When Link Building Goes Wrong, and Then Right

By Lindsay Mineo

You devoured the beginner’s guide to prospecting for link building. You even did your homework, reading up on all the latest dos and don’ts of proper link building. You took it step by step – taking your time, prospecting only the most qualified candidates (those most likely to respond, your brand evangelists, those whose stuff you’ve shared time and again), and over time you built relationships that seemed meaningful. But then you reached out saying hey, how about a link? And it was a little like this:

Empty Theatre
Image: The Ebell of Los Angeles

Or perhaps it was ‘thanks but no thanks,’ or maybe, it was a response that was excited, interesting and personally written, but had absolutely nothing to do with the email you wrote (not like that’s happened to me or anything…).

Beyond the Link

It’s easy to feel discouraged after putting in the blood, sweat and tears into prospecting and outreach, only to be hit with those failures. Time to grumble under your breath and draw a big fat line through that good-for-nothing, waste-of-time prospect, right?

What if something good – better, even – could come from failed link building?

Let’s ignore the fact for a moment that it would be just plain silly to dismiss a perfectly good prospect because your initial outreach didn’t get you the result you wanted, especially after putting in the weeks or months of relationship building beforehand. There are other ways this particular person might be able to help you. Now is not the time to completely forget that person exists.

What to Do When You Get Denied

Creepy GirlfriendFirst things first: If you do get a negative response, do not pressure your prospect.

Demanding a link (especially post-Penguin), being rude, or whining politely asking why not is more than enough to give that person a negative feeling about your brand (or your client’s brand), and turn them off to the idea of ever associating with you in the future. Even if you’re offering a resource you know will be really useful to their followers, they have their reasons and all you’ll do is put them on the defensive.

If your prospect has ignored your email outreach but is clearly active on Twitter or Facebook, it’s possible you used the wrong email address or that they just don’t respond to emails very well. Go ahead and reach out on a social network after a couple days, but just pick one. You might get a Like or a Retweet!

A Link Building Lesson

Here’s an example from a recent outreach failure-turned-positive-experience. I found this fantastic prospect for a client (my client is in the art industry and this prospect was an art business coach). She had everything you’d want in a qualified prospect – a strong following, active social media presence, and a website with a blog ripe for linking. She even shared others’ content!

Bill and Ted
Image: Fanpop

So I started following her on Facebook as my client. I’d comment on her posts, share them, Like them, and generally be an engaged fan. Then I reached out to her, again as my client, and tactfully asked if she’d allow me to write a guest blog post on a topic we both agreed on (I didn’t even mention the word “link”). She responded, letting me know that she doesn’t accept guest posts, but if I were to write a post on my (client’s) own blog that was relevant to her readers, she’d be happy to share it.

Thunder Screenshot

Done. My client and I collaborated on an excellent blog post that was highly relevant and useful to both. It got shared, Retweeted, Liked, and was all around successful. Hooray! But the fun didn’t stop there. I thanked the art coach and continued to be an actively engaged fan on Facebook and Twitter. A few weeks later, we held a Facebook sweepstakes for my client. Again, I reached out to the art coach and suggested her fans might like to know about the awesome prize we were giving away. She agreed and shared our sweepstakes!

Thunder Screenshot 2

My client now has an authoritative ally who is more likely to work with us in the future because we have her followers in mind.

Other examples of link-building failures-turned-positive-experience is a blogger who doesn’t accept emails asking for a link but offered to retweet interesting content if she was @mentioned, and another blogger who said no to a link on one particular page but instead gave a link on a different page because the content was solid. Once, I was even told that link-building outreach led to a job! So you never know – that link might not be the best-case scenario that you think it is.

Changing Perceptions of Success

The bottom line is that when your outreach efforts don’t lead you to the outcome you were hoping for, don’t give up. A better, or even just different, outcome might be right around the corner. And at the end of the day, no one wants to write off all that prospecting hard work as a total loss – the next time email outreach falls flat, try social. Get friendly and say, “Hey, we made this and thought your followers would like it. Feel free to share!”

Oh, and never underestimate the power of a smiley-face. :)

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Lindsay Mineo

By Lindsay Mineo

Lindsay Mineo is a Senior Search Specialist at ThunderActive. She lives with a dog, a cat, and a boy.

She likes to talk about animals and food on Twitter and Google+.

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