SEO

Five Fatal Flaws in a Link Request

I’m probably not going to entertain many link requests. At all. Simply because doing what I do for a living I understand the value of a link and am highly selective about the ones I give out. So I guess that makes me a tough audience from the get-go. However, if I WAS going to consider throwing a link bone in someone’s direction it would take a pretty damn good link request.

Unfortunately, I don’t see a lot of those. I do however see a LOT of bad ones. A recent post from SEM-Group, Link Building Pet Peeves That Drive me Bananas, hit on a lot of them between the article and the comments. And I couldn’t resist the opportunity to push the point even further. So when it comes to link requests here are some of the giant mistakes people make, ranging from the obvious to the slightly more subtle, yet equally insidious, deal breakers.

Poor Grammar

A lot of times it’s definitely a matter of ESL. Kaila Strong highlights this really well in her Pet Peeves post. She gives a great example of one these laughter inducing, barely intelligible link requests.  Really people? Do yourselves a favor, get a native English speaker to write you a template, I’m sure there is somebody Stateside that would take Twenty bucks to write one up or even just conjugate the verbs in the one you wrote.

It’s even sadder that native English speakers are almost just as guilty. Sometimes it’s a lack of understanding of the fundamentals of the English language. But more often it’s just laziness, carelessness, hurriedness or a combination of all three. The best advice I can give? SLOW DOWN. Seriously. Pay attention to details. Unless you don’t care if the only responses you ever get come from people with an equally tenuous grasp on the basic functions of grammar.

Not visiting The Site and/or Saying “I like your site”

You do NOT like my site. In fact, it is clear to me that you have never BEEN to my site. Unless you are going to take the time to actually comment on some aspect of the site that you did indeed find intriguing, useful or relevant, don’t bother to say you did. Generic, baseless flattery does not get links. Content of real value gets links.

It’s not even just the empty compliments that are the flaw… the REAL error is that you didn’t actually visit the site! For example, anyone who owns or works for an SEO company has undoubtedly gotten an email from someone who is very “Generously” offering to help them with their SEO.  This kind of email gives me 2 very important pieces of information, A. You have no idea what my business does. And B. You really don’t belong in this industry and I wouldn’t trust you to SEO my cat. The bottom line is, go to the site before you send the email. Period.

Contacting un-related sites without providing a reasonable connection.

Ok, I’m not a relevance prude. I understand that it is possible to create really good tangentially relevant content. But when you’re asking me to link to the home page of a Sparkplugs site from my Gomer Pyle Fan site, unless there’s something about Jim Nabors that I didn’t know, I’m not seeing the connection. Of course if you’ve created a list of TV’s most lovable Auto Mechanics…now you’ve got my attention. See the difference?

Ideally there should be an EVIDENT, logical reason why you’re contacting me about this link. Don’t make me think about it; don’t make me Wiki-search a possible connection between our sites. If you haven’t done YOUR homework before shooting me an email, don’t expect me to do it for you. If there is no logical connection between our sites and I got this mass email because your scraper found a viable email address on my site… yeah good luck with your link building. I mean, hey you know what they say about blind squirrels and nuts… they get shot by spam guards right?  I think it’s something like that.

Overly formal greeting which is the opening for a Novel

I don’t care about you. I’m not insensitive, or cold… I’m just busy. I really don’t have the time or the inclination to read a Brief 2000-Word History of Your Site before you decide to get to the point, which is oh yeah; you want a link from me. So you want more of my time? Super. You also opened with Dir Sir or Madam, To Whom It May Concern or Kind Sir. I am not a lawyer nor or a human resources office, and you are not Charles Dickens therefore the overly formal greetings are just off-putting from the very beginning. Try a more casual tone, hell try being a real human. Of course you can’t do that if you’re a spam-bot but, then again therein lies the problem.

A good link request is friendly and short. Get right to the point. If I’m interested, trust me, I’ll find out more about your site. Don’t feel the need to explain it all up front, you’re not making your case, you’re losing my interest. It’s ok to let me know right away this is a link request, but if you plan to do so using the subject line, be very careful with the words you choose…

Using the words “link exchange” in the subject

I’m not going to shoot down the link exchange process entirely. I believe there are actually circumstances under which a link exchange makes sense. The best ones are when it’s accidental. Because Accidental link exchanges = natural and value based.

No, I’m talking about unnatural link exchanges. The hair dressers linking to box cutters link exchanges. The Pet Peeves article commenters actually make some awesome points about some of the more pathetic link exchange offers out there.  Like offers for links on un-cached resources pages or worthless third party sites… yeah SUPER enticing. And honestly, if you are still using reciprocal links as your link building strategy… I don’t even want to link to a site that’s linking to you’re site’s third cousin.

To be fair the fatal flaw isn’t even in the email for most people. How do I know it’s not in the email? Because I never read the email! In fact, I never even opened it because someone thought it would be a good idea to put the words “link exchange” right in the subject line. Now I’m all in favor of being upfront about your intentions, but you have to be practical too. In fact a number of militant spam filters are trained to take out any email where the word “link” appears in the subject line. Don’t take the risk. Hey, here’s an idea why not make your subject something personal, “Hi, John, I loved your article on Tree Climbing Day…” And no, that’s not a violation of the “I like your site” rule. Because I did read John’s article on tree climbing and I DO think adults should climb a tree once a year…

There are tons of other ways a link request can be doomed from the word “Send” but these are some of the biggest and most common reasons I hit delete. Most people aren’t entirely opposed to giving links where there is merit; it’s all about the approach and the content. If you haven’t mastered either of those, then keep beating your head against the wall; let me know how it works out for you.

 Five Fatal Flaws in a Link Request

Jennifer Van Iderstyne

Jennifer Van Iderstyne is an SEO Specialist at Internet Marketing Ninjas, formerly WeBuildPages. Internet Marketing Ninjas is a full service internet marketing company based out of sunny Clifton Park, NY. You can follow her on Twitter but if you come to the office you won’t be able to find her, because Ninjas are invisible.
 Five Fatal Flaws in a Link Request

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9 thoughts on “Five Fatal Flaws in a Link Request

  1. Jennifer,

    The funny thing is I tend to get all of these (poor grammar, I like your site, overly formal, link exchange in the title) wrapped up into one fun reciprocal link exchange request.

    I truly feel sorry for anyone that has hired these people to build links for them. Seriously.

    Another one I find really entertaining is when I get these offers from SEO companies in India offering to take on my link building at a discou8nted rate. They typically have the same faux paus mentioned here.

    I'm like, ” sure as soon as I want my business to go straight to hell you'll be the first person I call.” LOL

  2. Great post – I'd add one pet peeve of mine which is link exchange mail authors explaining to me how my site will “benefit” from link exchange with them

  3. Sending a request to the wrong person is another one we run into sometimes. Whether there's an email address that's not easy to find or if there are numerous people listed on the site, sending a followup email acknowledging the first one can help church through & squeeze more out of the linking opportunities you've already spent time uncovering.

  4. The opening line of “My dear one” is my favorite… um.. here in America.. we don't call each other “dear one”… 2nd only to a request from a brand new site about Russian brides wanting to link to my day spa in Parker… with a PR 5.

  5. Opening an email that starts with “To Whom It May Concern” always scare me! I would avoid “hey dude how r u doing” but I agree: being “too” formal doesn't work!

  6. Gerald – hahaha So true. the people hiring these companies are the real victims.

    Irishwonder – I know! Yeah, I'm sure your links page is gonna do wonders for me….

    Adam – I absolutely believe in a follow up. If an opportunity is worth it, a follow up email is essential.

    Todd – Yeah, trying to get al ink on a competitors blog, is definitely ballsy, or careless…one of the two :)

    Davide & Chrissy – Those openings get me every time! I really just can't help but laugh.

  7. See now, you made me break my rule about not commenting on Disqus blogs since I'll never know if you responded to it or not because of this post. Brilliant stuff, but me being me, I have to point out the relevance of Gomer Pyle and sparkplugs, that being that before he joined the Marines he was an auto mechanic along with his cousin Goober. See, you got me doling out Andy Griffith trivia. lol

    And you're right, I pretty much shut down almost every link request for those very same reasons, the main two being that you know they didn't really look at your site to see what you did, and the page they want to link you to often isn't accessible through any seen page on the other site. Weasels!

  8. See now, you made me break my rule about not commenting on Disqus blogs since I'll never know if you responded to it or not because of this post. Brilliant stuff, but me being me, I have to point out the relevance of Gomer Pyle and sparkplugs, that being that before he joined the Marines he was an auto mechanic along with his cousin Goober. See, you got me doling out Andy Griffith trivia. lol

    And you're right, I pretty much shut down almost every link request for those very same reasons, the main two being that you know they didn't really look at your site to see what you did, and the page they want to link you to often isn't accessible through any seen page on the other site. Weasels!