When you're out link building the manual way, reaching out to webmasters and asking them to add a link back to your or your client's site, the response rate is typically very low. While you may only need one response for every couple hours of work to make it worth your while, it would greatly improve your efficiency if you could just double this response rate, never mind get it up to 50% or beyond! By slightly changing your methodology in asking for these links and nurturing short term relationships, these results can be possible.
It has been covered many times before that sending a generic email to every webmaster is going to have a low success rate, so I won't go over that again here. However, here are some tips that I have picked up over my years of link building, to help create relationships in a short period of time and improve the response rate on your requests.
1. Find the recipient's name and job title
Put yourself in the webmasters shoes and think, would you be more open to an email written to "Dear Webmaster" or one addressed to you specifically? Regardless of how well you have customized the content of the email itself, few webmasters will read an email from an unknown email account that is addressed to “Whom It May Concern” and will most likely assume it is spam.
Finding the name of a website owner isn't the most difficult of tasks and might only take a few additional minutes, but can improve your response rate and help develop a real relationship. Many websites will include this on their Contact page, or in the About section, so check there first. Failing that, look up the domain in WhoIs, or even follow their links to Twitter or Facebook pages where they might publish the information.
If you are emailing a larger corporation or website that has many employees, check out their Team page for the employee that is most suitable to contact and make reference to both their name and job title, and why you think it is their area of work. They will appreciate the time and effort in emailing the right person, and be more likely to spend their time adding links for you.
2. Make reference to their website
Don't spend all day reading their website, but do scan it for something that catches your attention.
Maybe it's a controversial blog post title, or a viewpoint that you disagree with. Start a dialogue with the webmaster and they will be more likely to respond to you, especially if you disagree with them!
3. Be genuinely interested
This one almost goes without saying too, but is a point that many people miss. You may be link building for a fishing store, and not care one bit about the genre, but remember that that webmaster likes the topic enough to spend hours producing and maintaining a website about it, so try to speak to them as someone of similar enthusiasm and interest.
Have a working knowledge of your clients' products and the industry so that you can reference something he has said on his website, or make a recommendation that actual interests him.
It may just be that your client sells something he never knew existed, and will be thankful for you sharing that with him.
4. Match their tone of voice
If the website is very relaxed and friendly, then you should match this in your email (Hi ___, Thanks etc), but if it seems very straight laced keep it formal (Dear ___, Yours Sincerely etc).
My favorite example of this is when trying to build links related to pirates, one of our link builders wrote to a webmaster suggesting “a link for yer site” - be creative!
5. Go off topic
Not only will this prove you've read their site and that you are friendly, but also they will feel more obliged to respond to you -- people love talking about themselves!
This can be as simple as the weather where they live, a local sports team's results, or something more personal such as just getting married. If they shared it online, they are probably willing to talk to you about it!
All of these tips should help to develop relationships with webmasters that you can leverage for links, and improve the response rate on your emails. They might respond telling you about the weather where they live, but they don't want to add any links, but just the fact that they responded means that you can further engage them in conversation.
Although these emails may take longer to write, if they improve the response rate accordingly then you are working more efficiently. Be creative and try different options to see which has the best success rate for you. And most importantly: only target website where it truly makes sense.
Arnie Kuenn is the author of Accelerate! Content Development & Marketing to Grow Your Business Online (April release) and has held executive positions in the world of new technologies and marketing for more than 20 years. Kuenn is the founder and president of Vertical Measures, a strategic Internet marketing company located in Phoenix, AZ. The company specializes in web content marketing and development, search and social marketing.