Ontolo, created by Ben Wills and Garrett French (who has since left the company to found Citation Labs), is a backlink discovery tool that will continually search for new potential link partners. By automating certain parts of the discovery process, Ontolo has the potential to be a huge time saver for any hardcore link builder, estimated at cutting down typical time spent on research by 80 percent.
Ontolo launched April 27, 2010, but was in the works since 2008. Simply put, Ontolo is a high quality white hat backlink prospecting machine that is a valuable asset for search engine optimization agencies, marketing agencies, and large corporations.
Why Use Ontolo?
I own a SEO agency. Whenever we take on a new client, we try break down their industry on the web by potential link types:
- Blogs (industry related)
- Forums (industry related)
- Article directories (industry related)
- Directories (industry related)
- Social media profiles (industry related)
- Traditional sites with link pages (industry related)
It’s an insanely daunting task. For certain clients, their whole first month of our services entailed researching their vertical on the web. Having to search by link footprints, then pull PageRank or MozRank, and separate out each result by likelihood of acquiring a link, then pulling contact info from site owners.
Imagine doing that 100 times over for one client. Now, we use Ontolo and life is better.
How Does Ontolo Work?
One word: footprints.
Ontolo is, literally, a footprint machine. A footprint is simply a pattern of words or characters left by specific types of sites, forums, article directories, link pages, and anything else you can think of. As you get into the link prospecting research process, you realize the value of knowing how to search by footprints.
To find directories, you might use:
- intitle:add+url “your keyword”
- intitle:submit+site “your keyword”
- intitle:submit+url “your keyword”
- intitle:add+your+site “your keyword”
- intitle:add+site “your keyword”
- intitle:directory “your keyword”
- intitle:sites “your keyword”
- intitle:list “your keyword”
What Ontolo’s creators have done is to make a virtual footprint machine. The end user never sees the footprints as it is all processed internally.
You set up your main keywords and competitor URLs and Ontolo does the rest by pounding your keywords and competitor domains against their massive collection of footprints.
All of the web properties that are prospected with Ontolo are stored in a database for you. Ontolo doesn’t search the web when you run a query, they have already found and stored the results within your account. The end result is clear.
Summary of Ontolo Features
Results relevant to your industry, sorted by authority, and relevance.
Data that is easy to work with. Not only that, it is easy to export and task out to other employees. At some point, I believe Ontolo will add workflow features into their interface for easy collaboration for search agencies. Ontolo staff is outstanding at providing helpful resources.
Search Link Types
- Article Directories
- Blog Comments
- Donation Opportunities
- .gov and .edu Search
- Guest Post Opportunities
- Link Pages (Link Partners)
- Sponsored Link, Opportunities
- Traditional Directories
Search by Content
The “Top Linkable Content,” is great for coming up with article topic suggestions for clients and can be very helpful coming up with new ideas for fresh content. Also available features for Search by Content is “Basic Content Search” and “Infographs” searches.
Search by Social Media
Blogs, communities, Facebook users, forums, Twitter users. Let it be known, you can also have Ontolo retrieve Facebook and Twitter names during the basic link type searches too. Good for link requests!
- Ontolo is basically a storage system for your specific campaign. Because it processes so much data, there is a learning curve with information retrieval. You must learn how to retrieve the best stored data. Don’t worry though, Ontolo can interpret boolean search operators.
- Utilize the amazing wealth of knowledge the Ontolo staff has. French was willing to spend over four hours with me (over the course of four phone calls) to walk me through Ontolo features, give specific link building suggestions, and made sure I was using the tool to the fullest. It is very rare to find that kind of hands-on approach from any vendor.
- For anyone looking to adopt the new mindset for high quality and natural link building, subscribe to the Ontolo blog for actionable link building advice and check out the new Ontolo book, 123 pages of link building goodness. It immediately helped me to delegate tasks to clients and helped me express the necessity of producing top-quality content and resources, as so many of my clients were satisfied with pushing out low-to-mid quality content in bulk hoping it would be as effective. The Ontolo Link Building book will outline the new link builders mindset and how the tasks don’t solely fall on the SEO agency but the entire marketing, web, and PR departments.
Complaints and Negatives
Ontolo is a backlink tool of the future. We, as SEO providers, must have access to complete verticals back link data in its most presentable form. Because Ontolo will be retrieving results from 50,000+ potential link partners, the legwork of actually obtaining the links is still a time consuming process.
Social CRMs and Twitter clients (like Hootsuite) have factored this into their software and offer workflow features for team collaboration. Ontolo needs to take a cue from these vendors.
Not being able to curate link prospect entries is a serious drawback as it requires users to dump all that data into Excel, make it friendly enough for their employees and each link type requires different points of consideration. I would rather rely on systems over staffers and this just isn’t possible to do completely with Ontolo at this point.
Searching prospects is easy enough once you get the hang of it. Whether you’re doing traditional backlinking, content development, or social media optimization, Ontolo brings value to the table and allows search agencies to become authorities faster, cross coordinate link campaigns with other departments within your company, and drive natural links on top of connecting with link sources within your industry.
There are still challenges involved with the data Ontolo provides. Ontolo doesn’t build backlinks for you, as Ontolo doesn’t automate backlink acquisition. What it does is provides relevant link data that expedites the research process. The actual acquisition of the links still comes down to you.