Link-building tools can save you a ton of time and effort when it comes to ramping up your backlink strategy.
Could you do it manually?
Meh, I guess…maybe.
But honestly, I wouldn’t wish that on anybody – especially with the array of link-building tools now readily available to marketers.
Link-building tools also allow you to massively scale your efforts.
As you’re probably aware, link building is a major ranking signal to Google (SEMrush has it down at #6 on their 2.0 Ranking Factors Study).
So if you want to start appearing in those SERPs, developing a good link-building strategy is key.
In this post, I’m going to highlight the 5-step process I’ve used over the years (to great success) and a bunch of link-building tools you can use for each one.
As well as a bonus list of free link building tools 😉
Table of Content
- Link Building Process
- SEO Link Building Tools (Analysis)
- Link Vetting Tools
- Tools For Finding Email Addresses
- Outreach Link Building Tools
- Link Tracking and Reporting
- Bonus Free Link Building Tools
- Monitor Backlinks Checker
- Almost finished
Link Building Process
There are a few ways to go about link building, but I find you generally want to stick to the following process:
- #1 Link Analysis (find out how you compare to competitors)
- #2 Prospecting (vet sites who could, would, and make sense linking to your page)
- #3 Gathering contact info (hunt down their email addresses)
- #4 Outreach (reach out to prospects)
- #5 Tracking success (analyze how did it all go)
Of course, you may have noticed there appears to be a significant step missing…
Deciding on which page(s) you want to direct these links to.
If you’re unsure of which pages optimize first, take a look at our SEO audit checklist guide. An audit uncovers underperforming pages that could use a boost from a backlink campaign.
SEO Link Building Tools (Analysis)
No tool comes close to Ahrefs when looking at link building.
Not only does it allow you to analyze your backlink profile, but also those of your competitors and other industry/content-related sites.
What’s more, it’s incredibly easy to use.
To start, you’re going to want to check out their Site Explorer feature to get a handle on your backlink profile:
It will pull up information such as your:
- URL rating
- Domain rating
- Number of backlinks
- Referring domains
But of course, the real value comes in analyzing your competitors.
Where are they getting their links from? Would these sites be willing to link to you, too? How do does your selected page stack up against other SERP results?
This is where Ahref’s link intersect tool comes in handy.
It allows you to view sites linking to your competitors but unfortunately, not you.
Now, this could be down to a professional relationship with your competitor.
If that’s the case, then they’re not going to link to you.
However, if you can find sites linking to two, maybe three of your competitors, then well – why not to you too?
While SEMrush may not pack the same punch as Ahrefs in the link analysis department, it’s still a great tool to get your hands on.
With SEMrush you can compare domains, analyze backlink profiles, discover new opportunities
This can be done through the Link Building section, where you’ll find individual tools such as:
- Backlink Analytics
- Backlink Audit
- Link Building Tool
- Bulk Link Analysis
A unique feature in the Backlink Audit tool is the Toxicity Score rating of incoming links.
This shows marketers the number of potentially harmful incoming links from spammy sites.
It’s likely through no fault of your own, but if you do find an unusual amount of harmful links, you can remove them through the Google Disavow Tool (since January 2021 it was moved to Google Search Console).
If not, you could find yourself on Google’s naughty step!
Another heavyweight to enter the link-building arena is Majestic.
Founded back in 2011, Majestic boasts the “largest commercially available backlink index” and provides an additional layer of depth to other analysis tools.
To take a look at your backlink profile (and those of your top competitors) head to their Site Explorer feature:
Similarly to Ahrefs and SEMrush, you’ll see:
- Number of referring domains
- Number of backlinks
- Anchor text
- Incoming languages
- Link context
And of course, Majestic’s famous Trust Flow score:
Source: Majestic Blog
This metric measures the trustworthiness of linking websites.
Link Assistant (SEO SpyGlass)
SpyGlass is (as the name suggests) a great link-building tool for “spying” on your competitors’ strategy.
Some of the popular features include:
- Number of backlinks
- Linking domains
- Linked Pages
- Anchors texts
- Referral traffic
- Penalty risk
You can collate this data into concise reports. This way, you can easily understand your competitors’ link-building strategies and replicate their success within your own business.
Next up is the similarly named and undercover agent-esque tool, Spyfu.
Although it’s far more known for its keyword analysis, Spyfu’s backlink analysis isn’t half bad, either. Its index still boasts over 100 million domains and approximately 7 billion results.
It does lack the depth of your Ahrefs and SEMrush’s of this world, but then that’s reflected in the price.
Spyfu is a great option for SMBs and entrepreneurs just starting out in SEO.
It includes the basic features from most of our analysis tools, including:
- Number of backlinks
- Referring domains
- Linked pages
Allowing you to analyze your competitors’ backlink strategies and uncover new, targetable areas for your campaigns.
Of course, the final backlink analysis tool we’re going to look at is Moz Pro – the third musketeer of the revered “Big 3” SEO software suites.
Just like Ahrefs and SEMrush, Moz Pro boasts a powerful link-building tool.
You can use it to analyze your backlink profile, that of your competitors, as well as the link-through anchor texts.
Source: (MOZ Pro Software)
This helps you identify the type of content that’s generating interest from linking domains.
Again, if after researching you find they’re not professionally tied to your competitors, it could be a great opportunity to earn yourself a similarly high-ranking backlink.
Link Vetting Tools
Once your analysis is complete, it’s time to vet your opportunities.
Doing so will help you hone in on high-quality sites, and ensure you’re getting the most “bang for ya buck” from your link-building campaign.
Now, doing this one by one would take years 🥱
Thankfully, there are a bunch of link-building tools that can help us with our prospecting (and do so at scale).
Ahrefs Batch Analysis Tool
Yes, I know, I’ve already mentioned them before. But again, there is no better tool to use for vetting prospect sites.
Their built-in Batch Analysis Tool allows you to check important SEO metrics for up to 200 URLs or domains at the same time.
Let’s analyze the “Big 3” blogs for example:
As we can see there are some handy metrics for analyzing each site’s potential or “quality”.
- Domain Rating
- Ahrefs Rating
- Dofollow links
We can safely conclude that if a site scores well across all these areas, it would be highly beneficial to receive a backlink from them.
Conversely, if you find a site scores poorly, you can quickly discard them.
That’s the beauty of this tool. This process can be done quickly and at scale.
The second vetting tool we’re going to look at is Dibz.
While it is a back-to-front SEO tool – allowing marketers to search keywords, prospect, and vet opportunities – it’s Spam Metric we’re going to focus on.
As we’ve highlighted before, link-building campaigns take a lot of time and effort.
Ensuring that effort is spent as efficiently as possible, you need to focus on high-impact sites.
Dibz’s Spam Metric filter by:
- No Social Media Profiles
- External links
- Number of ad blocks
This helps you quickly dismiss irrelevant sites from your initial backlink analysis research.
If you want to step your vetting process up a notch, then take a look at URL Profiler.
As SEO Matthew Woodward amply puts it
“URL Profiler is the Swiss Army Knife of SEO tools”
And despite its Windows 95 user interface, it’s fairly simple to use.
You simply paste in your prospective URL list, tick the criteria boxes you wish to analyze, and hit play:
You can pull in data from Ahrefs, Google Analytics, Majestic, Moz, SEMrush, etc. for a complete 360-degree analysis.
The eagle-eyed may have also noticed that you can extract email addresses too…
Which brings us nicely onto the third section of our link-building tools list.
Tools For Finding Email Addresses
Once you’ve completed your analysis and vetted your prospective sites, it’s time to hunt down some email addresses.
This way you contact their respective web hosts, marketers, and authors and see about getting a link back to your content.
Clearly, you should first try searching for a contact us page or, when listed, business email addresses from the responsible parties.
If you come up empty-handed – the following tools will come in handy.
Arguably the most popular email search tool is Hunter.
It’s pretty straightforward.
You type in the domain name of the prospective website:
Like ThePowerMBA, for example:
And it will bring up a list of staff email addresses.
You’ll have to do a little digging to find the most relevant contact at (X) company from whom to send your outreach email.
A similar platform is Sellhack.
This time you are required to sign-up (and download the web app) in exchange for 10 free searches a month.
Again, it’s very straightforward.
Once you’ve successfully registered you simply enter:
- Prospect’s name
- Email domain
- Social profile URL
And there I am!
Another great email finding tool is Voila Norbert.
Similarly to Sellhack, you’re required to complete a quick sign-up to access the tool. Honestly, it’s quick, painless, and won’t take more than 30 seconds of your time.
Unlike Sellhack, you get up to 50 searches a month with Norbert.
All you need is a prospect’s:
- Web domain
And Norbert does the rest…
Could that be me? 🤔
The final email tracking tool we’ll look at is Blaze Verify.
This unique platform gives you 250 free email verifications a month. That is to say, a 100% guarantee that the scraped email is solid.
You can try the free email verification tool on their homepage to check their system’s accuracy:
Or perhaps this is me? 🤔
Outreach Link Building Tools
This is where link-building tools come into their own – mass outreach and campaign management.
Again, this could be done manually (and believe me, every site NEEDS checking before anything is sent) but that would take forever.
And as marketers, there simply aren’t enough hours in a day.
So, take a look at some of the following outreach tools to make your life just a little easier.
When you think of email outreach, BuzzStream is likely the first tool that comes to mind.
It’s a comprehensive tool that allows marketers to build, monitor, and maintain relationships with prospective sites.
The software tracks:
- Email exchanges
- Social media mentions
- Automatic follow-ups
All from an easy-to-use dashboard:
Additionally, Buzzstream integrates nicely with the rest of your SEO stack.
Users can import contact lists either as a custom CSV., from Ahrefs, Moz, Salesforce, or Majestic.
They also have a handy chrome extension (Buzzmarker) that allows you to add prospects to pre-defined lists directly from a webpage.
I’m a big fan of Mailshake primarily down to its user interface. Out of all the outreach tools listed here, it’s by the far easiest to use.
They also have a list of templates for you to use (broken link building, guest posting, and link request).
Obviously, these are just a starting point, and shouldn’t be used verbatim. Remember, personalization is key!
The tool includes all your typical outreach features:
- Personalize messages in bulk
- Automatic follow-ups
The strength of Reply (from personal experience) is that your emails tend to avoid the spam/Google Promotion bins.
When conducting a link-building campaign at scale this is crucial.
It does lack some of the design options of other tools, but for link-building campaigns, that’s not an issue. Your mails need to be authentic, and as personalized as possible, i.e. – minimalistic.
The onboarding process is also one of the smoothest I’ve seen, making it a great budget option for those just starting out in link building.
It also serves as a powerful outreach management tool.
Some of its features include:
- Personalized mass outreach
- Customizable templates
- Organization by DR
- Metric dashboard overview
Their customer support team is also easily reachable if you have any doubts as to how the tool works or manage a campaign.
Similar to Ninja Outreach, GroupHigh is an outreach and prospecting tool focused on bloggers and influencers in your industry.
Again, one of its strongest features is the sheer size of the database. You can locate, organize, and contact people from almost any niche on a single dashboard.
One thing it does lack is granularity.
It can be a little labor-intensive at first sifting through search results and will require a bit of getting used to.
However, it remains a great tool for managing blog/influencer-related link-building campaigns.
Pitchbox is the king of automation. The perfect tool for marketers conducting outreach campaigns “en-masse”.
Users receive help with:
- Template selection
- Email sequencing
- Automatic follow-ups
- Scheduling via time zone
- Prioritizing contacts
- Tracking conversations
One slight drawback is the lack of personalization within campaigns. It is designed to do things at scale meaning you do have to accept a bit of give in this area.
If you’re confident in crafting relevant campaign-wide copy, then this might just be the tool for you 😉
Link Tracking and Reporting
The final stage (as is the case with most marketing campaigns) is measurement.
If we can’t measure it, how can we improve it?”
To do that, we need to track how many links have been acquired throughout the campaign.
Now, all the outreach tools listed above will do that for you. The following magic tool is for those of you taking a mix-and-match approach to your SEO stacks…
OK OK, it might not be what you were expecting, but Google Sheets is still a great tool for tracking your acquired links (and just project management in general).
It’s easy to share across your team making collaboration easy. What’s more, nearly the entire stack of SEO tools exports to Google Sheets.
This makes it a versatile option and customizable based on your business’s specific needs/workflows.
Bonus Free Link Building Tools
Now, this wouldn’t be a complete link-building tools list if we didn’t include a few bonus freebies now, would it?
Clearly, they’re going to lack the depth and sophistication of their paid counterparts, but that’s not to say they can’t be useful.
For smaller teams working to a budget, this is a great place to start.
Google alerts is an extremely underrated tool for generating links.
For the unfamiliar, Google alerts notify users by email when a specified keyword (typically your brand name) is mentioned in the news.
Most of the time, these articles will have included a direct link back to your site.
However, on occasion, you might find that not to be the case. There’ll be a brand mention, but no all-important link.
This is where opportunity strikes!
Using one of the email searching tools listed earlier, you could contact the author of the post to kindly add a link back to your site.
Remember, you’ll want to carry out a thorough analysis of the site before reaching out (just as you would during the link vetting phase) just to be sure.
Another free tool offered by Google that’s fantastic for link building is Google search.
Yes, you heard right!
You can quickly and easily find relevant link-building opportunities just by knowing what to pop in the search tab.
Many businesses are looking out for guest writers to add high-quality content to their websites. In return, you’ll often be allowed to link back to your site (and if you’re lucky, to which page).
But how do you find these opportunities? And more importantly, how do you find those closely related to your niche?
Try typing in the following into Google:
“[YOUR TOPIC] + intitle: “write for us” OR “guest post”]
In our case, we would be interested in looking for opportunities to write about disruptive online learning, alternative MBAs, or digital marketing, entrepreneurship, and business.
For example, here’s what we find when inputting our keyword “MBA”:
The next step would be to go through this list (281,000 results might take us a while 😅) to locate opportunities where our expertise overlaps with their content needs.
HARO (Help A Reporter Out)
This is a personal favorite of mine and again, an oft underused resource for marketers and SEOs.
Similar to businesses, journalists are also looking for helping to get high-quality content out to their audiences.
To do so they need good, knowledgeable sources from where to get their information – especially if it’s a highly technical topic.
And where can they go to find those sources?
The open platform has over 1,000,000 registered users from hundreds of different niches that journalists can turn to for help.
In return for your input or expertise on a given area, reporters will often link back to your site via your bio.
So, how does it work?
After signing up as “source” you’ll receive three emails a day (morning, afternoon, and evening) broken down into categories:
- High Tech
- Lifestyle and Fitness
You then scan through the email to check out the stories journalists are asking for sources. If it’s something you believe you can offer genuine value to, get in touch!
You’ll typically hear back from the journalist asking for a quote or perhaps even a 1to-1 interview, depending on the story.
Check My Links
This handy little plug-in will show you any broken links (404s) on a URL.
Now, why is this helpful?
If those links head towards a dead end, the web host (or author) will probably want to redirect them elsewhere.
It’s bad for user experience and Google has a hard time crawling a site if you keep crashing their spiders into a wall.
So, seeing as you were the one to nicely point out the issue it’s not a stretch to ask them to redirect to your site. Offer them a relevant, high-quality piece of content to do so to of course!
For example, we just wrote an extremely detailed guide on the Blue Ocean Strategy.
However, because it’s so new it has very few backlinks pointing to it. To give it a little boost in the SERPs we could try to find some potential linking pages.
After a quick Google search for “Blue Ocean Strategy” I found the following site:
This page has a whopping 54 404 error links.
And as you can see, one of the links sends readers to an information page about Blue Ocean Strategy that no longer exists…
It’s time to let the web host know about the problem (after all, 54 is a lot for a single page) and persuade them to link to our “fantastic” resource instead of a dead end.
Another great free tool for checking backlinks is Monitor Backlink’s free tool (of the same name).
This will allow you to crawl any URL of your choice and show you:
- Total backlinks
- Unique domains
- Indexed URLs
- Citation flow
- Trust flow
- Class C IPS
You could use this tool to analyze the backlink profile of a competitor. If you find editorial URLs pointing to them, and not to you, then do some investigating.
Ask yourselves if they would be interested in linking to you, too? If it’s a resource page, collating information about a given niche, the answer might be yes.
If they’re a subsidiary or partner of your competitor, then no.
For example, I’ve just run AltMBA (one of our competitors) through the tool:
After browsing through the results I can quickly see the majority of their links come from Seth Godin’s blog (the founder of the program).
Now is Seth likely to link back to our site – probably not. But it was definitely worth analyzing.
Who knows, in your case they might tell a different story 😉
Moz Link Explorer
The final tool we’re going to check from our link-building tools list is the Moz Link Explorer.
This one’s been around for a while now and is super helpful.
After creating an account, you’ll have access to 10 free searches a month. Simply type in the desired URL and hit go.
You’ll receive a report including:
- Domain authority
- Linking domains
- Inbound links
- Ranking keywords
- Follow vs. Nofollow links
- Average linking domain
What’s also handy is you’ll notice you can export all this data to a .csv file.
If you’re an SMB or work in an extremely niche space, then this could be a great tool for you. You probably don’t need to run more than 10 searches a month.
Congratulations if you made it down this far!
Either you really enjoyed the article, or jumped straight down the bottom to get your hands on the freebies…
Whichever it was, I’d like to make one final point before you go.
While I organized this article according to the 5-step link-building process for continuity – it doesn’t necessarily mean you need different tools for each step.
As you’ve seen, some cover several of the link-building phases.
So just keep that in mind before trying out and testing them for yourselves.
Also, let me know what you thought of the article? Are there any key tools you think I’ve missed off?
Let me know in the comments 😉