There’s a wrong way to do link-building outreach, and there’s a right way.
The wrong way is to come right out of the blue, with poor grammar and just a please-link-to-me request.
The right way is to tell your story and explain why the website owner should link to you.
But there is also a right way and a wrong way to do it the right way. This is a case study showing the right way and the wrong way.
The following email gave a couple web consultants who received it watery eyes. They were sucked into the story. I have suppressed all identifiers, because some of them are actually real.
The right way to do link-building outreach
It’s great to hear back from you, and I apologize for being unclear. I enjoyed looking through [SUPPRESSED URL] and I thought you might be interested in my message.
My name is [SUPPRESSED NAME] and I have been fighting mesothelioma cancer for the past 9 years. As you may already know, mesothelioma is a cancer caused by asbestos exposure. In fact, about 30% of all mesothelioma victims are Veterans, usually being exposed aboard asbestos laden navy ships. My exposure came from doing years of wiring work for [SUPPRESSED COMPANY].
At the age of 49 I was diagnosed with Stage 1 Pleural Mesothelioma and was told I had less than two years to live. But I was determined to stay positive and beat this cancer against all odds. My treatment included having my right lung and the lining of the lung removed. Soon after, I began several months of radiation therapy.
I am overjoyed to say that my fight paid off and now 9 years later I am still cancer free.. But I know I did not face this battle alone. The doctors and staff at [SUPPRESSED CLINIC] are true miracle workers and I am forever grateful to them.
I was also helped greatly by the [SUPPRESSED LEGAL HELP]. Not only did they help me obtain financial compensation which helped with my treatments and quality of life, they genuinely care about my well-being. I am proud to call them my friends and they continue to stand by my side as I fight mesothelioma.
I feel it is my duty to give back to the community–to let people with asbestos diseases know they are not alone. There is help available!
Again, you have a great website, and I certainly admire the work that you do. I know it’s a stretch, but I’m hoping you’d consider making room for a link to [SUPPRESSED URL] on your website. Together, I think we can help a lot of people by doing so. If you feel like this is a good fit, I’d understand. I look forward to hopefully hearing from you, and thanks for all your time in advance.
All the best,
What is so special about this email? The story is believable. A person has cancer, is greatly helped by doctors and lawyers and goes on to create a business out of what she experienced. In this case, a search for lawyers who can help patients like herself. I’ll buy that.
On the other hand, I am too old a hand at this, and too cynical by now, to believe for a second that any of it is true. The company she worked for did exist, but no longer does. Medical clinics and legal help won’t divulge names of people they’ve helped. It all looks so real. It is all so completely unverifiable, even if a website owner would take the time to try.
This letter would not work with me. But the watery eyes of my colleagues tell me that it would work on some website owners. The key for this to work is to target the right websites:
- websites that actually link out
- websites in the same country (the site is American, and the email went to Canadians – oops!)
- websites that would associate with a company like that (sorry, but a lawyer search service would be seen by some people as a shady business)
I showed these emails to a couple link-builders I know. Tony Newton of Linktub commented on this one.
“I have to hand it to her – if it is a ‘her’ – that it’s a very creative approach. It’s a lie, of course. But it’s a very creative lie. I am a big fan of simply creating relationships. People are far too busy to be conned into something!! Plus, you may ruin a potential relationship that bears much bigger fruit down the road. How many people have you introduced me to David? Probably over 50? I have hopefully done the same for you. Why start off a relationship with a lie?”
The wrong way to do link-building outreach
Here is a sample of an equally detailed explanation that is unlikely to sucker anybody.
My name is Ashley and I volunteer with a summer health program for gifted, active children where we are learning about ways to stay healthy, specifically how to relieve stress. Since we have our annual community walk coming up, the children are coming up with interesting ways to mentally and physically prepare for this exciting journey.
The kids came across your website [SUPPRESSSED URL] while looking for inspiration for maintaining a healthy heart. We want to say thank you! Some of their parents are doctors and nutritionists who overcame heart attacks and weight gain, so the kids are really want to show them how proud they are. The kids want their parents to stay happy and healthy, regardless of what common stresses of everyday life they may face.
One of the girls, Michelle, did some web searches at home and found this page that she brought in for me to see about how to remain stress-free – [SUPPRESSED URL]
I suggested that she and her peers share this with you because it is such a great resource for anyone looking to stay healthy, happy and relaxed. Additionally, I want to impress upon them that by reaching out and simply asking others, things can be accomplished that the kids might not otherwise think can.
Would you please add a link on your webpage to the resource article Michelle found? She would be so proud to see that you did, even if it’s only for a little while, and we also think that your other visitors will find it useful. I also don’t think it hurt that I promised the whole group a veggie pizza and yoga day if you added Michelle’s article! Please let me know if you’d be willing!
Thank you in advance!
Why is this email unlikely to succeed? It simply does not pass the believability test. Why would the whole group rally to have one site link to the other? Why not the other way around? Why not have them search for more websites? Why would they even care if you link to that website? Rather than bring tears to eyes, this one brings confusion and suspicion.
An outreach expert I know, Minuca Elena, had this to say.
” I wouldn’t trust the second email at all. The best way of getting a link is to explain to that site owner why your article is a good resource for his or hers readers. Provide clear arguments and don’t rely on the emotional approach. It’s nothing wrong to ask for a link back to your content and it shouldn’t be a hidden purpose, as long as the post deserves a place there.”
On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog. If you have a believable story, there is always someone who will buy it. But there have been too many dogs barking across the Internet for too long. These days, you have to prove that you are not a dog.
There’ a life lesson in here. If you plan to lie, at least make the lie believable. And if you shoot straight instead of lying, you don’t have to worry about being believable, because you already are. That does not apply just to link-building, by the way.