Precision Link Prospecting with Advanced Search Operators
By: Ben Wills |

Ontolo was developed, in part, from the frustration of culling through hundreds and thousands of competitor backlinks and constantly discovering link prospects - often, over 95% - that were simply irrelevant and off-topic.

Imagine that for a moment.

You're looking at your competitors' backlinks for link prospects and 19 out of 20 aren't useful for you simply because it's off-topic. 19 out of 20. That means that you'll review 100 websites and find 5 that may be on-topic. You'll review 250 and find 12-13 that are on-topic. And on-topic doesn't even necessarily mean that it's a good link prospect you'll approach.

Last summer, I outlined a speicifc process for you to review 250 link prospects in a single hour. We even published the URL Reviewer tool to help with this process.

So, with the right tools, you can find 12-13, possibly relevant link prospects every hour using by reviewing your competitors' backlinks.

Only 12-13 link prospects. In an hour. And only because the link building tools you are using aren't smart enough to tell you if a link prospect is relevant for you or not.

We felt that 12-13 possibly-relevant link prospects in an hour was unacceptable for us as SEOs and link builders. We knew the technology existed to solve this problem and this technology is what we have designed into The Ontolo Link Building Toolset.

With The Link Building Toolset, we make it possible to turn that ratio around so, instead of throwing away 19 out of 20 link prospects, you're keeping 19 out of 20 link prospects.

The solution exists in being able to index your link prospects, just like a search engine, then letting the power of your own searches and understanding of your industry to be amplified by search technology.

With your link prospects properly indexed in a searchable database, you no longer have the problem of not being able to find relevant link prospects.

Using the right queries on your link prospect database will almost always result in a highly pre-qualified list of link prospects.

The challenge no longer lies in finding relevant link prospects, the new challenge becomes using those high-quality link prospects in the most strategic manner possible.

Relevant Link Prospects = Higher Link Acquisition
= More Links in Less Time

When you're digging through competitor backlinks and scraping by for link prospects, two things happen:

  1. You reduce your value requirements (PageRank, etc) to find more sites to approach.
  2. You get sloppy and begin reaching out to less-relevant sites.

When you're reaching out to less-relevant websites, you're much more likely to have your request ignored. Even when you're reaching out via uncommonly effective channels (ie: Twitter) or offering something valuable in return (ie: Guest Posts), your link acquisition rates are still not as high as they are when you're approaching highly-relevant websites.

Finding relevant link prospects, then, becomes necessary and required for link building campaigns that demand exceptional productivity and results.

Why invest your time on 5% link acquisition rates when you could invest that same time into 20% link acquisition rates with higher-quality, more valuable and more relevant websites?

The Ontolo Link Building Toolset supports a range of advanced search operators to use so that you may find exactly the kind of link prospect that matches with the specific kinds of links you are looking to acquire, as well as your linkable assets (your blog, white papers, videos, etc). These operators allow you to quickly discover very specific link prospects and content for your campaigns without needing to filter through each prospect by hand.

Here is an example of one such (very) advanced search query you can run on your link prospect database to find highly-relevant link prospects. This query aims to identify Travel Guest Posts for a Key West vacation rental condo.

+body_text:("guest (post blog blogger writer author)"~3)
+page_title:(+"key west" vacation* -hotel* travel* (home house rental*)^8 florida^3 condo*^10)

If you've never searched for your link prospects like that, it might seem overwhelming. The good news is that by the end of this document, that kind of query is going to easily make sense.

Google has their own advanced search operators, but what you see above is nothing like it. It's much more powerful.

By the end of this document, you will easily understand the query above and will be able to create your own to find very specific link prospects for your campaigns. Through the process, you may see why being able to search on your own link prospect database in this way will allow you to quickly find exactly the kind of link prospects you're looking for, all in a split second rather than hours.

To make it easier to work through learning these operators, we've made a table of contents below.

Table of Contents

  1. How We Index Your Prospects
  2. Understanding Terms & Phrases
  3. Modifying Terms & Phrases
  4. Boolean Operators
  5. Grouping Terms & Phrases
  6. Field Grouping

Part 1: How We Index Your Prospects

Once we've discovered a link prospect for you (which we do on a nightly basis), we add that link prospect to your own, customized link prospect database.

We do this just like Google or Bing or any other search engine, but we do so in a way that gives you much more control of how to search your link prospects.

For each link prospect, we index, separately, the URL text, Title text and Body text. This opens up a wide range of searching possibilities, such as being able to search your link prospect database for URLs that contain the word "links" or "resources" or "blog".

Combining this with the ability to also search the body text, we provide to you the ability to discover very specific link prospects that meet content requirements such as: The body and title text contains the phrase "rock climbing," and the URL contains the word "blog".

Finally, when you build and perform a query on your link prospect database, there is a Relevance Score that is calculated for each prospect and displayed in your results. This Relevance Score reflects how relevant each link prospect is to your individual query. With a new query, the same link prospect will almost always return a different Relevance Score.

Part 2: Understanding Terms & Phrases

A query is broken up into terms and operators. There are two types of terms: Single Terms and Phrases.

A Single Term is a single word such as "building" or "link".

A Phrase is a group of words surrounded by double quotes such as "link building".

Multiple terms can be combined together with Boolean operators to form a more complex query (see below).

Part 3: Modifying Terms & Phrases

Ontolo supports modifying query terms to provide a wide range of searching options.

Wildcard Searches

Ontolo supports single and multiple character wildcard searches within single terms (not within phrase queries).

To perform a single character wildcard search use the "?" symbol.

To perform a multiple character wildcard search use the "*" symbol.

The single character wildcard search looks for terms that match that with the single character replaced. For example, to search for "text" or "test" you can use the search:


Multiple character wildcard searches looks for 0 or more characters. For example, to search for link, links or linker, you can use the search:


You can also use the wildcard searches in the middle of a term.


Note: You cannot use a * or ? symbol as the first character of a search.

Fuzzy Searches

Ontolo supports fuzzy searches based on the Levenshtein Distance, or Edit Distance algorithm. To do a fuzzy search use the tilde, "~", symbol at the end of a Single word Term. For example to search for a term similar in spelling to "link" use the fuzzy search:


This search will find terms like lick, mink and links.

Proximity Searches

Ontolo supports finding words that are a within a specific distance away. To do a proximity search use the tilde, "~", symbol at the end of a Phrase. For example to search for a "building" and "link" within 10 words of each other in a document use the search:

"link building"~10

Boosting a Term

Ontolo provides the relevance level of matching documents based on the terms found. To boost a term use the caret, "^", symbol with a boost factor (a number) at the end of the term you are searching. The higher the boost factor, the more the boosted term will increase the relevance score for that document.

Boosting allows you to control the relevance of a document by boosting its term. For example, if you are searching for

link building

and you want the term "link" to be more relevant boost it using the ^ symbol along with the boost factor next to the term. You would type:

link^4 building

This will make documents with the term link appear more relevant. You can also boost Phrase Terms as in the example:

"link building"^4 "building links"

If you don't set any boost, the boost factor on every query term is 1. Although the boost factor must be positive, it can be less than 1 (e.g. 0.2)

Part 4: Boolean Operators

Boolean operators allow terms to be combined through logic operators. Ontolo supports AND, "+", &&, OR, ||, NOT and "-" as Boolean operators (Note: Boolean operators must be ALL CAPS).

Optional Inclusion: OR, ||,

The OR operator is the default conjunction operator. This means that if there is no Boolean operator between two terms, the OR operator is used. The OR operator links two terms and finds a matching document if either of the terms exist in a document. The symbol || can be used in place of the word OR.

To search for documents that contain either "link building" or just "link" use the query:

"link building" link


"link building" OR link


"link building" || link

Required Inclusion: AND, &&, +

The AND operator matches documents where both terms exist anywhere in the text of a single document. The symbol && can be used in place of the word AND.

To search for documents that contain "link building" and "building links" use the query:

+"link building" +"building links"


"link building" AND "building links"


"link building" && "building links"

The "+" or required operator requires that the term after the "+" symbol exist somewhere in a the field of a single document.

To search for documents that must contain "link" and may contain "building" use the query:

+link building

Exclusion: NOT, !, -

The NOT operator excludes documents that contain the term after NOT. This is equivalent to a difference using sets. The symbol ! can be used in place of the word NOT.

To search for documents that contain "link building" but not "building Ontolo" use the query:

"link building" -"building links"


"link building" NOT "building links"


"link building" ! "building links"

Note: The NOT operator cannot be used with just one term. For example, the following search will return no results:

NOT "link building"

The "-" or prohibit operator excludes documents that contain the term after the "-" symbol.

To search for documents that contain "link building" but not "building links" use the query:

"link building" -"building links"

Part 5: Grouping Terms & Phrases

Ontolo supports using parentheses to group clauses to form sub queries. This can be very useful if you want to control the boolean logic for a query.

To search for either "link" or "links", and "building", use the query:

(link OR links) AND building

This eliminates any confusion and makes sure you that "building" must exist and either term "link" or "links" may exist.

Part 6: Field Grouping

When preceded by one of the three searchable link prospect fields, Ontolo supports using parentheses to group multiple clauses to a single field.

To search for a title that contains both the word "blogs" and the phrase "link building" use the query:

title:(+blogs +"link building")

Ontolo allows you to search on three fields of every link prospect in your database. The Body Text (body_text), Title Tag Text (page_title) and URL Text (text_url).

Here are examples of how to search each field, each one combined with some other advanced operators.

body_text:(+"link building"^8 +"building links")

page_title:(-(resource* list* blog* link*) +"link building")

text_url:(link~ resource* lib)

You may also combine field searches into a single query. For example:

page_title:("link building") body_text:("link building"^8 links prospect*)

And, if you really want to get crazy with the cheese whiz, you can apply other advanced operators to the field groups:

-page_title:("link building") +body_text:(link* prospect*) text_url:(link~ resource*)^8

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