How To Get Publishers to Open Your Link Building Requests

Oliver, circa 1967Last week I had the good fortune to participate in a content marketing meetup hosted by the team at Curata. As we discussed the history of search engine technology and ended with the importance of both content and links for SEO, the question was ultimately asked, “how do you actually get links?“.

Somewhat off the cuff, I replied “I ask for them“. While this may seem either obvious, possibly too direct, or even flippant, the reality is that in today’s SEO environment, shortcuts and short-sighted tactics designed to “game” Google’s search results in particular simply don’t work.

The key to creating a link building strategy that will endure algorithm updates is through quality relationships and content designed with your buyers and “link friendly” audiences in mind. But you still have to start conversations and ask for people to link to your material.

As I thought more about my answer I realized that the practice of successfully “asking for links” boils down to two core components:

  • First, getting people (IE, site owners, publishers, etc) to be receptive to answering a link building request.
  • Second, getting people to say “yes” when you have successfully started a conversation about link acquisition.

I decided to write a couple posts addressing these concepts. In this post, I’ll talk about what elements of the link building request I focus on, in order to successfully start conversations. Next week, I’ll talk about what it takes to actually get more “Yes’s” from those conversations.

Here are some of the ways I’ve had success getting site owners and publishers to open and read my email requests.

  • Try To Add A Personal Touch
    I always try to learn a little about the professional background of the person I want to contact. Social media platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn can be invaluable for this research but make it a point to read a few of their blog posts or learn about the organization they represent as well.
  • Subject Lines Matter
    In most cases, if a site publisher does not know or recognize your name, the subject line is the only reason they’ll open your message, so make certain it will (positively) attract their attention without seeming overly promotional or includes phrases that may be auto-filtered for spam (like “Hi There” or “Link Building Request”).
  • Keep Your Message On Point
    Don’t send long-winded messages. Get right to the point of how you found them, why you are writing and what you / your content marketing efforts have to offer, for them and their readership. I prefer sending press releases or supporting text as attachments rather than copying/pasting the details right into the message.
  • Explain How You Can Help Them
    …as opposed to why they should help you. As I eluded to in the previous bullet point, if they take the time to open your message, make sure to quickly explain the value their audience will have in connecting with your site or content marketing assets.
  • Attach Relevant Links and References
    Give the person two or three important supporting links to review which provide evidence of your objectives and validation of expertise. And don’t just link; explain why each link is valuable or relevant as well.
  • Don’t Just Ask For A Link
    While there is certainly are opportunities to correct brand mentions or follow up missed references, most link building communication starts with developing trust and relationship first. Site owners and publishers are much more savvy about why people ask for links. Provide value and input in your correspondence. In addition, professionalism and well constructed message go a long way in creating a good first impression.
  • Consider Media Attachments
    If applicable, try to give someone something of audio or visual support, which may catch their eye and / or support objectives. That said, make sure to explain what the attachment is, since it could also be confused as a virus or piece of malware if not properly identified.
  • Maintain Flexibility
    Don’t stick to one email template. Your messages should be tailored to the particular site owner or publisher that you would like to secure a link or a response from. Canned messages can be easily identified and are frowned upon more often than not.
  • The More Valuable the Opportunity…
    The more time should be spent in the investigation process prior to execution. Once you’ve established the most valuable opportunities, take more time in exploring their content, social networking and media exposure, and tailoring a specific communication strategy and plan of action.

One final tip outside of the actual link request: don’t be afraid to fail. In fact, in many cases, your requests will be deleted or left unanswered. It certainly takes time and creativity to craft a message that will stick.

Fortunately, social networking tools like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and blogs actually make this process easier. If you’re able to establish a positive connection ahead of time, the likelihood of an email request being opened and responded to will increase significantly. I’ll talk more about how we go about increasing our chances of success, when communication is established, in my next post.

What do you think? How impactful has email communication been for your link building campaigns? I’d love to hear your thoughts via the comments below.

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Rebecca Johnston-Gilbert' — Rebecca Johnston-Gilbert, Marketing, Postman

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