Learning From Lost Link Opportunities


As anyone who has ever built links can tell you, link building is extremely hard work.

Using email outreach to build links is still a viable method, but it can require days of work that don’t necessarily produce results. Often, when you finally do get a response, it’s to say that you’ve been turned down for a link.

If you’re satisfied with that and don’t try to figure out why things didn’t go well, you’re ignoring a massive learning opportunity.

If someone responds to say “no, thanks,” ask why! You may get an answer if you’re lucky; you can choose to accept it and learn from it. However, even if you don’t get a response, you can take some time to examine your process to figure out where things are breaking down.

Where To Start

First, look at your proposal. Was the outreach not targeted properly? Is your site not relevant to their site? Did you propose something that is a violation of their advertising policy? Does the site belong to one of your competitors?

If your proposal isn’t targeted to the proper audience (or if it fails to convey how it’s relevant to that audience), you’re much less likely to get a reply.

We don’t automate outreach, but even with the manual due diligence that we do, we still screw up. If you’re doing automated outreach and just cranking out emails to everyone on a list, you’re much more likely to reach the wrong audience.




Here are the most common reasons people say no to my link builders:

1. “Google Hates Links”

So many webmasters are completely wrong about Google’s guidelines, confusing them with some sort of overall internal law.

We also run into the webmasters who say ,”I only do sponsored links, not paid links.” This truly gives you an idea of how uneducated they are about that whole concept. I don’t ever push these people. (I’d suggest that you don’t, either.)

Considering how risky link building is these days, you certainly don’t want to be responsible for manipulating a webmaster into doing something that makes her uncomfortable, especially if she ends up getting penalized down the road — even if it’s nothing to do with you. If a webmaster thinks this way, move on.

2. “I’ve Been Penalized Before And No Longer Link Out To Anyone”

To me, that’s not something to argue with. If you have been penalized, you have probably lost money and are going through hell to try and make things okay again.

I also usually view this as a near miss — after all, I don’t want to get a link on a site that has problems. We once got a link from a site that was later penalized for selling links, and you know what he did? Within six months, he was sending out a mass email saying he’d been penalized but had cleaned up the site and was now again willing to sell links. Followed, of course.

Google jail

3. “This Isn’t A Good Fit For My Readers”

You have to trust the webmaster’s judgment here, of course; but if you get this response, you really should examine your outreach proposal and see if he or she is right and it really isn’t a relevant resource.

If you approach a site that is all about keeping your pets healthy and you try and get a link for a gambling client there, you’re an idiot. Would you want to link to an irrelevant resource from your own article? I didn’t think so.

This is why I am so passionate about manual discovery and outreach. Take the time to actually vet the site. Take even more time to vet the content you’re trying to build links to, as it could easily be the problem.

4. “This Is Competing With My Own Site” Or “I Already Have Content Like This On My Own Site”

This means that you need to step back and remember to actually read the content on the site. If I wrote a post about how to conduct a link audit and someone emailed and asked me to link to his piece on how to conduct a link audit, I wouldn’t do it. If you’re building links for Target, you wouldn’t approach Wal-Mart would you?

5. “You Can’t Pay Us Enough To Do This”

I always ask, “Why not?” in this case because that’s a strong response. Are they afraid of linking out in general? Do they think the client’s website is bad? Do they have problems with the client’s industry? Do they not trust us as the outreach team?

In some cases, we just never hear back; but we’ve heard everything from “the client’s site is a PR 0″ to “there isn’t enough contact information on the site” to “well, I might actually cave for $150.” We’ve had this response for almost all of our clients at some point, and it generally comes down to the fact that the webmaster thinks that Google hates links and that they’re illegal (see item 1.)

6. “This Is An Awesome Resource, We Just Don’t Really Feel Like Linking To It”

There isn’t much to be learned here unless you ask, “Why not?” Usually, though, we don’t get an answer. The person just honestly doesn’t feel like giving us a link, so we have to move on; but, I do try and note these missed opportunities to see if I can find a common thread. No luck so far, but I’ll keep trying.

Knowledge Is Power

You should always offer people the opportunity to never hear from you again, of course, but I do think that you can also politely ask for the reason they’re saying no. If they say, “No thanks,” then fine, leave it at that; but, if you’ve sent them a proposal and it gets turned out, nicely ask why as you can learn a lot from this. We don’t always see our own mistakes, and you might get some great insight into a problem that you’d never have identified on your own.

No, it’s not a good feeling when you’re being told that you’re ruining the internet. It’s not fun to work hard and not see any results. Link building is renowned for being one of the most tedious marketing activities out there, but if you don’t ask why you’re being turned down and/or take a few steps back and examine where it’s all going wrong, you’re never going to get good links. If you’re not getting links, there’s usually a very good reason, even it takes awhile to nail it down.

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