Prospecting for Links

Are you struggling to find links to your websites?

Chances are you’re not alone.

Link building is one of the fundamental elements of search engine optimization.  Every webmaster is searching for links relevant to their site.  The more links they obtain, the better their content ranks in the search engine results.

The problem being encountered is finding links can be difficult.

At one time, people linked to websites because they liked the content or felt there was a value in doing so. 

Now, profile links, article marketing, guest blogging, blog commenting and forums are proven tactics used to obtain links.  Everyone is using them because they are readily available and links are easily obtained.

No one is disputing the effectiveness of these techniques for obtaining links.  However, the ongoing debate around the value of these links to improve rankings has intensified in recent months since the Google Panda algorithmic updates.

If the effectiveness of these techniques is debatable, how do you go about getting quality links?

Have you ever heard of prospecting?

Prospecting is a method of “cold calling” or “cold emailing” where you contact other website operators and ask them for a link.

What?  Ask for a link?  You think I’m crazy right?  Are you scared of someone saying no?

Prospecting for links is an effective way to obtain high quality links from sites directly related to your own.  However, you have to ensure your site appears professional, doesn’t contain questionable content and will potentially enhance readers that may visit from the linking website.

Not every site will provide you with a link but if you follow these simple guidelines, prospecting for links can provide some gems.

  1. Send a personalized message
    People will recognize a form letter.  A personalized message allows website owners to recognize the message was written just for them and helps establish the basis of a relationship.
  2. Tie your message to their needs
    Don’t talk about your website, your services or your solutions.  Focus on their issues, concerns, problems and challenges.  It shows you have a legitimate interest in the other site and enhances any relationship that may be formed.
  3. Keep the message short
    You may only have a few seconds to capture the attention of the reader.  Most people decided within 20 seconds whether to delete an email, forward it to someone else or respond.  Most people will use the preview window of their email system as well.  Long messages lose their effectiveness.
  4. Start a conversation
    Your goal is to engage the other website owner in a conversation and see if they would be interested in linking to a resource on your website.  It gives you the opportunity to show how the link would be beneficial to their readers.

Not every prospecting email is going to result in a link.  Don’t be discouraged by rejection.  There is still some benefit to making the initial contact.

You have drawn attention to your website and the products and services that you offer.  You have also started the basis of a relationship that may grow into something much more substantial in the future.

Remember, many websites receive multiple requests for links daily.  Don’t be too hasty but if you haven’t heard back in several days, you can follow up with a reminder thanking them for their time.  This may prompt them to re-read your earlier email and respond.

Is prospecting for links an effective way of obtaining links?

Well, in the time few hours I’ve sat and wrote this article, I was successful at obtaining 5 relevant links to one of my new websites.  Would you call that effective?

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About Barry Wheeler

Barry Wheeler is a blogger, novice SEO, geek and passionate Newfoundlander. Operating several successful websites and online communities, Barry has started exploring the social internet and its impact on all facets of society including personal life and business relationships. Find Barry on Twitter @barrywheeler and FaceBook or on his website Barry Wheeler - Blogging for Success.
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8 Responses to Prospecting for Links

  1. Hi Barry. This is an interesting concept – prospecting for links. I have received many link requests but I am concerned that they are link farms. Some are very obviously not-related to my niche but some are not so easily to figure out. If these requests were in the format you suggest, I would know for sure what is legit and what is not. Great ideas – thanks for sharing :)

    • Julie,

      Yes, you do bring up some very valid points. Avoiding the “Link Farm” and not suddenly becoming part of a bad “neighborhood” which can have devestating effects.

      However, these are very easy to detect and they have that “form mail” look to them. Anyone who is really interested in wanting a link will never carry on a conversation or be engaged. That’s the real key I think.

      Barry

  2. You might find this odd but I hate when people send me email asking if they can link with me. I especially hate when they tell me where they’re going to post my link and it’s not even a page that anyone can reach. So now with every request I just write back “no thanks” and move on. I just am not connecting with anyone I don’t know anymore.

    And I know that supposedly search engines want to see links, but I’d rather do it through blog commenting and optimizing my pages; overall things seem to be working well enough for me, thank goodness.

    • Mitch,

      Thanks for your comment.

      I can respect what you’re saying. But isn’t that where trust comes to play? The dialogue you create comes to play right? You must trust the person and have some relationship?

      I’ve gotten some great links from great sites. I run one site that I have about 20 universities linking to just from asking! I have another site that I have several government agencies linking to just from asking.

      It works, but I do understand the reasons to be sceptical.

      Barry

      • It is where trust comes into play, but I don’t know any of these people and the script is always the same, as if they all went to the same school & were given the same template. That smacks of phony off the top.

        Hey, when your notification comes through letting us know you’ve responded, there’s no link back to the post for some reason. I know how to find it but I wonder if others not quite as blog savvy would figure it out.

      • Hi Mitch,

        That’s so very true. Being trusted is a big thing!

        Thanks for the heads-up on the auto-notification thing. I was playing with my blog and apparently broke a few things. I hope this one finds its way to you!

        Barry

  3. I’d heard such horror stories about Link Farms that I have to admit that like Mitch says, I just automatically deleted any such requests.

    But it does seem that Panda has changed the ‘value’ of backlinks and so I’m thrilled to have this info, Barry.

    Now I’ll know what to look for in genuine requests.

    Bliss-ings and thanks,
    the goddess known as Jacqui

    • Jacqueline,

      The horror stories about link farms are true and as both Mitch and yourself have indicated, those emails get deleted without any consideration. I do it all the time and it makes me chuckle when I see them.

      However, what I call prospecting for links is a little different. It isn’t a simple “cold call” persay but rather a bit of a conversation that engages the other webmaster. An exchange of ideas occurs and it leads to the foundation of a relationship, a trust being developed because at the end of the day you are trusting someone when you link to them and vice versa.

      Most people discount this because in many cases, the request gets deleted or outright rejected without any consideration. I polite “Thank you” and then move on shows you’re legit and real.

      Have you ever asked for links from another webmaster? or used a method that resembles this?

      Barry

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