I’ll stop the world and link with you

Wondering why a link builder gives a link to someone? Contributor Julie Joyce takes us through a few failures and successes that can help you better understand why people link.


I’m sure you get a bazillion emails a day. I feel like I spend half my time weeding through them because I’m afraid I’ll miss something legitimate. I might open one out of every 30 emails that come from someone I don’t recognize.

The latest outreach email that really grabbed my attention had several things going for it:

First, it was very personalized but not over-the-top stalky. I’m a huge fan of the English character Alan Partridge, and Josh (the sender) knew that from Twitter. The subject was a famous line of Alan’s (“Smell my cheese!”), and the whole email was very funny and clever.

It was obvious that he knew how to get my attention, but he did it with something other than a cash offer or a “Please please please!! Please do this!!!” rant.

See below:


It was short and sweet: five lines. I knew what he was asking me to do. Sounds simple, but I have pored over some outreach emails where I truly have no clue exactly what I’m supposed to do. I get so many emails every day that if it’s going to have to be marked to read later in a quiet moment, it’s not going to get read for a while, if ever.

The information was 100 percent relevant to me. It was a post about link building, and I’m a link builder. It wasn’t about machine learning or meditation or cheap watch bands. (And yes, I get plenty of those.)

Let’s take a look at a few lines from emails that, in my opinion, totally failed.

Outreach emails that didn’t pass the test


I was just looking over your website and really enjoyed it. In fact, it made me wonder if you ever accept guest articles.”

Fail: My name is pretty easy to find on the site. There are no articles on the site, none at all. There’s no blog, there’s no section for blog posts and so on. Obviously, this person didn’t actually look over my website and enjoy it.

“Hello Sir,”

Fail: It’s true that I own the company with my husband, but assuming he’s the one who gets the emails is a bad idea. He’s not. Any email that comes to me addressed in this way gets deleted. Immediately. As I say above, if you look at the site, it’s obvious who runs it. If you see a male and a female, don’t assume the male’s in charge.

“I visited your web site earlier today and just wanted to congratulate you on a well presented, and informative web site. I have a site which has content relevant to your site.”

Fail: This was sent to me as the webmaster of an old site that we haven’t updated in about eight years. It’s not well-presented, nor is it informative. In fact, it was created by an intern when we had nothing else for her to do one afternoon. It’s nothing at all. It’s actually just one page, and most of that page is an image. What kind of site must this person have that is relevant to my old monstrosity? Why waste time sending an email to a site like that?

“I figured it might be of interest to your audience over at …”

Fail: Um, where? Seriously. There was no “where” listed, just the “…” bit.

So, what makes ME link?

What has made me, a link builder, give an editorial link? Social is easier, as I can just retweet something, but what makes me link?

First off, the subject line has to grab my attention. Seriously, it’s very important, and it only becomes more and more important as we get busier and receive more unsolicited emails. If it’s something generic like, “Don’t miss this partnership opportunity!” then I make great use of the delete functionality.

Secondly, while it’s still regarding the subject line, I don’t tend to ever open emails that use flashing emojis, have grammatical or spelling errors or seem dangerous.

Regarding the content of the email, it has to mean something to me in some way — which leads me to my primary criterion for granting a link:

The content, no matter what it is, has to be useful and relevant to something I’m writing.

Let’s look at a few links that I’ve given 100 percent organically.

Examples of editorially given links

As you’ll see below, in one of my previous articles on this site, I linked to Glenn Gabe’s resource on how to find the pages hit by Panda.

The report that he lays out truly is one of the most helpful reports I’ve learned to run on sites, and I use the idea of it for many things other than Panda identification. I’ve bookmarked the page and sent it to clients who want to know how to do some easy comparisons and have little experience in Analytics.


The reason for the link? It’s useful and relevant.

On my own site, I have a page listing the main resources that I find helpful. As you’ll see in the image below, I linked to Kerboo because it’s my primary analysis tool. I recommend it to clients who want to do their own analysis, and it’s my first step in any link audit.


The reason for the link? It’s useful and relevant.

In an interview I did many years ago, I mentioned Evernote. I have probably linked to Evernote almost as many times as I’ve linked to actual link and SEO tools — because it is amazing. It’s something I have used for years and depend on to organize my life, personally and professionally.


The reason for the link? It’s useful and relevant.

Notice a pattern here?

I won’t be stupid enough to tell you that you can’t get links with boring/redundant/useless/irrelevant content. However, it’s definitely easier when you have something worth linking to, no matter how you’re going about getting the links!

[Article on Search Engine Land.]

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.


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