4 Kinds of Prospecting Phrases for Link Building Queries

1) Competitive Prospecting Phrases

Ok, of the prospecting phrases that I call “useful” this is the least useful, especially for the impatient or time-pressed. I include it because there are gems if you dig deeply enough... Say for example you sell car parts. Competitive phrases would be searches for things like “auto body parts”, “truck parts”, or “carburetors” and “fuel pumps”. While these phrases are perfectly relevant to what you do, what kinds of results do you think will appear if you use these phrases in your link building queries? Exactly. A lot of them will be your competitors.

I have seen people get links on competitor websites, but it is definitely the exception to the rule. I’m not saying to ignore these kinds of phrases across the board, but the results should be viewed with a pragmatic eye. A lot of time can be wasted sending requests to these kinds of sites because while they are dead on relevant, the likelihood of actually getting a link is next to nil…so what’s the point? If you want to look for competitive phrases, you’ll need to dig deep in the results to get past the multitude of SEO’d sites that sell exactly what you do. There may be contacts worth mining in the deeper pages, but the truth is, if you think creatively there are far better search phrases you can use.

2) Personal Prospecting Phrases

Link builders love all you passionate enthusiast hobbyists. We do, you are the purists of the web. You create for the love of your subject and God bless you. Even when a site has ads it can still be largely a venture of passion and those are prime sites for links. People who publish content because they are aficionados take great pride in their sites and rightly so. That means they are highly unlikely to muddy it up with crap.

Personal prospecting phrases are more colloquial in nature. So if we stick with selling car parts, we’d want to use queries like “My first car”, “I built a car” or “How I refurbished a hot rod”. Searches like these are more likely to return results containing hobby sites, blogs and sites which are personal in nature. In these cases if you can connect directly with a true car lover, you may be able to build a relationship that could result in a link.

3) Educational Prospecting Phrases

Sites seeking to educate the masses on a subject are nirvana for any link prospector with a solid resource to promote. But of course, that’s the lynch pin. Most link builders will tell you about how important it is to have something linkable to offer besides your home page. But if you are looking for educational sites specifically, if you aren’t offering a quality informational piece, then you can probably skip this category altogether. Instead spend that time producing educational content.

So let’s say my car parts site has a diagram of an engine with information on how each part works together to make an engine run. I’d want to use phrases like “How a car engine works”, “what is internal combustion” or “learn about car engines”. Again, you’re going to find pages from About.com and Ehow, mixed in with some of your more clever competitors who also have linkable content. But you’re also likely to find .edu pages, and authority sites with valuable information that you’re link could actually augment.

4) Professional Prospecting Phrases

Professional sites are different from competitors in that these sites are sort of a blend of the personal and educational, but they are meant to appeal to professionals in an industry. Sites in this category may use uncommon jargon, or technical language that layman might not. And in this case your diagram of an engine may not be enough, but your article exploring the latest developments in reducing tail pipe emissions, probably fits the bill. So we’d want to use phrases like “Engine waste heat storage”, “automobile hydrocarbons” or “vehicles and volatile organic compounds”.

When you get all technical on a subject you’ll find higher level websites geared toward industry professionals. The thing is, they may be a bit more corporate or institutional than personal, but they also recognize something of value when they see it. So if you have it, these are the people who will most appreciate the dry jargon that you or your client is just bonkers about.

If you see a thread here, it’s about having the right content to fit the right category. Whether you are going personal, educational professional or some other direction, you won’t get merit based links with out merit worthy assets. Coming up with great prospecting phrases is as simple as identifying your ideal link giver and trying to imagine what they might be saying. Then you can use that insight to generate search phrases which reflect their perspective. When we only think about link prospecting through the eyes of a link builder, we won’t break new ground. But when we think about what matters to the linker, we are unlimited.

About the Author:

Jennifer Van Iderstyne is the Online Marketing Director for Search Slingshot, an SEO reporting & consulting company.


  1. Great Post!

    All of the last few posts have been great. I enjoyed David Wolf's post a lot too. This is the blog I visit when I need to get into that linkbuilding mindset. :) Thanks all!

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