You need links to rank, period. We can talk all we want about great content, social signals, brand signals, and all that jazz but quite a bit of that is subjective.
If you practice SEO, and have success with it, then you are well aware that a claim of "you need links to rank" is an objective, true statement without a bunch of false positives.
The gray areas come in to play when we talk about things like anchor text, quality, volume, and so on but the overarching truth is without links you are largely invisible in the SERPS.
Ok, enough of what you already know. Wordtracker recently updated one of their core tools with some cool new features and functionality.
What is Link Builder from Wordtracker?
Link Builder is designed to address a most of the core, key functions of a link building and prospecting campaign.
- Locate potential link partners via competitor backlinks or based on specific keywords
- Setting up a link building campaign and sorting your links properly (blogs, directories, social media, etc)
- Tracking the status of your link campaign's efforts
Wordtracker uses Majestic SEO's Fresh Index by default but you can use the Historic Index as well.
I might opt for the Fresh Index initially, because Majestic tends to have dead links in the historic index (thanks to the significant churn on the web) but if you can't find enough decent prospects in the Fresh Index, using the Historic one isn't a bad option.
There is a lot I like about this tool and a few things I'd like to see them add to or improve on.
Step 1: Setting Up a Campaign
I'm a fan of clean, easy to use interfaces and Wordtracker definitely scores well here. Here is the first screen you are presented with when starting up a fresh campaign:
Researching competing link profiles is not enough with respect to link prospecting, in my opinion. I really like the option to not only research multiple URL's at once but also to research keyword-specific prospects.
You can research lots of countries as well. Below is a snapshot of the countries available to you in Link Builder:
Step 2: Prospecting With Competitor URL's
I am craving some chocolate at the moment, as you can tell from my selected URL's :)
Here's a good example of my decision making process when it comes to using the Historic Index and the Fresh Index. My thought process usually involves the following information:
- The bigger/older the link profiles of the URL's the more likely I am to use the Fresh Index to avoid lots of dead links
- If the site is a well known brand I will be more likely to use the Fresh Index given the likelihood that the link profile is quite large
- Smaller link profiles, newer link profiles will probably benefit from using the Historic Index more
In this example the sites I'm researching have big link profiles and have been around for quite awhile in addition to being large brands, so I will use the Fresh Index to cut down on potential dead-ends.
I selected the "Edit Sources" box because I want to make sure I pick the URL with the most links (or you can just go with both) but I wanted to show you the options:
I'll leave all selected just to maximize the opportunities. Sometimes you'll find pages ranking for specific keywords you might be targeting, rather than just the homepage ranking, so you can use both or one or the other if that's the case.
In this scenario I'm looking at the URLs ranking for "chocolate", and they all happened to be homepage's anyway.
Wordtracker is pretty quick with getting the data in, but while you're waiting you'll see the following screen:
Step 3: Working with the Analysis Tab
In order to keep the results as targeted as possible, Wordtracker automatically removes the following links from the results:
- Image Links
- No-follow links
One thing I'd like to see them do is let no-follows through because even though they might not pass any juice they certainly can be decent traffic sources and link building isn't just about passing juice, it's also about brand building and traffic generation.
I'd even say let image links through. I understand they don't want to be a pure link research tool but image links can be valuable for some of what I just mentioned as well. I would say, give us the data and the ability to filter it rather than just taking it away completely.
Here is a snippet of the result page and a description on what it represents:
On the left are pre-designed buckets that Link Builder groups your links into. This is helpful but I'd like to see more flexibility here.
They also offer a tagging feature to help you group links in another way. The tagging can be helpful for things like assigning links to specific people within your group or really any other custom setup you have going on (maybe stuff like grouping keywords into priority buckets or whatever.)
The prospect tab gives you the domain (chow.com in the below example) the link sits on, the page it links to on a competing site or sites, and the page the link is actually on from the linking site:
All you have to do is click that "links to" button to see where the link is pointing to (in this case chow.com is only linking to 1 of the sites I inputted).
The column to the right shows the page on the domain where the link is originating from and the number in the middle is a measure of how important that particular prospect might be.
The furthest most right column shows columns that tell you whether the domain is also linking to you and how many other sites, out of the sites you inputted, that domain is linking to. The idea being that the domain might be more likely to link to you if they are linking out to multiple competing sites as well:
The grayed out button to the right of the co-link count is the "target" button. This is the button you'd click to let the tool know that this is a prospect you'd like to target.
You have the following toolbar available to you in the Analysis tab:
These are generally self-explanatory:
- Delete - removes selected prospects from the campaign
- Export - export your results to a CSV file
- Copy to - copies prospects to another campaign within your account
- Tag - allows you to tag selected prospects to help create custom grouping fields
- Filter - filters Top Link by "contains" or "does not contain". An example might be if you wanted to target a link prospect or prospects which contained the word "chocolate" somewhere in the URL
You can also click on any of the groupings on the left to view those specific groups only. I find that the groupings are fairly accurate but I personally prefer the ability to customize fields like that rather than being boxed in.
I created a sample tag titled "for eric" that contains 2 links I want a team member named Eric to work on:
Step 4: Working with the Contact Tab
The Contact tab has most of the same toolbar options as the Analysis tab with one exception:
- Find Contact and About Links - click on the links you want to find contact information on and/or find the about page on
Link Builder works in the background to find this information and you can continue working in the application. There is a notes option as well. There's no specific way to leave multiple, time-stamped notes (for team environments) but the input box is expandable so you can leave an ongoing contact history.
You have the same contact flag on the right and to the left of that is an email icon that turns yellow if you click it and is designed to let you know contact is in progress or has been initiated.
When the contact request comes back (just refresh the contact tab) you'll see the following, new fields within the Contact tab that denote the contact/about pages for the prospect:
Step 5: Reporting
The Reporting piece of Link Builder has the following reports:
- History - options for the Fresh/Historic Index of Majestic SEO via cumulative and non-cumulative views for the chosen domains
- Spider Profile - the link category breakdown (the aforementioned pre-defined link sources Wordtracker assigns your prospects to) of each domain
- Target Summary - number of targets, number/% of targets contacted, number/% of targets not contacted, number/% of targets linking to you
This gives you a quick overview of the growth of competing link profiles, current link building rate, types of links they have, and your own Prospect metrics. All the reports are exportable to PDF.
Here's the History report:
Here's the Spider Report:
Here's the Target Summary:
Additional Campaign Options
As we discussed earlier, you can either input a list of domains to search on a specific keyword.
If you search on a specific keyword to start you are able to select URL's to include in your prospecting search. Everything else, in terms of options after the URL selection is the same as if you were to have started with domains.
Having a keyword search to start a campaign is helpful in case you are looking to go beyond competitors you already know of and get a real deep look into link prospects across that keyword's market as a whole.
Also, right next to your campaign name you can sign up to be automatically notified of new links and prospects for your campaign:
Link Builder also has a Firefox extension that allows you to grab all the external links from a page and save them in your Link Builder account.
I find this is helpful on directory sites (for gathering a list of topic-specific URLs), as an example. The extension is really easy to use. You can install it here. Once you arrive at a page you want to use it on you just click on the LB logo in your toolbar:
Then once you click on the option to gather the links, you get the following interface:
You can save the chosen links right into your Link Builder account.
What I Like
The features that I like in Wordtracker's Link Builder tool are:
- Ability to prospect by multiple URLs or by choosing a specific keyword
- Option to use Fresh or Historic Index via Majestic SEO
- Simple ways to keep notes and contact information
- Ability to search for contact and about information on selected prospects
- Robust selection of countries
- Initial, intelligent link grouping
- Exporting capabilites
- Fast results and a really clean, easy to use interface
What Could Be Improved On
I think Wordtracker could do some things to make this tool even more functional and useful:
- More flexibility with the naming and assigning of link types
- Have profile-wide settings to include all links (no-follow, image, etc) or exclude some rather than excluding without a choice to include
- More filtering options around the data points they offer and whether a prospect has been targeted or not
- More robust link tracking (if the status of links change send me an alert). Though I realize that is getting into link tracking versus link building, it's still a nice option
- A bit more flexibility with notes and timestamps for a more defined contact history (especially if teams use this)
A Solid Link Building Product
Overall I think this tool does a good job with its intended use, link building. I think some users would like to see more done to make it more team friendly but I think you can accomplish a lot with their tagging feature.
As stated above, I'd like to see some more done with notes and such but as a link prospecting and building tool Wordtracker's Link Builder is worth your time to try out.
You can grab a free trial over at Wordtracker.
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