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How to cold approach a link request

Don't start with a link request

5:04 am on Jun 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

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I saw this thread started [webmasterworld.com] by Matthew and decided to put up some thoughts.

When you've finally found a list of sites that you would like to have links from, one of the hardest things to do is to break the ice and start a dialogue. I hate this part of the puzzle. It can feel laborious and shameful. It is only mildly less tedious than tracking down contact details.

But in terms of defining the template - the strategy - that's right up my street. Approaching a prospect really should be about trying to build a relationship first and foremost. For me, a link is just that - a relationship. Whether or not that relationship ends up with a little piece of code of their website is not as important as the relationship. Well... it is... but don't think of it like that for now. Here's my tips for successfully breaking the ice with a website owner.

    1. Get a proper email address!

If you are link building for a client, then my approach is to get the client to give you an email address in their name. If you are doing it for yourself, and it is going to be a big part of your world for a while, then consider an email address dedicated for this purpose, but do make sure you don't use a Gmail or Yahoo account please. A link or relationship has to first be preceded by some mutual trust - and nothing sucks the trust out of a relationship like a link request from a hotmail address. If you are not upfront with who you are, straight away, then of course, you will sound like spam. After all - you have just made an unsolicted approach with an unverifiable email address.

    2. Get a proper phone number!

If you want someone to trust you, nothing does it better than opening yourself up to counter attack straight away. It does not have to be your main number. We have a pay-as-you-go mobile which acts as our number, but you can also get web based phone number forwarding systems or use skype in if you want. If you do attract some interest, then it helps if the website owner can actually get in contact their way - not yours.

    3. Make a compelling case.

If the best thing you can think of is "I've linked to you, please ink to me" then expect your success rate to be rather low. You really need to create a compelling need for the website owner, which transcends the search engine value. The BEST links will come from website owners that have little or no interest in Google. Telling them that linking is good for search engines is like telling Britney Spears that she can earn more money if she hires a good accountant. She doesn't care! Now telling Britney Spears she can earn more money by suing the paper that showed her without her clothes on... now she MIGHT care. My point is that you are about to try and dominate your verticle. To do that, you must be the best in your verticle and others need to tell that to the world, by linking to you. That's a hard one to pull off unless you actually do create something of value, that can be transposed to the web - ideally in context. Make a compelling case by explaining to the target that they can have this thing of value, because it helps their audience and therefore helps them.

    4. Use every best practice on the email

If you can make contact another way than email, then great. But if you do send an email, I can highly recommend using an advanced email marketing system... not to send bulk emails, but to use the system to detect spammy salesy wording in your template. Words like "win"; "link" and a while host of others increase a baysian spam sore in many - if not most - spam detection systems. If you write an email like a one web page sales advert, you:

a) Better not send it to a Brit and
b) Better expect most won't arrive.

    5. Don't ask for a link

I have found that this is a killer. Both sending and receiving. Asking for a partnership is better than a link. But asking for nothing and offering something is even better, suggesting that they reply any way if that offer doesn't meet their needs, because you have other options that might interest them, if they gave you the chance.
8:09 am on June 17, 2010 (gmt 0)

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WebmasterWorld Administrator mack is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

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Great post, thanks for sharing. You have certainly put a fresh slant on the process. Build a relationship with a potential link partner, then hope the link follows.

9:36 am on June 17, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Great post. I'm soon to restart my link building efforts and this kind of approach could be very beneficial.
6:09 am on July 8, 2010 (gmt 0)

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WebmasterWorld Administrator martinibuster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

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If you are link building for a client, then my approach is to get the client to give you an email address in their name.

That method has the potential for a reputation management problem. A few years ago someone posted here about a link swap request made by a large company and it became quite embarrassing when the details of their link acquisition campaign became forum fodder.

Also, there are people out there who are nutcases. Do not underestimate the silliness that can ensue when approaching someone with a loose screw. It's not always apparent who they are.

I'm not saying every link campaign should be done in stealth mode. Only pointing up a potential flaw in using a client's name in a link campaign, that you have to be extra careful.

I agree with the point about not using hotmail and gmail. It does lower the credibility if you are after quality links. Using gmail and hotmail is something you see with the three way link bottom feeders.'

As far as asking for a link, simply asking for a link can be done but you have to do some homework first. It helps to build up some goodwill in the form of tangibles that highlight the importance of your site. Attaining prizes, awards, press mentions, things that validate the importance of your site are important to the approach of simply asking for a link. Once you attain those then you can introduce yourself and your site, name any prizes awards/seen on tv's, etc. then invite them to visit the site and judge if it's worthy of being listed along with the other sites they are sending visitors to.
4:26 am on July 12, 2010 (gmt 0)

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6. close the message to them with a free of obligation offer of something of value.

Many times it's a broken link report with a replacement authority site (of my selection) suggested to replace the 404'd site. Other times I offer some image or video links to add to a specific page on their site to enhance an otherwise bland page.

I think of it as grooming, both the webmaster and the potential link out value of the page. After a time I reach out again and bring up the past convo and some new item. I close and mention that I'm busy with a link acquisition campaign. A few link from the specific page I helped them with without being asked immediately thereafter.