Updated September 26, 2011Doc Sheldon
I was chatting with Garrett French, of Citation Labs, the other day, and he mentioned a tool they recently developed that caught my interest. While it didn’t seem the sort of tool I’m likely to use myself, he made it sound interesting, and I decided to take a closer look.
The new Citation Labs Linkscape Prospecting for Linkbuilders tools are basically two tools in one. The first is an OBL scraper. You enter the URLs you want to run through the tool, and it finds all the outbound links from those URLS. That simple!
The second is the Contact Finder. It’s just as simple as the OBL scraper. You simply enter the OBL URLs you got from the scraper, and it comes back with a detailed listing of Contact|About information and emails for each of the URLs. Again, that simple!
The part in between was greatly simplified by yet another tool on his site, which goes through your list of URLs and removes all duplicates, leaving you with a tidy list of unique URLs.
In short, if it worked as well as Garrett hinted (okay… it wasn’t as much a hint as a statement), it sounded as though it might turn out to be a linkbuilder’s dream-tool. I decided to buy a modest amount of bandwidth and check it out
Ease of Use, Functionality and Speed
As I said, this isn’t a task I’ve ever undertaken before, so the intuitive nature of the toolset was fortunate. With the BW I purchased, I had plenty of room to play with, so I ran three separate tests.
The easiest starting point, I found, was to simply pull up the XML sitemap of a site, copy it into Excel, and save it as a .csv. I could then use either Excel or Notepad to manipulate the files. The first site I checked offered 366 URLs on their sitemap – that seemed like a healthy test.
It took me less than a minute to snag the sitemap of 366 pages, convert it to a .csv file and pop it into the Outbound Scraper Tool. Again in under a minute, I had my .csv list of 10,193 OBLs for that site.
I opened the file in Excel, removed all but the OBL URLs, and moved them to the URL Status Checker to receive a list of 1,706 unique domain URLs in a blink of an eye (literally – I blinked, and missed it!). I then moved those to the Contact Finder.
This operation took a little over 3 minutes, and yielded 709 emails, 1,895 contact forms and 344 contact pages.
Wow! Less than 5 minutes, to get back that much information? I shudder to think how many hours of mind-numbing boredom I’d have faced, to accomplish that manually!
Dropping the resulting .csv file into Excel allows me to sort it however I like, and I’m all set to start some outreach linkbuilding.
I decided to run another test or two, to see if the results were similar. I chose a somewhat smaller site, with only 7,105 URLs, and the toolset returned 1,225 unique URLs, with 527 emails, 53 forms and 179 Contact pages. The total time was under three minutes.
Then I ran a third test, on a very small site, which had only 56 URLs in the sitemap, rendered 62 unique URLs, with 48 emails, 53 forms and 15 contact pages. Total time there: well under 2 minutes.
This toolset is a great time-saver. I didn’t check all the information it rendered, of course, but I did spot-check 12 on the largest site, 5 on the second site and 5 on the third site, and found no discrepancies.
As you can see, the percentage of emails/forms/contact pages that are turned up varies a little from one site to another, which is to be expected. Typically, such a tool would be used on a directory list, which none of these three were. I would expect a directory list to yield a higher success rate.
Obviously, at some point prior to your outreach effort, you’ll want to go through your list and remove any social bookmarking sites, RSS feeds, plus.google URLS, etc. Not much sense in asking those folks for a link.
Pricing is bandwidth-based and very reasonable:
$10 – 100MB
$20 – 250MB
$30 – 500MB
$50 – 1000MB
$10 – 250MB
$15 – 500MB
$25 – 1000MB
$50 – 2500MB
I purchased 250 MB for the above tests and used less than 200 MB. For the time saved, I think that’s a very worthwhile investment.
My final impression is extremely positive, in terms of functionality, cost, speed and ease of use. For anyone setting out on a linkbuilding campaign, I think Citation Labs has knocked it out of the park.
Good on ya, Garrett!
Disclosure: I was offered a free account in return for some tire-kicking and feedback, but after seeing the tool in action, I decided to purchase bandwidth, in order to ensure that my review would be seen as unbiased.