Building Brands and Links with Blogger Outreach

Blogger Outreach… what’s that all about? Well, I’ve asked a few link building and online PR specialists to help me explain the process and hopefully offer some solid advice from the front line.

In the Post-Penguin wilderness, the importance of editorial links from prominent web sources has increased. One of the ways in which you can obtain “high quality” links for your website is to have your content or product featured by popular bloggers.

There are over 181 million blogs out there and that simply means there are blogs for every niche, industry and topic – even the most “boring ones” like SEO ;).  Just like traditional media, bloggers can be a great resource for helping to spread the word about your business, but unlike traditional media, they generally have a more personal and influential relationship with their readership. The following statistics from Technorati’s 2011 State of the Blogosphere illustrate the reach and influence of bloggers, as well as their relationships with brands.

  1. 38% of bloggers blog about brands that they love or hate
  2. 65% of bloggers follow brands on social media
  3. The majority of bloggers feel that bloggers are treated less professionally by brand reps compared to traditional media

As you can imagine the value of a mention from a popular blogger goes beyond the obvious link metrics and referral traffic but has a greater value in building up the recognition of your brand as an authority.  The sad thing is that all too often link builders and PR’s are just sending out unsolicited emails and press releases to bloggers. They are simply playing a numbers game in the hope that some poor blogger is scratching around for something to write about that week and might write about their client, which just plain and simply means you are F#$&ing doing it wrong.

What techniques work well with Blogger Outreach?

Earlier this year John Doherty was mentioned in an article by Wired but they did not link to his site, a quick email to the blogger resulted in a website with a high domain authority linking back to John. This goes to show you how important it is to use tools such as Google Alerts to monitor mentions of your brand online so you can rectify errors and continue to build relationships with online influencers.

Start out by finding which bloggers are following you on Social Media and reach out to them. Have they re-tweeted your latest blog post or wrote about you and not linked back to your site?

I have personally had success with lots of different methods in getting my clients featured in popular blogs online – there is no secret sauce but it’s quite simple make friends and offer something valuable. Techniques I have used recently include guest blogging, competitions, infographics, product reviews and offering technical assistance such as malware reporting or broken link building.

Blogger Outreach Q&A with the Experts

Rather than me just writing up all my favourite tips in which to get bloggers to feature your content I decided to invite some awesome folks to answer a few commonly asked outreach questions on my blog for you my lovely readers.

Jason Acidre is the author of Kaiserthesage and Marketing Consultant for Affilorama.
Tadeusz Szewczyk is a Freelance SEO Consultant and experienced blogger at SEO 2.0.
James Agate is a Guest Blogging Expert and writes online at Sky Rocket SEO
Peter Attia is an internet marketing specialist and link builder specialising in Blogger Outreach.
Rae Alton is the Head of Content for Link Fish Media
Wayne Barker works for Boom Online and is a regular contributor to the SEO community
Aimee Carmichael is a freelance PR and Social Media Consultant.

1.  What are your essential “pre-qualifiers” to look out for before reaching out to a blogger?

Aimee: For B2B clients I make sure the blog’s topic is relevant to the company’s (brand) readership/customers. I make sure the blog content is in line with the buyer personas outlined and their marketing journey, usually ask or look for statistics on readership, unique visitors and SERP positioning for relevant keywords, occasionally I will look at Page Rank but this is not usually the highest determinant. In the past where data is not available I have told clients to use Alexa as a very rough indicator on blog readership and performance (not to be trusted too much though).  Other things to consider – the size of the blogs social media community – perhaps use something like Klout as an indicator. I mainly look at profile reach and visibility on FB and Twitter.

I also look for partnership opportunities - i.e. can we access their email list and social media community as part of the agreement.


Peter:I try to keep this process short and quick, because I think it’s important to manually outreach to every blog; however, you still have to maximize the number of blogs you outreach to.

First off, I absolutely refuse to work with Mommy Bloggers :) They always ask for compensation and their blogs are riddled with ads. Other than that, I mainly care about relevancy. I really do very little “pre-qualification” before outreach. I usually do it after I get a response. The response rate from bloggers can be very low for some niches; however closing an agreement is easy after the initial response. Because of this I do my sifting later on. I judge my qualifications based on the number of response I receive. My “requirements” are lower when I only receive a few responses; however it’s mainly based off of frequency of posts, legitimacy, blog followers, and social presence.


James: It depends on the campaign I am working on. For example if the client is looking to secure some high-end links (to build the trust of their domain) then we may be really selective and put in place all sorts of pre-qualifiers however if a client is looking to blanket an industry in a short space of time and be really visible then we may drop the criteria a little (maintaining a certain standard) so as to cover all bases.

I collated a lot of the factors I/we as a company look at in my recent SEOmoz post http://www.seomoz.org/blog/how-to-evaluate-guest-post-opportunities


Tadeusz: Whenever I reach out to bloggers I try to behave like a reader would do. So I try to forget that I’m an SEO or doing the outreach for SEO reasons. So I look at the actual blog asking myself a few questions:
- Would I like to read it or do my eyes already hurt from looking at it?
- Are real people behind this or is this an anonymous content mill run by a company which publishes everything as “admin”?
- Is this blog around for a while aka established and does it publish fresh content regularly/recently?
- Has the blogger actually covered exactly what I look after, not only the broad topic?
- Is the post genuine or only written in order to generate affiliate revenue?
- Is this blogger actually competing with my client directly?


Rae: The language that a blogger frequently uses is elemental to how I’m going to approach them. Obviously, jargon varies from niche to niche, and it shows authenticity if you are not only speaking in perfect English, but are speaking “their language”. When possible, I look for character clues. Is this blogger very conservative? Do they seem relaxed and laid back? Do they appreciate humor? You have to take their cues. One of my co-workers wrote a post about the psychology of online interaction to this effect. It’s simply more time-efficient than sending out a bunch of white-bread form letters no one’s going to pay any mind to.


Jason: We usually look out for blogs that can help achieve the campaign’s both short and long term objectives, in terms of link building and brand marketing perspectives, which we can easily evaluate through this blog prospecting method(as the list generated by this method includes domain-level and link metrics).

In identifying blogs/bloggers to reach out to, we mostly look out for these aspects of the blog:

  • Readership/Community – which can be determined through the site/blog’s number of subscribers, social follower base, engagement (number of comments on each post), traffic value (can be measured through Alexa, Compete.com or SEMRush) and the consistency in publishing content.
  • Visuals/Web Design – we highly prioritize this part of prospect assessment, as it’s a great indicator of longevity of the value of the link/brand exposure that will be acquired, given that blogs that invest on their site’s web design are the ones who will most likely be around for a while and have the potential to continuously grow their readership. So even they don’t have the desired metrics (PR/DA) you’re looking for link building purposes, you can still somehow be assured that your link will not go to waste (you’ll just have to wait for it to age).

Wayne:I suppose it comes down to what you are reaching out for – for links, for product giveaways, for reviews, just for links?? I take a whole bunch of factors into consideration and to be honest the more you collect the better for in the future. What I mean by this is that you may find a prospect but decide not to use them for this project because they don’t match the criteria you have set for this particular client or website. That doesn’t mean that you won’t need them in the future though…

In no particular order (because priorities change based on the project)…

Link metrics – Although they aren’t as important as they were a few years ago you cannot afford to ignore PR and mozRank. Apart they both have issues but together they paint a fuller picture of importance, popularity and trust. I also quite like the new metrics from Majestic but have yet to figure these in to my process.

Number of incoming links is important – but needs a little more investigation in the post Penguin world.

Social validation of a blog – this tends to be a note on the file – have they been featured in major publication? Do they write for big blogs in the niche. These are signals of trust and signals of trust (generally) equate to a great blogger to consider.

Social activity - depends on the blog but this could be number of followers on twitter, fans on Facebook (these are going to more important if you are looking for reviews or product giveaways). You may want to count +1′s and one of my favourites is comments on the blog posts – these are indicators of an active audience – one that will spread your message further than a site with a PR of 5 but with no social activity. Think beyond the SEO metrics for bigger impact – how many subscribers do they have for their RSS feed?

If you set up a system for capturing as much information as possible you can create yourself a database of prospects that can be used over different projects – the more detail you have will help you on different outreach projects in the future.


2. Popular Bloggers are very busy people and receive lots of emails every day, what have you done in order to make your pitch standout from the crowd?

Aimee: I have a small list of bloggers across a few key sectors digital, tech, health, lifestyle and fitness that I work with regularly. I keep in touch with them outside of campaigns and find out how I can help them. I also actively converse with them on social media twitter/FB etc outside of campaigns. If pitching a story I always consider the benefit to their readership or blog. For example offering them a like for like partnership with the brand I am working with.


Peter: Popular bloggers require a much different approach than other bloggers. This requires some sort of relationship building. It could be having a small conversation with them on twitter, commenting on their blog, or even asking them a question over email instead of pitching to them.

After you’ve built at least some sort of relationship with them, it’s much easier to approach them with your request. However, when doing this you should make the content more focused on that bloggers readers and not on SEO value.


James:When we pitch popular bloggers or publishers of big name websites, we try hard to “speak the language” of the individual by researching around them to try and understand what motivates them, what they like to write about and just try to get an idea about the individual based on their social network interactions. For example if it is clear that they have been overworked recently following a well-earned holiday or something like that, we would try to use this information (without appearing like a stalker) to explain how we might be able to lighten their load this week and give them a day off blogging.

So we don’t really do anything crazy or standout-ish but rather just focus on the solid value that we (and the client) can offer.


Tadeusz: I try not to contact the “stars” who don’t have the time to react but in case I do I simply focus on being as concise and to the point as possible while adding my value proposition to the e-mail subject line. Sometimes it can also help to find out which medium is the favourite channel for a particular person: e-mail, Facebook, Twitter? Then approach the person right where s/he prefers to get contacted.


Rae: Subject lines are certainly the best, briefest way to intrigue a blogger into reading your email, but they can be tricky. A lot of spammers go overboard with subject lines. As Ron Forseth of Outreach Media Group said, “the subject line is to email as the envelope is to direct mail.” His post about subject lines summarizes why focused subject lines are more effective.


Jason: Have a valid reason for contact. The most important thing that should always be on the top of mind when it comes to outreach is the valuebeing offered to the receiving end, because having something of high value is the reason why they’ll respond to it in the first place. Start by asking yourself first: are you really offering something valuable, useful or unique to them or to their followers/readers?

A few months ago, I published a post that lists other alternative approaches for blogger outreach, I guess that list can help people think more out-of-the-box in innovating their outreach methods.  


Wayne:I went on a PR training day a few years back and one of things that was discussed in detail (and answered by two very active journalists) was what makes them open certain emails. What the journalists were speaking about was what made them open certain emails and just trash others without even bothering to look at them. It turns out that one of the journalists like subject lines that are descriptive, whilst the other liked subject lines that were a little abstract and teased him.

So what do we take away from this? The fact that no matter how much data we have you can’t say “including XX in a subject line will improve your chances” or “taking XX approach will work better”.

What makes the most sense (and it has been written about tons of times before) is that they are more likely to open the initial email if they know or have heard of you – take the time to craft a relationship before jumping in head first. I have also found that if you create relationships with bloggers in quite general niches then you can use them for multiple projects – mommy bloggers are a good example.

Oh, and if you have time to take a course in Psychology you should do that because it will increase the chances of your pitch being successful - if you didn’t know Derren Brown kicks ass at blogger outreach.


3. Which tools do you like to use to manage or assist you with your outreach projects?

Peter: I actually use a very minimal amount of tools. I like to limit automation as much as possible, because it liquidates the personal “feel” to your approach. However, I’ve been very impressed by BuzzStream. I haven’t gotten a chance to fully embrace it yet, but being able to find and manage a vast amount of bloggers is incredibly helpful.  It also keeps track of communication done through various channels to each blogger. This is a life saver if you’re doing large scale outreach.

Another tool I find incredibly helpful is Boomerang. Boomerang will give you a reminder if someone didn’t respond to an email you sent out, which gives you a chance to follow up. Another feature is being able to schedule your outgoing emails. This is especially useful if you’re doing outreach overseas, allowing you to send an email out during their business hours.


James:  I don’t use many tools mainly Raven Tools, Google Docs and Boomerang


Tadeusz: I’m very old school so I try to use as simple “tools” as possible. So I will use text files for a start. LinkedIn may be of help. I sometimes use Twitter lists. For bigger and long term projects I’d recommend a social CRM tool like NimbleCRM. Lately I’ve been also playing around with Engag.io
It’s not about the tools though. Finding the blogs is easy, you just need Google. E-mail is still the way of choice to contact strangers.


Rae:Some people I work with use spreadsheets as vast and wide as a fjord, I swear. I have nothing against spreadsheets; I rather adore them, but I prefer to write down the names of sites I’ve contacted. Something about that action, rather than hitting ctr+c ctr+v, helps me remember sites I’ve already reached out to, so I don’t step all over myself. I’m not comfortable if I don’t have a notebook and pen in front of me while I work (or anywhere, really.) Silly, huh?

I’m incredibly fond of Rapportive in social prospecting. I’ve been using it for a couple of years and it really makes the communications feel more real. You can only be so personal in text and from behind a screen, but seeing a bloggers’ profile image, their recent tweets, and their other works makes them so much more 3D. Outreach is all about “the conversation” (such a cliché, I’m sorry I even brought it up!) and Rapportive brings so much to the table.


Jason: Our team is not that big on tools, but here are some that we use:

  • Google Docs – to organize the phases of outreach and level of priorities in real-time, especially for projects that will require more than 2 outreach specialists (to lessen the chances of contacting a prospect twice).
  • Boomerang and Rapportive for Gmail
  • Ahrefs.com – which can be used to find more prospects from competitors or from the site itself (as it’s easier to contact blogs who have already linked to you in the past).
  • SEOQuakewe use the SERP overlay feature to scrape Google’s search results for blog prospects (you’ll just need to be smart with your queries to get the most out of your prospecting efforts)

Aimee: I mainly use media databases / Twitter / Radian 6 / Gorkana / Google blog search and Klout.


Wayne:There are a number of tools that I use but I guess you have to do what suits your budget and your processes.

  • Prospecting - advanced operators, Link Prospector, Blogdash, MyBlogGuest, Blogger LinkUp, followerwonk, Buzzstream prospector, Raven Link Finder
  • Collecting the ‘pre-qualifiers’ – Buzzstream does most of this for me with a bit of interference and and customisation
  • Organising – Buzzstream, Excel
  • Outreach – Buzzstream, Rapportive, Boomerang
  • Reporting it all back to the client – Raven Tools

4. What is the most important piece of advice you could ever give to someone starting out with a blogger outreach campaign?

Aimee: Be smart and you can get links and great PR coverage! I used to work within digital and with SEO campaigns,where the focus was on link building and not quality content – bloggers will hate you for taking this approach and you will not only risk damaging the brand reputation but it is actually an ineffective use of your company resources.

Bloggers are savvy and don’t want to detriment their own blog by giving away free links. If you want links then be smart – for example offer the blogger access to an exclusive competition on your website where there will need to be a link included, or host a competition on their site which requires the user to visit your site to find information/download a voucher etc. The key is integration.


Peter: Don’t mention your client or company in the first email and always be as nice as possible. Lately, the word “SEO” has been leaving a bad taste in some bloggers mouths and they can get unreasonably upset when they think you’re reaching out with “SEO intent”. If you happen to contact one of these bloggers and they know what company you’re working for, they can end up ranting about it on their blog. This can be a reputation nightmare if that blogger is influential in your industry.


James: Try to avoid getting overwhelmed… start small and branch out. Yes, there are so many opportunities out there but there’s no rush. Having said that, try to maintain some momentum to try and make sure people remember you and so as to maximise the impact of your efforts.


Tadeusz:It’s crucial to approach people like human beings, personally, emotionally and without pushing anything. Give to get even if it’s just attention and appreciation. “Dear Sir/Madam” mass mailings are not blogger outreach, they are SPAM.

To achieve this you have to do research first: Who is this person, what does s/he like? Why do you think would that person link out to you or write about you? Often just browsing the blog and reading a few posts may already suffice. You don’t need to stalk either.


Rae: The single most important lesson I ever learned about outreach – and probably the hardest one – was brevity. Be brutal with your form letter, if you use one. Chop it down! Be concise, skip the life story, skip the campaign goals, and for Pete’s sake, please don’t copy your about page. There really is something to the term “short and sweet.” Maybe not Twitter-short, and this may vary a little depending on your vertical, but one paragraph is most likely all you need. If you absolutely must lengthen your email, use bullet points to make your information as quick of a read as possible. (Obviously this was a tough lesson for me to learn – I just wrote seven sentences about it.)


Jason: Start with your own territory, your product, content, brand, story or whatever it is that you’ll want your target prospects to see, because it will be easier to scale things up once you’re sure that you are promoting something really worth promoting.


Wayne: Persevere and don’t get disillusioned – you will get rejections, you will get ignored, you will get the odd email that accuses you of being a spamming weirdo. Don’t take anything personal and keep on trucking…


Further Reading:

Link Building by Blogger Outreach by Paddy Moogan

Blogger Outreach: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly by Blueglass

Practical Guide to Blogger Outreach (SlideShare) by Yomego

Blah at Best: Not-for-Bedtime Blogger Outreach Horror Stories by Nicola Balkind


I think you’ll agree this post has provided you with a lot of great ideas to help you get started and improve the impact of your blogger outreach campaigns.

TL;DR – A bunch of great marketers give top class advice on utilising Blogger Outreach as  part of your Link Building and Online PR strategy.

What other suggestions would you add to this great blogger outreach advice? What has been your experiences of utilising blogger outreach for your campaigns? I’d love to share some experiences (Good/Bad) in the comments below.

Are You S[e]o Serious?

This a guest post by Anthony Pensabene

Hi.  I’ve been watching online marketing festivities, making observations from an in-circus and out-of-industry perspective.  As a comical observer, I can’t help but relay some ideas to play upon the minds of both clients and SEO practitioners.

I must begin with a question.  Are you s[e]o serious?  The answer to the question is contingent on the person/brand; and, the tragedy of the story is the reality of particular brands may be a comedy, savvy?
How serious are you about your brand, its reputation, and future direction?  Lately, I’ve seen some committing the following online felonies.

Chasing the Money

All dogs become hungry dogs.  Every dog’s gotta eat.  And the race ensues…  I need to chase the money too.  The Joker stated in The Dark Knight, “If you’re good at something, never do it for free.”  I’ve found a way to make money, to get fed, by doing what I love.  If the need for money perished, my love for what I do remains.   Is true happiness in the essence of deed or strictly the ends?

The love of craft compensates for ‘get-rich-now’ impatience.  Even in best-case scenarios, money-generation takes time and relies on a number of factors; patience is essential regarding a product/service you believe in.

How many out there truly believe in their products/services?  How many are proud and love what you do?  In gutting through some brands via razor-like inspection, I’ve come to suspect some of you don’t really believe in what you’re providing.  Would you like to know who is who?

Resources:
Content Marketing Manifesto
Friction and Inertia

Reliant on Others

You shouldn’t build your business heavily on one marketing vehicle (which doubles as another company *cough Google*). Furthermore, do not make your brand side-blind susceptible to the scruples of outsourced services… like marketing agencies.  You’re buying too much into the ‘illusion’ of stability…

All it takes is for one. Little.Panda.or.Penguin to appear…then, all of a sudden, your business revenue is contingent on Google and those who engineer SEO initiatives for YOUR business.  All it takes is a little rupture of that oh-so-illusory every-day status quo…

For one, ensure you know exactly what your SEO agency is doing. Outsourcing should allow additional resources to host your well-understood initiatives.  A lack of in-house resources should not mean a lack of understanding of how your business is being operated and represented.  No tactics should seem foreign or incomprehensible to you.

Secondly, and I hear this too often these days, it’s a bad business strategy to place all eggs in one business-lead basket.  That’s what Google is essentially, yes?  If you’re business’ future is reliant on the maneuvers of another business (you have no direct control over), then (you may want to) revisit your business model.

Resources:
Change the Way You Think
Stop Buying It (Snake Oil SEO)
Link Building from Scratch

Unfaithful to ‘Gotham’

Do you know why it may take so little to make big trouble in particular brands’ ‘cities’?  Some brands are not faithful to respective ‘citizens.’  That creates an opportunity for…chaos.

The customer is king and your marketing needs to be built for your target market.  How faithful are you to your brand’s respective, ‘Gotham’?  Are you ‘building awesome things’?  Otherwise, it won’t take much to upset their faith in you and bring your kingdom down.

Resources:
How to Make Emails Better
Are You Missing This Main Ingredient?
Consider This Job Offer

Not SEO Serious

You know why a number of the Joker’s plots were successful?  He was a keen psychologist.  He understood the ‘why’ of people.  The Joker would make an insane marketer, figuratively and literally.
The way I see it, SEO is a two-part process.  It communicates with engines; but, by and largely, it seeks to ultimately ‘speak’ to people through inherent-marketing knowhow.  Otherwise, I really couldn’t say it is optimized SEO, you know what I mean?  Some brands deem themselves experts, but ‘experts’ according to whom?

So while a number of some link-building, social media, and other online-tasks can adopt an automated pace, achieving the “engine” part of online marketing, you essentially need to charm the smiles on the faces of those who are making the actual purchases.  Do you wanna know how the most successful companies’ customers got those ‘scars’?  The companies always had their customers on their minds, not just engines or automated processes.

Resources:
Rapid-Fire Link Building
The Character of the Author is Relevant

Anthony writes professionally for WebiMax and gets down on his personal blog, Content Muse.  He champions the ‘people’ aspect of marketing and can be found roaming the mountains of Colorado with a smile and sandals on.

Why you F*%$ing Suck at Link Building

I wanted to write this blog post as a response to some posts from people on internet marketing blogs and forums who feel that the Penguin Update has ruined their easy link building efforts. Well guess what it has. The barrier to entry for link builders was lowered with the simplicity of cheap blog networks and automated tools such as Xrumer and Scrapebox which can build thousands of links per day with very little user interaction. IM Forums are littered with SEO’s crying that it’s just too hard to obtain editorial/contextual links from webmasters or bloggers and guess what I’m happy. A skill set I’ve worked at over the past few years to develop has just become even more in demand.

Well I’m going to tell you why YOU suck as a link builder.

It’s all about YOU YOU YOU – I’ve seen your outreach emails, I get them every day in my spam folder and the ones that slip through are pure narcissistic egotistical waffle. Nowhere in your outreach efforts do you offer any form of benefit to the webmaster to link to your site. It doesn’t have to be an exceptionally long piece of prose but a few bullet points to explain why a link to your site would be of interest to their community would probably increase your response rates 10 fold.

Pay it Forward – Your responsibility as a link builder grown adult is to establish some sort of relationship and invest in it before expecting someone you’ve never met to do you a favour? Come on, grow up and welcome to the real world. Subscribe to your prospects blog or Twitter Feed. Comment on their blog posts, share their stuff on your social media accounts and answer their questions on Quora. If you have anything about you the first email you send to them won’t be a begging letter for a link but actually offering them some feedback, advice or technical assistance. Just remember when you are link building you are dealing with a REAL person with REAL emotions and not a website.

Put the hours in – there was a reason you were paying a few dollars per link to BMR. You haven’t worked a single day in your life. The best link builders hard working, they get into the office early just to Skype with a blogger in a different time zone. Their mobile devices are buzzing day and night with emails to let them know their prospects are checking in nearby on Foursquare or have Tweeted a question. If you want to succeed at link building you need to work hard…

 

What do you say to a failed Link Builder?

 

Y U NO Tenacity? – Wait a minute you just sent someone who probably receives hundreds of emails every day, one email? Do yourself a favour and if you haven’t received a reply in a few days send another. What you didn’t get a response the second time? Pick up the phone, dial in their telephone number and speak to them. A good link builder won’t fall at the first hurdle and if after all this effort they still don’t link to your infographic on kittehs, make sure you keep their information for future link opportunities.

You’re just playing a numbers game – you scrape a bunch of contact info from Google and then just blindly fire out emails. Guess what, you’ve probably got more chance of winning the lottery than getting a link from an authority website in your niche with that method. Research and find the right people by asking yourself a few questions:How many social followers do they have?

  • How many RSS Subscribers do they have in a search with Google Reader?
  • Who are they connected to by checking with tools such as Mentionmapp or Klout?
  • Will they link to me? Have they linked to anything similar before?

If you follow the advice I give above you’ll start #winning at Link building. We all reach points in our projects where we would rather blame a bunch of external factors than actually look at the things we can have an effect on. Just like any marketing effort link building doesn’t just magically happen, we need to plan, measure, execute and refine our processes.

Free SEO Tools – A Curated List

Tools, Tools, Glorious Tools!

SEO’s simply love to get their hands on the latest bit of kit to help speed up processes, scale time consuming tasks or simply to unlock additional data. I have to admit I am a bit of a productivity tool junkie and have been known to build my own tools using Google Docs, macros or bookmarklets. So a few weeks ago I engaged with a group of my fellow online marketers at inbound.org with the premise to build a curated list of Free SEO tools. A lot of my fellow industry colleagues contributed with their personal favourites to the discussion so here are the results.

This is a curated list of Free SEO tools so if there is something you use regularly or if a tool is no longer available please drop me a comment below or send me a message and I’ll update this page.

You can check out my list of SEO and affiliate marketing resources I use and love.

SEER SEO ToolboxChris Le created the SEER SEO Toolbox as an Open Source set of tools utilising a number of API’s including Google Analytics, SEO Moz and Majestic SEO. It’s a brilliant building block for link building and client reporting.

Site Audit Tools

Get My Site Info -  This is a free tool that provides a basic report on a number of SEO factors. It’s far from the most comprehensive SEO reporting tool but it does offer some good quick checks such as checking your sites have a sitemap, robots.txt and if there are any W3C HTML errors.

Sitespeed.io is an open source tool that helps you analyze your website speed and performance based on performance best practices and metrics. It collects data from multiple pages on your website, analyze the pages using the rules and output the result as HTML or JUnit XML.

Pingdom Tools – This is my go to tool when performing page speed audits. It offers a very nice visual representation to help you understand which page elements are taking up the most resources. Another tool I know many people like to use for checking page speed is http://gtmetrix.com/

Screaming Frog - the day you first discover Screaming Frog is one of the greatest moments of your SEO career. I’m serious! Screaming Frog crawls a website and returns a number of page elements for you to analyse, such as page title, H1 tags and canonicals. There are 2 versions, a free version which analyses up to 500 URIs and the paid version, £99/year, that analyses absolutely everything.

Xenu Link Sleuth - is a very similar tool to Screaming Frog, yet lacks some of the functionality but it is entirely free. Xenu is simply a link check that crawls a website looking for broken links. SEO’s have pushed the limits of this basic tool and if you are a technical SEO who loves digging through the data in Excel I do recommend you invest in the paid version of Screaming Frog.

Google WMT - If you are a webmaster then this free resoruce from Google is an absolute must. GWMT have a number of really useful data sets such as crawl errors, inbound links and indexing. If you want to learn how to get it setup for your site then check my article.

Bing WMT - Bing’s version of Google’s Webmaster Tools allows you to check any errors found by the bing bot and discover who is linking in to you.

Yoast SEO Plugin - quite simply the most awesome SEO plugin you will ever encounter. Read my blog post to learn more about optimising your WordPress blog for SEO.

Keyword Analysis Tools

UberSuggest - I simply love Uber Suggest, it utilises Google and other suggestion services to create hundreds of keyword variations. If you are having a day struggling with writers block or you are having a content strategy brainstorming session, don’t forget about this free tool.

Keyword Eye - there are 2 types of account for Keyword Eye the basic free version or a paid version for £3.95 p/m. I’ve used this system a few times and must admit it’s a very visually appealing tool and offers you a couple of great content discovery tools e.g. Flickr and Twitter search data.

Google Trends - is a great tool to have in your SEO tool box as it allows you to see what’s hot and what’s not. If you are performing keyword research you want to understand if there are any rising trends you can latch on to. For example the Euro 2012 football tournament is round the corner so a piece of content involving football may be more popular in the next few weeks. Google Trends returns a colour-coded line graph that shows the frequency for which your specified search terms were used in a query for the past three years. Google Trends also allows you to compare at a glance the volume of news stories related to the keywords you’re comparing and provides a bar chart that breaks down the results by selected cities, selected countries and by different languages. You can also run similar reports with Google Insights, which offers you more in depth data.

Outreach & Link Building Tools

Open Site Explorer - the SEOmoz backlink data tool is probably the most well known SEO backlink tool on the market. Their index is built by crawling the web and building up their own set of metrics such as Domain Authority and mozrank based on the number and “quality” of the links pointing to a web page. They have a free version which allows you to check the number of backlinks to up to 5 web pages everyday. Follow this link for a free 30day trial of the SEOmoz tools.

MajesticSEO - sign up for a free MajesticSEO and get limited access to their link analysis tools and database.

ahrefs - is the newest arrival to the backlink data party. They have some really nice tools and offer users free access to some of their features. If you are undecided as to which link analysis provider to pay for a subscription for then this review of ahrefs, MajesticSEO and OSE may help.

SEOQuake - allows you to find link metrics for a set of search results. It’s a great tool to add to your SEO tool kit when prospecting. Read this great guide from Jason Acidre on Prospecting Links with the SEO Quake plugin.

SEO Tools for Excel - This great tool kit from Neils Bosma allows you to perform a number of quick and easy data lookups using a number of APIs. You can read this review by Richard Baxter to learn more.

SEO Gadget for Excel – the team at SEOGadget compiled some additional functionality into their Excel tools. Using SEMRush data, Grep Words and MajesticSEO API’s you have some really handy data at your finger tips.

LinkChecker plugin for Firefox - Check the validity of links on any webpage. Simply install this plugin on Firefox and away you go. This a great tool for Broken Link Building. 

Free Broken Link Checker - The Find Broken Links, Redirects & Google Sitemap Generator Free Tool allows webmasters and SEO’s to check the status of both external  and internal links on an entire website. The resulting link report will give you an insight to the link structure of a website, identify any link redirects and errors, all of which help in planning a link optimisation strategy.

Domain Hunter Plus - find broken links and reach out to webmasters to replace the broken links with your online resource. Want to learn more? Jon Cooper reviewed this tool.

Socialmention - Is a search engine that allows you to search blogs and social networks for people talking about your niche. A great way to find influencers.

BuzzSumo – Helps you to identify the most shared content and key influencers for any topic.

Followerwonk - one of the most important tools you can ever use when performing blogger outreach. Followerwonk lets you search twitter bios, analyse and track followers and find thought leaders / key influencers within any niche. With this tool I have been able to easily discover and reach out to some influential bloggers, webmasters and editors to obtain links for my clients.

Mentionmapp - if you are researching thought leaders in your niche then you really need this tool! It gives a nice graphical representation of who’s talking with who on Twitter.

Export Twitter Followers – This is an awesome free Google Doc that allows you to export all your Twitter Followers using the Twitter API and then analyse them. If you want to learn more about using Twitter as a link building tool you can read my guest post on Point Blank SEO.

BuzzStream - is a well known paid outreach tool used by PR firms and SEO’s alike but did you know they have a number of Free Link Building Tools too? My favourites are the Email tool which performs a number of searches to locate an email address for a potential link prospect and the blogroll list building tool which scrapes blogrolls to help you find more bloggers within your niche.

Chase the Footprint - this is a free tool to analyse various “footprints” that SEO’s use to find link prospects e.g. Guest Blogging opportunities, you can read my review here.

Link Detective -  is a free tool designed by Eppie Vojt, using an Open Site Explorer link export you can learn more about your or your competitors link profile. You can easily learn where links are placed on a site, what percentage of anchor text is used and whether or not the link is still live.

Sharemetric – a free Google Chrome add-on which allows you to quickly and easily find how many social shares a web page has received. It’s a great tool for competitor content analysis.

Check my Links – if you are using Broken Link Building as part of your lnik strategy then this tool is great. Simply locate a list of resources (a bit like this page) and then run check my links to flag which links are returning a status 404 on the page

Circlecount  - quite simply find out who’s popular on Google+, how many circles they are in and what topics they are influential about.

Topsy  – their tagline is Real-time search for the social web. Simply insert your keywords and find out who is blogging, tweeting and sharing news about your products, your company or your competitors.

HARO - Help A Reporter Out allows you to find journalists who are looking for people or businesses to interview for news stories. Sign up and get the PR machine rolling.

Advanced Google Search Queries - this article from Himanshu is probably the most comprehensive guide to Google search queries for link building.

subredditfinder.com - does exactly what it says on the tin! Discover which subreddits are on the rise, popular or related to your content so you can tap into this online community.

moreofit.com - is another useful tool I like to use to help me find relevant websites. Simply add in a url and it shows you several similar sites you can reach out to.

My Blog Guest
MyBlogGuest - if you are looking for Guest blogging opportunities or guest bloggers to contribute content to your site then you should sign up to this Free online community.

linkstant.com – are you tired of not knowing when your site is linked to then use this free tool designed by Rob Ouseby & Tom Critchlow from Distilled. Linkstant will notify you instantly by email or SMS when someone links to your site. Simples!

Google Alerts - setup a Google Alert for your keywords to monitor when new blogs or news articles are published in  your niche. Hopefully you have some great content to share with the blogger/journalist that they may want to add to their site.

ifttt – this is probably my number one productivity tool for automating parts of my online world. It’s very simple to setup and you create recipes that allow you to connect your social media accounts, RSS feeds and emails together with ease. I recently wrote about my love of ifttt.

Rank Tracking

Microsite Masters - monitor your rankings daily with this free tool. If you want to monitor more than 10 keywords then you can sign up for a paid subscription. It is a great ranking tool used by many SEO consultants and agencies.

Rankerizer - this is another excellent tool for monitoring rankings and is free simply sign up and download your copy.

Rank Checker – this a free rank checker provided by the team at SEO Book, simply sign up for a free account and you can get access to this along with a number of other free SEO tools.

Analytics

Google Analytics - is a free service offered by Google that generates detailed information and reports about the visitors to your website. If you run an e-commerce site you can setup your GA account to measure sales conversions, so you can understand which pages and keywords are or are not performing well.

Piwik - this is an open source analytics system that means Google don’t have access to your stats. Download this PHP/MySQL software program and install it on your own web server.

Website Penalty Indicator – it can be difficult to know the quality of a site you are targeting as a link prospect. The Website Penalty Indicator will help you see if the site is affected by the Panda or Penguin filters.

I hope this list has been useful to you and that I’ve helped you to discover some new SEO tools you can use to help you be more productive in your online marketing endeavours.

This great post has over 500 Free Web Developer and Designer Tools

Thanks to Dan BochichioRand FishkinGaz Copeland and all the community at inbound.org for helping to curate this list.

Find Easy Links with Chase the Footprint

Finding backlink opportunities by searching for common footprints is a fairly basic tactic when it comes to link building. It’s simply the process of searching for frequently occurring phrases on websites that offer you the opportunity to gain a link if you were to leave a comment, submit a guest post or add your site to their web directory.

One of the main ways I use footprints is to look for websites where I can have a client’s product reviewed, run a giveaway or find a potential opportunity for a link via a guest blog. By simply searching for phrases such as “Submit a Guest Post” in combination with your keywords you can find lots of sites in your vertical that offer guest blogging opportunities.

You can take your link prospecting further by using Boolean Operators and Wildcards in your footprint searches to return more advanced results. For example a search for Apples AND Pears will return results where the words apples and pears both appear on the same web page but not necessarily in the same phrase.

Another way to find guest post opportunities is to follow your competitors footprints a lot of guest bloggers are quite lazy and will use the same author byline again and again. For example John Smith writes on behalf of Big Boy Business this means that all you have to do is type this phrase in to Google in quotations and you’ll find most of their guest blogs. Quite often these sites will have a fairly low submission criteria.

Chase The Footprint is a new tool designed by Dan Bochichio to help link builders find opportunities by searching for common footprints.  Simply input the keyword phrases into the box and then from the drop down menu you can chose to search for Wiki’s, Sponsorship Opportunities, Forums, Blogs and guest blogs.

If you combine Chase the Footprint with the SEOQuake toolbar you can then export the results into a CSV file and then manipulate the results in Excel or Google Docs. Dan also has provided a javascript bookmarklet you can use to export your search results into a spreadsheet too.

The tool is very new and Dan is open to the offer of suggestions for improvements or report any bugs you can contact him via his SEO website. I have already made the suggestion that it would be useful to be able to search different instances of Google such as UK, Australia etc to help link builders cast their nets far and wide. Happy link building!