How to Build Links – Human Edition
Link building is a tough world to be in. There’s no quick and easy answer when it comes to building links—at least not one that Google won’t eventually penalize.
Every link you build could potentially be around forever. Well, forever might be extreme, but potentially for the next decade or two, maybe longer.
Google isn’t static either. Quite the opposite, really; they’ve proven to be quite dynamic. Just in the last year they’ve released two major algorithm updates that have dramatically changed the link building process. And those are just the advertised changes—there’s continual modification of the algorithm which isn’t widely broadcasted. And every little change can have a measurable impact.
This means that every link you build, you should try and obtain the maximum quality, with direct relevancy. Always stay within Google’s webmaster guidelines. Because you never know when Google might crack down with enforcement, hurting your website with those links you built years ago.
The Necessity of Outreach
Building links requires a lot of outreach to webmasters. Whether it’s blog owners, retail websites, non-profit foundations, educational sites, etc., somewhere along the way you have to contact the owner of the site.
This makes link building a very human oriented task. You are, in essence, attempting to persuade a fellow human being that what you have is worthy of a vote of confidence. That in linking their website to yours, both are profiting in some measurable way. Not an easy task, but something that has fundamentally been around for a very long time.
So, building links is synonymous with outreach. To the extent in that pretty much no matter what you do, you’ll be doing some outreach in your link building forays.
Obviously, the best method of outreach will be in a way that is extremely human in nature, personable, and friendly. It should be concise and to the point, while still being information rich. It should be a human to human interaction.
Unfortunately, this is by far not the most common approach to link building outreach. Much more common is the automated, non-English, and the shopper techniques. How do these outreach methods work?
The first and most prolific type link building outreach many webmasters suffer is the automated version.
In this version, a link builder—hopefully a human—emails a webmaster with a template, canned, nearly automated version of email that nearly every link builder ever has tried at one point or another. The hope is that emailing this to a couple hundred webmasters will generate maybe ten leads. It looks something like this (this one will be fishing for a guest post):
I was browsing your site, and it looks great! Thanks for such great content! I saw you accept guest posts, and I’d love for the chance to contribute to your blog.
Here is what I had in mind:
Generic guest post idea 1, which can be recycled for as many sites as possible.
Generic guest post idea 2, which can be recycled for as many sites as possible.
Generic guest post idea 3, which can be recycled for as many sites as possible.
If you’d be interested in any of these, I’d love to hear from you! Thank you so much! Sincerely, Automaton2000
It should be noted that this version of the automated is probably one of the nicer automated guest blog requests you’ll see. They can get much more grisly.
Webmasters receive a continual flow of these emails, and without a doubt develop a sense of when someone’s simply sending out another prefabricated template email. This is not the recipe for success.
I was going to draft something up that had poor grammar and is generally unintelligible, but I thought it’d be more fun to actually pull some real life blog comments our blog’s received. So off to my email!
Here we go:
“I used to be recommended this web site by my cousin. I'm no longer positive whether this publish is written via him as no one else know such designated approximately my difficulty. You are incredible! Thank you!”
“Unquestionably imagine that that you said. Your favourite reason appeared to be on the web the simplest thing to have in mind of. I say to you, I definitely get annoyed even as other folks consider issues that they just do not realize about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top as well as defined out the whole thing with no need side effect , people can take a signal. Will probably be again to get more. Thank you”
“Normally I don't read article on blogs, but I would like to say that this write-up very pressured me to check out and do it! Your writing taste has been surprised me. Thanks, quite nice post.”
You get the gist here. Essentially, it’s bad grammar, nonsensical sentences, and random punctuation. My three best friends.
Seriously though, when webmasters see outreach (and blog commenting is very much a form of outreach) such as this, what are they to think? Especially if you’re looking for a link from their site to yours by providing them content. Why would they want your content on their site? If your outreach is any indicator, more than likely you’ll drop the overall quality of their site. Not exactly a hot ticket.
This isn’t to disparage anyone whose first language isn’t English. I don’t have a second language period, so kudos to anyone who does. But this spam of unintelligible English isn’t helping anyone; much less those use it as outreach.
The shopper is one of the most despised nemeses of human interaction and personal relationships. This style of outreach is based upon the idea that if one webmaster declines the content, another one somewhere will take it.
Here’s how it works:
Link builder produces content with an embedded link back to their site, either directly in the content or indirectly hidden in the bio or elsewhere.
Link builder then contacts a webmaster (or multiple) with an email, content provided. The email will look something along the lines of:
I’ve written/produced this wonderful piece of content. I think it would be great for your blog!
Your readers will love it! Let me know if you decide to use it.Okay?
Thanks! Impersonal Shopaholic
No personalization, no mention of the blog, no nothing. Basically, they’re just handing off the content and trying to find a webmaster that is desperate for content.
Hell, even if they’re more involved—commenting on the site, introducing themselves, asking questions—handing out the content directly in the first email, without any sort of introduction or inquiry, seems rather, well, impersonal.
This tactic might eventually work. But, odds are, it won’t be the quality link you should really be looking for. Webmasters know when they’re being shopped and—speaking from experience—it’s not the most flattering feeling in the world.
Human Interaction – Build Relationships
At the end of the day, any successful quality outreach is going to be accomplished by being human. Don’t just skim the website when getting ready to reach out to the webmaster—actually read it. Get a sense of what it’s about. Ninety percent of websites (and blogs) are run by extremely passionate people. Figure out what that passion is, and try and connect!
Here’s a short but sweet example:
Wanted to drop you a line and tell you how much I think your blog rocks. I love your take on the restaurant industry, and the humor you add to your posts. When I saw the meme and your talk of ‘poo-pooing’ the content of the baby changing station post I nearly spit coffee through my nose.
My name is Cory Collins, and I’m working with **** to produce online content and hopefully link back to their company website at *****or their rebate page, here: ***** I have some prior experience in the restaurant industry, and would love a chance to write an article as a guest post for your blog.
You can see a few other articles I’ve had published here: ****** ****** My idea for your blog is “******” The concept is (here I fully outlined my concept and focus, succinctly).
If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, or would like a slightly different angle, I’d love to hear from you!
Thanks for your time and consideration.
Sincerely, Cory (my email here)
This is an email I sent just a bit ago to a blog I enjoyed. It was highly relevant to my client, and I had an idea for a guest post they might enjoy. Rather than template an email, I hand typed a quick and to the point email to see if he had any interest in receiving a guest post.
He responded positively, and eventually—after about three emails back and forth—I passed along my article and got my link. Everyone was happy, and a successful relationship was established. He invited me to write again in the future.
It is so important to be open and honest in your outreach. Let your personality shine through a little, and enjoy yourself. People want to talk to people, especially in this industry overcrowded with templates and spam.
Here’s what your outreach needs to accomplish:
- An introduction – this should be obvious
- Personalization – Be friendly and yourself. Tell them what you think of their website!
- How you discovered the site – webmasters love to know where their visitors/traffic is coming from
- Enthusiasm – boring outreach is unproductive
- Explain why you’re contacting them – be honest
- Be succinct – no one is going to read a wall of text disguised as an email
- Make yourself available – and actually be available. Respond to any questions or further emails quickly, and personably.
The idea here is to introduce yourself and establish the reason you’re contacting them. You’re not trying to get them to buy something; you’re trying to get a genuine human response.
Building relationships is how you build links.
So, if you’re doing your outreach just hoping for a link, you’ve already failed.
Link building can’t be done without help. Specifically, the help of the site giving you the link. And the only reason a webmaster would help you out is if you build some kind of friendly relationship with them.
True, there are sites out there that accept any content. Particularly well produced content. But at the end of the day, you’ll never get the kind of quality links you should be getting without first building up some relationships.
Because robots don’t build links—humans do.