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13 ways to assess a link prospect

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Assessing the quality of link prospects and sorting them using tools like Link Builder is crucial at every stage of a link building campaign. Get it right and you’ll be way ahead of your competitors: spending time on link prospects will bring you the best business and SEO benefits. But how do you assess the quality of a link prospect? No more mystery in that - Ken McGaffin gives you 13 ways to assess a link prospect.

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13 ways to assess a link prospect

A small number of links from quality sites will bring you much more benefit than thousands of links from poor quality sites.

But how do you assess the quality site of a site?

Here’s my criteria:

1. Is it relevant?

Relevance doesn’t mean just sites in your industry.

Bob’s Red Mill who produce whole grain foods get links from many different types of sites.

Here’s a directory listing on Business.com:

A link on a personal finance website, Get Rich Slowly

And the Children’s Hospital in Boston also linked to the website as part of their patient education information.

There is clear relevance in all of these so spread your horizons.

2. Is the content well-written?

Well-written content is a sign that someone cares about what they’re doing. A great case in point is Tim Carter and his fantastic site AskTheBuilder

People that care make really good link prospects.

3. Has the content been updated recently?

I’ll always have a quick look at the pattern of publishing.

Springwise.com is a great site that highlights new entrepreneurial ideas.

I took this screen grab on June 6th and you can see that there were at least 2 new items that day.

But websites or blogs don’t have to publish every day. The author of Cranky Fitness admits that she doesn’t publish often but the articles are just so good it makes my list.

4. Does the site link out to many other sites?

We freely link out to good resources and we don’t ask for any reciprocal link in return.

Such links make our articles more complete and say ‘thank you’ to sites that give us something worth writing about.

Kids Can Travel link out as in this article on Family Friendly Luxury Resorts.

If a site does not link out frequently, it may be difficult to persuade them to do so and maybe that’s not worth the effort.

5. Are there real people on the site?

There are machine generated sites whose main job is to make money for their owners. They run on auto-pilot – there’s no real engagement with the audience.

That doesn’t fit my priorities - I want to see evidence of real people.

Midtown Lunch fits the bill.

The writers are named.

And people leave comments.

Good job.

6. Has the site got good inbound links?

The more inbound links a website has, the more important the site is likely to be, and therefore a link from that site will be more valuable.

Here’s how we show that in the Link Builder tool.

I will prioritize link prospects according to how many inbound links they have.

7. Does the site score well on Google PageRank, Alexa, Compete, etc

These metrics are freely available, for example, the Search Status add-on from Quirk.biz

This can be a very useful first pass in looking at a site.

The figures give an instant snapshot of how important a site might be. But it is only a clue, so don’t take the scores too literally – have a look at other factors too.

8. Is the site well-established?

The longer a site has been around, the higher its profile on Google is likely to be. That enhances the value of a link from the site.

The WayBackMachine available at Archive shows that Godiva has been around since 1996.

9. Does the site perform well on keyword searches?

I would expect an important site to rank fairly well on popular, relevant keywords.

This search on ‘digital cameras’ shows DPReview on the first page of results.

10. Are they easy to contact?

Sites that are interested in linking to good content are likely to make themselves easy to contact.

Like the Big Green Purse Blog where Diane MacEachern, the founder and CEO makes herself easy to contact.

Now that doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily easy to get a link from.

I came across this ‘How to pitch’ page from Social Media Explorer that I really liked How to pitch SME

It’s clear that the site welcomes pitches but they’d better be good:

I love it when sites are so clear about what they want – break their rules at your peril!

11. Do they publish resources or reviews?

If the answer is yes, as on Killer Startups then they’re going to move up my priorities. Such sites exist to inform their audiences – that’s what brings them traffic.

12. Do they invite articles or guest posts?

Offbeat Home makes it clear in their menu bar that they welcome ‘submissions.’

And they clearly encourage guest posts.

However, guest posts require time and effort. It must be relevant, well-written and usually original if it is to be attractive to the target site.

13. Do they interview people for opinion or case studies?

I think most businesses are surprised that there are so many opportunities to be interviewed.

Like this interview on Nine Work Lives

So make yourself available.

Wordtracker's Link Builder tool

The Link Builder tool from Wordtracker helps search marketers and website owners find quality link prospects, organize them into campaigns and keep track of people they contact.

Sign up today for a free 7-day Link Builder trial and you'll get a free 50-page e-book, Link Building Basics.

You can check out what the new tool does by reading 'A quick guide to Link Builder'.

Judging the quality of a link prospect is an important task – do it well and you’ll spend your precious time targeting those prospects that can bring you the most benefit.

About Ken McGaffin

Ken McGaffin is a writer, speaker and trainer in online marketing. He provides webinar and video training in link building, online PR and content marketing on his site at LinkingMatters.com You can join him at Google+ or on Twitter

He wrote The Definitive Guide to Successful Link Building with Mark Nunney, and has created two in-depth online courses, 'Get Links: 7 Weeks to Link Building Mastery' and 'Broken Link building Video Course', both with Garrett French.