Large Scale Link Prospect Qualification with the Ontolo Toolset

A guest post by Tom Demers, of MeasuredSEM.

Getting a big list of potential link prospects is a nice first step in your link building campaigns, but to really scale your efforts effective link qualification is a crucial point of leverage.

This is the case because your goal really isn’t to get as many link prospects as possible: your goal is to get as many links in as efficient a manner as you possibly can. Maximizing the number of actual, quality links you’ll get means effectively prioritizing where your time is spent. It depends on your process, obviously, but in most cases 1,000 link prospects that yield 11 links are of less overall value to your business (whether you’re an agency or an in-house SEO) than 100 link prospects that yield 10 links.

This seems counter-intuitive: we just said that the goal is to get lots of links, right? As with any other marketing activity you need to think about more than just gross returns. Your focus should be on the return on your investment (whether your investment is money or time). This makes effective link qualification a potentially high ROI task. Look at this way: every link prospect I contact represents a cost. I have to go through the research process, evaluate their site, and send an Email. For the sake of simplicity let’s say that process costs me $1 on average. That means the list of 1,000 prospects in the example above cost me $900 more to reach out to than the 100 prospect list. To justify this additional cost, I’ll need to get a lot more yield from my 1k list (and likely I’ll need a lot more yield than one extra link).

This is where effective link qualification tools and processes can really add scale and create margin for your link building efforts. In this post I want to show you how I use Ontolo to do a lot of the heavy link qualification lifting for me so that I can get the perfect balance of volume and quality in my link prospect list.

What Links Are We Qualifying?

Ken posted last month on how Ontolo can generate a big list of guest posting prospects and gave a good overview of how the tool works, but the one thing I really love about it is that Ontolo is the only (to my knowledge anyway) database driven link prospecting tool. What this means is that you start off by seeding the tool with a collection of campaigns.

In a post over on the WordStream blog I walked through a process for generating a big list of URLs where I used the Ontolo link building query generator. The great thing about that tool is that you tell it which term you want to target, input what type of promotion you’re looking to do (are you promoting a widget? Looking to get guest posts placed?) and it spits out a long list of pre-populated advanced search queries that will unearth some great link prospects.

The paid version of Ontolo is like the Link Building Query Generator on steroids.

The core Ontolo toolset allows me to:

  • Seed a link building campaign with a list of terms I want to target
  • Run all of the relevant link building queries for the thing I want to promote against that list of seed keywords
  • House all of those URLs in one database that I can then query a million different ways

This is effectively automating the steps outlined in that post on generating a big list of URLs, applying step-function growth to it in terms of scale, and then housing all of the results in a database that we can strategically query.

Link Qualification Through List Segmentation

From there we want to slice and dice this list to get the most relevant, actionable, and high-impact list of link prospects possible. This is where the data filters come in:

Applying these filters to my massive database of link prospects gets me a step closer to a really clean, relevant list with a single click. From there I can apply a few more filters to really concentrate my efforts on high value link opportunities. In Ken’s post he showed off this capability:

But the multiple layers of filtering here are worth spending another minute on. What I can do with this process is play around with my filters to expand and contract my list until I have just the right number and quality of link prospects. I can do this in a few ways:

  • Stricter/Looser Keyword Filters – One great way to vary the number of prospects you get back is to consider how you’re using the title tag and body queries. If you need to really aggressively limit the number of prospects, you can make more liberal use of the title tag (as this is generally the more aggressive filter, what with their being so much less real estate in a title tag and it being – by and large – such a great indicator of focus/prominence in a document). If you’re looking to expand the number of outreach prospects you’re able to target you can leave off targeting the title tag altogether and focus more on the body query. The body query filter allows you to establish some relevance without the high standard of requiring a document target your term in the title tag.
  • PageRank Scores – No, PageRank is not an indicator in and of itself of the value of a link, nor is it the be all end all ranking factor. But as a directionally indicative metric for weeding out lower quality prospects, PageRank can be a useful filter in sifting through a large list of prospects and returning only those of (relative) quality. With the Ontolo tool you can use the subdomain filter, which is nice because you won’t be excluding newer pages that haven’t achieved PageRank yet and you won’t be prioritizing WordPress, BlogSpot, etc. subdomains based on the authority of the domain.
  • Reporting – The reporting options allow you to append some additional data, but this can eventually serve as a filter once you export it (you can focus your efforts on the opportunities you already have contact information for).

The idea here is that once you start to work on link building campaigns with real scale every point of leverage counts. Being able to take a multi-step link building process and boil it down to a few clicks and a lot of automation you’re able to scale your efforts to take on more clients, do more for the clients you already have, generate more links for your Website, or just focus on other things to help move the needle for your business.

Author Bio:
Tom Demers is a co-founder and managing partner at Measured SEM, a search marketing agency in Boston that provides a range of search engine marketing consulting services, including link building, strategic content marketing, pay-per click campaign management, and conversion rate optimization.

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