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How to Solicit an Unpaid Link from Another Web Site

Links from other sites, or backlinks, can help to boost your Web site’s search engine rankings. After you’ve figured out which Web sites you want to obtain links from, you can go about the process of soliciting them.

It’s a good idea to customize your correspondence so that it doesn’t come across like junk mail. Do not start with “Dear Webmaster” if you want to stand out from the rest of their inbox fodder. Do not use generic boilerplate text (although you can start with something generic and then modify it).

In your e-mail, explain that you’ve looked at their page (giving the URL) and feel that it relates well to the subject matter of your Web page (give the URL of your page as well). You can call this subject or theme by name to further personalize your message. If a particular section of the page seems most related, specify. Prove that you actually read their page, and it may give you a better-placed link near relevant surrounding text.

If you’ve identified any technical problem with their site, such as a broken link, typographical error, missing graphic, server error, or other, you can offer this information to them. For example, you could say, “By the way, when I was on your page yesterday, I noticed a broken link about halfway down to the Squiggly Slalom Ski Shop. Thought you could use that information — we Webmasters have to stick together.” Tools are available to help you locate broken links or other problems with another person’s Web page. You should run the Link Checker tool, which is available for free on the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) site.

Praise the sites that they link to already and say that you noticed there’s an existing link to another site that offers similar services/information/products, or whatever, to yours, so you wondered . . .

Then, if you have a link magnet (creative Web applications, tools, how-to guides, reference materials, or any information that is unique and valuable to users) of some sort that you think is relevant to their site, suggest that they consider visiting your cool chart, table, interactive tool, or other widget to see if they believe it would add value for their site visitors. You don't have to ask for the link; if they like it, they'll make that decision on their own.

Close the e-mail with your name and contact information so that the Webmaster knows you’re a real person, not just a computer.

The link-request e-mail should contain some specific information that you gathered before sending the request. This preparation may take a little time, but a valuable link may be worth five or ten minutes. After all, you’re trying to start a business relationship that could have value in itself. In the best-case scenario, they give you a backlink that lasts for a long time to come and may end up passing you quality traffic to your site that goes beyond better rankings.

Writing a customized link request can show the other site’s Webmaster that you know what you are talking about, illustrate your expertness, and demonstrate your commitment to success for both parties. In this case, putting yourself in their shoes might also prove helpful. You don’t want to scare them by coming on too strong. Consider how you would react to the same type of request and adjust your approach accordingly. In some cases, it might be appropriate to pick up the phone and call them, or even visit their offices in person. (Visit them in person after you've made phone or e-mail contact: you don’t want to look like a cyber-stalker!)

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