Automated Prospecting for Guest Posting Opportunities with Ontolo
By Ken Lyons of the SEO Consulting Firm MeasuredSEM.
One of my favorite ways to snag editorial links is via guest blogging. Trading content for links is a pretty effective way to build valuable keyword-rich links. The real bitch of guest posting for links though is the massive amount of effort involved with locating quality, relevant websites and blogs to publish your content on. Anyone who's ever slogged through the SERPs with advanced query operators for hours at a time only to unearth one or two decent places to guest post knows the pain I speak of.
So when Garrett told me that Ontolo had developed a tool that would automate a lot of the guest post prospecting and site qualification by leveraging many of Garrett's own link philosophies and expert link prospecting strategies, I was pretty damn intrigued.
How Ontolo Works
I decided to use Ontolo for a client's blog that's focused on wedding-related topics. This is a new client and a new vertical that I had no previous data on, so I thought this would be a test run for the tool to see if it could uncover some juicy prospects for a guest posting campaign.
Garrett got me up and running and pre-populated my account with my link prospecting phrases (the high-level topics that determine which verticals/industries I'm targeting, which in this case were "wedding" related terms), my link types (which for the purposes of this project were "guest posts") and allocated link weighting (guest posts were weighted "10" on a scale of 1 - 10 since they were my primary target.)
Just an FYI that in addition to "guest posts" there are a host of link types you can prospect for, including:
- Article Directories
- Donation Sites
- .Gov and .Edu Searches
- Blog Comments
- Sponsored Links
- Web Directories
- And more...
Based on these parameters, the Ontolo tool scraped the SERPs over the course of 24 hours and harvested thousands of qualified "wedding-themed" link prospects for me to dive into. Next steps were to query my proprietary database with a title tag query ("wedding") and I seeded the "body text query" box with some common guest posting trigger phrases, like "submit an article," "guest blog," "become an author," etc. I also had the ability to select additional data points I wanted in my report like "contact URL," "emails" and "Twitter accounts."
NOTE: The Twitter account profiles are really useful for doing some shameless ego baiting, which greases the skids for the eventual outreach. Think of it as outreach foreplay :)
Within seconds, Ontolo spit out a really robust list of 99 potential guest posting targets for me to wade through and evaluate.
Some of the valuable (and sort-able) data fields in my report included:
- Relevance scoring: title attributes and body content are analyzed against your target phrases to develop an relevance score
- Outbound links totals per document
- Google Toolbar PageRank
Plus, you have the ability to export the data in a clipboard or to a CSV or Excel file.
However, with any SEO tool, the proof is in the pudding. Even though I was impressed by the automation, the time saving features and the speed with which I can now harvest link prospects, all of that would be pretty irrelevant if the output data was littered with garbage sites. Am I right?
Less Junk, More Solid Prospects!
Even without any radical filtering, Ontolo returned quality results. I was expecting there to be at least some scraper sites and AdSense splogs sprinkled into my report, but I was blown away when I found only quality sites that were super relevant to my keywords and query operators. For reference, I've tasked guest post prospecting to interns in the past and they often generate lists that are 50% splogs because they're not experienced enough to distinguish between quality sites and sites that are strictly MFA . So having a tool that's able to weed out the junk is priceless.
Another nice link qualifying feature in Ontolo is the "search by followed links" filter, which gives me the ability to filter out cheese ball sites that intentionally nofollow guest blogger bio links.
Sure, I can do perform this sort of pre-qualification on my own, but I would need to visit each site and enable my nofollow link detector, which is just an additional step that takes time away from higher ROI tasks.
Advantages of Ontolo for Hard Core Link Builders
So let's take a look at what I perceive as the high-level benefits that Ontolo provides SEOs and link builders, which include:
- Huge time savings: I'm not exaggerating when I say it would take me roughly 45 minutes to an hour on average to unearth each worthwhile guest posting opportunity for a client. So for example, if I wanted to find five decent places to guest post, I could I expect to wrestle with search operators and site qualification tasks for about five hours, which is a brutal time sink. Yet with Ontolo, I can find exponentially more link prospects (and links) in less time.
- Higher ROI: Since Ontolo does almost all of the link prospecting and pre-qualification of sites for me, I can channel my efforts to the higher-level ROI tasks associated with strategic link building efforts and spend less time on the tedious, lower value stuff.
- Competitive Advantage: If your competitors are still manually sifting through the SERPs for guest posting opps, then using Ontolo gives you a distinct advantage because you're automating much of the laborious input steps, which means you will accomplish more, faster.
- Scalability: Many SEOs loathe the term "automation" and naively label it "Black Hat" or some other nonsense. Bottom line is that smart SEOs know that the only way to compete with the big boys is to scale your link building efforts and that's where a tool like Ontolo shines. Leveraging really good software allows you to scale your efforts at a lower cost basis.
So to recap, anyone who's engaged in the sort of SERP prospecting I talked about in this post knows that the site gathering and pre-qualification phase of the guest blogging process takes the bulk of your time. And depending on how many sites you want to target, it can take hours if not days of work to verify sites as quality outreach prospects. However, by using Ontolo, I was able to automate the tedious, mind-numbing tasks of link prospecting and generate an actionable list of 90 guest posting prospects within minutes, which is an enormous time-saver and allows me to generate more value for my clients and more revenue for my business.
Ken Lyons is the co-founder of Measured SEM, a search marketing agency in Boston that provides a range of SEO consulting services, including link building, strategic content marketing and conversion rate optimization.