The 32 Best Link-Building Tools Used by the Pros & What They’re For
Link building has always been the cornerstone of SEO. For the basics of what link building is and why it matters jump to the bottom or click here for link building strategies to crush it in 2016. As you may know, there are hundreds of tools on the market ranging from the black-hat to the legitimate. This list includes the best tools worth choosing from. They’re all used by the pros and have made us all thousands.
Table of Contents
Backlink Building is an essential part of SEO, here’s our list of all time favorite products for getting the job done.
32 Tools Worth Adding to Your Back Link Building Arsenal:
- Ahrefs: Backlink Building : The most complete resource for backlink data on the web as well as other useful data points. Pricing: $99 /m – $399 /m
- Gryffin: Backlink Building : More Google search operators than you’d ever need. Pricing: Custom
- Content Harmony: Backlink Building : Chrome extension for viewing key metrics drawn from ahrefs, SEMrush, and MOZ Custom
- WebpageFX: Backlink Building : Easily find opportunities to answer questions online and build content around questions users are asking. Pricing: Free
- Link Prospector: Backlink Building : Great way to find opportunities to build links and pitch to. Pricing: $47 /m – $497 /m
- WikiGrabber: Backlink Building : Find Wikipedia pages that you can make better. Pricing: Free
- whitespark: Backlink Building : The efficient way to build and fix local citations for your business. Pricing: $200 – $395 / One Time
- Moz Bar: Backlink Building : Tons of great free SEO metrics on sites and SERPS, the Spam Score is a massive plus while prospecting. Pricing: Freemium
- Majestic: Backlink Building : Excellent source of backlink data with in-depth analysis on it. Pricing: $49.99 /m – $399.99 /m
- URL Profiler: Backlink Building : Invaluable resource for merging site crawls with relevant social, analytics, and SEO data. Pricing: $19.95 / m $39.95 / m
- Broken Link Builder: Backlink Building : Find non-existant content you can replace for the links. Pricing: $47 /m – $497 /m
- Cognitive SEO: Backlink Building : A platform for managing digital marketing which focuses on rankings, backlinks, and social. Pricing: $99 – $499 +/m
- Kerboo: Backlink Building : Suite of tools to add on top of their current stack giving you easier workflows for link building, link disavowals, and rank tracking. Pricing: $249 /m – $2999 /m
- directorycritic: Backlink Building : Curated lists of directories worth actually being on. Pricing: Custom
- Outdated Content Finder: Backlink Building : Find outdated content that you can do better. Pricing: Custom
- Chase the Footprint: Backlink Building : Useful tool for generating advanced search queries to use in Google. Pricing: Free
- Remove em: Backlink Building : Tool for checking whether you have overoptomized anchor text in your backlink profile. Pricing: Custom
- SpyFu: Backlink Building : Platform oriented towards in-depth competative analysis of rankings and paid keyword competition. Pricing: $79 /m – $999 /m
- BuzzBundle: Backlink Building : Keep an eye on any opportunity to mention your brand on the web. Pricing: Free – $399 /m
- SEMrush: Backlink Building : The biggest provider of accurate ranking information. Pricing: $69. P95 /m – $549.95 /m
- Moz Pro: Backlink Building : The authority on reporting, guided SEO, and content marketing implementation for beginners. Pricing: $99 /m – $599 /m
- Pitchbox: Outreach Management : Platform for managing your outreach efforts and content creation, understanding your targets, and automating your prospect search. Pricing: $49 /m – $1000 /m
- NinjaOutreach: Outreach Management : Finding influencers and managing large outreach campaigns. Pricing: $29 /m – $249 /m
- BuzzStream: Outreach Management : Outreach platform for finding the sites you want to pitch ideas to. Pricing: $29 /m – $249 /m
- PitchRate: Pitch directly to database of journalist. Pricing: Free
- Anewstip: Search and pitch directly to journalists. Pricing: Free – $149 /m
- ResponseSource: Pitch ideas to a database of journalist or directly to their submitted queries. Pricing: Custom
- HARO: Daily emails from journalists and bloggers looking for interviewees. Pricing: Free – $149 /m
- PRX: Results driven PR that automates pitches or sponsors content. Pricing: $500 /Sponsor Post
- Publicize: Transparent alternative to traditional PR agencies focused on press releases, promo, and guest posting as a fallback. Pricing: Free – $800 + /m
- Placemints: Service for managing your pitching and promotion efforts for you. Pricing: Custom
- Muck Rack: Maximize the impact of your promotional efforts by pitching to journalists. Pricing: $179 /m$269 + /m
What are all these link-building tools for?
There are basically a few avenues any business or site owner can pursue to get links, but what it basically boils down to either being interesting, controversial, or helpful to your customers and community or faking the funk (as most of us have to) and building links. Not everyone owns a groundbreaking company. In an ideal world we could all play fair. But the cream doesn’t rise to the top.
Great content and products, are nothing without promotion. The fact is that the cards are actually stacked against your average small business owner and in order to stay alive in a world where large corporations would otherwise bully us around we need to “simulate” organic processes. Thus why these link building tools exist.
The Types of Link building Tools:
There are links we can get by signing up, cajoling, or asking for them. Links we can get through leveraging content marketing as a carrot to entice site owners and blogs to feature us. And links we can get through being featured into a publication. That’s it. All of the tools in this list help accomplish one of the above.
Best Link Prospecting Tools? – Find Out What Backlinks You & Anyone Else Has
[Best in Show: ahrefs or Majestic] If we’re going to reverse engineer the organic process of link building as Google wants it to happen you need to know where and how you can reach out. Typically when people talk “link building” tools they’re talking about these kinds of tools. These link-building tools crawl the web as Google does and create a searchable database. Generally speaking they accomplish the following:
- They allow us to spy on the competition. If we know where the best are getting links, that gives us an idea of where we can.
- They allow us to understand the popularity of other sites, so that we’re concentrating on the best places to build links and grow our audience.
- Google is actually one of your best prospecting sites, after all where better to find links worth getting than from the machine itself. There are a few tools here that augment that process.
[Best in show: PitchBox or Ninja Outreach] For any serious SEO, you’re going to eventually find yourself doing manual outreach for guest posts, pitching to journalists directly (if you’re product or a piece of content you’ve created is novel or interesting), and trying to get journalists and sites to repost your content. The truth ain’t pretty, but there are very, very, few sites that “hand out” links these days. These tools help us keep the sites we find from Link Prospecting in Line, and let us get the job done.
Media Placements – Find opportunities get written about in the Media.
[ Best in Show: start with HARO] Media placements are the best game in town, but there is a high opportunity cost of spending time and getting nowhere. Regardless, modern PR, and trying to build good relationships with journalists so that your company is featured in publications (and gets links) is the most durable way to “build” links. In a few years this will likely be the only play we can make, since blogging as a hobby is beginning to fade. That said I’d recommend starting with HARO or if you have the cash a few of these paid options.
Easy Backlinks – Get and Buy Backlinks Quickly (Not the best, but great if you’re not on the map)
[Best in Show: Bright Local] Easy backlinks are sites that serve a legitimate purpose and also hand out links. In my opinion they’re key to establishing some legitimacy in the eyes of Google. Ultimately this is low work for marginal return. All the sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ count, but more importantly so do local directories, Google Places, and if you are a startup, sites for that. Many of the links will be no-follow, but still serve as a good form of legitimacy building.
Link Profile Management – Bad backlinks are no good either, monitoring your backlink profile is also key.
[Best in Show: Kerboo or ahrefs] As most people know Google released a series of updates from 2008 – 2012 that radically increased the quality of it’s search results and made black hat link building significantly more difficult. (Probably why you’re here, welcome to the gray fedora) This set of tools helps us protect our nest eggs, and generally speaking any link-prospecting tool would aid us here, since knowledge is power, but I’ll add a few more that are purpose driven.
Link Prospecting Tools:
A link building tool is only as good as the total size of it’s database. For the US market the only ones I truly trust are ahrefs, Majestic, & Cognitive SEO for asite (which aggregates data from them). MOZ, SEMrush, & SpyFu can get the job done, and offer a suite of other handy tools, but don’t extend all the way to what I would consider professional grade. While ahrefs has the largest set of backlinks, you can often stack ahrefs, Majestic, Moz, and Search Console, and still find links the other ones didn’t see.
- Ahrefs: Link Prospecting –Rating: 10 : The gold seal of backlink data on the web with a variety of other useful SEO tools for looking at popular content, spying on the competition, and tracking trending and popular content in specific verticals. Ahrefs does what a bunch of the other tools on this list do, but better. Pricing: $99 – $499 + /m Generally there are a few different useful features in ahrefs:
- You can directly type a site into its search bar and get a variety of metrics like how many sites are linking to a domain as well as social shares. Additionally, you can type in any URL and get a solid set of data to work off of. This comes particularly in handy if you’re trying to clone popular content created by competitors, see what performs in your vertical, or see who has been interested in content from your vertical before.
- The biggest value here is that you can gather a large amount of backlink data and see what specific pages on what sites are linking, as well as get a fast estimate of the total number of domains, or just what domains are linking out. From here you could either manually scout out pages, run these URLs through URL Profiler, or run through them with an outreach platform like buzzbundle or ninjaoutreach.
- They an all right internal “Domain Authority” like metric, but I find that it tends to be a bit weak as it focuses a bit strongly on total numbers of backlinks and doesn’t encompass as many other quality factors as Moz’s Domain Authority Metric.
- As Cognitive SEO and Majestic do, ahrefs also has some link intersect tools as well as historical metrics on backlinks that have been gained and lost.
- If you’re link building in the context of content marketing, which you should ultimately be doing, ahrefs basically folds in many of the principles in a tool like BuzzSumo and helps you find both writers and content producers/publishers that you can easily pitch to.
- Ahrefs and Majestic can both suffer from too much data. Both of then do have relevant filters for the freshness of links, which can mitigate this effect, but I’d still argue that understanding the entire picture is more valuable then getting the freshness you would from Moz’s database. Additionally, knowing of aged links typically presents a great opportunity to renew some content.
- Majestic: Link Prospecting –Rating: 8 : Majestic has some nice comparison features of backlinks, but largely serves the same functions as AHREFS, but without the robust site audit and content trending features. That said, if you’re a bit more price conscious Majestic can be an excellent way to get largely the same information as that which is offered by ahrefs but at a better price. Pricing: $49.99/m – $399.99/m
- Cognitive SEO: Backlink Building –Rating: 8 : A platform for managing digital marketing which focuses on rankings, backlinks, and social. Cognitive SEO straddles a interesting position, where it offers features useful to people who want to monitor the business at a higher level than say something like MOZ or Raven, but doesn’t offer the handy export functionality of a tool like Majestic, SpyFu, SEMrush and Ahrefs when it comes to prospecting domains a la carte. That said if you’re mainly concerned with checking out your own backlink profile, or a few key competitors and then pursuing them, this can work out quite well.
- Moz Pro: Link Prospecting –Rating: 6 : Moz should be a familiar name to you, their guides and blogs are some of the best in the industry. That said they’re best off for business owners who want a good understanding of their performance without being stuck in the weeds. Basically Moz Pro will help you prospect and monitor your sites backlinks but its scope may not be wide enough for a full on link building campaign.
All that said MOZ does create the best metric for site quality: Domain Authority. This rating can be helpful in evaluating what is going on with the competition, the quality of a site, and whether it lies in a spammy “link neighborhood.” Pricing: $99 /m – $599 /m.
- SpyFu: Link Prospecting –Rating: 7 : SpyFu is oriented towards rankings and paid keyword competitors. That said it does allow for you to get a sense of competitor backlinks. Again, if you’re link building isn’t your main focus (and paid ads are) this can offer enough information, but it won’t be heavy duty enough for serious work. Pricing: $79 /m$999 /m
- SEMrush: Backlink Building –Rating: 6 : SEMrush is far and away my favorite keyword and rank tracking tool. That said it does have a decent back link database, though on par with MOZ and SpyFu it isn’t as big as Majestic or ahrefs. Pricing: $69.95/m to $549.95/m
Link Prospecting in Google:
Most SEO’s actually spend quite a bit of time prospecting in Google, after all where better to find sites to get links from that Google might like, than in its own index. Most of these tools basically supercharge the manual process of using various advanced search queries to find sites.
- Link Prospector: Link Prospecting in Google –Rating: 8 : Great way to find opportunities to build links and sites worth pitching to. This tool from Garret French’s company Citation Labs is basically prospecting searches on steroids. While there might too much info from this tool, it’s a great way for beginners to get their toes wet in prospecting (outside of spying on the competition and what content is popular with link prospecting tools) and finding link opportunities. Pricing: $47 /m$497 /m
- Moz Bar: Link Prospecting in Google –Rating: 8 : Tons of great SEO metrics right in your browser with this chrome extension. Plus few people truly appreciate the value of breaking down technical factors behind SERPS and actually looking at who ranks where. Moz Bar makes it easy (with a free account) to get decent metrics on the competition (including their Spam Score) while you evaluate sites. Even better the MOZ Bar makes it easy to export SERP results by the hundreds into CSVs for processing through URL Profiler or outreach management tools. Pricing: Freemium
- Chase the Footprint: Link Prospecting in Google –Rating: 7 : Quickly generate advanced search queries for use in Google. The fact is that there are probably more query variations than any of us could remember, tools like this and Gryffin make it easy to query Google in a variety of ways, without the pain of remembering all the variations we should be using. Pricing: Free
- Gryffin: Link Prospecting in Google –Rating: 8 : More Google search operators than you’d ever need. Gryffin, like Chase the footprint is great if you’re an experienced link builder looking for various opportunities in Google.
- Outdated Content Finder: Link Prospecting in Google –Rating: 7 : Find outdated content that you can do better. Then use a tool like ahrefs and majestic to find people that have linked to it previously and let them know there is a great new version. Pricing: Custom
- Broken Link Builder: Backlink Building –Rating: 8 : Find non-existent content you can replace it with links. This is another tool from Citation Labs that can make it easy to scale your link building efforts inside of Google. Pricing: $47 /m$497 /m
While you could track all of the sites you’ve reached out to in an excel sheet, once your team and/or clientele expands past a certain level a pure sheet full of data just get unwieldy. That’s why outreach management tools are invaluable when it comes to our link building efforts. The fact is that for modern link building we’re going to spend a great deal of time either pitching journalists or site/blog owners. Outreach management tools make it easy to track all the chaos so that we’re maximizing our effectiveness among teams by not reaching out to the same sites that were duds or worse, having multiple conversations with site owners. Pitchbox, NinjaOutreach, and Buzzstream will all get the job done for outreach management, it just comes down to your individual interests and the price you’re willing to pay.
- URL Profiler: Backlink Building –Rating: 8 : Invaluable resource for merging site crawls with relevant social, analytics, and SEO data from MOZ, Majestic, CopyScape, and/or ahrefs.
So you spent all day prospecting in Google and other tools now what?
Well URL Profiler can be an excellent next step to weed out weak sites and quickly figure out what kind of domains you’re dealing with. Meaning that you can quickly get an export and only target sites with a specific Domain Authority, CMS, or blog. (i.e. profile URLS quickly, see what they did?) Pricing: $19.95 / m – $39.95 / m.
- Pitchbox: Outreach Management –Rating: 8 : Platform for managing your outreach efforts and content creation, understanding your targets, and automating your prospect search. Pitchbox used to be very pricey, luckily they’ve brought their product down to a level that most site owners could actually afford. It struck me as the best tool before and still is the most polished outreach management tool. Pricing: $49 /m – $1000 /m –
- NinjaOutreach: Outreach Management –Rating: 8 : Finding influencers and managing large outreach campaigns? Then NinjaOutreach is great for you. Like the other two options here NinjaOutreach makes it easy to manage all of your outreach in one place. Personally for the price point I think it can’t be beat and I can’t wait to see how the tool continues to develop. Pricing: $29 /m – $249 /m –
- BuzzStream: Outreach Management –Rating: 7 : BuzzStream is probably the best call for large (price conscious) teams. When it comes down to it, its not as agile as NinjaOutreach or Pitchbox, but it forces strong organization, which can be key when multiple people are working on many accounts. I’d say that BuzzStream probably does have the steepest learning curve, but their Buzzmarket chrome extension is probably the best for categorizing URLs as you go. Pricing: $29 /m – $249 /m
- Content Harmony: Backlink Building –Rating: 8 : Chrome extension for viewing key metrics drawn from ahrefs, SEMrush, and MOZ Pricing. Again I would keep Content Harmony in your back pocket regardless of what else you’re doing, there is nothing worse than reaching out to a site that actually isn’t that popular or in the wrong vertical, and it’s the fastest way to check whether the individual tools are legit.
Link Profile Management:
Concerned about negative SEO attacks or getting burned by your own backlink profile? These tools will help you make sure your link building doesn’t go awry. Even better they can help you make sure there are other factors holding you back. (though a site audit toolmay be in order.)
- Kerboo: Backlink Building –Rating: 8 : Offers a suite of tools to add on top of their current stack giving you easier workflows for link building, link disavowals, and rank tracking. While Kerboo isn’t a standalone link building tool it does provide an excellent suite of tools for serious SEO work. Pricing: $249/m – $2999/m
- Remove’em: Backlink Building –Rating: 7 : Purpose driven tool for checking whether you have over optimized anchor text or other threads in your backlink profile. Again this is for the most serious of SEO’s, link builders, or site owners concerned with the sanctity of their site’s backlink profile. Pricing: $99/m – $899/m.
Ahh the glory of taking candy from babies. Just kidding, easy backlinks are one of the rare examples of low hanging fruit your average site owner can still cash in on. Again, the value here is going to be marginal, but at least it will be low cost and somewhat guaranteed.
- whitespark: Backlink Building –Rating: 8 : The efficient way to build and fix local citations for your business. The sad truth is that there are a variety of links you could be getting for a mere $3 a piece. While some of these will be no-followed and many won’t be of the best quality, if you have a physical location whitespark can be a get way to get citations without the headache of doing it yourself. (Pro Tip, not all their citations offer links, make sure you’re snagging the ones that do.) Pricing: $200 – $395 / One Time –
- BuzzBundle: Backlink Building –Rating: 7 : Keep an eye on any opportunity to mention your brand on the web. Are people talking about your vertical or mentioning products related to what you do, why not join the conversation? BuzzBundle is “social listening” on steroids and makes it easy to comment in bulk. That said, there is a pretty large degree of garbage that’ll come up, especially if you’re in a pretty quiet vertical. Pricing: Free – $399 /m
- directorycritic: Backlink Building –Rating: 7 : Curated lists of directories worth actually being on. New to link building? Don’t waste your time with bad directories, instead, only go after the best. Pricing: Custom
- WikiGrabber: Backlink Building –Rating: 8 : Find Wikipedia pages that you can make better and build links out to your content. The links will be no follow but in certain verticals Wikipedia can be an excellent mainline to valuable middle and bottom of funnel traffic. Just remember that you’re there to help the community only link not spam the system. Pricing: Free
- WebpageFX: Backlink Building –Rating: 8 : Easily find opportunities to answer questions online and build content around questions users are asking. This is a great tool for reverse engineering what’s already popular and being linked to.
Tools for Media Opportunities:
Securing a legitimate placement in a media publication is one of the biggest opportunities your site could have. But you could spend a great deal of time pitching to journalists or looking for opportunities and get nowhere. At the same time large publications tend to publish far more frequently than your average site, on the order of 100s of times a day. So weigh the risks accordingly. IN a best case scenario you could secure inclusion into an article that is trending front page news for the day, or (gasp) a week. Chasing media placements is the equivalent of swinging for homeruns rather than the singles and doubles that make up most other link building opportunities.
- Muck Rack: Maximize the impact of your promotional efforts by pitching to journalists. Pricing: $179 /m to $269 + /m
- PitchRate: Pitch directly to database of journalist. Pricing: Free
- Anewstip: Search and pitch directly to journalists. Pricing: Free – $149
- ResponseSource: Pitch ideas to a journalists database or directly to their submitted queries. Pricing: Custom
- HARO: Daily emails from journalists and bloggers looking for interviewees. HARO is a great deal of work, you’ll have to sift through 20-50 daily opportunities to find the journalist that might be looking to write about your company. But given the fact that its free (there are filters and alerts in paid versions) it’s an excellent foot in the door for marketers and site owners willing to put in the elbow grease to make things happen. – Free – $149 /m
- PRX: Results driven PR that automates pitches or sponsors content. PRX, Placemints, and Publicize all promise to do much of the work for you. Why sift through all the journalists out there when there are hundreds looking for an extra buck and the opportunity to monetize a link they’d be placing anyways? All of these platforms promise to automate much of the difficulty of getting a media placement by greasing the wheels of justice. Pricing: $500 /Sponsor Post
- Publicize: Transparent alternative to traditional PR agencies focused on press releases, promo, and guest posting as a fallback. Pricing: Free – $800 + /m
That’s all folks, above are the 34 best tools on the market for people looking to build links. If we’ve missed anything let us know. Otherwise happy searching and let us know how things progress.
Wondering how to build links like a pro?
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