link embedded content and find new directories so I set my search for: Directories, Reviews, Topical Blogs and Guest Posting. Each campaign took about 20-30 minutes to generate.
When it was done, my panel looked like this:
As you can see, the tool returned over 2100 URL prospects for me to review under Guest Posting, each page hosts the term “memory foam mattress” and “guest posting” or similar terms. With each test returning at least 2000 results, Link Prospector gives you a lot of link building possibilities to sift through.
You can use the Excluded Domains feature and eliminate certain URL’s from being returned if you feel there is no chance to secure links from these sites or feel they won’t provide any competitive review advantage.
Once you pick the type of sites you want to prospect for, the next step is adding the keyword.
For each report generated, I selected up to five keywords and had the option to narrow my search field through additional perimeters such as geographical regions and date range:
In this test (which is Test #2) I looked for UK specific sites hosting the word ”payday” and its variations and asked the tool to search on the first 1000 results. In hindsight, asking the tool to go that deep on a term like “payday” wasn’t an effective use of time, the results were poor past the 150 mark.
This is not a reflection of the tool but of the SERPS for that particular term. In general, after running all my tests I found asking the tool to return 100 – 200 results yielded the best pages.
Cool tip: I discovered using the tilde character (~) in front of a single term would increase the amount and variety of data returned. I recommend you use this advance search operator with your primary keyword when running terms. In some cases, it returned pages and sites I had never heard of which means there’s a good chance your competitors haven’t either.
When your reports are ready (it takes about 30 minutes for each to run) you are taken to a list of prospects. By default, they are sorted by LTS (Link Target Score) which is a metric created by Link Prospector to help discover pages that give you a “higher likelihood of being a converting prospect”.
You can also sort the pages by PageRank and TLD’s:
Next to each result is a number in parenthesis (I’ve circled it in red in the image above), this represents the number of pages on the domain hosting my keywords.
You can click on the number and drill down to see each page:
Being able to see the pages hosting your terms is extremely helpful; it allows you to see how the sites are using and promoting content. The campaign manager also allows you to export your data to an Excel file which can be saved to your computer and used or downloaded into Buzzstream.
This drill-down option is why I don’t like to exclude domains in the research stage. Even knowing I won’t get a link from a site returned in the report doesn’t mean there is a marketing angle to ignore, because someone already got a link from them or the page wouldn’t be listed!
This does add to your review time so again, if you know for a fact there is nothing to be gained from certain sites, exclude them and save yourself some time.
Cool tip: In every search I ran, Link Prospector returned YouTube pages hosting my keywords. With video being a huge part of Universal Search results on both Bing and Google, having an instant library of topical videos is helpful.
Bookmark the videos returned and start running a competitive analysis on them. Who’s linking to them? Who’s commenting on them? Where else are they being shown? Here is where searching on the top 150 results can be helpful, you’ll get the cream of the crop video’s in one handy location.
Education & Help
There is a seven minute video on the homepage of Link Prospector that takes you through each step of the tool. There is also a four minute video on the keyword selection page that is a must watch before listing your terms.
You have to listen closely to pick up the tips but basically, Link Prospector recommends you list single keywords in additional to multi-keyword strings for maximum results.
Pick your keywords well and the tool will bring back a lot of good results. If after watching the video you still have questions, Garrett recommends emailing him directly for support: garrett AT citationlabs.com.
Pros & Cons
When it comes to link building, there are many ways to acquire links. No matter what you do or which vertical you’re in, in order to rank well you need quality pages hosting your links.
That’s where using a tool like Link Prospector can help, it will research and analyze a large amount of data before listing potential link partners. It cuts your search time down considerably.
While it cuts your search time down, it does little for your review time and you need to know up front you’ll spend a lot of time picking through the results for sites to link with. If you run a lot of terms and go deep, you’ll have a tremendous amount of content to wade through, just look how many prospects came back in my sample tests.
Results past the 150 mark were so-so to lousy, I wouldn’t go deeper but it’s up to you. Again, Link Prospector is not at fault for what is being returned, it brings back what it finds when searching. If the engines have garbage results, so does the tool. If a webpage uses a term conversationally and out of context, it doesn’t “understand” that and returns the page anyway.
You’ll have the same results if you search by hand, it will just take hours longer and won’t come in a neat and exportable package. Here is where using the best keywords and the tilde (~) will help tremendously by returning a wider array of results. Sadly, I had to stumble on this little tidbit to try it out, it was not included in the main help video.
The main help video, which is over seven minutes long and done in one shot, should come with a timed tabled of contents and a transcription accessible from every page and point in the campaign. For now it doesn’t, so if you want to review the main help video while working, you have to log out to see it or pull up a second tab and start over.
The site lacks a FAQ section (this would help with specific points) or a section explaining advanced search operators. It also lacks a detailed explanation for the LTS (Link Target Score), there is one but I had to email Garrett for the information.
Understanding what LTS is and knowing how to use it would be a big help when reviewing results. Even though LTS analyzes pages based on criteria set by Link Prospector, having this information and knowing how sites are scored would go a long way to helping qualify pages during the review process.
Link Prospector is a good research tool for the serious link builder, you will definitely find a lot of potential link partners when using it. Take advantage of the free trial before you begin, it will help you get used to the large amounts of data the tool produces and help you plan a way to use it. I recommend you play both videos several times before launching your first campaign and have Garrett’s email handy as you work.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.