Genius, The Iceman, Consulting detective, The original private eye, The Jewel of Baker Street, World’s greatest investigator - these are just some of the words often used to describe the greatness that is Sherlock Holmes. Created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle back in the late eighteen hundreds, Sherlock Holmes was, is and forever will be an undying source of inspiration and admiration to all types of people, regardless of their age, occupation or social status.
Mr. Holmes’ adventures have been read and almost religiously followed for over a hundred years by many different generations of people. Even though he’s more than a century old, his legend still lives on. People still know his name and they’re still interested in catching up on his latest cases. They’re still hungry for new mysteries and conspiracies.
Why? Well, because, first and foremost, Mr. Holmes doesn’t have any super powers. He’s a mortal man just like you and me, which makes him quite relatable. Even though he has a few cool gadgets that most of us will never get our hands on, Mr. Holmes still largely relies on his sharp eye and intellect to help him get to the bottom of his cases. It doesn’t matter how complex, bizarre or implausible his adventures might seem at one point, in the end, they’re always explained by reason and logic.
I think people really enjoy that. They come for the premise, but stay for the conclusion. They need to know that everything can be solved/explained, and they are always interested in seeing that moment when all the cards really hit the table.
But this is not the only thing that makes this forensic scientist and criminal profiler so damn likable to everyone. Even though he’s a fictional character, it’s clear as day that he still carries the spark of brilliance of the man that stood behind him all those years.
It’s no secret that, just like Mr. Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a quite unordinary and brilliant fellow. Back in the day, thanks to his sharp wits and an appetite for mystery, Sir Doyle himself was solicited by Scotland Yard to partake in solving public court cases. As you can imagine, the great novelist approached the task at hand with great insights, professionalism and curiosity, which lead him to join The Court of Criminal Appeal in 1907.
Amazing, right? You can see now where Sherlock learned all his coolest tricks? – That’s right, from an actual living and breathing person.
Even though this fictional Englishman had many different reincarnations in all types of media, one thing always remained the same – Mr. Holmes was continuously presented to us as a person who had the mental capacity, experience and patience to approach any type of problem from an analytical and intellectual standpoint. Despite the fact that we saw him as a teenager, a young adult, a middle aged guy and an old man – he was never shown to us as a hothead or a person that acts recklessly in any type of situation.
Thanks to that, nowadays, Sherlock Holmes has basically become a synonym for a person who truly uses their head in order to turn any type of situation in his or her favour.
To call someone, for example, “The Sherlock Holmes of link prospecting”, that person needs to have a highly analytical and diverse mindset for locating and creating quality links that have the power to increase your visibility in search. Even though this seems pretty straightforward, becoming the Sherlock Holmes of anything, isn’t really an easy task. You need to master your craft like no other before and develop a highly detailed and intellectual approach to even the most trivial of tasks, because they’re the ones that can usually turn the entire game around. Here are just a few tips that could help you reinvent yourself as a real snoop for quality link building opportunities:
1. Learn How to Use Advanced Search Queries
As in any other case, it’s good to start from the beginning and use the necessary tools to help you find what you’re looking for. Even though Mr. Holmes mostly relied on his intellect to solve his cases, he also used all sorts of different magnifying glasses and potions to assist him in locating a possible fingerprint or similar clue.
The same goes with link prospecting really. How can you dig for gold if you don’t have a proper shovel? That’s why most successful link prospectors use advanced search queries. They’re fast, reliable and easy to use. By using inurl:, exact phrase, wildcard or title search, you can easily find great link building opportunities that will help you customize your outreach emails in such a way that your targeted publishers or webmasters will automatically recognize you as someone who’s familiar with their story. They will also see you as a person who knows exactly how to communicate with them by distributing real values with your messages.
2. Get to Know Your Target Before You Engage It
As we said above, Mr. Holmes is a patient fellow. He never acts on impulse. He always gets to know all the facts and players before he truly develops an opinion of the case at hand. This is an excellent trait that could easily be applied to link prospecting as well.
Sure, you can put together a list of businesses that you can ask for a link and shoot them a generic message, appealing to their good nature to give you what you need, but what are the chances your targets will respond to such a request? One in ten? I think we could do better than that. That’s why I always first make sure that all those people that I’m emailing know who I am and what I do. How? Easily, by forming strong social media relationships with them.
Seeking out and following your desired link prospects on social media is always a great link building strategy. How come? Well, because it’s easier for people to trust you and do business with you and your company if they already know your name or your brand. In this case, you’re not reaching out into the unknown and hoping for a miracle – you’re sending an email to your new buddy, or a person who has already acknowledged your existence, so there’s a lot better chance of getting what you want from them.
If your prospects see you as someone who is generally interested in doing business with them and not just some random spammer hunting for links, you can ask for almost anything from them. Naturally, you cannot ask them to do things that would hurt their interest or put them in an awkward situation. As long as your request doesn’t jeopardize their business or position within the company, it’s all good.
There are many benefits to creating new friendships online. You can ask your new contacts any number of questions that will help you identify new targets for your link building strategy. Maybe they’re familiar with a couple of good sources you haven’t discovered yet? Who knows? That’s why it’s important to communicate. Sherlock always asked a lot of questions, and that usually worked out great for him.
Next to that, you can further on ask your new buddies to introduce you to some of their contacts. This will give you a perfect way to start a conversation (and possibly a relationship) with a new prospect.
Utilizing new and existing relationship is also a great solution for creating new links. A bit of charm, interest and good manners can get you far in life, but most people fail to remember that. Just like Mr. Holmes, you shouldn’t play your card until you’re certain that you have a fair enough chance of winning.
3. Look for Opportunities in Unusual Places
Following Sherlock Holmes on his adventures, I have learned that it’s of crucial importance not to leave any stone unturned. Even though, for an example, most directories are classified as sources that contain low quality linking opportunities, I strongly suggest that you don’t discard them in advance.
These days, you can actually find directories that can provide a quick bump in link value and traffic as well. Especially those niche-related ones. Even though they often seem as useful as a dying horse in a full on charge on enemy territory, you can still find some serious opportunities there.
4. Always Check What’s Behind the Curtain
Say what you want about him, but Mr. Holmes never underestimated his foes. He never gave them more or less credit than they actually deserved. He knew that smart people are capable of doing even the stupidest of things, and vice versa. That’s why he always looked to see what’s behind the curtain.
So, what does this have to do with link prospecting? – Everything, really. You need to learn how to do a complete sweep of your target’s resources.
When you find an ideal link prospect, make sure to look at their blogroll and links page in order to find other similar web address which you could also add to your outreach list. Why is this important? Well, because not all blogs and websites are optimised for search. Even though they’re good prospects, this sort of thing makes them really hard to locate.
Maybe some of these sites have good links that you could easily emulate, and maybe not. The only thing that is certain here is that you’ll never know unless you put in extra effort and go through all sorts of different blogrolls and link directories.
While we’re on the subject of looking back behind the curtain, doing a reverse image search is also a great technique for seeking out great linking opportunities. By using tineye.com, you can easily locate all the sites that are using your images on their blog. Before you start freaking out and calling these publishers thieves, think of the scenario at hand. It’s always better to send an email and politely ask for a backlink than start a war with a certain publisher over a thing like reused images.
That’s it. I hope this post helped you understand how to become the Sherlock Holmes of link prospecting. As they say, the devil lies in the detail. Learn how to accept that and I promise you, you’ll become a true master of your craft. If you have anything to ask or add to this subject, feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section below.
Until we see each other again,
“The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.”
– Sherlock Holmes,
The Hound of the Baskervilles,
Chapter 3: “The Problem”.