Link Building for Startups – Find Unlinked Brand Mentions at Scale

When you start working with a new client, sometimes you have to educate their internal marketing teams about the value of link building. If done correctly, there is potential to create a link building machine inside the core of a savvy marketing department.

It’s key to educate your clients moving forward, but what about all that press from before SEO became a priority? There may be sites out there that have interviewed your clients, hosted them for events, written about their products – and they aren’t all linking over.

Image via Flickr User DavidShutter

This methodology, although intricate, will allow you to:

If you’ve ever picked up a client that has previously earned press coverage you’ve probably used this advanced query:

“brand name”

This is the exact same tactic, but automated.

Image via Flckr User timlewisnm

Step 1) Create Campaign Exclusions in Link Prospector

Block all social networks, it cuts down on the signal versus noise ratio.

You can find campaign level exclusions in the top right hand of the screen under the “Exclusions” tab:

Step 2) Create the branded advanced query & advanced queries for leadership.

For this example, I am going to use a company that I am a huge fan of: Uber. Although their leadership isn’t listed on their site, it’s easy to find on CrunchBase.

Just because someone wrote about one of these executives doesn’t mean it’s worth asking editors and webmasters. These guys get written up all the time. If you are working with a similar start up – try to only look for relevant and recent opportunities that mention the brand to ask for links – that’s where I’ve seen the most success.

Branded Advanced Queries:

Step 3) Throw these into a Link Prospector Custom Report

In the Advanced Options of Link Prospector you can select “Depth,”  meaning how many results you want the app to scrape for you. You can also direct Link Prospector to scrape from regular Google results, Blog Search Google results, or both.

Depending on how much press your client has received in the past, you may not need to go very deep, but Uber has been written about by everyone and anyone, so I am going to go all the way to 1000 and use web and blog results.

Step 4) Isolate Blogs

Depending on how much press your client has received in the past, it may be a better use of your time to only prospect with sites that have an RSS feed. Could this possibly cause you to miss out on a few link opps? Yes, but what’s that compared to the amount of time you will be saving by not trudging through irrelevant sites? Blogs are easy to update, hard coded sites that don’t have an RSS feed usually aren’t.

This is a slight twist on my process for finding blogs that link to competitors.

Step 4.1) Concatenate the LP export

Screaming Frog needs the “http://” and Link Prospector exports don’t have them.

Step 4.2) Upload the new file into Screaming Frog using “List Mode”

Step 4.3) Create the following custom filters:

Save Custom Filter Export 1.

Step 5) Find Unlinked Mentions

Open the export and copy and paste just the URLs into a .txt or .csv file.

Upload that file as a list into Screaming Frog and create the following custom filters:

So for this example I am using

Save Custom Filter Export 2.

Now you have a list of (mainly) blogs that have not linked to your client but written about them and their c-suite.

Step 6) Get Title Tags and Meta Descriptions from Screaming Frog

Open the most recent export, once again, copy and paste just the URLs into a .csv file, or a .txt file. Run those URLs through Screaming Frog again (no custom filters this time) and save the export as a .csv.

Step 7) Getting the Root Domain

Open this .csv file and delete every column but the URL, Title Tag and Meta Description column.

Copy all the URLs and paste them into a different excel sheet.

Use [Text to Columns > Delimited] in excel to get the root domain.

Paste the root domain into the main data set.

Step 8) Get Page Rank

Use the =GooglePageRank function from SEO Tools for Excel on all of the root domains of your link prospects in column E…. this could take awhile.

If you are partial to Domain Authority, feel free to use NetPeak, it’s free and quick.

Step 9) Follow the Link Prospecting Pivot Table Process to Eliminate and Prioritize your Link Building Prospects

Example Opportunities Found with this Process

These were found after 20 minutes of prospecting.

Step 10) Track long term opportunities in BuzzStream.

Image via Flickr USer susivinh

Step 11) Reach out to the smaller and medium sized blogs

If you have a bunch on unlinked write ups from decent sites – reach out to them and ask for a link. Here’s an outreach template that has worked for me:

Get a good feel for the site before you send any outreach, you don’t want to rub the blogger/editor the wrong way. Sometimes it’s better to try and create a connection and offer yourself as a future resource rather than asking for a link, especially if they publish frequently.

This is a quick quick win strategy for startups. It’s for the very beginning of a campaign, when a client may be skeptical of the value your services can provide. This process takes almost no investment from their side – so it’s a great tactic to help build trust and showcase the value that you bring to the table.

John-Henry Scherck

John-Henry Scherck is the owner of Growth Plays, a B2B content strategy and SEO consultancy based in Los Angeles. He works with founders, marketers, and investors to plan, build and refine growth marketing initiatives using a common sense approach.