5 ways to find more quality, relevant link prospects

Ken McGaffin's picture

Of course, you want to get links from your own industry. That’s a no-brainer. But links from your own industry aren’t the only links that are relevant. There are many more prospects that could be of interest.

You need to get links from relevant sites, yes but what does relevant really mean? Get your definition too narrow, and you’ll miss lots of perfectly legitimate link prospects. Get your definition too broad and you risk losing focus and therefore diluting your efforts. 

1. Go beyond the obvious

Many of us look inwards and just think about our own products and companies. But rather than thinking just about your own products, think about your customers, who they are and where they come from.

Brainstorm a list of sectors. So an accountant working with small businesses might see an opportunity to service non-profits or community organisations. If so, they can legitimately seek links from non-profit or community resource pages - rather than confining themselves to getting links from accountancy or business websites.

Likewise, a local sandwich shop or deli might see a business opportunity in providing high quality lunches to local business offices, and might legitimately seek links not just from food related resources, but business resource websites.

Going beyond the obvious is a terrific and very simple way to identify new opportunities.

2. Learn from disruptive companies

To illustrate, let’s take one of the biggest online successes in the last decade, Airbnb.com. Airbnb is a “trusted community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique accommodations around the world”. Or in other words, they allow travellers to find cheap accommodation by staying in private accommodation provided by the site’s community.

It’s obvious, that Airbnb.com is in the travel business, so they should find it easy to get links from the travel industry. But there is a big problem and that could give a great example to challenge your idea of what is relevant.

The big problem that Airbnb.com face in getting coverage from the travel industry is that they are a disruptive force in that industry. They challenge the vested interests of traditional hotels and other established types of accommodation providers - and therefore those vested interests might not be too keen on giving them links. 

And links that they get from the travel industry might be over critical or focus on the threat rather than the innovation. Like this article on EyeTravel.com, The rise of Internet marketplaces: threat or opportunity?

So disruptive companies like Airbnb.com have to extend their search for coverage and links. And by finding out where they get links from, we can get some fantastic ideas for new markets where we can get relevant links.

My favorite tool for doing this sort of work is Wordtracker’s Link Builder tool. By building campaigns around disruptive companies, I can quickly identify where they’re getting links from and find many opportunities

So you’ll find many articles and links to Airbnb.com in mainstream media. Like this one on CBS Moneywatch, Travel Deals: 4 New Ways to Save Money:


If you’re looking for  new relevant opportunities for links, local and mainstream media could prove to be one of the best ways to find them.

Or how about the environmental world? Green consumerism is such a powerful trend that the savvy link builder is sure to find interesting.  This rather quirky article from the Daily Green, Why I Prefer the Cheapest, Sleaziest Hotels links to Airbnb as well as a number of other accommodation sites:

airbnb on the daily green

There’s probably some green element to your business that you could promote in order to strengthen your presence in the environmental market.

Or what about personal finance. Wisebread is a great personal finance blog and they link to Airbnb.com in this article, Got Extra Space? Make Money and Meet Travelers With Short-Term Rentals:

airbnbn on wisebread

Or what about the motor industry? Airbnb.com make it into this industry with their AirBNB iPhone app on MotorAuthority.com:

airbnb on motor authority

And here’s a nice link from a summer school that gives Airbnb.com a nice dot gov link at http://www.swx-school.lanl.gov/localinfo.shtml

airbnb summer school

When you think about it, such summer schools nationwide could be a great source of authority links. 

So the links that disruptive companies attract show us that there is a much broader range of relevant links than we might originally think.

So what disruptive companies operate in your market? Fire them into Link Builder and you could be discovering relevant links you would not otherwise have thought about.

I have to admit that looking at disruptive companies is one of my favorite ways to explore a new market. But that’s not all - another favorite of mine is reading quality articles on quality sites as we’ll see in my next method.

3. Read quality articles

Yes sometimes, it’s as simple as that. But when I say ‘read’, I really mean read, not just scan. One of the great advantages of the web is that it puts so much great information at our fingertips. But there’s a downside to that - we all tend to scan quickly, without taking all the detail in.

With this method, I force myself to read slowly to really read a quality article in depth and I’m never disappointed with the information I uncover.

So go to the quality ‘general’ press - sites like NYTimes.com, BBC.co.uk, WashingtonPost.com, Guardian.co.uk, etc, and do a search on your industry. You’ll find quality articles that are usually comprehensive in nature and are written by a good journalist who wants to appeal to a wide readership. Such articles will contain lots of ideas and references and if you read them slowly and carefully, you can get ideas for areas where you might get relevant links.

Here’s a mind map that I did very quickly from one such article while researching the link potential for a small microbrewery (this is just an early screenshot - I later developed this into a mind map with over 130 ideas).

mindmap of microbrewery

Just by reading an article, I can see that microbreweries are relevant to economic development, tourism, good food, local produce, music and so on. There’s fantastic relevant opportunities from within those sectors.

4. Learn from top brands

This is a similar method to no. 2 on disruptive brands but it produces different results. 

Established brands will have been around for a long time and so will have attracted a wide range of links. And many of these will be links that were never asked for - they happened naturally without any outreach. Which really means that the sites who linked did so of their own volition. 

They were interested in the brand and its products and there will be a huge variety of sites. In Link Builder, you can build a campaign based on the top brands in your market.

But don’t just look at the top prospects the tool throws up, look for the ‘magic middle’ - sites that are not the most popular, but sites which are still great sites. These are likely to include sites that you might not think were immediately relevant, but which you now realize offer realistic opportunities.

5. Look at your existing links

The methods I've given to date work well in nearly all circumstances, but there is a final method tyou can try and that is to look at the types of sites that already link to you. But it only works if you've already got a good number of links pointing to your site. If that's the case, spend some time looking at the sites that already link to you and try and clasify them into sectors.

Can you see any patterns?

Do any of the links surprise you or lead you to think in new ways about where you could get links from? For example, with LinkingMatters.com, I might have a link from the non-profit sector that I didn't actually chase after - that could suggest to me that I should link about exploring the non-profit sector further - there might well be niche sites from which I could earn relevant links.

Final words

At the start of this article, I said that “get your definition too narrow, and you’ll miss lots of perfectly legitimate link prospects. Get your definition too broad and you risk losing focus and therefore diluting your efforts”. Where you draw the line between those two extremes is up to you. 

I’ve shared five ways that I like to extend my own thinking on relevance - now I hope you can do the same.

Please share this article with your social networks and if you’ve got comments or questions, I’d love to hear them - just use the comment box below.



Ken, What a great piece of content here. Some very good linking tips.

Also, I am so happy your blog is all updated, and everything. Looks great. You one of my top 3 favorite link builders. Right up there with Eric Ward.

Thanks again Ken for all the great linking tips.

Ken McGaffin's picture

Thanks Todd - glad you enjoyed it!

Best wishes,


founded Linking Matters to teach and consult on content marketing, market research, link building and online PR.

Ken, great post as always. I especially connected with the idea of really just working to branch out from the obviously relevant niches when formulating link building plans. I've gotten so tied to relevancy over the past two years that, to a fault, I've left a TON of great link building opportunities off the table.

I've learned, the hard way (is there any other way really?) that relevancy can be broad and that it is not all about niche. Its more about what your potential customers do and where they are. If you sell camping gear you're not just relegated to outdoors sites. There are opportunities in parenting sites, mommy bloggers, boy scouts, YMCA, fishing, hunting, climbers, snowboarders, skiers, etc, etc.

What do you use for your mind map software? I liked that.

Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.