Improve the Success Rate of Your Link Requests

    May 5, 2004

How can you improve your link requests so that more websites will take the decision to link to yours? This is a fundamental question that every link building campaign should address.

The answer lies in understanding the psychology of the decision making process and making use of classic direct marketing techniques to guide people to take a specific course of action.

A link target – the webmaster, editor or site owner who will take the decision to link to you or not – goes through three stages in taking that decision:

Stage 1: Your link request arrives in their inbox – do they open it or not?

Stage 2: After they open it does your copy peak their interest enough to get them to visit your site?

Stage 3: When they visit your site, do they see enough to persuade them that it is worth linking to?

Think about it – this is quite a formidable task. You want the target to stop what they are doing, read and understand your request, review your site and then go to the bother of creating a link and publishing it on their site.

It’s a task that even gifted copywriters would find a challenge. Damon Crane writes for some of the largest corporations and also teaches copywriting skills.

“Like all marketing tasks it starts with thinking about the audience. We know they’re time deprived and very often risk adverse. They’ll be bombarded with dozens, sometimes hundreds of messages a day, and their way of copying with this onslaught is simply, and often arbitrarily, to just ‘block it out’.”

“Probably the major reason why copywriting skills seem to be back in demand is because companies need a way of breaking down those barriers, and fast.”

The enormity of the task means that you’ve got to invest time and effort if you are to be successful. Start with two principles:

  • Send link requests only to highly relevant, quality websites – that might mean that you actually send out fewer link requests.
  • Spend more time crafting each link request individually

    Such focus and customization are absolutely necessary – NEVER SPAM LINK TARGETS (and do not overuse capital letters).

    Classic direct marketing

    In direct marketing the classic approach is to move prospects through four stages represented by AIDA:

    A – Attention

    I – Interest

    D – Desire

    A – Action.

    With link request you have to move link targets through the same process and you have three main areas to make an impact – the psychology for each is different.

    (i) The inbox

    You need to attract the attention of a complete stranger and sow a seed of interest that motivates them enough to open your email. Your link request must stand out from the deluge of spam and other communications that your target will receive.

    You have only two tools at your disposal – the ‘From’ field and the ‘Subject’ field. Do not waste them as in this email that I received last week:

    From: Webmaster

    Subject: Link Exchange

    This is bland in the extreme and will attract none but the desperate.

    Research from Ruth Stevens, reported in suggests that the From box is even more important that the Subject box – 65% against 35%. She suggests that the most effective from fields are (in descending order):

  • The sender’s name, if it’s known to the recipient. This can range from the well-known CEO of a company to a day-to-day contact, such as an account rep.
  • Company name, if it’s known and respected.
  • An unknown sender’s name, as long as it’s legitimate. People are more likely to click on the name of a real person than something that says “”

    This should be accompanied by a subject line that suggests some real benefit

    (ii) The email copy

    OK, you’ve done the hard work and got your target to open your email. Now you’ve got to create a desire to take action.

    The copy of your request must convince them that you have something valuable to offer them and their site visitors – and it must get them to visit your website.

    Avoid puffery such as:

    Dear Mr. Graham,

    We have served the small business community for more than 20 years and understand the problems that they have to deal with every working day. We have distilled our practical knowledge and expertise into an attractive special report that I am sure you will find informative. The report is called Money in the Bank and we would be very grateful if you could include a link to the report from your site.

    Direct is much better:

    Hi Jim,

    Getting customers to pay on time probably means a lot to users of your Business Start-up Advice section. Our special report, Money in the Bank addresses this problem in a practical, easy-to-read style that I am sure your users would really appreciate.

    Could you provide a link to the report? I’ve written the linking code below that you can either copy or edit …

    Learning the art of writing good email and web copy is essential to link building. To learn more about writing great copy read Nick Usborne’s excellent 3 Steps to Great Copy. Trawl his site for more articles and if you really want to learn, for heaven’s sake buy the man’s book.

    (iii) The website

    To secure the link you have to live up to the promise that you’ve given in your email.

  • Your content must be valuable, well organized and accessible both to people and search engines.
  • Build trust in your brand by showing testimonials and user comments
  • Provide clear, easy-to-follow linking instructions and options.
  • If you’re offering reciprocal links, show where and how their reciprocal link will appear.
  • Ideally, you should create an attractive, action oriented landing page that addresses all their concerns.

    The final lesson from direct marketing is to test, test, test. Understand the psychological process and develop your own creative solutions – try them out and adapt according to the results you achieve.

    Ken McGaffin provides link building services to established and new
    launch websites. He is the author of the highly acclaimed ‘Linking
    Matters Report’. You can claim your free copy at