So one question I always get asked about link development is this: “Why can’t I seem to get any links via email request?” Let’s face it. This classic link building method is not easy, and it’s time consuming.
Your typical request probably looks something like this:
[Our site] is a…. (short description here). We do xyz for people on the web, and think our site would work as a valuable resource to your demographic (etc.).
Could you please place my link on http://www.yoursite.com/relevant.place
URL title: [your preferred anchor text]
description: [short description of your site]
Look forward to hearing from you. Thank you.
Head of Internet Marketing
So, if you are lucky, you are getting 1 out of every 10 (not a terrible return rate for your basic request) of these request emails responded to. And, maybe half of those responses are from people who think your link will actually add value to their visitors. You may feel like you are doing something wrong, but that’s just how it goes. That’s only a 5 percent success rate, and even THAT may be good for you. Often times, even the positive responses, may take many days or weeks, so this method also takes a lot of patience.
It’s hard enough to get a reciprocal link through an email (a method I don’t like to practice), but to get a one-way link? That sometimes seems impossible. Well think about it. Where is the benefit to the potential link-poster? Where is the value? It’s not surprising that you may only get lucky 5 percent of the time when begging someone to post your link on their site. The solution? Offer Value. I don’t mean pay for links. Google discourages this, and often penalizes site rankings for this practice. I mean make them feel like they are getting something in return.
Determining where to ask for a link:
First of all, the site should be relevant to your own. If your site is a blog about milk, try asking a dairy farm blogger for a link.
Secondly, find a site similar to your own, and examine their backlinks. A good free tool for this is Link Diagnosis. I’ll use this tool for the following example. It will only work for Firefox, but it is worth the free use. Simply enter the URL of the site that is like yours (maybe your competition) into their tool, after installing the plugin, and you’ll get a results page. Now, you need to determine the best places to gain a link for your own site. Your result may look like this:
You don’t want to request a link on a site that has too many links, because the strength of a link from that site would be weak, especially if their page rank is low, but if a site linking to your competitor/content-relevant site has too few links, like 1, then it isn’t likely that they are going to want to link to you. Don’t waste your time on these sites. Instead, find a happy medium. Circled in green, in the picture above, is an example of a good option. In the example, the site is a pagerank 6, with 34 outbound links, and a link strength of 40, according to Link Diagnosis. This means that they are probably willing to link to you if you can offer them value.
Likewise, check if the site is actively updated. Don’t waste your time asking for a link on a site that hasn’t been updated since 1996 – you won’t get a response.
Step 3 is going to that site, and locating their contact information. This is usually found in their company profile page or ‘about us’ page. I’ll leave it up to your cunning brain to find the contact info.
Step 4 is where you want to send out your email, BUT BEFORE YOU DO, you optimize your email for the best chance at getting a positive response. You need to offer them some value.
Here are some ways you ca do this:
1.) Offer to write content for free (good for blogs)
Let them know, in your email, that you are willing to offer them free content on their site. For example, a guest post on their blog. This is good because you offer them good copy, and you can link back to your own site in the author description, or on the post. Also, you can offer link-free content, given that a link to your site is somewhere you want it. Alternatively, you can let them know that content on your site can also be produced on their site if it is properly linked/cited. BUT, you want to avoid doing this too much because you dont want to be penalized for having too much duplicated content circulating (which search engines may penalize you for).
2.) Find dead links on their site (or something else that should be fixed)
Of all my methods, this one consistently gives me the best return. It works particularly well on .edu resource directories.
After finding a site that you want an inbound link from, browse their site for dead links. If you are familiar with your niche, a quick-and-dirty way to do this is to check the links of sites you don’t immediately recognize.
There are also tools out there made to recognize dead links. Be sure you know how to recognize links that have expired, and are replaced with a parked domain. Free tools out there won’t identify these for you. They usually look something like this
In your email, make sure that you politely mention that a couple of links on their site are dead. You are now doing them a favor, a service, free of charge. Webmasters appreciate it a lot when you do this, unsolicited. You can change your email to say something like this (this is not my normal format):
I found your resource directory located at http://yoursite.com/links very useful, but I noticed that some of the links on the site are dead. More specifically, the first link and the third link, with the anchor text, “[dead link text here]” and “[dead link text 2 here]“. They link to the URLs http://[deadlink].com/ and http://[deadlink2].com/, respectively.
While you are editing your site, maybe you would like to replace these dead links with our site, a site that [short description]. I think your visitors would appreciate the extra, working resource… etc. (continue with your basic link request format)…
More times than not, you WILL get a positive response. This is my default tactic every time I can spot a dead or expired link. It is in our social nature to return a favor. This tactic works because of its ease. While they are deleting a dead link, it is a far-less taxing task just add one to replace it than it is to have to edit a page for only one purpose. This also works for other errors you find on a site. Do this, when possible. Just don’t come off as a know-it-all, and don’t be nagging or insulting.
3.) Inform them of some (awesome) relevant news
Was your site the first site to write about the guy who made a floating skateboard, like the one in Back to the Future 2? Tip them to the news, and have them use your site as a reference or citation. This is a good way to get linked to on bigger blogs like Lifehacker and Gizmodo. Your format will be different. Treat it like a news tip instead of a request. If your content is interesting enough, they will cite you. If they don’t, spam their comments section with allegations of plagiarizing (disclaimer: this is probably not the best way to handle things… in fact, just don’t do it) .
0.) Offer reciprocal links (but try not to)
I am numbering this suggestion as ’0′ because I would probably try to avoid this. This isn’t the best practice, but it is sometimes appropriate. Matt Cutts, himself, said multiple times that reciprocal links are not inherently bad because they do occur naturally, but excessive reciprocal linking may end up hurting you and your rankings, in the end.
This is often the first, most obvious way of gaining a link, and offering value. A 1-for-1 exchange. It’s easy to amend your email for a reciprocal exhcnage by adding this line somewhere:
I placed your link http://www.yoursite.com on our website – let me know if your site’s title is correct. You can view your link at our site here, http://www.oursite.com/place.
Could you please place my link on http://www.yoursite.com/relevant.place and reply? In return, I’ll keep your link permanently. …
The key to reciprocal link exchanges is relevance. Make sure you are not getting a link from an interior decorating site when you sell jet fuel. These reciprocal links don’t typically occur naturally. And again, don’t overdo it.
So, do not let that low rate of email responses get you down, just try to be interesting, and offer them something. Follow these suggestions, and you will see an improvement in your positive response rate.
Comment if you have questions.