We are prospecting for links, prospecting for business opportunities, prospecting for people and next viral video. Most of our time online is spent prospecting for something. We use social media like Twitter and Google+, as well as professional prospecting tools and the almighty Google. There are different platforms we can use, different types of prospecting we can go for, but as internet marketers we tend to prospect for 3 things most of the time, at least I do, and those are links, mentions, and people.
For each one of these we go across different platforms to get the best results. I’ll try to explain some of my methods of prospecting starting from general tips to a bit more specific approach moving onto tools and platforms I use in searching for the next big thing.
Ground Zero: Search Prospecting
Love it or hate it, we all start our searches with Google or other preferred search engines. Going from basic searches like “your chosen key phrase” to the same thing in quotes to advanced operators like “intitle:” and the like. Google can give us plenty of results for links, mentions around the web or people, products; you name it, the one-stop shop for information, and the best part, it is one of the best free tools for prospecting of any kind. So how do we utilize Google and search prospecting to its maximum?
If you want to master the art of prospecting start by mastering advanced search operators.
This is the very basic skill that can turn your average search into a power search tool with only target specific results. Taking a simple term like “free climbing equipment”, which shows mostly products, you can use search operators and turn it into a prospecting tool for guest posts that transforms over 1,000,000 scattered results into 451 specific results you can use:
Some of the best posts that cover prospecting with search operators to find anything from potential links to sponsorship opportunities include:
Bonus tip: My favorite method of link prospecting trough Google was to search for roundup posts and lists, it leads to some of the best places to get a link from as people are already linking to them.
One of my favorite methods of prospecting back in the day was following the breadcrumbs. I rarely use it today, but if you want a good list of sites on a single topic using this method is always the right way to go.
The idea is simple, type your market defining keyword in Google, open up the first website with a blog that pops up and start following the blogroll links adding them to your spreadsheet. From the first site, you get 10 links, and each of those sites could have a blogroll with 10 more links, so you can end up turning 1 website into thousands of prospects. At one point I had a spreadsheet with over 7,000 websites PR5 to PR9. I tried to do a reverse PR sculpting of a PR9 website by following obvious paid links and looking for other websites they link to. I was surprised by the size of the link selling network I found, and the websites that utilized this network, you would be too.
You can use the same principle by following list/links/resource pages and quality directories. Here is the one and only blog post going into detail about blogroll prospecting that you will ever need:
Tool you might want to use for this: BuzzStream Blogroll list builder
Link Research Tools
This is one of the most common methods we SEOs like to use. We find a site we want to analyze, usually our competitor, and we scan their backlinks using tools like Ahrefs, OSE or Majestic. Then we sort them by metrics of choice and do a manual inspection. It’s easy, it’s fast, and it is eye-opening in some cases as you can find sites that you would never have thought of searching. Yup, competitors are a great resource for finding link opportunities, but you already knew that.
There are already ton of tools you can use, and they have been explained in detail, here is one actionable post I urge you to read if you want to go down this road of prospecting:
I guess this about cover the link prospecting part, although using Google you can prospect for everything you want.
In Search of Mentions and People
When looking for mentions to turn into links or for social outreach you basically want to find a tool that fits your needs.
For the longest time, I relied only on Google Alerts and it worked. Well, it worked until I found out what I was missing. When Moz first unleashed their fresh web explorer I was set back quite a bit at how much I was missing. I mean this is a great tool where you can leverage your newly found knowledge of search operators to look for mentions.
But why stop there? There are plenty of other methods to prospect for mentions and conversations about your brand/product. At this point there are a bunch of great tools that you can use, some of which I’m quite fond of are:
mention.com – expert alerts for your brand name, product, URL or just your name, great way to get links from mentions
Out of these BuzzSumo and Topsy are two tools I use on daily basis, not just to find the most shared content on social media but to find influencers. In my opinion finding the right influencers to contact is one of the most important parts of our marketing effort at this point, so make sure you read these few posts that cover the topic in depth:
In the end if you know what you are looking for you can easily find it. I personally used Quora and similar sites to prospect for influencers, or to prospect for people that need answers that of course I can provide on my blog and later outreach to them. This article will just send you on your way with the art of prospecting, as with so many options you can take, this is an art, and some of the people listed and linked from this article are prospecting artists by definition.
These are some tools and prospecting resources that I just couldn’t neglect to mention:
Link Prospecting with Twitter Tools and APIs