9 Tips for Effective Link Acquisition

Once you have set link building goals then prospected, qualified and segmented your influential link prospects you must begin the actual work of link acquisition. Though tedious, the link acquisition phase provides much of the emotional highs and lows of large scale link building. It is at this stage that you finally test the theories, perceptions, pitches and subject lines of your overall link building strategy.

This article provides 9 tips for effective link building that will improve your efficiency and link conversion rates as well as the overall value that your link building efforts produce. At the end of the article you'll find a checklist of 27 information items we recommend having on hand as you begin your work.

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1) Gather All Relevant and Required Information
The scope of information you require for acquisition depends on the scope of your overall project. For the purpose of this article we assume the widest possible scope, including everything from one touch paid directory submissions to multi-touch threaded conversations to ongoing email exchanges with journalists and bloggers. Brainstorming, gathering and organizing required information in a single spreadsheet reduces time consuming and distracting "scrambling" for information when you need it most. Further, you pave the way for ongoing link prospect relationship management. For your convenience we created a list of most frequently used information for link acquisition at the end of this article.

2) Prepare a List of Your Potential Link Offers
Having a ready list of your link offers handy makes conversational and email outreach much faster. Your offers may include things like a list of how-to URLs that answer common community questions, or the contact info and qualifications for your internal experts. Other offers may be as simple as tshirts and bumper stickers. You will find your acquisition emails and threaded conversation acquisition accelerated by your offer list. Please see 12 Powerful Offers that Build Links in Your Link Acquisition Phase for more link offer ideas.

3) Acquire Your One-Touch Links
Acquiring one touch links such as submissions to niche directories, article directories and other such sites is a tedious process, but one that can you can accomplish in a straight forward manner. We recommend working through this stack of qualified link prospects first to create a sense of momentum. Alternately, hand this grouping of link opportunities off to someone you trust and let them work though them so you can move on to the opportunities that require more deliberation, conversation and finesse. Be sure who ever executes on this grouping of link opportunities is well prepared with anchor text information, proper categories, etcetera. See below for more types of information you may need.

4) Making Link Offers in Conversation Threads
When adding your links to conversation threads you must first and foremost be certain that you contribute to the conversation in a meaningful, valuable manner that reflects well on your brand. Your offer in these cases is a thorough understanding of the context of the conversation and a valuable response that includes a link to more information. This could take place in a blog comment thread, on a forum, in a Q/A site, within a social network or wherever else you've found that search engines AND communities derive value. Always remember that you're a guest in their community, and an ambassador for your company. Read each page you're about to comment on thoroughly and always proceed with the utmost sensitivity to your targeted communities. Because of the impact that conversation participation can have on your reputation we highly advise that you conduct these activities by hand.

5) Making Link Offers in Email
When making link offers via email we recommend doing each and every one of them by hand. Though this drastically increases the amount of time required, it also drastically increases your link conversions. When making each offer by hand you more effectively tie your offer into the specific page you've targeted for a link - and you'll be more sensitive to the agenda of the person you're contacting. This agenda and offer customization along with clear, direct calls to action and easy to copy and paste html means improved link conversion rates. We've also found that shorter is almost always sweeter. Further, when we include phone numbers for contact the few calls we get often open up opportunities far beyond the typical scope of link building.

6) Making Link Offers by Phone/In Person
We recommend making link offers by phone - and sometimes in person - when sites will provide especially high value or you know that an individual is especially influential in his or her space. When making link offers by phone it's often best to leave links out of the conversation until later - perhaps not even in your first call. Focus on identifying informational needs and demonstrating your organization's authority and participation within the community.

7) Manage All Link Offer Follow Ups
As your link acquisition efforts proceed you'll accumulate email and conversation thread responses to your link offers. Stay organized using spreadsheets and dedicated inbox. In the case of your email responses you'll either look for ways to maximize your new link relationship, inquire about the reasons for their rejection, or deliberate on a response to their counter-offer. For conversation threads, whenever possible subscribe to follow up comments. If this isn't possible be sure to create a reminder for yourself to follow up on any further questions or conversation that may arise. You may find it necessary to placate community "watch dogs" who aggressively patrol for spam through demonstrations of authority.

8) Track Link Conversion Rates
If you have access to email marketing software then use its tracking functionality when mailing out your individual link offers. This way you can track opens, click throughs and begin to identify what calls to action are most powerful. In some cases you may treat a conversion as an interview with internal executives or an agreement to review your products or services. You should track your conversation thread links as well to see if they remain, and to learn how much traffic and rank lift they provide over time. Learning what makes people link in your community provides you guidance for your future content projects.

9) Grow Relationships with Linkers
The people who have linked to you in the past should be the people you go to first with new linkable content, relevant company news, and even coupons or sales offers in some cases. Be sure to thoroughly document your outreach email addresses and make note of the conversation thread sites that provide the most traffic and valued communications. Even the people who reject your first link offer may accept future offers you make, especially because you'll have so much more knowledge of what motivates your community to create links. Please read 12 Ways to Maximize Your Link Acquisition Efforts for more ideas.

The link acquisition phase of your large scale link building project requires a profound level of persistence and a strong dose of good customer service skills. Not to mention an agile, strategic editorial mind that can foresee long term link building opportunities but still have near term conversations with influential media and communities. We hope this guide better prepares you for the challenges that large scale link acquisition presents.

A 27 Item Link Acquisition Preparedness Checklist
We compiled the following to get you thinking about what information you need to have readily available when you begin your link acquisition phase. While thorough, our list is not comprehensive, as in most cases there are variations from project to project.


list of your qualified link prospects
list of link offers you're prepared to make
a link relationship management email address for yourself
list of your site's URLs you're building links to
keywords associated with each URL
ideal anchor text + variations for each URL
spreadsheets for tracking many data points


segment of "one-touch" submission sites
description snippet prepared + variations
ideal categories
physical address of company
credit card billing information
articles/press releases prepared for submission
spreadsheet for recording logins/passwords per site

Multi-Touch Conversation Threads:

segment of conversation thread link prospects
spreadsheet for recording logins/passwords per site
list of how-to URLs that answer common community questions
list of link offers
ready demonstrations of authority for community spam "watchdogs"
working knowledge of company history and key founders

Multi-Touch Email-Based

segment of hubs, resource lists, journalists, bloggers and other authorities
spreadsheet for recording your relationship management
contact email addresses
list of link offers, especially data, white papers and expert access
preparedness to identify needs not expressed in your current range of link offers
contact info + qualifications for internal experts
working knowledge of company history and key founders


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