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.
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.
Subscribe to SEJ
Get our weekly newsletter from SEJ's Founder Loren Baker about the latest news in the industry!