How I Build A Link Request List Without Scrapers

I’ve been going back to basics and doing lots – dozens of hours worth – of manual link outreach. It ain’t pretty, but it works. Here’s how I build my link request list, without tools.

(Come back next week for a tutorial on the rest of my process!)

As most of you know, there are queries you can search for that will return potential link prospects. Everything from queries that return comment forms, forums and guest books (the spammier low end) to general (aka SEO-friendly aka BURN-ME-PLEASE-GOOGLE) directories.

Most people overlook that you can also use link queries to find hubs, the most powerful links around.

1. The first thing is to find out who creates hub pages and why.

2. Once you know that, you can query for more hubs of the same type. I described that process and gave examples already years ago. (Kudos to Eric Ward and his link opportunity alert newsletter for some excellent answers to “who” and “why”).

“The Results Suck Though, Gab!”

It’s true! The annoying thing with searching Google/Bing for hubs is that a large percentage of the results – at times even the wide majority – are useless. Some reasons:

  1. Site updates are impossible: broken forms, email addresses, absentee webmasters…
  2. No one optimizes for these queries so many of the results are irrelevant

Are tools the solution? Various link research tool vendors like Citation Labs, Ontolo, etc offer to run the queries and scrape the results for you.

The problem is that if you’re auto-scraping together junk, you just end up with a bigger pile of junk, faster. And exponentially more work sorting, if a few queries were bad, because then you need to eliminate all those results from your link prospect export.

So the question is – how do you auto-filter the junk? Or, phrased differently, how do you maximize your percentage of high-quality opportunities?

Browse, don’t search. Go parallel.

I’ve used this technique for years and it’s always proven highly valuable. In essence, once you’ve found a good prospective hub, click on their links and aim to solicit those people.

Why does it work?

It works because someone else has already done the filtering for you. That is, problem #2 – irrelevant search results – has been taken care of by human curation. It’s ironic, but human curation is an important way to provide quality in the long tail.

(Demand Media, if they wrote decent articles, is another face to this coin).

Of course, this doesn’t solve problem #1 for you.

You still have to either click around the site looking for contact info (and/or use the WhoIs database), check copyright type info to see when the last update happened etc.

The contact info rummaging, fortunately, can be handled by a tool like BuzzStream, to save you some time.

Some things to prioritize when clicking links on a hub page:

- If the site description says that it links to other sites. (Yay, another hub!)
- If the linked site has a blog.
- Look at the blogroll because you can easily see whether the blogs linked are current thanks to blogs’ default reverse-chronological sequencing. This is a time-saver, plus most blogs also have some contact information accessible.

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