One of the things I like best about link building is that it really is as much art as it is science, if not more so. I do roll my eyes when people talk about “relationship building” — and I roll them when I write about it, too — but in many ways, it really is all about that. If you can’t make webmasters like you and what you’re proposing, you’re not going to get those links.
Following are some tips for being a more likable link builder:
Don’t be a stalker. If there’s no contact information on the site, maybe that means they don’t want to be contacted. There are many ways of finding the contact info for a site, and I have certainly used them before. After realizing that it’s mostly just creepy, I’ve stopped.
These days, if we don’t find contact info on a site, we just assume we should not bother them. A lack of contact information on a site is the digital equivalent of a “Do Not Disturb” sign on a hotel door or a gated fence around a house. These people do not want to be bothered.
If someone says, “go away and leave me alone,” accept it and move on. They do really mean it. I know I sure as heck mean it when I tell someone to stop emailing me. I occasionally get what turns out to be the fifth or sixth email from the same person — after I’ve asked them not to contact me again.
“Are you sure you won’t change your mind? Don’t you want to reconsider?” No, I really and truly don’t.
If you contact someone, and they ask you not to do so again, respect it. Add them to a list, to a “do not contact” database, whatever you need. While I do ask why someone turns down an offer we make sometimes, I never ask someone why they don’t want to be contacted again. I just accept it.
Don’t harass people endlessly and on every platform possible. This goes with the above point, but some people do take this too far. I’ve had people email me at my personal account, my business account, send me messages through Facebook, call the office and tweet to me, and that is just unnecessary.
This can border on serious harassment at times. What would you think if you told a friend you had other plans, checked in on Swarm, and lo and behold she saw your check-in and turned up at the restaurant where you were having dinner with other friends?
If you see something that doesn’t look quite right to you, avoid it. I have really learned to rely on my gut instincts over the course of my career. If a site looks good, but I feel like I’m missing something, I probably am. The metrics are great, the relevancy is there, but I feel like I need to spend more time making sure this really is a good site.
Recently, a client and I agreed that a site we wanted to work with was good. The webmaster responded, and something in his email just seemed a bit off, so we dug in deeper and found some articles that made me rethink the whole thing due to their outbound links and poorly written content. The main pages that I’d seen had been great, but there were some older articles that looked like they’d once been a part of another site, written by another person, and they’d been hastily thrown in.
Don’t make a judgment call based solely on appearances. This is true for an amazingly gorgeous site and one of those sites coded in Cold Fusion that looks like it hasn’t been updated since 2001. Just because a site is pretty doesn’t mean it’s a good fit for you; it may not help you gain rankings or traffic. And just because it’s hideous, that doesn’t mean it won’t rank well, help you rank better, and send you relevant traffic.
Stop trying to make something work that just isn’t going to happen. If a webmaster says no, accept it and don’t keep trying to find 10 different ways to make it work. Sometimes we do push back a little bit if we feel like the webmaster doesn’t fully understand what we’re asking for, but usually, if a webmaster says no, it’s because he or she doesn’t think it’s a good fit. You have to respect that, even if you do mutter to yourself all day afterward about it. You want a link. That can easily cloud your judgment at times.
Accept rejection and move on. I think this is much easier in business than in real life, of course. I also like to have reasons laid out for me, and that isn’t always possible. When a webmaster rejects my proposal, I do become offended, as much as I hate to admit it. However, I know there are other great sites out there, and I’d rather spend time finding them and negotiating a link than licking my wounds and badgering someone to tell me what I did wrong.
When I first started link building, I would get very upset if someone didn’t like what I was proposing. These days, I’m used to it and feel like it’s usually my fault in some way. Maybe I didn’t do enough due diligence. Maybe I wasn’t clear enough in my communications.
I don’t care what additional goods you’re offering someone other than your content, whether it’s free products or tons of cash. The majority of links you get are going to come from someone liking you and/or what you represent. Remember that if you take the view that link building is mostly relationship building, you have to approach it just as you would a real-life situation.
Of course, link building is more than just relationship building — but you still can’t discount the importance of building a relationship in order to get a link. It is a crucial part of an intricate and complex process.