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Retargeting Old Contacts for New Links

John Doherty —  August 18, 2011
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Today I want to talk about a simple tactic that you should try if you have been working on linkbuilding for a specific site for a while and have had some blog posts written about your site, without links.

The Skinny

At my old job, my coworker had been working on building links to the site for a while. He came up with the idea of doing a blogger awards series, whereby we would give a blogger in a specific industry-related niche an award. They would receive a badge to embed on their site, and sometimes they would write a nice blog post about the award.

For a while, my coworker sent a Press Release with the award announcement email, and asked them nicely to publish it. Many of them did, but unfortunately a lot of them also took out the links back to our site.

Enter Operation “Get Those Links!”

When I was at Linklove London, I heard many speakers talking about reaching back out to old contacts for links. I realized that we had many sites that we had awarded these awards to, yet were not linking to us.

Luckily, we had kept the list of all of the past contacts.

What I did

I went back and found all of the sites that we had contacted. Then, I ran the OpenSiteExplorer backlinks report for the site.

Next, I put all of the award winners into one Excel spreadsheet workbook, and all of the links to our site in another. Then, I got the clean URLs of those sites using this formula (assuming the URL was in column A):

=left(A2,find(“/”,A2,8))

Then, I did a simple VLookup between the two spreadsheets to find the sites that were already linking to us. Here’s the Vlookup formula:

=Vlookup(A1,Sheet1!A:A,1,FALSE)

Then I sorted out all of the sites already linking to us, and boom, there was my initial list of prospects.

Next step: Qualifying

Since I also knew the name of the name of the campaign, I was able to put that into Google in quotes. For the sake of anonymity, let’s use the example of “The Werewolf Club’s Young Werevolves Award”.

I ran the following search:

“The Werewolf Club’s Young Werevolves Award” -site:http://www.mysite.com

Now I simply opened the sites that had this text and manually qualified if they were actually already linking back to us. If no, I put an “N” next to the site so I could reach back out to them. (PS: I’m sure there is another way to automate this.)

Important: I also made a note of the sentence in their blog post where I could insert a link. This helped me to customize the link request!

Outreach Time!

After going through all of the sites, which took a bit of time, I finally had my link targets and could reach back out to them.

Here is how my link request email looked:

Hi [name] –
 
I want to reach out again from (my site’s brand) and congratulate you for winning one of our awards. We hope that you have found the information helpful. Also, thank you for writing a blog post about the award!
 
I was wondering if you might be willing to add a link back to (my brand) from your post (insert post link). Doing so would really help us out!

Here is what I would propose:
(Their text with the link embedded)

Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.

Cheers -
John
(brand)

So what happened

I sent out about 30 of these emails. Guess what my response and success percentage were?

Close to 50%

I was building links towards a very competitive keyword as well, with 33,000 local searches a month yet one of the most competitive in the niche.

When I started this campaign, we ranked 18th behind a lot of strong domains. Our domain was strong (700+ linking root domains and a bunch of links related to the keyword phrase I was targeting), yet we were way behind the competition.

So I added 14 links, from old articles, to our page. Guess what happened?

In 4 weeks, we jumped from #18 to #5. These are the only links I built to the homepage during this period.

Boom.

John Doherty

Posts

I'm the Senior Marketing Manager of HotPads.com, based in San Francisco. Previous to Hotpads I worked at Distilled for 2 years as an online marketing consultant. In my spare time I shoot lifestyle photography, ski, rock climb, and update my Twitter and Google+ accounts.

10 responses to Retargeting Old Contacts for New Links

  1. This is a really excellent example of good outreach being done well!

    The results speak for themselves too!

    Awesome work buddy.

    • Thanks man! It was fun to see the response rate (higher than I expected) and then to see the rankings results.

      I think the key was the personal touch. All they had to do was take the line of their text that I included, with the link, and plug it into their blog post.

      Make it easy, and they’ll do it. Take the work out for them.

  2. I think the biggest factor in response rate is the fact that you already had a rapport with the person. I tend to leave (thoughtful) comments at least 2-3 times before asking for a link, it works well on smaller blogs because they love getting comments and start to recognize your name.

    • Bekka –
      Thanks for the comment! I absolutely agree. I definitely think this is why I got such a good response. We already had the relationship built, so they were open to my request.

      I often hear about people talking about exactly what you’re describing, but it’s so hard to find examples. Maybe people are just more secretive than I am :-)

  3. John, as always, you’re tips & tricks are spot on.

    At my company we have an award we give out to customers… and (feel free to insult me here) never ask for links back to our site… DUH!

    You just reminded me of the potential value that is out there to grow my backlinks with very limited effort.

    Thanks man!

    • Thanks Mozello!

      In regards to not asking for links back, that’s alright I think. If I had been doing the press releases with the awards we did, I would have included the link to start off. But not including it allowed me to reach back out to them. So there’s always a Plan B!

      Thanks for the comment, and good luck!

  4. John

    Your article comes at a perfect time, since although we hadn’t used badges or awards, I’d recently gone back and found lots of blogs and articles mentioning my client’s brand but without links. I love the extra tip at pointing out the exact sentence where a link could go. I’m going to do that! This might not seem like a big deal to some people, but those small little touches make a HUGE difference for sure. Make it “idiot-proof” as my Dad would always say to me.

    -Dan

    • Dan –
      Thanks for the comment, man! I’m glad this comes at a good time for you. I really think including their sentence with your link worked in is a fantastic way to go.

      I’d love to hear what your success rate it in getting those links.

      Enjoy!

  5. good stuff as usual John. Little things like this are def overlooked in day to day operations. Great post!

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