One of my favourite blogs at the moment is switchandshift.com. It’s not an SEO, internet marketing or even a general marketing blog, it’s about business and management and, since my current position involves managing a small team, I often find the insights posted on there useful. If nothing else, they’re always interesting.

A post from the other day, written by Ted Coine really struck a chord with me. He was talking about the fact that he cancelled his Pandora subscription over their political ads and how he would never use his blog posts to talk about his own political preferences as Switchandshift is about helping others improve in business. In other words, it’s not about him, it’s about you.

Outreach for Link Building Should be the Same

Here’s why it struck a chord with me – too many outreach messages used for link building, guest post prospecting or any other form of online marketing forget this. At work, we send dozens – or even hundreds on a busy day – of messages to site owners asking for things everyday. I receive plenty, too – people are asking for links, asking me to review their tools, asking if I can help them with problem X – and you know the difference between the ones I send and a lot of the ones I receive? The ones I send focus on the site owner.

It’s not about you.

Seriously, it’s not. Sure, you want that link so that your client’s website can improve its visibility in Google, I get that, but the key point is, why would anyone do that for you? If you just approach them cold with nothing to offer beyond “link here, it’s awesome”, you’re not going to get very far.

What Does Your Site Offer?

This is probably elementary stuff for most competent link builders, but this is the problem – too many people try it without knowing the basics of communication. Before you approach someone asking for something from their site, ask yourself what it is you’ve got to offer. Do you have some great content that fits their interests? Do you have something that can answer their question? Can you tell them about an exhibition that they’d simply love but haven’t heard about yet? These are reasons to approach them.

“I want this link” is not. Neither is “I’ll pay you”, by the way.

Like I say, you’d think this is elementary stuff, but so many people don’t seem to know this and it sucks. It makes me look bad when I’m talking to friends of mine, trying to justify my existence when they tell me that SEO is all spam and people like me should get off the internet and leave their little blog’s comment section alone.

Beyond the Link

Another thing that people seem to forget is that links can – and should be about more than just the rankings. Sure, they’ll help, but if you do it right, there’s so much more you can achieve. Below is a screenshot of a response I received after a couple of emails to a link prospect (names & situations omitted, obviously):

outreach email

I’m not saying I’m the greatest link builder in the world by any means – I’m certainly not, but any time I get the link and the client gets a sale, I’ll consider that a win. It’s definitely preferable to the email ending up in the spam folder, deleted or, worse, getting blogged about and having the client exposed to criticism.

And this is, I suppose, how this all comes back to the post I read – Pandora lost a loyal subscriber because they focused on what they wanted (money) without thinking about their users. They made it about them. Sure, they need to get advertisers, but if those ads are going to cause customers to switch services, something isn’t right. It’s the same with link building – you need that link, but if you focus on what you need rather than how your site can help the prospect’s owner, you won’t get very far.

Like I say, basic stuff, but it seems to be escaping a lot of people at the moment.

Thanks for reading.