The Only 8 Link-Building Tools You Need (Free & Paid)

For almost a decade, link building has been my life’s work. I worked as a link-building consultant before joining Ahrefs, assisting dozens of clients in creating hundreds of links.

During this period, I discovered that you don’t require dozens of link-building tools. You only need a select few of the very best.

And I’m sure there will only be eight of them in 2021.

Here are those eight link-building tools:

  1. Ahrefs
  2. Google
  4. NeverBounce
  5. Buzzstream
  6. HARO
  7. URL Profiler
  8. SEO Toolbar

1. Ahrefs

Let’s face it, though, you probably wouldn’t want to develop links without Ahrefs. The second-most active crawler in the world is Ahrefs’, and we have over 3 trillion live backlinks in our backlink index. As a result, it is quite possibly the best tool in the world for backlink research, which is a vital daily chore for any link builder worth their salt.

According to SEO experts’ constant votes for Ahrefs as their preferred tool for link building, as seen in Aira’s 2021 State of Link Building report:

My favorite unique feature: Content Explorer

Over 9 billion pages can be searched in the database known as Content Explorer. It’s terrific for finding relevant information, but it’s also a great place to find potential link partners.

Say, for illustration, that you’re seeking potential link partners for a blog post on “best routers for 2021.” People connecting to postings that are similar to yours but haven’t been updated in years are one source of possible link prospects because nobody wants to link to an obsolete list of routers, half of which are probably no longer in production.

You can easily find posts that fit the bill in Content Explorer:

Enter a search term like “best wifi routers”

Switch the search mode to “In title”

Filter for pages published before 2018

Filter for English pages

Filter for pages with 10+ referring domains

You now notice pages with backlinks that are comparable to yours but haven’t been updated since 2017:

You may quickly obtain the backlinks for those pages from Site Explorer, then contact the websites to request that they link to your current list rather than the one from 2017.


Using Ahrefs Webmaster Tools, you may view backlinks to the websites you control for free (AWT). A subscription membership starting at $82 per month is required if you wish to use Content Explorer and conduct research on and view the backlinks of other websites.

2. Google

Google is one of the best places to uncover link prospects despite the fact that most people don’t consider it a link-building tool. This is due to the fact that it boasts possibly the greatest search algorithm and the world’s largest index of online pages. Therefore, you can simply uncover thousands of relevant link prospects for free if you know how to use it successfully.

My favorite unique feature: Search operators

You may filter and enhance search engine results by using search operators. Not all of them are exclusive to Google, but several are (as you can use the same or similar ones in Bing or Content Explorer). However, even those that aren’t entirely specific to Google seem very potent there because you may combine them to retrieve the precise information you require from its absurdly large database.

You can use the intitle:, inurl:, and OR operators, for instance, to discover appropriate resource pages to suggest your link on:

(intitle:resources OR intitle:resource) [keyword] (inurl:resources OR inurl:resource)

Additionally, you can use the operators intitle:, inurl:, and – to identify the authorship pages of well-known guest bloggers in your sector and possibly contribute to such websites yourself:

The fact that there is no way to download the results is the only drawback of utilizing Google for link prospecting. A Chrome add-on like Ahrefs’ SEO Toolbar, which contains a button to retrieve SERP data, can help you with this.



3. can quickly locate any emails linked to a domain or an individual’s email account. As an illustration, this is how quickly it locates my email address:

Our testing indicates that it is not the most accurate email lookup service, but the Google Sheets add-on more than makes up for this when it comes to link prospecting at scale.

My favorite unique feature: Google Sheets add-on

Consider that you loaded some link prospects that you exported from Content Explorer into Google Sheets. You’ll see that the corresponding author name is included in the export file (where we can find it).

You may quickly locate matched emails for these prospects with the Hunter’s Sheets add-on:

While not all prospects will have a corresponding email address, a sizable portion of them usually do. Then, you may use this group of potential customers as your initial “hit” list to gauge the success of an outreach effort. If successful, ask someone to locate emails for the remaining prospects so that you can create more links.


Free up to 25 searches per month, then from $49 per month.

4. NeverBounce

Prior to sending outreach emails, you should always check the deliverability of the email addresses of your prospects. If you don’t, bounces may negatively impact the deliverability of your entire campaign. Additionally, personalizing outreach emails only to have them bounce is a waste of time.

With NeverBounce, email verification is really simple. It will inform you whether each email is “valid,” “invalid,” “accept all,” or “disposable” when you upload a list of prospects.

Additionally, the list is automatically de-duplicated so that you only have to pay for each email verification once.

My favorite unique feature: Zapier integration

When I conduct email outreach, Google Sheets is the center of my universe, thus NeverBounce’s Zapier integration is a godsend. When you enter an email address into a Google sheet, you can rapidly set up a multi-step zap to ping NeverBounce, verify the email, and log the verification status of the email in the same Google sheet.

Magic, you say?

However, there is one drawback to this system: the cost. If you choose Zapier’s $49/month subscription, each time the zap runs will cost you an additional $0.025 or so. This increases the cost of doing it manually by at least 10 times.

Fortunately, there is a workaround: to import data from NeverBounce webhooks, create a JSON importer in Google Apps Script. It may seem difficult, but it’s really rather easy. If you want instructions on how to do this, tweet me.


From $0.003 per email verification.

5. Buzzstream

If you only intend to send a few outreach emails, Gmail is okay, but if you want to grow your email outreach, you need a specialized platform. In this situation, Buzzstream is useful. You can send, track, manage, customize, and organize emails all from one location. Additionally, you can add additional users to your account and distribute tasks among them.

It also imports Ahrefs CSV exports without any issues.

My favorite unique feature: Buzzmarker

A Chrome addon called Buzzmarker facilitates quick link prospecting. As you explore the web, you can use it to gather contact information, include prospects in campaigns, and even create emails using pre-made themes.

To see how this might be applied in real life, consider the following example: Let’s imagine that when you were perusing the internet, you stumbled upon a resource page or some other promising lead. Once you click the Buzzmarker, you’ll see any contact information it discovered for the website. The idea can even be quickly added to an outreach campaign:

Additionally, you can create and send emails directly from the browser window by using templates from your Buzzstream account:


From $24/month.


For their pieces, journalists frequently seek opinions, suggestions, or insights from professionals in the field. Help A Reporter Out (HARO) addresses this issue by setting up daily email connections between journalists and subject matter specialists.

Here’s how it works in a nutshell:

Journalists submit the source requests to HARO.

HARO sends three emails per day to its 800,000+ users with these source requests.

HARO users pitch the relevant requests to gain media coverage (and usually backlinks).

Here is an example of a recent request from (DR 91) for a compendium of “amazing IKEA hacks from interior designers”:

You often receive a mention and hyperlink from the website if your tip is accepted for inclusion.


Before providing a tip, it is advisable to review the website’s external link policy because not all websites link to sources. You can achieve this by looking for external links in a handful of their most recent postings.

My favorite unique feature: Keyword alerts

In order for you to just subscribe to the requests that make sense for you, HARO categorizes its requests into a few groups. The main issue is that these divisions are somewhat general:

For instance, requests under the “Business and Finance” category address a range of subjects, including SEO, credit cards, and Bitcoin.

This issue is resolved by HARO’s paid plans, all of which let you search for opportunities using keywords:

But in actuality, Gmail filters let you accomplish a similar goal for nothing.

How to do that is as follows:


Free with paid plans from $19 per month.

7. URL Profiler

With the help of URL Profiler, you may access a wealth of metrics and statistics related to URLs. Put your URLs in, check the boxes for the information you want to pull, then press “go.”

My favorite unique feature: Contact scraping

When paired with Hunter and NeverBounce, Content Explorer’s ability to extract authors’ names from content is quite helpful for link prospecting. However, if you are getting your link prospects from somewhere else, you won’t have access to this data.

Here is where URL Profiler is useful. When the “readability” checkbox is selected, the following authors are sought out from the list of URLs:

Although it is far from ideal, it is excellent for adding author names to link prospects found through Site Explorer or Google.

You can use the data allotments included in your subscription to pull Ahrefs metrics for thousands of URLs at once thanks to URL Profiler, one of our application partners. When you have discovered your initial list of link prospects using Google or another service without SEO metrics and statistics, this is helpful.


Free for 14 days, then from $19.95 per month.

8. SEO Toolbar

For Chrome and Firefox, there is a browser add-on called the SEO Toolbar. Although it is really a component of Ahrefs, I’m discussing it individually because it offers some fantastically helpful link prospecting tools that are entirely free.

Give a read to learn to Use Podcasts for Link Building.

My favorite unique feature: Internal and dead link highlighter

Both of these characteristics are common. Many SEO browser extensions provide both functions, but I haven’t come across one that simultaneously highlights internal and dead links.

This combination is particularly useful when prospecting for resource page opportunities because the ideal link opportunity has two attributes:

It links to external URLs. There’s no point in pitching resource pages that only link to internal resources.

It has broken links. This gives you an extra value proposition in your outreach email.

Let’s suppose, for illustration, that this resource page is one of the links we might consider adding. We can quickly identify internal and dead links using the Ahrefs SEO Toolbar:

Now that most connections aren’t underlined, it is clear that the page has numerous external links as well as at least one dead link. This enables it quick and simple to identify promising leads and to produce customized, pertinent outreach emails like the one below:


Free, although it shows additional data for Ahrefs customers.

Final thoughts

Link-building tools make life easier. So although it’s possible to build links without them, I wouldn’t recommend it because speed and efficiency matter. The longer it takes you to build links, the longer it’ll take to rank.

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