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10 Worst Link Building Habits
Are you guilty of any of these bad link building habits? Julie Joyce discusses 10 of the worst ones she's seen in her own experience.
Are you guilty of these bad habits? Sometimes I am. Sometimes my link builders are. After realizing how many times I have reminded staffers not to do this, or to make sure they remember to look at that, I figured I’d tally up the 10 most common no-nos that I’ve seen over the past few years.
1. Not Following Up
I’m not saying you need to bug the daylights out of people, but do follow up. There are people who will only respond to you on the second or third try. (I am one of these people.)
In a quick glance at the last month’s worth of link work that we did for our clients, I’d say that around 20 percent of links were developed due to our following up with webmasters.
I review the entire communication thread for each link that we build, and there have been times when four or five follow-up emails were sent.
2. Not Vetting A Site Before Contact
This is one of my true pet peeves. Let’s say that you send an email to a webmaster, who then responds affirmatively, ready to link.
You look at the site a second time and realize that you have really and truly screwed up. The metrics were okay, but the writing is almost unintelligible. Every post looks paid. There are hacked pages on the site. And oh wow, it’s actually no longer indexed by Google.
Back when we were much bigger, we’d have link builders get into a negotiation with sites like this, and when I’d flip out and say “no way do we want a link there!”, the webmaster would become upset, calling us names and threatening to write a letter to the client.
I like avoiding that kind of nonsense. The “cast a wide net” approach isn’t really best when it comes to building links these days.
3. Not Reading Advertising Info Page
Many sites have a page that lists all the things they will and will not do. If they don’t ever do text links, and you want a text link, leave them the heck alone. If they only do sitewide links, and you want one only in a specific article, don’t bother them. If they say under no circumstances do I want you to contact me, then hey, don’t contact them.
4. Not Being Willing To Listen To Webmasters
As link builders, we think we know exactly what to do, but many times, webmasters know better. They know their readers, and they know what will and will not be appreciated.
If they tell you that you’re way off base and that no, people who read a blog about keeping pet monkeys don’t really want to see a link to your article on how to save money on a new car, listen to them. (Ideally, you wouldn’t be doing that, though!)
If they tell you that your content is okay, but they already have that resource on their site, see if they can suggest another resource need, and provide it if you can.
Just listen to them, and don’t assume that they’re all stupid.
5. Metrics Blindness
Getting a link on a site with a Domain Authority of 60 is awesome, but that doesn’t mean that I want to see a link for my carpet client on a site about bodybuilding supplements.
On the flip side, a brand-new site that discusses how we can make school lunches healthier would be a good fit for a client who specializes in advocacy for better food in school, even though the new site has no decent authority yet. See? You can’t rely solely on metrics.
Numbers are great, but they do not tell the full story.
6. Not Knowing Who You’re Talking To
I know that you can’t always find out the exact name of the specific person you need to contact.
Usually, you can find out that the email of email@example.com does go to me (the owner), though, so sending an email to that address asking if I could ask my boss to do something is ridiculous when the information about who I am is on my site.
I also understand that I have sent emails stating, “I’m not sure whether you are the person to talk to about this,” but it’s rare. That’s a sadly common line in emails that come to me, and they usually come from marketing companies.
Maybe you don’t know who you need to speak with, but if the info about that is on the site, you’re just going to annoy whoever opens the email and has to pass it on.
And don’t even get me started on the insane number of emails I get where someone tells me all about how link building is a necessary part of marketing and would be thrilled to give me a quote.
7. Not Knowing The FTC And Google Guidelines
Knowing and following them are, of course, quite different, but no matter what, you need to be aware of them.
I’m not advocating that you ignore or violate any of them, but when you are trying to tell someone that nothing bad could ever happen to them if they sell a link to you, you’re making us all look bad.
There’s plenty of info out there, so ignorance is unacceptable when you’re talking about potentially causing harm to someone’s site.
8. Not Answering Webmasters’ Questions
One of our main rules is this: If a webmaster is uncomfortable or worried about linking, even if everything is nofollowed and disclosed and all that, we don’t push them to do what we want. And we don’t ever lie to them, hide the truth or pretend that even though it’s all fine and dandy, nothing bad could happen in the future.
It sounds obvious to say that you shouldn’t lie, but considering what we’ve seen over the years, it definitely happens.
9. Poor Initial Outreach
Most of us are inundated with emails all day long, many of which are from people we don’t know. How many emails do you delete every single day, without opening them? How many do you actually open, read two sentences, then delete?
A lot of the reason your emails don’t even get opened is because you haven’t done your research, and you’re targeting improperly. Make sure you know who you’re talking to (See item 6 again).
And really, try to write a decent opener. No one has time to read 15 paragraphs. We want to know what you want from us, and pretty quickly.
10. Poor Understanding Of/Lack Of Concern For Relevance
This one is tricky because people’s minds work in mysterious ways, and my idea of relevance might not be yours. I used to jokingly say, “Let me draw a perpendicular to that,” because I can easily relate things that aren’t related.
However, when I get an email asking me to contribute to a roundup post about the best insurance plans because I own a business and therefore must want to answer those questions, I get very irritated. Yes, in a way it is relevant, but…
Kick Those Bad Habits!
Luckily, these bad habits are easy to break — but as I said, they’re also quite common. Part of that could be the pressure that is put on link builders, and part of it could be that they aren’t continuously trained once they know the basics. I tend to leave my guys alone once they know what they’re doing, for example, and that can be a bad thing.
Everyone slacks off a bit at times and forgets something, so just make sure you’re always paying attention.
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