Though many small businesses don’t have the time or motivation to digitally market their business and website, there are a fair few website administrators that are the complete opposite. For years it has been common for websites administrators to reach out to other websites and network with them in an attempt to garner more back-links.
If you didn’t already know, back-links from quality sites are a great way to improve your organic rankings, since they are one of the Google algorithm’s ranking signals. But having a gung-ho attitude might be too much of a good thing. There is a fine line between being proactive about your back-link profile and coming across as a spammer. So how do you know if you’re doing things right, or just irritating back-link prospects?
There are a lot of competing views on the art of reaching out for back-links, but there are several practices you should adopt, as well as some you should avoid. Human beings don’t like spam, plain and simple. I think most people have experienced an elevation in blood pressure when they come across an email from the infamous Nigerian prince (ok, maybe this is an older example, but there are a lot of spamming and scamming through email).
But to be effective with your online marketing, you need to be proactive. If you’re not following up with prospects, you just might be suffering from one of the seven deadly sins: sloth. The ugly truth is that most people won’t take action after the first offer. It takes multiple follow-ups to get someone to take action, be that action linking to your site or buying a product. To help you find the delicate balance between being diligent and being annoying, let’s take a closer look at the art of back-link requests.
Following Up Doesn’t Make You A Spammer
Some small businesses deliberately choose to not follow up with back-link prospect because they don’t want to be labeled a spammer. And I wholeheartedly understand where they’re coming from. But being labeled a spammer simply for reaching out to a prospect seems to be a bit of an overreaction in my opinion. After all, they include their contact information for a reason.
I would even go so far as to say that if they don’t reply and you send one follow-up email, you’re still not a spammer. But if you hound your prospects relentlessly, sending them 3 or more follow-up emails a month, perhaps you’re going a bit too far. In addition, it depends on your past relationship with the prospect. If you’ve established a professional relationship and you both know each other already, you certainly have more leeway. Just try not nag them too much.
Some people are so busy and inundated with requests that they can’t hope to respond to everyone’s initial outreach email. Just because your prospect doesn’t immediately respond doesn’t mean they ignored you. Maybe the email wasn’t successfully delivered, maybe it got buried in their inbox, or perhaps they’re just on vacation. But a good rule of thumb to follow is to only persist with one follow-up.
Conversely, pretend that you’ve already sent out 3-5 emails, one of which was the initial request, over the course of two weeks. In that amount of time, if they still haven’t responded, it’s probably because they don’t want to interact with you. Sorry Charlie, but some people are going to ignore you, so bolster the thickness of your skin and move one.
Using Social Media to Your Advantage (Appropriately)
Sometimes it’s a good idea to use Twitter to send a follow-up tweet to your prospect. Sometimes your email might erroneously end up in their spam folder. But consider that most people respond to tweets more quickly than email because Twitter is more real-time and ephemeral. But if they haven’t responded to your email within an hour (or even a few days), don’t immediately reach out again.
Be sure to use Twitter sparingly, though, because it will annoy some people. Yet again, I would only send one follow-up using either email or Twitter, but not both. It will make you look like an obnoxious stalker. If you don’t like Twitter, you might also be able to reach out to them on LinkedIn. Use your own judgment when selecting a social media platform, because it really depends on the type of site you’re reaching out to. Twitter seems to be more personal and casual, while LinkedIn typically is thought of as being more professional.
So is it a good idea to follow up on back-link requests? Of course it is, because it will help you increase your organic rankings by bolstering your back-link profile. However, don’t be tempted to reach out to low quality sites.
Also, exercise caution, thoughtfulness, and respect when choosing to follow-up. Blasting every potential back-link candidate with a tidal wave of follow-up emails is a sure fire way to make people angrily block you…or even say nasty things about you on public social media channels (which I think we can all agree is bad for business).