Blog covering a variety of Search Engine Optimization topics.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Acquiring Links - The Email Game

One aspect of SEO that has been integral for as long as search engines have been around is link building. Even as search engines have continually evolved and improved, old fashioned one-way links still can do wonders for a site's ranking. While there many methods for obtaining these links, the one I'd like to focus on today is simply emailing people and asking for them. Whether you are offering up a sum of money for the links (essentially paid advertising) or your just asking very nicely, there are a lot barriers out there that can get in the way of your email making it to the site owner. "Spam" filters run on nearly all email address accounts from ISP's, as well as all the free email providers (Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail, etc.). And the people that do have email addresses hosted on their domain typically get so much crap to their "info" or "contact" accounts (oftentimes the only email addresses listed on the site), that they don't even read them anymore. Moreover, an ongoing list is out there that will make just about any email with the word "travel" or "link" or "mortgage" and the like in it go straight into the recipeint's bulk or junk folder. It gets harder and harder with each passing day to effectively contact someone that doesn't know your message is coming. So, what's a brother to do?

Well, for starters, you can work on the email header. Never put the words "link exchange" in the header. I've used tons of them (email headers) over the years, but they have all been something that complemented the site in some way and asked for more information. Like "I like the site", etc. From there, it is important to make it obvious to the recipient that you actually did visit their site and are attempting to engage in a worthwhile communication with them. Compliment the site, its features. Suggest a spot on the page where you think a link would fit in well. Talk about why you think your site would be a good outlet / resource for their visitors. Of course all of these don't apply to every situation out there, but in general you should be searching for relevant websites that you do in fact think are a good fit for your links (at least those are the ones that are going pay dividends in the SERPs). And be brief. If you are lucky enough for someone to read your email, you definitely don't want to be taking up much of their time. Do all of these things and you will see a much better response rate than the average Joe. - Hey, if you have a second, go check out VA Joe.

Anyways, on with the chlorophyll. One other thing that I think is important to include in this discussion is what domains to use for your own email addresses. Now, if you're simply searching around for relevant sites to your service and emailing a few dozen people each week then it's unlikely that your email address / domain will end up on a blacklist for spamming. It only takes 1-2 people complaining to put you in the penalty box, though, so it's a safe bet to vary up what email address and from what domain you are sending emails from every few months. I would also advise against using one of your main domains for the email address as well - better safe than sorry, you don't want your money-making sites getting blackballed. With really good sites, you might want to go ahead and send the email from your "main" email address just to have more credibilily heading into things. Sound good? Go get some links.


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