If you are an experienced link builder, you might be tempted to read something other than today’s column, which on first glance may appear a bit to rudimentary for your skills. If you do stick around, and I hope you do, I’ll share with you what I consider to be one of the tragic mistakes that even sophisticated link builders often make when contacting a site to request a review/link: Using the wrong contact method.
I first mentioned the nuance of the link request itself back in 2000 (good grief, that’s eight years) in an old clickZ column.
One thing that hasn’t changed since then is that people who run web sites fight an ongoing battle against spam every day. Any web site using what I call “Ugly Kiss Of Death” (UKODs) email addresses like
info@ webmaster@ help@ contact@
is under a daily deluge of spam, and if those email addresses happen to be in the header or footer copy appearing on every page site-wide, then I pity anyone trying to use any of those addresses for any marketing purpose other than selling diet pills.
So among the more savvy link building cognoscenti, it’s a given that you want to avoid UKODs, personalize your email as much as possible, send it to a real person, if possible, and have that person actually be the person who makes the decision about whether or not they will link to your site. For the most useful link target sites, this is not always easy.
Case in point. It’s fairly common for me to work on a link building project where the client has already done some degree of link building, either in-house or with a link building service. A few weeks ago, one such new client sent me their spreadsheet containing about 300 link target sites along with the various details for each of those 300 sites, including toolbar pagerank, competitor links, domain age, anchor text, cache date, and all sorts of stuff that on the surface makes them look like they are on top of their link building game. I myself don’t care much for those particular metrics, but for whatever reason they make folks happy.
The spreadsheet also had a column for contact details, such as email address, etc., and of the 300 target sites, 280 had email addresses listed (the others had online contact forms only). Of those 280 sites where an email address was listed, 252 of them were either info@, webmaster@, help@, or contact@.
UKODs galore! That’s ninety percent of their target sites where the link request was sent to an email address that is pretty much doomed to end up filtered, deleted, or never read.
I browsed the first few target sites listed on the spreadsheet, and on the very first one, I noticed that while the site did in fact have contact@ as the email address, the site also had a menu link that read About Us. I clicked that About Us link, and among other content I was presented with another link that read Who We Are. Following that link, I encountered another link that read Staff Bios. Following that link, I found listed the actual name of the person who maintains the site, along with their personal email address. This took perhaps 30 extra seconds of clicking and sleuthing.
Where this is leading is that it was apparent to me that whoever was in charge of this client’s link building at the keyboard level was lazy. That or not as sophisticated as they want to believe. How many of those 252 sites that appeared to use a Kiss Of Death contact address actually had other more personal contact details available, if only the link builder had taken the time to look for them?
This is also a classic consequence of link building sweat shops where you get paid based on the number of link requests sent. There’s zero incentive to look for a personalized address if it’s going to slow down the process, or cost you money, or both. Sadly, this is how too many link building operations appear to work.
Not every site will reward your sleuthing efforts. Sometimes you just cannot identify any individual or email address that are any better than the ugly ones. In these cases, your choices are pretty simple. Use an Ugly Kiss Of Death email address, or use an ugly old fashioned tool known as a “telephone.” As crazy as it sounds, some of the most important link requests I’ve made over the years were made by phone.
A really cool side effect of this process is that I can sometimes spot a pattern on my target site log/spreadsheet between sites that “bury” the most useful contact information and the sites where a link obtained can have the most impact. The pattern? They are often the exact same sites.
Bonus Tip: Anytime you encounter an email address on a target site, say to yourself, “I believe the recipient of this email has decision-making authority.” If you cannot say that confidently, keep clicking and sleuthing.
Bonus Tip II: If the site has a search feature, search for the word “Bios” or “Staff” or “About Us.”
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 Tuesdays at Search Engine Land.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.