Although there are lots of different link building strategies that are way more effective, lots of people still use good old link requests to get new backlinks. This varies from sending out an occasional email to spamming the hell out of nearly anything online with some kind of link building software. The problem with link requests is that over 90% of these unsolicited emails get deleted, ignored or end up in a spam filter. This, however, absolutely isn’t necessary.
Sending out a link request isn’t different from sending out a press release. You want someone else to cover your story (or website), both journalists and webmasters receive several requests a day (including lots of irrelevant ones) and you’re trying to get attention for free. If you’ve read a thing or two about press releases, you’ve probably read that a good press release answers a few important questions;
If you don’t manage to answer these questions in your link request, your message will probably end up in the garbage bin, together with the thousands of other link soliciting emails.
While traditional press releases should start with answering the ‘What?’ question, I prefer that link requests answer ‘Who?’ first, in most cases. If you send me an email, and I don’t know who you are and am not expecting an email, you’ll have to introduce yourself first. Tell me who you are, and I might continue reading.
Don’t: Tell me that your name is Kelly and that I can reach you at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do: Show me where I might know you from (company name, URL, portfolio, etc.).
Let’s move on, now that you’ve introduced yourself properly. This is the part where you can explain why you’re emailing me and what you want. Are you just pitching a story, do you want to swap links, do you want to sponsor something in exchange for a link or do you want something else. Don’t leave stuff out, but give me all the info you have.
Don’t: Trying to make me use a specific anchor text by sending me html code is not an option.
Do: Include a short summary of the content you want me to link to.
Some websites are quite large, so explaining in what section you want your link might be useful. When you’re requesting a link on an older page, make sure to include the URL of that page. The receipient of the email most often wants it quick and easy, or the link request will be discarded. Don’t make him search.
Don’t: Push your luck by listing the homepage as the URL you want a link from.
Do: If you include a specific URL, make sure it is 100% -not 99%- relevant to the URL you want me to link to.
This question is only important with timely content, but I’ll list it nevertheless. When are you planning on releasing this great product? When are you leaving the company you work for? When did your stocks lose 50%? This is mainly interesting for journalists, because if they know a date or something like that, they can use it as content filling (date in the past), or use it for their content planning (date in the future).
Don’t: Tell me that your link request offer is only valid until next Tuesday.
Do: If you’re pitching journalists and don’t have a specific date, make sure to include something like ‘today’, ‘as of now’ or ‘since this week’. This way they’ll know that the content is fresh.
This is the most important question to answer and this is where most fail as well. The first four questions mostly involve explaining, but this question requires persuasion. Explaining what you want and where you want it sure is important, but only if you can explain why you want it and why it might benefit me as well.
Let’s compare a link request with a regular press release again and try to place yourself in the position of the journalist. You have only one spot left in your local newspaper from Hayden, Colorado. You receive three press releases 5 minutes before you have to hand in your final copy. The first one is a press release of a company that sells garden equipment, proudly stating that they’ve hired a new janitor. The second one is from a marketing agency in Alaska, that offers you a scoop about a new marketing service for crab fishers, but you can only publish it if you use the text they’ve provided at a third party site. The second one is from a local manufacturing company that announces that they have donated a large sum of money to restore the oldest church of Hayden. Which one would you add and why?
Which one to pick is a no-brainer, but the best answer to the question ‘why?’ is a combination of relevance and added value. If your content, link or message is relevant for my visitors and has added value for my website to offer, I will certainly link to you. If your website isn’t relevant, try reading the earlier mentioned post about link building & persuasion or move on to the next target. Almost anything else is just a waste of time.
Don’t: A link back from a PR2 directory page of a Botswana newspaper website does not trick me into linking to your gambling website.
Do: Remember that your sending out a link request, so try explaining why your site might be a good addition, in stead of sending out a sales pitch.
For those who still don’t get my point; this post wasn’t meant as a guideline for how to send out mass link requests, but to show you why lots of link request get deleted, rejected or ignored. In stead of just blindly firing off link spam messages, try to answer the questions above with answers that matter to the receipient of the email as well, and not just to you or your client.