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Most days my inbox includes at least one ‘link exchange’ or ‘text link purchase’ request, often camouflaged by an inaccurate subject line. Emails relating to link swapping and link buying come in various shapes and sizes, from the aggressive to the ever-so-slightly embarrassed. 

I always ignore these emails as I don’t sell text links, and I don't think much of reciprocal linking, but also because the messaging is so poor. There are probably 10 common email templates in circulation, as many of these sucky 'link requests' look very similar. They tend to be a combination of bad science, fake charm and dodgy grammar.

Here are some real world examples of ‘link request’ emails so you can see what I mean...

VERGING ON THE LAME

The dubious charmer

“I’ve greatly enjoyed looking through your site…”

The relevancy fail

“I find your website quite relevant to my partner's websites, so I'm really interested in knowing if you would agree to place a simple link on it. In exchange, I could offer you a link at: www.awebsitetotallydifferentfromyours.com.”

Blinded by PageRank

“I've found your website with the ‘reverse google pagerank algorithm’ which indicates that we both would get better google rankings, when we exchange links.”

Taking liberties (with grammar, too)

“I've already gone ahead and added your site to our link directory, could you please verify the description before it will go life at.”

Really?

“As you know, reciprocal linking benefits both of us by raising our search rankings and generating more traffic to both of our sites.”

The Spaniard

“Si usted coloca un enlace en su pagina yo colocaria un enlace en la home de la siguiente URL.”

Meanwhile, in a land of unicorns…

“*******.com is an information rich website about fairies, pixies, and other mythical creatures.”

Not exactly ‘upfront’

“I'd like to pay a fixed price upfront for a full year of advertisement placement; once the link has been placed I pay you by your choice, either PAYPAL, or by check, whichever you like.”

Is that a fact?

“These links will improve your site's visibility in search engines like Google and Yahoo.”

Copy and paste sucks

"I've just visited your music website http://www.awebsitetotallydifferentfromfromyours.co.uk/  I was wondering if you'd be interested in exchanging links with my website."

The massive, shouty spammy caveat

“PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS IS NOT A SPAM OR AUTOMATED EMAIL, IT'S ONLY A REQUEST FOR A LINK EXCHANGE. YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS HAS NOT BEEN ADDED TO ANY LISTS, AND YOU WILL NOT BE CONTACTED AGAIN. IF YOU'D LIKE TO MAKE SURE WE DON'T CONTACT YOU AGAIN, PLEASE FILL IN THE FOLLOWING FORM: emailsnomore(dot)com; PLEASE ACCEPT OUR APOLOGIES FOR CONTACTING YOU.”

VERGING ON THE ACCEPTABLE

Mr Straight-To-The-Point

“I’m writing to you on behalf of a client who is interested in purchasing a text link advertisement on your website…”

Take it or leave it

“Our offer is 250 USD for a 12-month placement.”

Dominant and direct

“The desired text link is intended to be appear at Resources / Sponsors / blogroll section at home page and/or across the site. The purpose is 1- to have a backlink from your site, and 2- the link must be do-follow.”

Old posts FTW

“I was wondering if you would be interested in hosting a text link for an affiliate of mine, possibly in a past post? It would simply need to be a keyword that is linked, not their company name. We'd be happy to compensate you for your time!”

If you're going to request text links then I think a direct, personalised approach is key, which is why I prefer these four examples to the ones listed above. What do you think? 

Chris Lake

Published 5 September, 2011 by Chris Lake

Chris Lake is CEO at EmpiricalProof, and former Director of Content at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter, Google+ or connect via Linkedin.

582 more posts from this author

Comments (15)

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Max Webster-Dowsing, SEO Consultant at RBS Insurance

This is a difficult one. We all know the value in obtaining a link from an authority site within own niche, however I have never seen any benefit in reciprocal linking. I also see no benefit in buying links. (against Google's TOS anyway)You need to be a bit more creative in my view. Before I have asked for a link from webmasters but I always offer them something in return, i.e. offer some good original content for their site, such as writing a few articles etc. This way they are getting unique content which is of a good quality and you are getting a valuable link back.

almost 5 years ago

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Helen Kitchen

Thanks for advice - got my first email today and wasn't sure what it was all about. Now I know a bit more about how to deal with this one - and any more I get in the future. Do people actually go along with this sort of thing?

almost 5 years ago

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Depesh Mandalia, Head of Digital Marketing at Lost My Name

One of the more common ways is to offer to write a relevant guest post. win for the site owner (as long as the content is indeed relevant and well written) and a link back for the requester.

almost 5 years ago

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Killian @ Open Plus

Surely time can be better spent than this sort of spamming? But as with all spamming, the perpetrators have clearly decided the unimaginative, mass-recipient method is the best option for them.

almost 5 years ago

Nick Craig

Nick Craig, Managing Director at Mackerel Media

You would hope that the miserably low rate of return these emails generate would dissuade people from firing them out to people but I guess (unbelievably) they must work, otherwise they wouldn't be sent out, right?

I'm still a very firm believer in polite, relevant and well-considered approaches to web masters forming part of a link-building strategy, be the 'offer' a simple link suggestion for their site or the contribution of some content for their site. We've had tremendous success in building superb quality links simply by speaking to people in the right way, being polite and offering something of value and I think as long as link citations are an element of ranking calculations the approach will be valid.

Where the scale comes (and building on what Max said) is in creative, innovative ideas for content and marketing that have the potential to be scalable and generate tens or hundreds of good-quality links from sites that will aid ranking and also drive traffic. That's a hard nut to crack but undoubtedly the best way to go.

almost 5 years ago

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Innes

With the whole industry growing as fast as it has we are getting more and more of these emails and also not to mention the phone calls we get!

almost 5 years ago

Andrew Steel

Andrew Steel, Business Development Manager at Objective Associates Limited

In my opinion, most link builders do poorly or fail altogether because they either:

a) Don't put enough effort in to their link opportunity research - failing to identify suitable sites who are both likely to want to link to you and worth getting a link fro.

b) Don't put enough effort into coming up with the right tone/angle for approaching the website owner for a link in their initial contact.

or both.

There is little point spending a lot of time and effort requesting links to your pet insurance site from a mechanics website for example. There will, without doubt, be thousands of more relevant (and likely) link opportunities out there.

At the same time, asking immediately for the link up front, without offering any value to the website owner in return, is highly unlikely to lead to a good success rate. That is effectively the online equivalent of begging, except without the sympathy which is often critical in instigating the transaction between beggar and benefactor offline.

Nick is on the money in saying that being polite and well researched in the initial communication is key.

almost 5 years ago

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Ian Goodall

Yes these emails are poor but they are also scalable. That's the real shame here. It's easy as well. Carefully crafting each individual outreach email takes time and a lot of effort, and you aren't guaranteed a response.

almost 5 years ago

Andrew Steel

Andrew Steel, Business Development Manager at Objective Associates Limited

@ Ian Goodall - While you aren't guaranteed a response with either, I would suspect that with carefully crafted outreach (handled correctly of course), the success rate and quality of the links generated would likely surpass the spammy, less targeted efforts.

More time intensive, but a better reward too.

almost 5 years ago

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Steven Mikellides

It's a bit of a tricky one really, mass emails can seem spammy, but, at the same time it would take far too long to write personalised emails to huge amounts of people requesting links. Whilst building a rappor with someone is very important, you can't waste time going back and forth with someone before they then turn you down. So, my point is very much in the same vain as others already made here. It's important to get to the point quickly, whilst being as polite as possible. You also have to be creative, especially if you are offering to write content for someone's site. Link building can be a very exciting, creative process. Provided you get it right!

almost 5 years ago

Nick Craig

Nick Craig, Managing Director at Mackerel Media

@ Steven - I beg to differ! It certainly doesn't take far too long nor is it ever a waste of time to spend time crafting approaches to site owners and web masters. We probably achieve about a 80-90% success rate with our targeted link-building work precisely because we tailor the approaches every time. We use tools to manage the process so we spend less time on admin, but ultimately we see it all as time well spent - if a site isn't amenable to linking to one client they may well be interested in another client further down the line.

almost 5 years ago

Andrew Steel

Andrew Steel, Business Development Manager at Objective Associates Limited

Steven - That depends how your link acquisition strategy is structured though.

For quality links, outreach is almost certainly required in order to acquire them - otherwise you are relying too much on chance that the owner of a relevant, quality site will stumble upon your content and link to it.

For low value, high volume links, produce some link-worthy content and then send bulk mail to promote it to less researched, but still relevant contacts, requesting that they link to it/share it if they like it.

There is plenty of software available these days to cut down the time it takes to do the necessary research too.

Obviously the method is dictated by industry sector/product type etc, but the same basic principles should apply - for the links you would really like to get, put in some leg work to improve your chances rather than simply spamming.

almost 5 years ago

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Steven Mikellides

@Nick, I agree, however what I meant is that it's a waste of time if the web master then turns you down. If you spend, even an hour, each day chasing a link that you will never acquire then it is wasted time that could be spent finding other links by being more direct whilst maintaining a certain politeness, and creativity.

almost 5 years ago

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Quigley

It is nice to see this place is finally getting the attention it deserves!
Keep up the good work.

about 4 years ago

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House

Hi there everyone, it's my first go to see at this website, and article is in fact fruitful in favor of me, keep up posting such content. Pet Health Insurance

about 4 years ago

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