The Lost Art of the Personal Link Request

When was the last time you got a truly decent link request? I honestly can’t even remember.

Link Request Have You Seen MeWhere have all the honest, compelling, link requests gone? It’s kind of like “Where Have all the Flowers Gone” only with fewer hippies. It makes me wonder if people have just given up on the real pursuit of links through sincere one-to-one contact.

Does anyone do that anymore? Send emails one at a time and really try to connect and communicate with others? I really hope so. I still think it’s one of the best ways to actually get great links. But I wonder if anyone else still does.

I wonder if people have had so much failure in this department that they’ve just given up on slogging though the entire tedious process of trying to talk to people one at a time.

Hey, I never said it was glamorous work, just that it’s effective. That is, if you can get past an obsession with the superficial side of link building.

Unfortunately, it seems a lot of people can’t. But that’s only good news for those who can. If you can get over trying to use links to trick the search engines, then you can get into why personal link requests can still be a viable and successful link building strategy.


Sometimes when you look at someone’s social networks and they have hundreds or thousands of friends or followers, you have to question how many of them are actually real. In most cases a lot of them are empty connections.

If you spend your time networking for your site, you can build a legitimately large network. OK, maybe not everyone will make your Christmas card list, but they could become people you send a message to the next time you decide to run a contest or publish a case study.

In some cases it’s actually better to start a conversation when you want absolutely nothing in return. The entire web seems so wrapped up in quid pro quo it’s really refreshing when someone only wants to talk.

Remember, just because you don’t include your URL in an initial email doesn’t mean you’re not making progress on your link building. This seedling of a relationship could grow into something much more fruitful in the future.


We’ve all seen a lot of big brands “outed” very publicly recently and many of them are back in the SERPs now as though nothing has happened. Well I suppose it helps to have a multi-million dollar bottom line and a household name. When you have that, being put in the SEO pillories in the New York Times square is a relatively painless slap on the wrist.

The masses, who know little or care little for SEO best practices, just want their favorite big brand products to come up in the SERPs. So the search gods relent to keep their people happy. But it’s not quite the same for the little guy.

Most small brands don’t have armies of fans clamoring to have their listings in the search results. So they might not meet with the same benevolence that the larger companies do when it comes to making mistakes.

I’m not saying that big brands should be forgiven for their idiocy just because they have a few thousand stores worldwide. But, they probably will be.

I’m also not saying that by sending out one-on-one link requests that you’re going to achieve the brand power of a certain department store that’s not Macy’s.

So what am I saying?

Just that, ingratiating a lesser known brand into the hearts and minds of customers is a ginormous undertaking. But you can start to chip away at it, by connecting with one person at a time. Each person who comes to feel an emotional connection to your brand can become a powerful asset down the road.

Staggered Links

When you try to talk to people individually, yes it means the links won’t all come at once. But, that’s actually kind of the point.

It’s better to acquire links over time and build momentum for the long-run. In some cases abnormal link spikes can raise red flags.

It’s perfectly normal when something goes viral or blows up in a certain industry. But there’s no risk of even getting near the radar when you build your links one email at a time.

When you contact people individually, sure it’s a slow-going process and not everything your site creates is going to be appropriate for everyone out there. But the more people you reach out to, the more you can target the most appropriate audiences for each new endeavor. It also helps you refrain from hitting up the same small group of favor-givers over and over.

In this case your links come in small groups, but they can keep coming at a consistent pace. Having a solid base of people who are receptive to your content gives you a launch pad for everything you do.

And if these are reputable people with influence of their own, having their endorsements will pay off. Not only can you get the links from the usual suspects, but some of their followers may take notice of you, and some of their followers and so on.

Over time your content will continue to gain links and traffic without you having to constantly push it. And, I think, that’s kind of the ultimate goal.


Perhaps personal link requests aren’t the dying breed I think they are. Perhaps they just aren’t in my inbox.

I fear that the vastness of the web and the astronomical link numbers we think are necessary to rank, make it seem impractical. But I still contend it isn’t.

When you think past links for the purpose of hitting the right ranking signals, there are still so many reasons to send a simple email. If the argument comes up against I only ask:

  • Aren’t our social networks, names and brands still a huge factor in creating a dedicated following for our sites?
  • Isn’t establishing contact and developing allies and repeat sources still a major aspect of earning the kinds of links that truly boost trust rank and relevance?

I still think so. Do you?

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