SEO

The Perfect Link Request

Requesting Links is as much of an art as it is a science,  especially in order to get that sought-after link from an authority site. When thinking about how to write a link request, I pay attention to two factors: AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action) and WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?).  Keeping those in mind, the rest is all in the semantics of what not to do, and how to to tailor the request to the particular industry or vertical you’re targeting.

So to make things easier, I’m going to provide you a link request template that you can customize to your fancy. All I ask is that you email me at dev[at]devbasu.com to let me know if the templates have actually worked for you. First, let’s look at the psychology of a link pitch, and then follow up with how you can use the same principles to influence your desired action from anyone you wish to pitch or approach.

1. WIIFM – What’s In It For Me?

It’s the first question that comes to mind when you’re approached by anyone hoping to get you to do anything, so it’s important to answer this question from the get go. Generally speaking, most benefits fall into the following categories:

  • Resources – Do you provide a resource that would be valuable to the readers, subscribers, or site visitors of the link target site.
  • Association – Will the link target achieve stronger association by linking to your site? Eg: A dentist may have increased association with other dentists if they were to link to a local association or directory of dentists.
  • Recognition – There’s a good reason why why top 10 and top 100 lists are a perennial favourite of the creative link builder. People are much easier to convince if you tickle their ego.
  • Reciprocity – I’m not speaking of standard link spam reciprocal links, but rather of reciprocal links that are relevant and built moreso for traffic than SEO. Think about strategic links between content portals such as MSN and YellowPages or between other such completary websites.

2. A.I.D.A – Attention, Interest, Desire, Action

The AIDA principle walks us through the process of engaging your link prospect to closing the interaction with them, which if successful will result in them linking to your linkbait. Here’s how it works:

Attention – The objective is to stand out from the other hundred link requests, subscription requests, newsletters, and junk mail that your prospect receives. Some important steps towards engaging the prospect’s attention include

  1. Being Personal - Use your contact’s real name and not their designation throughout the email.
  2. Don’t be Boring – If you sound just like the last 5 emails your prospect has skimmed over, your’s will be tossed into the trash can.
  3. Stand Out -  Utilize the subject line, opening and closing paragraph to your advantage. These are key areas to make your mark.

Interest -  The objective is to get your link prospect to read through the meat and potatoes of your email, all the while increasing their interest to link to your site. Here’s how you can be interesting:

  1. WIIFM - Answer this first by utilizing the points discussed in the section above.
  2. Focus on Benefits, NOT Features – Who cares if you’re the next best thing since sliced bread? Appeal to how your resource solves your prospect’s problems, or those of their readers.
  3. Appeal to Their Ego -If your linkbait appeals to the prospect’s ego or awards them with recognition of some sort, then spell out exactly where they rank in your list

Desire – Once you’ve got interest, its important to create desire, or your prospect will not act upon your request. Create desire out of interest by baking in the following:

  1. Give Them What They Want – Does the link prospect have an e-book, newsletter, or RSS feed they want people to subscribe to? Let them know that you’ve subscribed to their offering, and that you look forward to receiving their material. The prospect has automatically gained a subscriber, and is more likely to reciprocate.
  2. Make Yourself Available - Want to make your prospect feel special? Make them feel like they have your direct line in case they need to contact you. It may be as simple as offering up your office telephone number of your actual email address@domain.com instead of pr@domain.com
  3. Remind Them Why They Should Link To You – Reinforce your initial benefits proposition by quickly summarizing why the prospect benefits from linking to you.

Action – Don’t make them think. Instead, give them code they can copy paste to make the linking process easier. In the case that your prospect is code savvy, give them the choice of either using your cut and paste code, or ‘announcing’ your resource to their readers at their own discretion.

3. Putting it All Together in a Link Request Template

Subject: <Name>, We’ve got a <Category> resource we think your readers might like…

Hi <Insert Name>,

My name is <Real Name> and I’m getting in touch with you regarding your <Insert Category> site/blog <Insert Blog/Site Name>. I’m currently working with <Insert Client Site Name> to announce their new resource <Insert Article/Linkbait Name>, and thought this might be of interest to you and your readers, as it provides an easy and intuitive way to <Insert Benefit Here>. You can review the article at <Insert URL>. If you find the resource to be of value to you and your readers, I’d appreciate it if you could add it to your <links page url> or announce it to your readers at your own discretion.  Alternatively, you can utilize the customized badge or link code provided below:

<Insert Badge or Anchor Text Optimized HTML Code>

As someone has an interest in <Category>, I’ve signed up to your site’s <newsletter/rss> and look forward to learning more about your business. Please let me know if the above provides you with the information you need to review and consider our new section for linking. I’m available Monday to Friday 9am-5pm EST, and can be contacted via telephone at my direct line (905) 420-1234 and also by my direct email <name@domain.com>.

Best wishes,

<Real Name>, <Client Name>

<Contact Details>

Dev Basu is a regular contributor to Search Engine Journal. He owns Powered by Search, a full service internet marketing agency located in Toronto, Canada, and blogs about online marketing for small businesses, search marketing, and all matters in local seo and social media. Catch up with him at his blog, twitter, or connect on Linkedin.

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22 thoughts on “The Perfect Link Request

  1. Thanks for the tips! In the template, I particularly like the phrase “or announce it to your readers at your own discretion.” It’s nice to give people an option when you are asking them to do something for you :) btw, Happy Birthday!

  2. If you were going to optimize a link request message, the way you outlined it is about the best you could do. So kudos to you. However, even in the most optimized form, I would delete it, as I think most people who manage high-authority sites would.

    The perfect link request email is one that doesn’t have a link request in it. Similar to social media marketing, it’s about relationships first, linking second (or never.)

    The reason I like social media marketing is that I get to be genuine. For example, when I contact people, it’s because I have a genuine interest in what they do, what they write and who they are. Certainly, it would be great if through the course of our relationship that person chose to write about or link to my website, but that can’t be the primary purpose. As soon as it is, it becomes disingenuous, which I hate.

    That doesn’t mean that I don’t occasionally put an offer on the table, like a request to consider blogging about something, but it doesn’t happen often, and for me, it’s always okay if they aren’t interested. I’m only interested in people linking, talking and blogging about what I do only if they’re interested in it…a rule that goes both ways. Otherwise, who cares, it’s fun just being friends and colleagues in the same field. And, as I often discover, one of the best parts of industry relationships is what we can learn from each other.

    I realize that my approach is not practical for a lot of people. Especially marketers who really just want to sell a product and don’t give a damn about the person on the other end. In that case, I think messages like the one in this article are certainly worth the shot. You’ll definitely net something, but only in bulk (meaning spammage.) In that case, don’t you think it would be better to keep the message short (so they’ll actually read it) and simply say that you’re a big fan of their blog and that you’re interested in similar things, and would love to guest blog on it one day? That’s so much more natural and genuine sounding.

    With all of that being said, I don’t mean to be hyper-critical. It really is a good write-up and is relevant to how a lot of people go about getting links.

  3. @Jon Henshaw – I’m actually glad you brought the topic of not asking for a link at all up. I’ve used that approach before, and its returned mixed results mostly because my prospects didn’t know what to do as a result of my email. Either that, or the links I got were not anchor text rich, and instead were in the form http://www.domain.com.

    The approach you are describing would be very well suited for partnerships where both parties benefit from reciprocity in links, content, and user traffic.

  4. Although this email is no doubt very well put together why does everyone insist that email be the preferred method of contact in the first place? I have had much greater success picking up the phone! Link building is about developing relationships and building raport – something that even the best written emails normally fail to do because they are too easily associated with spam.

  5. @Ben Potter – Spot on… Do you follow up with an email after the call to give your prospect a list of urls, descriptions and/or link texts?

  6. I can understand this kind of linkbuilding might work for content related sites, but how successful is it for more commercial sites?

  7. Dev … Great Article …

    I too agree with Ben here …

    I get much better results on the phone than e-mail …

    Regarding WIIFM … I come from a traditional marketing background … I’m real familiar with the F.A.B. consultative sales model …

    Again … great post :)

  8. Do you really think webmasters will read this letter? I wouldn’t… it looks more like a poem than a link exchange request. IMHO the
    the shorter and informative your request is the more chances you have to get a link partner ;)

  9. But who’s got the TIME to do all of that? Super in theory but I bet the take-up rate is minimal. As you can see via my link, I’m trying to push my book which I’ve just published. The prospect is daunting!

  10. I always get battered by the number of emails requesting links, but now I am looking to do it myself I wonder whether just getting on the phone and building up a relationship might not be a better way these days?

  11. I always get battered by the number of emails requesting links, but now I am looking to do it myself I wonder whether just getting on the phone and building up a relationship might not be a better way these days?