The “Mean Girls” Principle of Prospecting

03 April 2024

Posted in: BSEO Digital Outreach

How many times have you felt as though you’re simply all out of options when it comes to prospecting for sites to cover your PR pieces or host your backlinks? 

In the world of outreach, it’s an all-too-common dilemma. But it’s also one that can be solved if you take the correct approach. 

The solution? Something I like to call The “Mean Girls” Principle of Prospecting. Don’t worry — all will become clear in due time. 

Watch The “Mean Girls” Principle of Prospecting

I presented my “Mean Girls” prospecting strategy at BrightonSEO in 2023, and now, finally, the talk is available for all to see, hear, and take advantage of!

You can watch the whole presentation down below or, if you’re short on time, keep reading for a rundown of all the key points!

Google cares about who you sit with

Google isn’t interested in how each algorithm update affects link builders. They’re concerned about the end user. They want every search to deliver top-tier, high-accuracy results. 

Many small websites boast top-notch content, consistent traffic, and high topical relevance, making them prime targets for prospecting. However, they frequently get lost in the search engine results pages (SERPs), overshadowed by the dominant, authoritative giants of the web.

Why? Similar to the hierarchical customs of secondary school — or for the purposes of this discussion, high school (creeping Americanisms be damned) — it’s unlikely that Google will  invite a site to the top ranking table unless it’s part of the in-crowd. 

This means you’ll often see the same high-authority sites ranking for a huge range of keywords, and that’s bad news if you’re prospecting.

And sure, you could conduct a database search instead, but they won’t always show the full scope of publications available or include contact information for all of the relevant writers, editors, or site owners. So, where do you go from here?

Proof that popularity matters

Just to demonstrate how dry the prospecting well can become, I conducted a study to assess the variation in the domains that rank for different keywords within the same niche.

I chose the interiors niche, selecting 111 informational keywords targeting articles featuring interior design advice and similar content instead of product or conversion-focused pages.

 The results were:

  • 49,191 Unique URLs
  • 7,685 Unique domains
  • 5,316 Unique domains that fall within the following qualitative metrics: DR 20, Traffic 500

Now I know what you’re thinking: “Five thousand unique domains? There’s plenty of choice there! What’s the issue?”. But consider:

  • Almost 85% of the unique URLs were cut after deduplication by domain
  • Just under 90% of the unique domains were gone after I filtered the list down to sites with a DR of 20+ and traffic above 500

And this is all before checks for:

  • Relevance
  • Correct country/language
  • Quality (UX, content, grammar and spelling etc)

Once we’re down to the fine-tooth combing stage, there’s also a good chance that more than a few of our options will be sites we’ve already contacted previously — this is where things start to get tricky.

The Mean Girls Principle Of Prospecting

For those of you who haven’t seen the mid-2000’s tour de force of teen drama that is Mean Girls, I’ll provide a little context:

Cady Heron is new in town. It’s her first day at North Shore High, and her peers, Janis (an Avril Lavigne-esque goth type) and Damian (Janis’s comical bestie)  are taking her on a tour of the school

Together, they explain how all of the different social groups of the school — the band nerds, the geeks, the jocks, and an assortment of other less-politically-correct classifications — all have designated tables in the cafeteria.

See where I’m going with this? 

What Is It?

The “Mean Girls” principle of prospecting is all about discovering the sources — links, tools, people, or data — behind the coverage.

Similar to North Shore High School’s seating arrangements, you need to figure out which sources (tables, for the purposes of our metaphor) are shared exclusively by the type of site you’d like a backlink from. 

How To Use It

Actioning the “Mean Girls” principle in your prospecting is simple — first of all, look for sources with 3 qualities:

  • It can be used to show/prove something
  • The creator/owner of the source has authority/is well-known
  • The source itself is unique and specific

Shows or Proves Something

If mentioning or linking to a specific source can help a website stand out and prove they’re better than their competition, many other websites in the same industry will likely use it too. Look for sources that achieve this goal. You can do this using the list provided in my presentation. Simply combine one of the terms with your chosen niche (e.g. “healthcare governing bodies” or “rental market reports”) and plug it into Google.

The creator is authoritative or well-known

For many websites to mention a particular source, they first need to know about it. So, the creator of the source must be someone respected in the industry or widely recognised. If the creator isn’t well-known or respected, fewer people will mention or link to it, limiting the number of sites you can work with.

The source itself is unique and specific

The final question you must ask yourself is: “Is the source unique and specific enough?”

If many high-quality sites offer the same source, it means that potential backlinks and mentions will be spread out among those sites. For example, if you’re looking at sites linking to Barclays Bank’s mortgage calculator, it might not be very helpful for prospecting because many banks have similar calculators. For efficiency, we want to gather all relevant sites in one place, so the source needs to stand out.

Your source also needs to be niche-specific to ensure that only relevant sites mention or link to it. For instance, if you’re searching for interior designers to collaborate with, looking at backlinks from a site like Houzz could be useful. However, since Houzz caters to various professionals (builders, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, and gardeners), filtering through irrelevant prospects can be time-consuming. Save yourself the hassle — niche down and make sure your source is uber-specific!

Putting the principle into action

Once you’ve got your list of sources, it’s just a case of exporting the sites that shared them and inspecting them for relevance. Take as much time as is needed on this step, and segment where necessary — Ahref’s Batch Analysis Tool is perfect for this. When you’ve whittled down your list to the best of the best, it’s time to sniff out those contact details (whether that’s manually, or with the support of a tool like, and outreach!

Some final (oh-so-fetch) tips

So there you have it, you’ve opened up my outreach burn book and taken a good look inside — my prospecting secrets are now yours. Use them wisely. 

On Wednesdays we wear pink, and at the end of this blog post, I share five final tips for your outreaching endeavours. Here they are:

  1. Segment via metrics for your link building and digital PR campaigns. This will allow you to nail your pitch with a perfectly-toned opening message. 
  2. Filter your results as much as possible. You need to be ruthless. Channel your inner Regina George. 
  3. If you’re struggling to find sources, search for articles reporting on your niche. What are they linking to?
  4. If your site occupies a particularly small niche with little coverage, expand your search to adjacent industries.
  5. If you need any help with getting your outreach emails noticed, check out this awesome blog from Charlie Warner (one of our in-house PR gurus)


Remember, you can catch the full recording of my talk above, but for more on all things outreach, SEO, and digital marketing, stick with the Seeker Digital blog!

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