5 Deadly Sins Guaranteed To Kill Your Link Requests

Here in the Link Week column, we mostly discuss intermediate to advanced linking related subjects, but I’m compelled to cover a very basic topic this week. Link requests. The link builders are out in force this summer. The proof is in my inbox. Over the two weeks since my last LinkWeek column, I’ve counted the number of link requests I’ve received. The total? Forty-two.

This is both funny and tragic. It’s funny because I do not give out links, I do not swap links, I’ve never had a links page, and the only place I’ve ever provided outbound links is within my LinkMoses blogscroll, and even that is limited to about twenty-five other sites, all of whom are run by people I know and have great respect for. So any link builder seeking a link from me has either not visited my site, does not know me, or does not care who he/she spams. Funny!

It’s tragic because you would think that with all the attention link building has received over the past few years, people would better understand the right and wrong way to ask for a link. For me, the single most important rule of all is to realize you must respect the person on the other end of your email. You must send a different link request to each person based upon the site and context you are seeking a link for. I don’t send a casual all lowercase email to a college professor and I don’t send a formal three paragraph grammatically perfect email with a Microsoft word attachment to 14 year old blogger. But the links from each are just as important.

There are many ways to screw up your link requests, but I’ll start with the following four Deadly Sins of link request emails. Why are they deadly? They are deadly because they each occur before I’ve even considered reading the body of your email. You have treated me like I do not matter before you have even gotten your URL in front of me. That’s deadly.

Deadly Sin #1

The email address you used to reach me does not exist anywhere on my site. Since my server is set to catchall, I get every email sent to my domains. However, there are only 3 or 4 specific email addresses to be found on my site. If you sent me email to an address that is not one of those addresses, then you’re a spammer, and you have been deleted.

Deadly Sin #2

Your subject line has an exclamation point in it, usually “Check out my site!!!!!”

Deadly Sin #3

Your subject line does not have an exclamation point but says any of the following:

  • Check out my site
  • Let’s swap links
  • Link request
  • Press Release
  • Awesome new site
  • How much for a link?

Deadly Sin #4

Your email begins with:

Dear Webmaster… or To Whom it May Concern…

or, as Mike Grehan has said many times, Dear Mr. Inquiries…

Deadly Sin #5

You apologize in the first line of your email, and/or write this:

I apologize if you are not the correct person to handle this inquiry. Please forward it to the proper person.

That’s five Deadly Sins—and I haven’t even started reading your email yet.

Eric Ward has been in the link building and content publicity game since 1994, providing services ranking from linking strategy to a monthly private newsletters on linking for subscribers. The Link Week column appears on Mondays at Search Engine Land.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Link Building: General | Link Week Column


About The Author: has been creating linking strategies for clients since 1994. Eric publishes the strategic linking advice newsletter LinkMoses Private, and provides linking services, training and consulting via EricWard.com.

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  • Lisaweb

    Re: Deadly Sin #2 and Deadly Sin #3…

    I’m just curious. Which kind of link request subject lines *do* get your attention?

  • http://www.kchblog.com KChristieH

    I usually thank people who comment on my blog, but it’s awkward to thank someone who says they’re linking to me if I don’t want to link to them. I wind up not responding, then feel bad because they’re actually appreciating my work. It just seems wrong to say something like, “I’m glad you appreciate my blog, but I really don’t care much for yours.” Yikes!
    Thanks for the thought-provoking post.

  • http://www.sitecreations.com/blog Scott Clark

    The Links bone is connected to the conference bone, the conference bone is connected to the budget bone, the budget bone is connected to the paycheck bone, the paycheck bone is connected to the mortgage bone, the mortgage bone is connected to the marriage bone, the marriage bone is connected to the tranquility bone…..

    LOL. Something like that. :-)

  • eric_ward

    The best subject lines will be those that the reader recognizes instantly as having had to have been written individually and specifically for them, as well as being factual and to the point. The goal is to avoid the delete key without lying. :)

    I’m happy to provide real world examples privately to LinkWeek readers. Contact me at linkweek5deadlysins@ericward.com

  • http://seo-library.com stinger81

    Hi Eric,

    I understand your disappointment with such spammy link-request emails, but your opinion seems too strong to me.

    1)IMHO there are not so many ways to personalize link request subject. What if the email DOES contain “Link Request” in the subject field, but your website URL is also included, is it enough? Such emails are usually written by people with limited English knowledge, so this is hard for them to personalize each subject specifically for each recipient taste.

    2)Sometimes there is no possibility to find webmaster’s name on the website. So there’s no other way as to write “Dear Webmaster”, etc.

    3)What is wrong with apologies? People should be polite, even when they are trying to spam you. :-)

    I have several link-directories with Link Exchange Submission forms. But nevertheless I am receiving emails asking me to exchange links. That’s what I call REAL stupidity.

  • http://www.elixirsystems.com Jordan Hughes

    I agree with all of your deadly sins, and when I first started linking I think I committed each of them multiple times – too bad I didn’t read your post then.

    The only thing I still have trouble with, like singer said, is when you can’t find a name on the website. Then what can you use to address the webmaster? I’ve used whois, but the listed contact may not be the person who would end up deciding whether to give me a link or not.


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