Link Prospecting Explained: How to Secure Backlinks

link prospecting guide

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What is link prospecting?

Link prospecting is the process of finding potential link partners for your website. This can be done manually, by searching the web for relevant websites and then contacting them directly, or through automated tools that help you find and contact potential link partners at scale.

From a workflow perspective, this usually entails 2 tasks:

  1. Identifying Target Websites
  2. Finding Contact Information

Effective link prospecting will ensure that you have enough contacts to meet your backlink building goals, while factoring in average open rates, reply rates and conversion rates.

Here’s an example of a guest blog outreach campaign I ran recently for reference:

guest blog outreach campaign
Guest Blog Outreach Campaign via Instantly.ai

We sent out 211 emails and converted 10 to backlinks for an overall conversion rate of 4.8%. If we treat this as a benchmark, we’ll need roughly 200 link prospects per 10 backlinks, which is our average order size from clients. Operating on low ball metrics, we inflate this figure to 250 prospects because we don’t have long-term campaign analytics to average out from (yet). It’s better to have more prospects than you need than to fumble around late into a campaign.

How to Find Sites That Accept Guest Posts with Google

Using Google search operators, we can find some truly low hanging fruit guest post opportunities. Most blogs don’t explicitly advertise that they accept guest posts (and they really shouldn’t).

You can use any of the below search terms to find websites that accept guest posts, but I do not recommend doing things this way. 

  • “keyword” + “guest blog”
  • “keyword” + “guest post”
  • “keyword” + “write for us”
  • “keyword” + “submit an article”
  • “keyword” + “contribute to our blog”
  • “keyword” + “become a contributor”
  • “keyword” + “contributor guidelines”

This is such a common and obvious tactic that many of the results will be low quality.

Low quality websites that accept guest posts are often made solely to sell guest posts or make money off of advertising. Google considers this a link scheme, which may lead to your rankings getting nuked. Don’t risk your domain reputation over something so easily avoided!

Aside from explicitly saying they accept guest posts, some tell-tale signs of a link scheme include:

  • Multi-niche and multi-category websites that aren’t related to each other
  • Publishes content unrelated to website focus
  • Low topical authority (content is very loosely related)
  • Low trust flow (see Majestic)

So, how do you find high-quality websites that accept guest posts?

Simple: ahrefs Content Explorer.

Link Prospecting with ahrefs

Link prospecting with ahrefs is actually more time-efficient than just Googling websites that accept guest posts, so it’s really a win-win for you.

Let me show you exactly how it’s done step-by-step.

In this example, we’re looking for blogs that have written about “email outreach software” like Instantly

This query gives us 1,964 potential guest blog placements

link prospecting with ahrefs

Now that we have our base level search, it’s time for some quality control.

Let’s add a couple filters to find the sites ✨most likely✨ to accept guest blogs AND move the needle for us!

  • Minimum traffic: 1,000
  • DR 45 to 65

Go below these metrics and websites are unlikely to move the needle.

Go above these metrics and websites are unlikely to respond to your emails.

This narrows our search down to just 189 pages.

link prospecting with ahrefs

This view will show multiple pages from the same domain, so we switch to the Websites view and end up with 87 websites that are likely to accept guest posts in the email marketing niche.

link prospecting with ahrefs

Due Diligence

From here, we go to each and every website to do our due diligence. We want to make sure the websites we submit guest posts to are legitimate, trustworthy and authoritative. SEO metrics can be manipulated in various ways, so this step is extremely important. Without due diligence, you might find yourself reaching out to businesses that don’t actually exist or link schemes.

First, check if they post irrelevant content for a fee. You’ll want to avoid websites like this because they have low topical authority. They’re not only a risk to work with but they are less likely to move the needle for your website.

Do a search for each of these and see what comes up:

  • site:http://domain.com CBD
  • site:http://domain.com crypto
  • site:http://domain.com casino
  • site:http://domain.com insurance

Second, check if they have a Write for Us page in their main navigation. These sites are almost always link farms, so avoid these sites at all costs.

Finally, check their Overview 2.0 chart in ahrefs. You’ll want to look at where their traffic comes from. Many link farms have the bulk of their traffic coming from countries irrelevant to their site content.

ahrefs overview 2.0 report - traffic by country

Relevancy matters a lot when it comes to backlink building, so it’s important to check that their traffic comes from G8 countries or countries where your business operates in. Sites with 90%+ Indian traffic aren’t going to help a US-based business, for example.

Key Takeaways

I hope this guide helps you on your backlink building journey. If you have any questions at all, feel free to contact me on Twitter. For a quick recap, here’s the most important lessons from this short but sweet guide to link prospecting and guest blogging:

  • Make sure you build up a large enough link prospect list to hit your backlink building goals. Work backwards from your conversion rate.
  • Avoid link farms at all costs by doing your due diligence.
  • Find creative searches to find websites that have covered topics related to your industry using ahrefs and you’ll never be short on backlinks again.
  • Closed mouths don’t get fed.

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