The 7 Coolest Link Building Tools You’ve Never Heard Of

By Gary Magnone

So you’re fluent with Raven, Buzzstream, SEOmoz, Majestic, Ontolo, Citation Labs, and some of the other big link building toolsets out there. But what about when you’ve exhausted those resources? Or maybe you’re like us, and your link building campaigns are starting to lean less on classic SEO metrics and more towards social reach and engagement. Personally, I like to have a whole arsenal of tools at my disposal to help give me a different perspective on my clients’ link opportunities, as well as make that painful process of research and qualification a bit more efficient. So in honor of link building month on the Thunder blog, I decided to open up my tool chest and show some of the tools I’ve been playing around with recently.

1. Boardreader

Boardreader is a pretty sweet search engine that helps you find forums and message board posts around a specific topic. While forums don’t have the same kind of market share that the big social media sites have nowadays, some of the most engaged and relevant discussions happening around niche topics is still found on forums. I usually like to jump onto Boardreader in the beginning of a link building campaign to see what some of the most active members of a particular industry are talking about. I can usually pick up on trends that influence my content strategy, linkbait topics, and influential users. This is also a great time to start slowly engaging in the ongoing conversations and connecting with the community, so you have a better chance of promoting your linkable asset later down the line.

2. Advanced Twitter App from ConvertSocial

This is a new free app by David Wells at Hubspot that is really handy for quickly finding questions asked about a specific topic, as well as guest posting opportunities around these topics. For ongoing campaigns, I usually set up columns for these purposes in Hootsuite, but if I’m trying to find some quick Twitter engagement or guest post opportunities, this app gets the job done well.

3. Hoosaid

Hoosaid touts itself as the “Pagerank for People.” It’s a free app that allows you to search Twitter users by topic and ranks them by its proprietary relevancy score. I use this tool, which is similar to Followerwonk, to try and find Twitter profiles that are relevant about a certain topic that I may want to reach out to. And as Justin Briggs outlined for Followerwonk, you can use the Chrome Scraper extension to pull the data into a Google Spreadsheet (use this XPath: //div[3]/div[2]/div/div/div[2]/a to get the Twitter names and URLs). Then, all you need to do is pull in Mozscape data via the API, and you’re good to go. Quick and easy prospecting, just the way I like it!

4. twtrland

Have you ever researched a Twitter prospect and had to spend 10 minutes digging through their account with various tools to find out how influential they are, and what types of content they tweet about? Yeah, me too, and it sucks. Enter twtrland, a really awesome free Twitter user analysis tool. Just drop in a Twitter handle, and twtrland displays all the stats and data you’ll need to determine whether or not they belong on your outreach list. From retweet ratio and a graph of their tweet types, to most popular tweets and latest photos and links, twtrland tells all! Once you use this quick analysis tool, you won’t want to do any Twitter link prospecting without it.

5. BlogDash

BlogDash is a categorized database with over 88,000 bloggers. Topics range from health to automotive, and this tool makes it easy for marketers to sort through the data. The free version of the product has its limitations, but it does offer the ability to build lists, create campaigns, save templates, and pitch bloggers straight through the platform. The best part about BlogDash is that it’s mostly comprised of bloggers who are open to being pitched by marketers. But that’s no excuse to exploit the system; if you focus on providing value to the blogger community, you’ll get value back in return.

6. GroupHigh

GroupHigh is a paid tool that allows you to search its database of over 3 million active blogs by topic, and create lists of bloggers you want to reach out to. One of the coolest parts about GroupHigh is the info that they index for each blog. They pull in pretty much every metric that you’d want to know when determining whether a blog is worth reaching out to. Some of my favorites include SEOmoz metrics, social stats like followers, shares, and Klout, post frequency, number of authors, latest posts that match the search query, and contact info. If blogger outreach is a big part of your link building and PR campaigns, GroupHigh is definitely worth a serious look to help scale the high-touch process. Combine this with Buzzstream for even more outreach awesomeness!

7. SeededBuzz

SeededBuzz is an interesting platform that I came across recently, which helps bloggers promote each others’ content. Basically, their concept is based upon “Seeds,” which are posts that approved bloggers publish and submit to the system. Other bloggers can view the Seeds, and if an approved blogger sees a Seed that is interesting, they can create “Buzz” by writing a post related to or in response to the Seed post. They must include a link back to the original post, and at least 1 other Buzz post link. Marketers, if you’re thinking “how does this help me?”, SeededBuzz offers free access to their email list of bloggers that are open to marketing pitches. Some of the types of pitches that they’re looking for include product reviews, sponsored posts, link advertising, and video placement.

Honorable Mention: Point Blank SEO’s Link Building Strategies

A few months ago, Jon Cooper put together a rather impressive post that compiled all kinds of different link building strategies that deservedly got a ton of buzz. Well, it was only a matter of time before Rhea Drysdale pulled all of Jon’s strategies into a spreadsheet and layered on sortable timing, resource dependencies, and value levels for each strategy. After Rhea presented the spreadsheet to the audience at LinkLove Boston, Alex Czartoryski at Fresh Air Educators went to work on coding the spreadsheet for the web, effectively turning that original awesome blog post into a super useful link building strategy resource. Thanks Jon, Rhea, and Alex!

Did we miss anything? What are your favorite underhyped or unknown link building tools? Let us know in the comments—we love discovering new ways to speed up the process!

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  • Now that most of the blog networks have been shut down, do you think these are a viable replacement for them? It just doesnt seem like you would get much “link juice” from these sources.

    • Hey Connor, you’re absolutely right, thanks for the comment. These are NOT the types of sites that are going to offer much in terms of link juice. These sites are the tools that help you DISCOVER, QUALIFY, and COMMUNICATE with the people who DO have sites with high Domain Authority and pass a valuable amount of link juice.

      With the recent banning of some of the big blog networks, Google is making it clear that they’re looking at footprints of unnatural activity. These tools can help you build authentic links from authentic people. And in this age of Google+ and AuthorRank, you have to start taking your link building strategies this way.


  • Thank you for including Jon’s list and the spreadsheet. You’ve put together a great collection here! Love the Hoosaid and Blogdash mentions, hadn’t seen those before. Thanks again. :)

    • Hey Rhea, thanks for the comment and thank YOU for layering in the timing, dependencies, and value levels to Jon’s strategy list. You took a killer resource and turned it into an actionable tool that integrates directly into the SEO campaign processes. Bummed to miss you speak at LinkLove, but you and the Outspoken team have been killing it lately, so I look forward to what you guys have coming up


  • Thanks for the mention Gary!!

    My favorite out of the ones listed definitely has to be Ontolo. So much raw prospecting awesomeness in one toolset. Overall, great list.

    • Thanks Jon, I agree, if you know what you’re doing, Ontolo truly works link building magic. keep up the good work man!

  • Gary, great post. I think these tools really show how it’s possible to go directly to key bloggers (“mavens”, if you will) for a specific industry or community, rather than rely on blogger networks. Also, lots of great time saving tools…plus more insights. I’m particularly looking forward to trying out Boardreader to mine forum discussion trends. Thanks for sharing these!

    • Thanks, I think the main benefit of these types of tools is increasing the efficiency of the link building process. Any quality outreach campaign has to have a high level of manual involvement, but by cutting corners in a smart way, you free up time to do deeper research, put together more effective strategies, and communicate with more potential linkers.

      Also, if you liked Boardreader, also check out OMGILI, another cool forum search tool I would have featured if not for the Adsense overload!

  • Gary, totally digging this collection of tools! Since you showed me twtrland a few weeks ago, I’ve been using it to quickly qualify Twitter profiles, and I can definitely attest to its awesomeness! The “famous words” feature gives me good insight into “retweet-worthy” content and the @replies help me find other similar profiles. Also, surprised to see our Foursquare post so high on the “famous words” list!

    I’m going to have to check out BlogDash and explore some more of Jon Cooper’s strategies too.

    Thanks for revealing your arsenal and explaining the value of each tool in depth! Super cool, for sure.

    • Yep, twtrland is definitely one of my favorites. TweetReach & Visibli were runners up, but twtrland gives some pretty awesome insights into a Twitter profile, not to mention the cool graph of tweet types!

  • I want to share one more tools on finding backlinks free online, it’s – let’s register and view inboundlinks of of any site.

    • Thanks for the comment. I’ve been hearing more and more about ahrefs’ backlink analysis tool from the SEO community. We use Open Site Explorer here at Thunder, but I definitely want to keep a close eye on ahrefs progress.

  • Solid post Gary. You guys seem to be really cutting edge with your discovery of SEO tools.

    It would be cool in a future post to discuss your discovery process. I would imagine that you have to go through a lot of crappy tools to find the tools that actually add value.

  • Hi Gary, I would like to add this one and hope people who are not aware of this may find it useful as a prospecting tool.

    Using Google’s Related Site Search

    This is a quick way to increase your list of relevant leads. Visit or the appropriate localised version depending upon where the client project is targeting.

    Use the following search operator (without the “ “ )

    “” should be a relevant website which you think would be a good lead, Google will then return a list of other related and relevant websites who may also be interested in accepting a guest post.

  • Awesom Content!
    Hoosaid is really smart and evil, think I’m going to use it :)

  • Your “Honorable Mention” is definitely honorable! I used that list extensively to help with link building for my site. Hopefully google will give us some love soon :x

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  • Hey Gary,

    Great list of tools here! I am actually developing a tool myself for influencer
    outreach that I think fits nicely in this group. I’d love to have you as a beta
    tester when it’s ready. Just send me an email.

    Dave at NinjaOutreach