In the annals of man-dom, there is the story of the illustrious black book. The black book is the repository of female phone numbers, those accumulated from years going out to the bars, meeting new people, and overall, pursuing a mate of the opposite sex.
Functionally the black book concept has died, because electronic storage has allowed us to hold thousands of phone numbers in the cloud, whether they be female, male, friend, family, or potential mate. However, the idea of it is something that persists, and is functional even in the Internet marketing realm.
Originally, black books were separate storage documents for phone numbers of people you wanted to contact, but did so sparingly because they were not of immediate need for you, and also, due to the nature of the requests.
If you constantly harassed these people in the black book, either one of two things would happen: you would eventually enter in a relationship with the person, thus breaking the need for them to be in the black book, or you would sever any friendship you had due to the nature (and frequency) of your requests.
Today, these same small-scale relationships exist, but since they are all stored together, the general idea – and mysticism – behind the black book has died.
With SEO and link building, the potential to reignite the concept is there – and it should be taken advantage of. To me, every SEO or link builder should have a black book. For SEOs, this black book might be a repository of link targets – link targets an SEO had previously received a link from with direct, human contact – or instantaneous approval.
Every black book contact list, when generalized, has the following characteristics:
- Contacts whose info you would not readily give to anybody else
- Contacts who you have engaged with previously, to a point where some exchange of value has occurred
- Contacts who you do not frequently engage with
- Contacts who you may want some other value exchange from in the future
For SEO, a list should be created that fits these characteristics. Finding potential mates is hard. Finding potential link targets is hard too, so every “warm” lead should be meticulously noted and sorted into an electronic “black book”.
In the average SEO career, we might build links for hundreds of sites; to not create an inventory of these random sites that will offer us a link (or will be more open to a random e-mail query) is lighting potential ROI on fire , and making our jobs much harder than they have to be.
There are two general kinds of links we can sort into this electronic “black book” – free links and warm link targets.
Free links are those random one-off sources you tend to find throughout your career. Perhaps it is some kind of decent niche directory or local link resource that only requires you fill out a form – but it hasn’t yet been fully manipulated, so it still has value for future websites.
Warm link targets are those targets who you got a link from in the past through some sort of conversation, such as link begging, or business relationships. Once you receive a link from either of these two sources, they must be sorted electronically – or you will inevitably end up forgetting some of them and losing potential linkjuice.
Like real contacts in a black book, just because you got a link (or a phone number) from them once, it does not mean that *every* time you need a link, they’ll comply with your request. Often, it’s quite the opposite. For example, if you met a great girl or guy in Miami, Florida, you wouldn’t contact them to hang out while you’re in San Francisco.
The same concept applies when you have a site that sells poker tables. If a webmaster previously linked to one of your travel-oriented sites on their travel-oriented domain, contacting them about linking to your new poker site would be a waste and also, may evaporate any chance you have to get a link to another travel-related site in the future.
So, to best maximize every resource you have in this black book, I suggest maintaining the following information:
- Contact E-mail (If Applicable)
- Contact Name (If Applicable)
- Linking URL/Domain
- Your Contact E-Mail Used
- Relevant Vertical
- Linkable Asset
- Any helpful notes
- Date of last link received
Contact E-mail and Contact Name is straightforward – if the link target is a “warm lead”, you’ll need this to maximize the chance you get a link. Similarly, you’ll need your contact e-mail used as well – many SEOs use several different e-mails for link begging, so you must be sure to use the same one you used previously.
It’s also recommended that you continue on top of your previous e-mail conversation; this way, you’ll remind them of your previous value exchange. Simply use a search for their e-mail within your proper e-mail account to locate the conversation string, and you’re well on your way to picking up a good link.
If the contact is a warm lead, input the URL where they last linked to you. If this URL is not a person but instead a directory or free link resource that only requires a form, you can use the domain URL if the actual deeplink URL isn’t of much use, or makes things less effective. By inputting all relevant verticals, you make sure you don’t waste your time on travel or casino related sites if you sell shoes, and vice-versa.
Feel free to be as detailed as possible with the “relevant vertical” category – if you truly maintain this throughout your career (and you should) – this list will get pretty long, and the more details you supply, the easier it’ll be to determine the best sites to get links from in the future.
Linkable assets describe what you used to get a link in the past. If you simply begged for a link and had a great site worth linking to, note it as such. If you had a product giveaway or were simply relevant to the directory, mark that down – whatever works best for you. This is another invaluable category as it can help determine what you need to get linked to again – and exactly how feasible it actually is.
Finally, the date of the last time you got a link will be helpful, especially as it pertains to how likely a link target is of still being “warm”. For those “warm” link targets you list that aren’t people at all, the date really isn’t necessary. But for those that you might have contacted two years ago, having this data is a helpful add-on to your black book.
Once you’ve tracked all these categories, it makes it easy to sort by whatever you want to sort by – so you don’t have to waste time working through relevant data in the future.
Although I won’t show you my black book, I can show you how a sample black book might look.
It’s that simple!
This, like a great to-do list or calendar, returns as much back to you as you’re willing to put into it. This is just one step, but it’s a good start. Once you’ve filled out that chart and gotten to work, you’re one step closer to penetrating the secret society of link builders. Now, get back to seducing those link targets!
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.