Link Prospecting: Guide to Building Quality Backlinks

To thrive in the digital landscape, it is imperative to prioritize your SEO endeavours. Among the various elements of effective SEO strategies, link-prospecting is a fundamental pillar in link-building.

However, the art of link prospecting truly distinguishes the winners from the rest.

Indeed, it is the skill of unearthing those hidden gems that have the potential to enhance your website’s backlink profile and fortify your position in search engine rankings.

Amidst the continually evolving techniques and tools at our disposal, the time has come to hone our abilities and venture into the cutting-edge link prospecting methods that will render your link-building campaigns triumphant in 2024.

We have deconstructed the entire process into easily digestible segments, designed to provide you with a thorough grasp of the concept.

Throughout this journey, you will embark on an exploration of the realm of link prospecting, discovering potent tools, advanced strategies, and practical insights that will enable you to navigate the intricacies of link building and maintain a competitive edge.

So, fasten your seatbelts and accompany us on this thrilling odyssey towards mastering link prospecting, poised to attain unparalleled success in 2024 and beyond!

Let’s dive right in!

Link prospecting: What is it and why is it important?

This guide on link prospecting commences with an exploration of the essence and significance of link prospecting itself.

  • To kick things off, let’s aim to provide a lucid definition of link building.
  • Link building entails the concerted endeavour to secure dofollow backlinks, signifying links originating from external websites directed back to one’s website. 
  • These links should originate from domains that are both relevant and reputable, often referred to as referring domains. This pursuit is guided by ethical strategies that align with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

In the screenshot below, we have highlighted certain tactics that are deemed contrary to the guidelines set forth by Google and other influential search engines in the context of link building.

link spam

Any successful white hat link-building campaign can be broken down into three fundamental components:

A. Prospecting

Prospecting involves the initial phase of identifying suitable link prospects or potential link targets for your link-building campaign. 

To execute effective link prospecting, you must first define the link-building strategies you intend to employ and select appropriate link prospecting tools aligned with your chosen strategies.

B. Qualification

Qualification pertains to the process of evaluating your compiled list of prospects, essentially link-building opportunities, based on specific qualitative criteria. 

These qualitative criteria encompass metrics such as the website’s Domain Authority (DA) according to Moz or Ahrefs, overall organic traffic, and the number of outgoing links. 

Additionally, other less tangible qualifying criteria, like topical relevance, may be relevant but are not as straightforward to measure as a website’s DA.

C. Outreach

Outreach constitutes the action of reaching out to your identified prospects through highly personalized email campaigns. 

The approach you employ for outreach varies depending on the nature of your link-building strategy

  • For example, contacting potential link targets for guest blogging is distinct from reaching out to link prospects to present an infographic you’ve created or to request the replacement of a broken link on their website. 
  • The method of outreach can differ based on your specific link-building approach.
  • Although this guide encompasses all three aspects of the link-building process, the primary focus is on the initial step of link-building: the prospecting process.
  • The reason for this emphasis on prospecting lies in the fact that, to a significant extent, it dictates the overall success of your campaign. 
  • If you fail to identify high-quality or link prospects for outreach, your ability to acquire new links may be limited.
  • Hence, link prospecting serves as not only the starting point in the link-building process but also one of the most crucial stages.

Now that we’ve elucidated the concept of link prospecting, let’s proceed to outline our five-step process for effective link prospecting.

Five Steps to Successful Link Prospecting

Now that we have a solid understanding of what link prospecting entails and its significance, let’s delve into the practical steps involved. Link prospecting involves five key steps, which we will explore in more detail.

Step 1: Define Your Link-Building Strategy

Your choice of link prospects and the methods you use to identify them will be closely tied to your selected link-building tactics. It’s vital to have a clear strategy, including the specific tactics you plan to employ. 

Whether you opt for guest blogging, niche edits, HARO link building, skyscraper link building, digital PR, or linkable asset campaigns, your strategy should align with these choices. If you intend to use multiple tactics, tailor your prospects to suit each campaign type. 

For instance, guest blogging requires identifying relevant niche sites open to guest authorship, while skyscraper campaigns involve competitive analysis.

Step 2: Establish Your Evaluation Criteria

Defining your evaluation criteria is another essential step. What makes a site a promising prospect? Several metrics can help you sift out potentially unfavourable candidates:

1. Relevance: Relevance can be divided into topical and geographical categories, depending on your business goals and link-building objectives. For building search engine authority, it’s crucial to secure links from sites with high topical relevance. 

On the other hand, if you aim to enhance local SEO and attract local customers, geographically relevant links from sources like local businesses or news outlets are more pertinent.

2. Domain Rating (DR): A website’s DR serves as an indicator of the strength of its backlink profile and its potential to pass link equity to your site.

3. Organic Traffic: The volume of monthly organic traffic a website receives serves as an indicator of its quality and whether its backlink profile has undergone manipulation. For example, avoid a site with an exceptionally high DR but no traffic.

These metrics can be assessed using tools like Ahrefs’ Site Explorer, providing a quick overview of a site’s characteristics.

Step 3: Discovering Relevant and High-Quality Link Prospects

With a well-defined link-building strategy and established evaluation criteria, the next step is to identify link prospects that are both relevant and of high quality. 

This crucial task can be accomplished using various methods, and here, we will delve into four of my preferred approaches.

One of the swiftest methods to uncover top-notch link prospects involves competitor analysis.

  • Why? Your competitors have likely already assessed the quality of these sites, expediting the qualification process. 
  • Moreover, if these sites are linked to your competitors, there’s a reasonable likelihood they will consider linking to your site.

Are your competitors primarily engaged in guest blogging, niche edits, or HARO link building? Gaining insights into their link-building strategies can help you replicate their efforts on the search engine results pages (SERPs).

Examining your competitors’ links can be achieved through various approaches. To begin, you can identify your competitors using the Organic Competitors report in Site Explorer. This provides valuable insights into websites competing in your niche.

Following that, choose your most significant competitors and opt for the “Open in Link Intersect” feature. This function will provide a comprehensive list of the domains that are referring to your competitors, along with information about the number of distinct competitors who have obtained links from these same sites.

You may enter a competitor’s URL into Site Explorer to see the “Best by links” report and see what kinds of connections your rivals are obtaining and what content they are linking to. 

This report not only reveals the content responsible for generating links to the site but also provides information about the websites linking to those specific pages. 

This feature is highly advantageous when developing skyscraper and linkable asset campaigns, particularly when determining the content focus of your campaign. Furthermore, you have the option to filter the results in alignment with your specific evaluation criteria.

Step 4. Analyze and Assess the Quality and Relevance of Potential Link Prospects

Once you’ve compiled a list of potential link prospects, it’s time to assess and prioritize the best candidates. If you’ve been diligently following your evaluation criteria, this process should be relatively straightforward.

Recall that we initially focus on assessing the relevance, Domain Rating, Organic Traffic, and Traffic Value Criteria.

Here are the key metrics I typically aim for:

  • Relevance: Either aligned with the niche or relevant to my target audience, depending on the specific campaign.
  • Domain Rating: Within the range of DR 40-80.
  • Organic traffic: A minimum of 1000 visitors per month.
  • Traffic value: Valued at $1000 or more.

These are the initial metrics used to screen sites during the preliminary evaluation stage. Nevertheless, it’s essential to exercise caution with metrics and not rely solely on them for site quality determination. 

Many authority metrics can be manipulated, so it’s advisable to inspect each site carefully to minimize the risk.

It’s worth noting that, although purchasing links is not advisable by Google. Many website owners recognize the potential for generating revenue through link placements.

For less experienced site owners, there is a significant opportunity for these sites to emerge, designed primarily for selling links. Such sites have an incentive to manipulate metrics to appear more authoritative than they are.

Here are some indicators to watch for when identifying spammy websites:

  • Limited and/or low-quality content.
  • Subpar website design.
  • An excessive number of display ads compared to content.
  • Absence of “about” or “author” pages.
  • Individual posts lacking specific author attributions (often credited to a generic “Editorial team,” for example).
  • Individual posts containing numerous outbound links.

Step 5. Obtain Contact Information For Your Prospects

The primary purpose of prospecting is to identify suitable sites for outreach, enabling you to secure links from them. However, contact details are a crucial part of the prospecting process, as you’ll need them to initiate outreach.

This final step involves refining your list of prospects. Any potential sites for which you cannot locate valid contact information should be removed from consideration.

The simplest approach to acquiring contact details is by utilizing an email lookup tool such as Prospeo, Contact Out or Hunter. This tool permits you to input a domain, which then retrieves all associated email addresses and relevant company information.

How to Utilize Your List of Link Prospects?


Once you have compiled a roster of potential link-building prospects, the next step involves initiating contact with these websites. This process is a link-building outreach, and it is a comprehensive endeavour in itself.

During outreach, there are two primary approaches to consider:

1. Manual Personalized Outreach: This method is often more effective, particularly when dealing with high-quality websites. However, it can also be time-consuming, especially if you have a lengthy list of prospects. 

To streamline the process, you can segment your prospect list into smaller groups and create personalized emails for each group. Making time in your SEO outreach strategy to personalize your approach — such as referencing a particular piece of content that you like or addressing the recipient by name —  can make your offer much more attractive. Tools like Pitchbox can assist in crafting these emails.

2. Automated Mass Outreach: While this approach offers efficiency, it may be less successful with high-value websites. 

For substantial link-building opportunities, such as guest posts, it’s advisable to employ manual outreach, as the potential benefits usually outweigh the added effort.

Three practical tips for your link-building prospecting efforts


Tip #1: Emphasize Personalization in Outreach

  • Personalization plays a pivotal role in effective outreach. In the realm of digital marketing, it’s a crucial trend. Research conducted by McKinsey & Company has shown that incorporating personalization into marketing can result in a remarkable increase of up to 40% in revenue.
  • Once you’ve amassed the necessary data about your prospects, you can tailor your outreach emails by:
  • Mentioning the recipient’s name and their position.
  • Casually referencing their geographic location in the message.
  • Customizing the topic and pitch to align with the specific niche and the area of interest of the target website.
  • Having a personalized message template at your disposal, you can proceed to fine-tune your choices to identify the top websites and bloggers from your list of link prospects.

Tip #2: Thoroughly Evaluate Your Link Prospects

To ensure that you’re investing your time and efforts wisely, it’s advisable to categorize your prospects based on predefined criteria. This strategy helps you focus on the most valuable websites.

Tip #3: Diversify Your Tactics

Relying solely on one tactic for link prospecting carries certain risks, including the possibility that more effective tactics are being overlooked or that your current strategy may cease to be effective. 

Therefore, it’s prudent to continuously experiment with new tactics and utilize several of them concurrently to mitigate potential risks. Tools like Pitchbox can facilitate the setup of various campaigns and enable you to easily compare their performance.


Effective link prospecting requires practice. It’s natural to feel frustrated at times, as if you’ve scoured the entire internet, or even faced suboptimal outcomes.

However, by persevering, continuously refining your search strings and exploring keyword synonyms, as well as thinking creatively, you’ll eventually become more adept at it.

Link prospecting is frequently a laborious undertaking, and instant gratification is rarely part of the equation.

Nonetheless, identifying high-quality target websites forms the cornerstone of any successful link-building campaign, and it’s a step that cannot be overlooked.

It’s normal to encounter frustration, but when it comes to link-building, persistence is essential. Dedicate the time and effort required. Your objective should be to excel at it and yield positive results.

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