Compiling lists of all kinds of backlink prospects is an integral part of a link builder’s work. Not only do lists make the job easier, but they also save a lot of time and make sure you don’t miss easy opportunities.
In the draft outline of this article, I imagined that around 20 lists that would be a good number to aim for. But once I started, got suggestions from colleagues and did a bit of brainstorming, the ‘list of lists’ grew to over 50!
This just goes to show another benefit of creating lists – the process of actively writing down lists encourages you to think of stuff you ‘never knew you knew’.
Within our lists there are at least three types:
- lists that can be used right away to generate links. For example, draw up a list of ‘magic middle’ blogs in your industry and start approaching them.
- lists that will make you think a bit deeper and incorporate business objectives into your thinking. For example, draw up a list of sites that already link to you and ask the question, “how can I build on the relationship I’ve already got with this site?”
- lists that might puzzle you a bit and you might think that they’re not really about link building at all. For example, a list of at least 10 debates or controversies in your industry. These may not lead directly to backlinks but they’ll strengthen the quality and impact of your writing – and that in itself will make your posts more linkworthy.
But one thing is for sure, I’ve left some important ones out. So if you don’t see your favorite list or you’ve come up with something new after reading this, please share it with us all in the comments below!
To be effective as a link builder, you’ve got to know your industry inside out. Compile these lists and you’ll know more than most of your competitors.
#1. Top 20-50 bloggers in your industry – they’ll be hard to get backlinks from at the start, but it’s something to aim for.
#2. ‘Magic middle’ bloggers in your industry – magic middle bloggers are those that are not in the top list, but are also very good blogs – it’s often easier to get backlinks from them because they’re not inundated
#3. Offline and online trade publications – look for the names of editors, journalists and contributors, and keep an eye out for any industry lists or resources they publish.
#4. Journalists who tweet about your industry – follow them, retweet their good stuff, and try to build a relationship with them – but don’t push too hard.
#5. Industry associations – especially any web-based ones that give backlinks to members
#6. Resource lists about your industry – (yes, even directories!) – the owners of such lists want to be as comprehensive as possible so they’re usually easy to persuade.
#7. Forums and discussion groups relevant to your industry – it’s where people have been congregating for years – you should be part of their discussion.
#8. Niche social media sites – ditto to above
#9. National, regional and local trade shows with dates – good to attend (and even report on the event) but if you can’t get there perhaps you can piggyback on increased awareness they generate.
#10. Twitter users in your industry – they don’t have to be top influencers, anybody who tweets good stuff can be courted.
#11. Colleges that teach courses that feed into your industry – and would just love to have a real person come and talk about their real experiences
#12. Professors and researchers who write about your industry – and could include you in research studies or reports.
#13. Authors who’ve written books about your industry – they’ll have great authority and are surprisingly easy to approach (all it takes is a bit of flattery)
#14. Experts who speak at trade shows, run webinars or publish slideshows – how could you help them?
#15. Holidays and observances relevant to your industry – these holidays and observances raise media interest and give you a hook on which to pitch your story – you’ll find a great list of them at http://www.brownielocks.com/ – just go through them and pick out the ones that are relevant to you.
#16. Sectors that your industry serves – you’d be surprised at how many sectors your industry serves. Here’s an example of the sectors SurveyMonkey.com get backlinks from:
Knowledge of your customers will feed your content planning and make sure that what you produce interests and resonates with your customers. Time spent compiling these lists will never be wasted.
#17. Customers who subscribe to your email newsletter – probably the most important.
#18. Customers who comment on your articles or posts – they’ve shown an active interest in what you do and are not afraid to share their opinions – so get them actively on your side
#19. Customers who make suggestions for improvements or new products – often a source of great new ideas
#20. Customers who’ve got great websites – how could you persuade them to link to you?
#21. Customers who blog – how could you persuade them to write about you?
#22. Customers who’ve won awards – why not congratulate them, give them a link? They’re sure to return the favor.
#23. Customers who’ve featured in the media – again congratulate them, get them on your side.
#24. Customers who’ve been with you for years – they’ll be your most loyal supporters. How could you encourage testimonials?
#25. Customers who praised your products or services in the past – well they’ll do so again, particularly if you encourage them.
#26. Customers who’ve had problems with your products or service – solve their problem and you’ll turn them into an advocate.
#27. Customer sectors that your company serves – think of the sectors your industry serves. Have you got a particular strength or niche within that?
As the Chinese general, Sun Tzu said, “Know thy enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles, you will never be defeated. When you are ignorant of the enemy but know yourself, your chances of winning or losing are equal. If ignorant both of your enemy and of yourself, you are sure to be defeated in every battle.”
Sure holds true for business and link building.
#28. List of your direct and indirect competitors online – you need to know who they are and what they’re up to
#29. List of quality websites that link to your competitors but not to you – so how can you persuade them?
#30. List of articles written about your competitors – what are they doing well that you’re not doing?
#31. List of reasons why your competitors get backlinks – e.g. new products, good prices, special offers, contests, nice article, PR announcement, anniversaries, personal profiles of owner or staff
#32. List of strengths where your competitors are better than you…
#33. List of weaknesses where you’re better than your competitors…
#34. List of businesses or websites that partner with your competitors…
Even if you’re a national operation, involving yourself in the local community can pay dividends.
#35. Local newspapers, media and news sites – they can be desperate for news – so learn to be a good source and the backlinks will follow
#36. Local bloggers – a great way to find local bloggers is to do a link analysis of local media, hospitals, local government and libraries.
#37. Local government offices – do they publish local resources?
#38. Local government initiatives – you could support
#39. Local business initiatives – you could be a part of
#40. Local job fairs and career events – you could participate in, recruit staff or interns from
#41. Local associations that are relevant to your industry…
#42. Local charities you could support…
#43. Local schools you could become involved with…
#44. Local sports clubs you could sponsor…
#45. Local organizations your staff are involved with…
#46. Local meetup groups relevant to your industry…
#47. Local businesses relevant to your industry…
This is one of the most important areas for looking for lists of backlinks prospects to approach.
As my colleague, Keith Saye says, “Before you start to look afield for links, carry out a quick check on your own backlink profile to spot any opportunities that are already coming to your site. Good links are often found going to waste where an older site has had one or more redesigns and the webmaster has forgotten to redirect links to the correct place when renaming web page urls. When carrying out website audits for clients , I use Majestic to look for incoming links to the client’s site, that go to missing pages and so are no longer helping the site to rank.”
“To spot broken link opportunities you may already have, look for links to 404 pages (page missing) or those going to 301 redirects, as these will often go to 404 pages too, where an old page has been moved more than once! Once you identify these pages, you need to bring the link back to life, as Google will remove links from its index over time if it finds they are dead. First, 301 redirect the broken link to the correct page and then reach out to the webmasters, thanking them for the original link and letting them know that the page has moved. Remember to make it easy for them to update their link, by giving them a url so that they can bring the link back to life without too much effort on their part.”
So here’s the final set of lists”
#48. List of colleagues or friends who will give you backlinks – just because you’re a friend and will probably be able to return the favor sometime
#49. List of benefits your products provide – constantly update these and make sure you include them in your writing and marketing
#50. List of reasons why people will link to you – this list is probably much longer than you think and it’s worth spending some time on compiling it
#51. List of articles you could write about – I write down article ideas all the time and probably have 30-50 at any one time
#52. List of sites where you’d like guest posts – and could pitch some of the article ideas above
#53. List of bloggers that already link to you – if they’ve done it once, they’ll be likely to do it again
#54. Lists of journalists who have written about you – ditto, if they’ve done it once…
#55. List of great things you’d like to read about yourself in an article in the NY Times – or other prominent media of your choice – how could you make it happen?
#56. List of at least 10 debates or controversies in your industry – together with a handy sound bite for each
#58. List of great promotional ideas that just blow you away – no matter where they come from – can you adapt them to your own industry
#59. List of people who you can bounce ideas off – this is one of my most important lists and a great way to test out ideas – even if I sometimes ignore the advice I’m given.
That I think is enough to be going on with!
There’s a lot of work in creating these lists and we don’t expect you to do it all overnight. But every one of these will boost your link worthiness. So work on them over time – create one or two lists a day, or one or two a week – whatever fits into your schedule.
But follow this process and you’ll see that the task of getting backlinks gets easier and the quality of the backlinks you get will be higher.[Acknowledgement: This list is the result of lots of input and ideas from others – I’m particularly grateful to Mark Nunney, CEO of AlbanDigital and Garrett French, Founder of CitationLabs.com – two creative thinkers I’ve had the pleasure of working with]