Link Prospecting: What to look for when Link Building

11 min read
8 Apr 2024


Link prospecting helps businesses improve search positions, gain more traffic, and ultimately increase revenue.

Link prospecting is all about carefully selecting which sites you want to gain links from and creating a process to reach out to them and pitch various methods to get a link to your site. The process is all about quality and not quantity.

TL;DR: Link prospecting is a crucial step in SEO that focuses on acquiring high-quality backlinks from relevant and authoritative websites. It involves a thorough process of identifying and assessing potential sites for relevancy, domain authority, traffic, and several other factors like spam score, indexing routine, and the nature of link attributes (dofollow or nofollow). Avoid Private Blog Networks (PBNs), aim for editorial links, and ensure a natural acquisition pace with varied anchor text for better search rankings.

Introduction to Link Prospecting

Link prospecting is the process of acquiring quality backlinks. Link prospecting involves finding, evaluating, and contacting relevant sites for link opportunities.

Link prospecting is not a general process but a sensitive approach to finding and seeing which sites can move the needle on search results. Below is our checklist for link prospecting. We assess These factors when looking for sites to build links from for our clients and our own sites.

Why is Link Prospecting Important for SEO?

A site’s backlinks are an important ranking factor in SEO. Links to your site indicate to Google that your site is trusted. However, not all links are equal. Google will only consider links that add value to the user as valuable ranking factors. This means the sites that are linking to your website need to be trusted and also relevant to your niche in some way.

Building bad links can also have a negative effect. You might see your site drop off search results altogether.

Link Prospecting: Things to Consider

Ready to start?

When compiling a list of relevant sites, the following metrics will help you see if a specific site is worth choosing for link opportunities.

Relevancy (Niche)

Backlinks are considered positive votes from search engines. In this case, no doubt – links from relevant sources are worth more than ones from irrelevant websites.

Let’s learn if a site you’re considering for a backlink is relevant to yours.

Using an SEO tool, putting in your site’s address will return relevant sites. For example, Semrush or Ubersuggest can help you find appropriate sites. In this case, you’re good once you’ve confirmed a site is relevant to yours.

Check What is the site ranking for?

Have a look into what the site is currently ranking for. This is one of the quickest ways to spot a PBN or spammy site. If they are ranking for obscure keywords that don’t relate to their niche, then it is a sign that they are accepting large volumes of spam content. You can quickly check this on SEMrush under ‘Organic Researching’.

Backlink profiles

Have a look at both the site’s external and internal link profiles. This will be an easy way to assess whether the site is a spammy PBN or a genuine site.

Domain Authority (DA)/Authority Score (AS)

Domain Authority (DA) is a metric by Moz that shows if a site has a chance of being highly ranked on Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs). It is a number from 1 to 100, and the greater the number, the higher the authority.

Moz calculates DA based on various factors, including but not limited to – the number of linking domains, content, user experience, and pages indexed in Google. Choosing sites with a high DA positively impacts link acquisition results when prospecting for links.

DA is not a metric we pay much attention to. It is easily manipulated and isn’t a true factor in determining the value of a link. Don’t get caught up on DA. The website’s relevance to your niche is much more important.

Spam Score

Spam Score represents a site’s ratio of negative metrics. The Moz’s feature – spam score ranges from 1 to 100. A backlink from a site with a high spam score is probably dangerous for SEO rankings.

You can also use SEMrush to get an indicator of the domain spam score by going to backlink analytics and looking for the reputation rating.

Link Type (Dofollow or Nofollow)

Dofollow, Nofollow, UGC, and Sponsored are link attributes that help Google understand the context of a link on a page. Link attributes help search engines understand a backlink’s worth – when deciding if a linking page should pass link juice to the target.

In this case – as compared to Nofollow, links with the Dofollow attribute help users quickly improve the site’s rankings. Here is a brief overview of link attributes.

  • Dofollow links are SEO-friendly.
  • Nofollow links don’t endorse or pass Link Juice to the target page.
  • Sponsored tag indicates paid collaboration for links.
  • UGC shows the target page is User Generated Content.

Let’s learn if a site you’re considering for link acquisition is hosting Dofollow links.

In Google Chrome, right-clicking a link will open a short menu. Choose Inspect. In the right panel, you can see if a link’s HTML includes a specific attribute, such as Dofollow, Nofollow, UGC, or Sponsored – as shown in the sample code snippet below.

<a href=”” rel=”nofollow”>This is a Link with Nofollow attribute</a>

Note: A link with no “rel=” attribute indicates the site allows Dofollow links to external sources.

Website Indexing Routine

Along with the Filter option, Google’s SITE operator shows if a site is regularly updated, crawled, and included in organic results.

The point of impact is ensuring you’re getting links from regularly updated sites. In this case, the more often Google crawls a site, the more quickly links from the site are indexed.

Let’s learn to use Google’s SITE operator to find a site’s indexing routine. 

  1. Use Google’s SITE operator to search for your site’s indexed data on Google, such as
  2. Set the filer option to Weekly and see if new pages have been indexed recently.

Note: If no pages are indexed in the past month for a site, links from the site will take longer to index. This could delay results from link acquisition activities.

Website Traffic

New sites have no traffic compared to established ones with thousands of pageviews.

You should look for regularly updated sites, such as organic traffic growth, search rankings, and link indexing. In this scenario, choose sites with a few thousand page views; more is better.

So, in this case – SEO tools, such as Ahrefs, Semrush, or Ubersuggest, can help users find a site’s search traffic.

Private Blog Networks (PBNs)

Private Blog Networks (PBNs) are groups of sites geared towards providing link acquisition opportunities. PBNs are considered Black Hat SEO, helping users manipulate search rankings.

Users should avoid PBNs at all costs. To find if a site is part of a PBN network, use Semrush’s Backlink Analytics Tool. You can verify manually if a site is part of a Private Blog Network (PBN).

Use the SEMrush backlink analytics tool to see if a site has PBN signals.

Author Status

Link prospecting involves contacting concerned individuals on a site, such as site owners, authors, or 3rd party contributors. In this case, ensure the person claiming to publish your post is authorised, privileged, and legal.

So, asking to confirm if a person is part of a site’s team is the best option before closing deals for link acquisition opportunities.

Permanent Post

Links from a permanent page on a site are worth more than short-term collaborations. When reaching out to prospective link opportunities, make sure the page you’re getting links from will secure a permanent position on the site, such as an article, resource page, or directory index.

Editorial Link

Based on the position on a page, links can be of different types, such as navigational, footer, sidebar, or editorial links.

It would help to have editorial links placed intentionally inside a page’s content. For example, a link from a post’s body is called an Editorial Link. Compared to links in other positions on a page, editorial links pass real link juice to point sources.

Link Acquiring Frequency

The rate of acquiring links should sound natural to search engine bots.

For example, gaining hundreds of links in a month indicates your site is acquiring paid links. Conversely, a few links in a month show natural link acquisition – which helps you avoid search penalties.

Anchor Text

The clickable text of a hyperlink is called Anchor Text. When building backlinks, make sure the anchor texts are natural.

In this case, avoid exact match and commercial anchor texts at all costs. To make more sense, the page you’re getting a link from, the anchor text, and the target page should share the same intent, purpose, or relevant information.

Traffic from specific countries

A site’s traffic indicates which type of audience the site is serving. When compiling a list of sites for link prospecting, make sure to check for a site’s traffic country.

SEO tools help you see a site’s traffic countries. Based on specific areas, countries, and locations, you can estimate the site’s audience and tailor your content, guest posts, and landing pages to the relevant audience.

🚀 Get A Free Proposal & Strategy

We would love to see what we can do for you. Whether you need links or a full SEO sprint campaign. Let us know about your project and we can send you a free proposal.

Link Prospecting: What is the Process?

Link prospecting is a 4-step process that helps you improve search rankings with quality backlinks.

Step 1: Compile a list of quality Websites

Compile a list of sites that are relevant to yours. In this matter, a list of 100, 300, or 500 is a good starting point.

Step 2: Find the Contact Information

Visit the target sites individually and see if contact information is available on Team, About, or Contact pages. You can also look for concerned individuals on LinkedIn or use an email-finding tool to find email addresses, such as Hunter or

Step 3: Reach out

Reach out to the sites. The aim will be to negotiate a link agreement with the site. Some possible situations will include.

  1. The site accepts paid contributions. In this case, you’ll need to see if the pricing criteria match your budget. The value of the link/content placement will depend on the site.
  2. The site accepts content but doesn’t have a charge. There are still sites out there that are happy to have free content. You need to make sure you are not sending promotional content in this case, work with the point of contact to create content they are happy with.
  3. The site will be open to a link exchange. This usually means that in return for a link on their website, you will link to them from your own website. It’s a win-win situation if the links are natural.
  4. Article placement. You can pitch to have a link placed within an existing article. This is usually to content on your site that relates and adds value to the article. Make sure you have content in this case that will add value to the reader of the original content.

Note: Remember that the sites you contact should pass the “link standards” defined above. The more positive indicators a site has, the better it is to acquire links.

Step 4: Content Writing

Deciding if a specific headline matches a site’s content guidelines involves discussing it with the site. Discuss your ideas for content with the site and work together to develop a topic that would work for their site. This will also allow you to include a link naturally without looking promotional.

Note: The 4-step process for link prospecting is ideal for marketers with patience. Link prospecting is not easy or fast. Patience, constant looking for new opportunities, and good communication will eventually pay off.

Summing up

The process of link prospecting is sensitive and demands special attention. If not done correctly, it could have negative implications for a site’s email reputation or be a complete waste of time. Ensure the sites you choose for link opportunities have more positive indications.

Link prospecting is a long-term strategy to improve search rankings. Set your expectations early. Acquiring links at a natural rate and regular monitoring to see if link building is improving the site’s stats is the best way to link prospect.

If you don’t have the time for all this or just aren’t sure, you can simply outsource this to a reputable link building SEO agency, such as Contactora. Get in touch to learn more about our link building services.

Written By
Adam is the founder of Contactora and chief strategist. Having worked in Digital marketing for over 10 years and in SEO for 7+ years he has gain a wealth of knowledge and insights.
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