Top 25 Free and Paid Link Building Tools for Serious Link Builders
In this post you’re going to discover some of the most powerful link building tools available for serious link builders. Whether you’re a lone wolf blogger or work with a team at an agency or as part of an in house team you will find this list valuable.
This post is a follow up on my post from February about white hat link building strategies (if you haven’t read it I suggest you do, I’m sure you’ll find some strategies or tactics that will help you).
If you’re come here looking for some automated crap-link firing link building tool then you won’t find what you’re looking for, so you can either go and fire some more crap links to your website and wait for Google to kick you in the teeth or you can check out these tools that you should be using.
There are so many link building tools on the market that it’s difficult to know which tools you should be using and which tools you shouldn’t.
To make it easier to get to the link building tools that you’re looking for I have broken the list down into both free and paid link building tools.
Note: this list is in no particular order, all of these tools are extremely useful and it would just be too difficult to rank these tools in order of which one is best because most of them do different things and excel in different areas.
Free Link Building Tools
So what can you do with the free BuzzStream link building toolset?
- Email research – generate search queries to help finding contact emails for site owners you wish to contact.
- Extract domain from a URL – this may not seem like much but when you’re dealing with large lists of posts and want to get back down to a URL this can be very handy.
- Extract links and anchor text from HTML – if someone has a list of sites that you want to use for link building purposes but there’s numbers and other bits and pieces in the way stopping a straight forward copy and paste this will work wonders for you.
- Extract meta data and page titles from URLs – I’ve used this a lot for competitive research in the past and it works wonders but can be great for particular link building situations. A really great part is that when you pull in meta keywords you’ll know what keywords your competitors are going for.
- Link building query generator – generating queries for link building is something that a lot of people struggle with or at the very least find time consuming when they start out. Whether you’re looking for blogs to guest post on, directories, sites that review products or new pages in Google you should give this a go.
- Extract descriptive text from a URL – if you drop in a big list of URLs you’ll be able to find easily find the various topics these websites are talking about – can be very helpful when used with your content marketing strategy.
- Build lists of websites to contact from blogrolls – these aren’t so popular anymore but this tool can build you a great list of relevant sites to contact for blogger outreach. Just be careful you don’t put crappy sites into this tool that link out to bad neighbourhood sites.
This is hands down one of the most powerful browser extensions available; not just as a link building tool but also for general SEO work.
Not only do you get access to a huge range of metrics including page rank, Google cache date, unique links to page, pages linking to root domain, domains linking to root domain, Compete traffic and SEMRush traffic but you also get an SEO Xray to display meta data and highlight page tags.
There’s also a search box giving you access to a bunch of different tools including Google trends, Google suggest.
If you’ve not used this Firefox add on before then you should seriously consider taking it for a spin. My only wish is that SEO Book release a version for Chrome because I don’t get along very well with Firefox (but that’s just me).
The MozBar pulls in metrics from the SEO Moz toolset, including page authority, domain authority and mozRank while giving you very useful analysis tools such as page elements, attributes and linking data.
Having a pro account with SEO Moz will seriously expand the usability of the MozBar but as a free tool it’s still very useful.
Even if you’re prospecting for links and want to export SERPs to a CSV file this has it too although this feature isn’t available unless you’re using the Firefox version.
You can expand the features of the Moz Bar by getting an SEO Moz Pro account, to see just how great this toolset is try the 30 day free trial.
Webmaster Tools puts a wealth of data at your fingertips, allowing you to solve technical website issues, optimise internal linking and structured data amongst other things.
One of the most powerful ways to use Webmaster Tools for your link building is to gather intelligence on You also get detailed search query data showing impressions, clicks, CTR, average position and % change for each.
It really comes into its own when you dive into search queries and select “top pages”. From there you can see what’s performing and what isn’t – you can also work out the optimum pages to focus your link building efforts on.
The other section that you’ll find useful is the “links to your website” section which allows you to truly see just how well your link building is going, admittedly there are better solutions for this and could be improved significantly but it’s free and gives you a great overview.
I’ve tried a lot of different Google Analytics alternatives (not all, but a lot) and I still prefer it, that might just be because I’m more accustomed to using it though but still it gives you access to some great data.
There are so many ways that you can use this, from identifying problem pages and seeing the impact of your link building efforts to allowing you to strategize and focus your link building efforts.
Think about how you might use Google search to prospect for links using advanced operators like those that BuzzStream’s free tool would generate for you and the brilliant lists of link building prospects that you can get from it when you export using the MozBar.
Now imagine that list of prospects being topped up by an automated email that can hit your inbox on a daily or weekly basis. Cool right?
Just input your search queries to Google alerts and you’ll be able to have an endless supply of prospects. Raven Tools has a great article on the setup of this process.
Spreadsheets are an inevitability of link building in most cases, you could go with Microsoft Excel which can work just as well in most cases although Google Docs has some extremely powerful functionality and most importantly you can access it from anywhere and easily allow access to anyone else that you’re working with.
If you’ve ever tried working with a team using cloud file sharing services such as Dropbox then I imagine you may have had that “Conflicted copy” problem when you work with the same spreadsheets – if that’s the case then it’s time to move over to Google Docs.
If you want a few Google Documents that will give you a head start check out this recent post from Search Engine Journal by Benjamin Beck.
This tool turns Microsoft Excel into a link building/SEO power house giving you the ability to pull in analytics data, backlink data and social media data. That doesn’t even scratch the surface so if you have a copy of Excel, take this tool for a spin – you will love it.
An incredible time saver here, just grab a list of URL’s that you want to use to build links to your website and run the tool.
Within a few minutes you’ll have a wealth of information including Google Pagerank, Domain Authority and Page Authority along with author information and site contact details including email addresses, contact forms, WHOIS email addresses, Linkedin and Twitter profiles.
10. Check My Links
Check My Links is a really useful Chrome Extension that can be ran on any page that you’re visiting and will highlight both broken and unbroken links. If any links turn out to be not found or give back some kind of error you’ll also get the error code.
While this is great for checking a single page for broken links, it really excels at broken back link building. If you want to learn more I suggest you check out the Broken Link Building Bible.
11. Xenu Link Sleuth
This incredible tool allows you to crawl a website to find all sorts of data including; URL’s, status, description, page titles, pages sizes and more. You can then export the data and get it into Excel or Google docs where you can filter data to find missing alt text, titles, descriptions and highlight least or most linked to pages or even pages that are just way too big in terms of file size.
Where Xenu Link Sleuth excels in terms of link building is finding outgoing broken links and can be used in a similar way to the Check My Links add on mentioned above – only on a much larger scale.
If you’re struggling to find contact details when conducting your outreach then this can be a very handy tool to have in your link building toolkit.
In order to really benefit from this tool you need to know who you’re trying to contact by name, you don’t have to have a URL either although it really helps. When you type in the required details the tool will run and bring back any possible email addresses and show avatars pulled in from Gravatar accounts.
Paid Link Building Tools
If you want to find a huge amount of link prospects for a variety of link building techniques such as guest posting, reviews, links pages, giveaways and more then you will love this tool.
It’s so straight forward to use – but what I love about it is it’s so easy to target sites in particular regions and you can choose what depth you want the tool to prospect to in SERPs.
You can then put a number of different research phrases – the report that it spits out can occasionally bring back sites you wouldn’t want to bring back but that’s covered with global and campaign specific website exclusions.
When you look at your final report you’ll get page ranks and a link target score to help you prioritise which site owners to contact.
I’ve mentioned broken back link building a few times already when discussing Xenu Link Sleuth and Check My Links – and while they’re both great tools they just can’t compare to the Broken Link Building Tool which will pull in opportunities based on your target keywordsand grade them for you to help with prioritising
With this tool you’ll gain access to one of the best tools for scaling your BLB (broken link building) efforts and while it’s a more expensive tool than the Link Prospector there just isn’t a better way to do the job right now. Besides, when you do BLB the right way the links you do get will be extremely powerful which will offset the additional cost.
15. Buzz Stream
Buzz Stream is a complete link building management toolset and does everything from link prospecting, to tracking links and relationships. It makes the entire process of outreach extremely simple.
There’s even project and task management bundled in so the entire link building process can be kept really tight.
For the time that Buzz Stream would save you, the price is great starting from $19/month for their solo plan.
Personally the best thing about Buzz Stream is the support and assistance that they provide you with.
I put my team on a training webinar at the agency I manage a few weeks back and tagged a long myself – this type of training is invaluable and big thanks to Tim Bramer (head of Buzz Stream support) for holding the webinar. These training webinars are held regularly and you get a run through of everything and answer all of your questions about using the tool.
Buzz Stream is an essential tool in my blogger outreach toolbox.
This is a great tool from Ken McGaffin that excels at hunting around the web for link prospects, it takes a different approach to the Citation Labs Link Prospector in the way that you can add a bunch of competitor URLs and immediately find where they are getting their links from.
You can then also find link prospects by searching for pages that rank for a particular keyword which can be very useful.
Once you’ve identified possible prospects you can evaluate them based on a number of different metrics so you can be sure that you won’t be wasting your time. (there’s a lot more cool stuff too, so it’s well worth taking a look).
All in all a very powerful tool that you can try for 7 days as a free trial (then $69 per month after that) – you do also get a link building ebook and Wordtracker webinars thrown in to get you started.
Another link prospecting tool with some powerful features, Ontolo allows you to find highly targeted link prospects by giving you the option to set minimum Domain authority and other metrics using very specific search operators.
You can then choose to qualify or reject the prospects, tag them, add notes and then export to CSV or Raven Tools.
There are too many features in this toolset to mention here so it’s worth checking out the tool and taking a look at the video to see exactly what it can do for you.
Ontolo rests at the higher end of the price scale with prices starting at $97 but is a worthwhile investment if you’re looking for serious link building tools.
When you step up to an SEO Moz Pro account you’ll unlock all the extra good stuff in the SEO Toolbar (mentioned earlier) and the Open Site Explorer which is great, but what makes it even sweeter is all the additional tools that you will get access to for example; SEO campaign manager, Followerwonk , on-page analysis, rank tracking, crawling test, keyword analysis, link analysis and more.
Where SEO Moz excels as a link building tool is for competitive link intelligence – allowing you to discover most linked to pages, most popular content but to truly gauge how powerful this toolset can be I suggest you take a look at Rand Fishkin’s Slideshare presentation on link building with Open Site Explorer.
Prices start at $99, but remember what you’re getting for your money – a complete SEO toolkit, much more than just a link building tool.
19. Raven SEO Tools
Raven went through a difficult time in December 2012 when their CEO announced that they would be dropping their rank tracking too. This was a decision they made to keep access to the Google Adwords API. While this was a huge blow, it wasn’t the end of the world and there are still plenty of good online rank tracking tools, some of which I mention here.
With all of the personalisation features within Google right now and the growing number of people that are using Google while logged in rank tracking is nowhere near as useful as it was.
For link building, Raven will provide you with a solid link management system with built in CRM to help you keep track of link prospects and sites that are linking out to you. You’ll also get a site finder tool to help you find new link prospects.
There’s a 30 day free trial that will allow you to truly test just how useful Raven will be for you but remember here, this isn’t just a link building tool, it’s a full on SEO toolset with a comprehensive site auditor, research tools, PPC tools, social monitoring tools so when you see the $99 a month, just remember all that you’re getting (which is a lot for the money).
It’s one of the highest priced tools on this list but Link Research Tools puts such an immense amount of data and tools at your fingertips that it’s easy to understand why.
There’s a particular tool that LRT provides that I want to draw your attention to – the link detox tool; this extremely powerful tool will be very useful to you if you’ve had any dodgy links built to your site in the past and taken a serious hit.
The tool tells you which links are good, suspicious or toxic which will give you a head start if you need to start emailing out link take down requests.
SEMrush is an incredible competitive research tool which gives you all sorts of data on your competitors, their search traffic (both paid and organic) and how many keywords they are visible for.
There are a bunch of helpful comparison tools and charts a long with a new position tracking tool that was added recently making it a powerful link building research tool.
Pricing starts at $69.96/month and is worth every cent!
If you’d like to learn just how effective this tool can be, click here to check out our review.
It’s currently in beta with a free trial available, it will be a paid tool in the very near future but signing up for beta will entitle you to a 75% discount when they do start charging.
InkyBee really excels at generating lists of blogs; just throw in a few keywords and you can generate a large list of blogs to contact – it’s so simple.
What makes this tool so powerful is the data that gets pulled in which includes; location, audience size, engagement (comments etc), posts per week, days since last post, inbound links, Twitter followers, Facebook followers, mozRank, Page authority and Domain authority.
This makes qualifying link prospects so easy and then when you’ve ran out of blogs to contact you can set this great link building tool to run again every 6 hours and start pulling in even more blogs.
Exporting data is really straight forward too with PDF, CSV and EXCEL file exports which include complete sets of data so you have everything that you will need.
There’s no word on a price yet, but providing you sign up to the beta trial you’ll get that hefty 75% discount locked in right away.
23. Majestic SEO
Majestic SEO is well known for its site explorer which allows some in depth analysis of back link profiles using its own index of websites. They have introduced their own metrics; citation flow and trust flow which can work very well when prioritising your link targets.
Majestic SEO excels at competitor link profile analysis using its site explorer and reporting tools.
There are also a number of other outstanding tools including; Neighbourhood Checker, Site Comparator, Clique Hunter and Back link analyzer for Chrome to name a few.
You can use this tool for free on your own sites but to really get any use from a link building perspective you need a paid account that starts at $49.99 per month (excluding VAT).
It’s difficult to pick between Majestic SEO and Ahrefs, there are constant data comparisons and articles being written showing which one is best but I’m still undecided because there’s tools that each one has that I find very useful.
With Ahrefs the anchor text tools, batch data tools and SEO reporting are extremely useful.
You can get started with a free account right away but that’s extremely limiting, the best option is to start off with the $79 a month because you will get an incredible set of data.
25. Screaming Frog
Screaming Frog is one of the most powerful site crawling tools that can delivers various metrics such as long titles, duplicate titles, missing titles, long descriptions, missing descriptions, missing alt text, page size, word count, inlinks, outlinks, broken links and a number of other useful pieces of information.
While it’s great for general on site SEO issues it can also be used effectively as a link building tool for broken link building and link reclamation.
A free version is available but it’s limited to 500 URI’s with restricted configuration options so a premium license is recommended which will set you back $150 for an annual license so spread out over the year works out very good.
Over to you
There are new link building tools that are popping up all of the time because of just how important link building still is. Whether we’d like to admit it or not, links are still the currency for the web, how long for? We can’t be sure but they won’t be going away quite just yet.
Whatever the case you need to be thinking about not only what is working now but what will work in the future when it comes to link building, something Jason Brooks discusses here.
Which tools are in your link building toolkit?
Let us know in the comments.