Believe it or not, all your brand awareness, lead generation, and conversions won’t just come to you. You have to reach out—which is why you need to get hip to finding prospects. As the Sr. Digital PR Strategist at Ignite Visibility, this kind of work is what I love.
Here’s how to find prospects online and qualify your leads before they come to you. This strategy is a way for you to make prospecting (and digital PR as a whole) work for you.
What Is Prospecting for Link Building, and Why Is It Critical to Digital PR?
Think of it this way:
Prospecting for link building affects digital PR in the same way that kibble affects puppies. It helps them grow, but in this case, we’re talking about growing your SEO presence.
Now let’s take a more literal approach.
Prospecting is outreach. Your targets are those who could provide backlinks to your site. This is different from the idea of prospecting new customers, but it boils down to the same idea. You’re trying to expand your reach, and backlinks are your method.
This practice is equally important for fledgling startups as it is for established businesses. However strong your SEO strategy is, you never want to get cocky about your backlink outreach.
It’s also helpful if you want to shift your audience a bit or tap into unchartered networks.
These days, a lot of people use social media as a vehicle for prospecting, but it’s not the only way. What you really should know is:
- the foundation that you should base your prospecting on,
- the tools that can help you establish a robust list of backlinks,
- and ways to qualify a prospect to ensure they’re suited to your standard and are willing and able to provide backlinks.
Got it? Good. Now let’s dive into how to find prospects.
Before Finding Prospects, Develop Solid Lead Magnet Content
You can only move on to the actual prospecting strategy if you’ve already developed and published a solid lead magnet content piece. It should perfectly represent you as a brand.
Whether you want to use written or video lead magnets is up to you. In a GetResponse study, 27.5% of marketers saw the best results with written lead magnets while 26.2% did better with video.
This just goes to show that the best type of content for your brand really depends on your audience—but I’d be remiss to suggest you shouldn’t dabble in a cross-platform strategy and hit as many touchpoints as you can.
The Best Way to Find Prospects: 3 Steps to Build Your List
Three steps do not sound like much, but it’s enough to teach you how to find prospects online.
1. Define Your Long Tail Keywords
Your long-tail keywords will be what you use to discover relevant content, brands, and figures that can help boost your brand’s awareness beyond the status quo.
Think outside your own industry. What other vertical would be talking about this topic? You don’t have to be afraid of branching out.
2. Try Your Hand At (Free) Manual List Building
Maybe you don’t yet have the budget for a paid listing building tool. Or perhaps you just want to get your hands dirty. Either way, manual list building is a valid (and free!) option.
One option that can help you build your list is a good old-fashioned Google search. By using Google search operators, you can plug-in those long-tail keywords you defined. From here, you can find articles that have been written about similar topics.
Dig up the info for the author of the content or other related people who might be a good point of contact.
It can be tedious, but it can also be a great way to illuminate the process and help you learn about the different real-world personas out there.
3. Consider Paid List Building Tools
Once you’re ready to make the leap to a paid list building tool, refer to this rundown of the most helpful ones on the market today:
Pitchbox: This software describes itself as an end-to-end link building productivity platform that provides full-stack prospecting solutions. That’s a mouthful of a description, but it’s pretty darn accurate.
One of my favorite parts about Pitchbox is its prospecting capabilities. The tool is based on SERP results, your own imported data, existing relationships, and SEO integration campaigns.
Pricing for a Pitchbox subscription ranges from $195–$395 per month.
SEMrush: The team here at Ignite often tout the wonders of SEMrush, but it’s a really useful and versatile tool that usually proves to be worth the investment.
They offer a lineup of backlink analysis tools, including an audit tool, gap insights, link building, and more. You may also benefit from their competitor PR monitoring tool.
Pricing for a SEMrush subscription ranges from $119.95–$449.95 per month. You can save on the total by billing annually.
this part is a little confusing because I think the way we use prospecting for link building is a little different than the actual definition of prospecting new customers.
When we say prospecting, we are looking for relevant websites that might be interested in providing a link to our content or blog.
Ahrefs: Yes, Ahrefs has its own link and list-building features. In particular, the Ahrefs content explorer is a helpful feature.
You can apply tons of features in the content explorer to help narrow down your targeted niche.
Pricing for an Ahrefs subscription ranges from $99–$999 per month, depending on your needs and the size of your operation.
Buzzstream: There are numerous tools from Buzzstream that are relevant when learning how to find prospects online. One of those is BuzzSumo, which lets you browse topics, domains, and writers.
Buzzstream Discovery lets you narrow down influencers using keywords.
How to Qualify Prospects
Yes, knowing the best way to find prospects includes knowing who the best prospects are. According to HubSpot, more than half of all prospects aren’t a good fit for your product or service.
Not every prospect will produce a juice that’s worth the squeeze. Fortunately, there are ways to focus your efforts in the right places, so you can optimize your time and maximize your outreach results.
I’m putting this one first because it’s the most important metric to use when vetting prospects.
So how do you “measure” relevancy? Ask yourself these three questions:
- How relevant is this website to my company’s industry? (They don’t have to be in the exact same industry, but it’s important that there’s some sort of connection here.)
- Would my target audience be found on this site?
- Would my content benefit the existing content and add value?
The quality of the website matters too.
Make sure it’s updated frequently and up to your standards. You don’t want to be associated with poor-quality platforms. It may reflect badly on your own content from both an algorithmic and user perspective.
Domain authority (DA) is a search engine ranking score. A higher DA tends to offer higher SERPs, though it’s not the only factor.
On Moz, you can get a DA score from 0–100. The higher the score, the higher the DA and the likelier that site is to rank for its targeted terms. Again, associating yourself with a higher DA is a good thing to strive for in the world of digital PR.
Moz also calculates a spam score for websites. This metric measures the website’s risk of penalization by search engine algorithms.
For prospecting, stick with a spam score below 30% (here, a higher score correlates with higher risk).
Bonus: Social Shares
How much engagement (specifically social shares) does your prospect have? Finding prospects with high levels of shares can be a gateway to solidifying your own social media presence.
This shouldn’t be the be-all-end-all. Some brands prefer certain channels over others, but you can ascertain this on a case-by-case basis.
Here Are Some Paid Tools for Outreach After Finding Prospects
List building is only part of the prospecting puzzle. There are a few tools that take it a step further. A couple of them overlap, offering both list building and outreach, but it’s worth segregating this information for clarity.
- SEMrush: Other than list building and prospect acquisition, SEMrush helps you with outreach, too. Content creation and distribution, plus social media management, are some ways they do this.
- Pitchbox: Ignite Visibility actually uses Pitchbox because it has this extra feature. Outreach and follow-up are another one of their strong suits. Consolidation is a really powerful feature of any software.
- Ninja Outreach: We haven’t talked about this one yet because outreach is the platform’s primary focus.
The notable feature here is the scalable and effective blogger outreach tool. It automated email outreach campaigns, personalizes templates in a few clicks, autofill contact forms, tracks your email stats, and more.
Pricing for a Ninja Outreach subscription ranges from $119–$199 per month.
Wrapping Up: Finding Prospects On the Fly
Those outreach campaigns can’t wait.
Learn how to find prospects and you’ll carry your company to the next level, whatever that may mean for you. Maybe it’s your chance to redefine your brand, or perhaps you’re just ready to grow.
Whatever the case, my digital PR brain knows that vetting prospects is a crucial step to scoring big opportunities.