In their book Ultimate Guide to Link Building, link-building experts Eric Ward and Garrett French offer straightforward advice to help you earn a higher search engine ranking and increase the authority and popularity of your site. In this edited excerpt, the authors show you how to craft an email that will get more people to respond to your link requests.
Email inboxes are busy, and you need a way to make your email link request stand out from hundreds of others. Here are 12 elements your link requests should contain, followed by the logic behind them. Although these may seem obvious, the overwhelming majority of link requests don't contain them, so adopting these practices will set you apart from the competition for your target's attention.
1. A subject line that follows any stated directions given on the site you want to link to yours.
On many sites with collections of links to other sites (for example, some of the About.com guides), the editor in charge of link evaluation/selection often states that when asking for a link, you should follow specific directions. One of these is typically a special subject line, such as "Request for editorial consideration." If you haven't taken the time to look at the site carefully, or even if you have, and you don't follow the stated link request directions, don't be surprised if you never hear from them and don't get the link.
2. The site owner's name.
It seems simple, but take the time to look through the site where you want the link and find the site owner's name. Address this person by name immediately in your email. To begin an email with "Dear Webmaster" or "Dear Site Owner" is to be deleted immediately. Can't find a name on the site? Look for a phone number. Call them.
If you have a website with a personal URL in your name and someone sends you a "Dear Webmaster" link, it will be immediately obvious to you that the sender hasn't been to your site even though their email indicates otherwise. If this person really had been to your site, your name would have been the first thing they would have seen. People might overlook the mistake, but you'll increase your chances of getting your foot in the door if you take the time to address the site owner by name.
Related: 10 Easy Ways to Promote Your Site Through Link Building
3. Your name.
Again, it's just common courtesy. The person from whom you're requesting a link is a human being, and so are you. A first line like "Hello, Mr. Ward, my name is Bill Thompson," tells Mr. Ward that Bill looked at his site and respects basic conversational etiquette. It also shows Mr. Ward that you didn't send that same email to 4,000 other people.
4. The URL of the site.
Using wording such as "I see that on your site you have the following content at the below URL" allows you to use a template approach but also shows the site owner you know their name, site, and a specific URL. You're obviously not lying to them or spamming them.
But don't show fake sincerity or imply friendship when in fact you've never met. Be professional, courteous, and to the point. People get turned off by emails from strangers who act like their buddies.
5. Your site's name and the URL you're hoping they'll link to.
For example, "I am contacting you about my site, called [SiteName], which is located at [URL]."
6. The exact URL on their site where you think the link is a fit.
"With regard to your page located at http://www.[page URL]." This is especially helpful for people who maintain large sites with hundreds or thousands of pages. Help them help you.
7. A short paragraph that describes your site.
Don't oversell your site or offer 76 reasons why they should link to it. If they link to it, it won't be your email that convinced them. It will be because they looked at your site and determined whether or not it's link-worthy based on their criteria.
Related: Creating Web Content That Attracts Attention for Link Building
8. The exact URL from your site you want them to link to.
"Since I have a splash page that has some Flash elements, you may prefer to use this URL for linking: http://www.SiteName.com/noflash.html."
9. A valid email address and response to any requests made to that address.
"If you would like to contact me about this, please feel free to reach me at my personal email address below." (Then list your email address.)
10. Your phone number.
"Or, if you prefer, you can also call me at this phone number . . ." If you're seeking a link from a site where a return link is required, also include:
11. Confirmation that you've added a link to their site.
12. The URL on your site where they can see the link to their site.
The bottom line is, by recognizing the individuals on the receiving end of your link requests, you immediately move out of the spam realm in their minds. When most folks receive link letters, they look for telltale signs that they were singled out individually. If they spot an obvious bulk link seeker, they usually delete it immediately. This means you can't automate this process, and it means you have to create and send each link request one at a time. As you should. Sometimes each site takes an entire three clicks and two minutes. Big deal. This is a lifelong link you're seeking.
Related: Promoting Your Site's Best Content Through Link Building
Eric Ward founded the Web's first link-building and content publicity service in 1994, (then called NetPOST). He has developed content linking strategies for PBS, WarnerBros, Discovery Channel, National Geographic, and Disney. Today, Eric publishes a weekly strategic linking newsletter called LinkMoses Private, and offers clients strategic linking consulting and training services. Garrett French is the founder of Citation Labs, a boutique agency that specializes in custom link-building tools and services to solve large-scale marketing problems. Ward and French are the co-authors of Ultimate Guide to Link Building, available from Entrepreneur Press.