Requesting links can be the most tedious and least interesting SEO activities that an SEO has to face on daily basis. Every SEO who I've spoken with about the topic seems to have a different approach, some of which are fairly creative while others are outright SPAMMY. Without the right tactics, link requests can eat up a lot of time and yield little results.
When Link Requests Don't Work
Link request tactics don't work when:
- They are automated - There are numerous types of software out there that will scrape the Web for email addresses and then send automated link requests to the email addresses found. The theory behind this strategy is a simple numbers game. Contact as many as people as is possible and at least a few will respond. Fortunately, many link builders seem to have figured out that this doesn't work which means less SPAM in all our email boxes!
- Non-targeted link trading- Another strategy used to build links is simply to request links from websites that have clearly engaged in link trades before. For the most part, link builders who utilize this tactic don't care what the other website is about or that they are getting placement buried deep within low quality websites. All they care about is acquiring a new link. This strategy doesn't work well because the partner website rarely has a matching theme, a good reputation or any guarantee that the search engines will even find the link.
Establishing clear goals
Establishing goals is really where it all begins. Are you requesting links to increase traffic? Are you requesting links to improve the authority of your website? Are you requesting links to strengthen the theme of your website? Are you requesting links to improve your link diversity? In a perfect world, you'd get all of the above with every new link. In the real world, you probably won't.
Based on your goals, brainstorm different types of websites whose link would help you the most. If you're looking to strengthen your keyword theme, what other websites are complimentary and non-competitive to yours? If it's authority links, determine who the current authorities are. Once you've got a good list, consider which of your prospects really makes the most sense.
When Link Requests make the Most Sense
It's pretty simple- Link requests do work when the request makes sense. A number of criteria determine how much sense a request can make:
- Link relevance - How relevant are your link requests? For example, requesting links from local car dealers to your new hotel client's website doesn't make sense. Requesting links from a local travel website to your new hotel client's website does make sense. The reason the latter makes should be obvious. The local travel website already links to several other hotels and may be willing to link to your too.
- Other similar links are already exist - Even when it seems like a link request seems relevant, it's often hard to be the first to get it! If your target website is already linking to several of your competitors or other websites similar to yours, your chances of getting them to link to you improve. If your target currently links to no one, there may be a good reason for it (like an unwilling webmaster).
- Mutual benefit - You already know what's in it for you. Now, think about what's in it for them (your target). This is where good salesmanship skills can help. You need to sell your target on why they should link, not 'just because'. Does your website has a few great resources that are extremely relevant to a piece of content that your target has? Can you provide an exclusive offer to your target's website visitors? Can you offer a trade of some kind like a link back, a free advertisement in your eNewsletter or a complimentary meal at your hotels finest restaurant? Bribes work, sometimes...
Requesting links is not a numbers game and should not be treated that way. It's far more effective to target a few reputable and relevant websites than it is to contribute the SPAM cesspool that plagues the Web today. In time, link request successes and failures both yield lessons learned and hopefully, more future successes.