I just want Link builders to leave me alone

I just want Link builders to leave me alone


You see a new email hit your inbox with a subject heading like:

“Can you help with this, Fi?” or “Extra insight for your website”

You open the email, and see something along these lines:

“Hey Fi!

I'm <insert (probably fake) name> from <dubious-sounding company>, and I happened to come across this article on your site <insert link>.

Over at <company> we’ve/ one of my clients has just published this resource <insert link to shit resource/article>, and I wondered whether you’d consider linking to it from the article? We think it’d be a useful resource for your readers.

Take a look and let me know what you think!

:-) :-) :-)

Best wishes,


*Heart sinks*

Oh dear.

We’ve got another one.

Another link builder.

Now. My initial instinct when I started to get these kinds of emails was “OK, let’s try and validate who they are and what they’re pushing here. But I soon learned that researching these people on places like LinkedIn was largely fruitless.

These days = straight into the spam folder. I get about at least two of these each week.

Because… why should I let these faceless link builders stick their random link on my site?


Let’s translate what the email above was really saying:

“Hey person-I've-never-heard-of-until-today!

I've seen your site Digital Drum has the beginnings of a decent domain authority (DA) score. Plus, I've dug around on social and see you've got a few followers.

I'm a faceless link-builder from an organisation you've never heard of, and I was Googling around for my client, basically trying to find sites I could approach to help them get backlinks for their weak website. I’m being paid for each link I get placed.

The client (whom I've never met because I'm likely half way across the world from them) has just published this piss poor bit of weak content, and I'm emailing you because I want you to add a link to this shit content in the article I might have mentioned above. I think this is the least tenuous article it could go in from briefly looking around your site, even though it’s about toy cars.

What do you reckon then? Gonna give me that link?”

I’ve become evermore irritated by these types of emails. Some of them ask me to link to completely irrelevant content too - ‘how to create a business plan’ or ‘our new app which tells you the price of tea in China.’

And, if you don’t answer the call of the faceless link builder, they will keep emailing you until you do. Maybe even resorting to tactics lie the below example:

Think this was their third follow up email. This nearly made me pop a vein in my head.

Think this was their third follow up email. This nearly made me pop a vein in my head.

What we need is some kind of digital pepper spray or Raid equivalent for these inbox pests.

What is link building again?

Link building is the process of acquiring hyperlinks from other websites to your own. A hyperlink (usually just called a link) is a way for users to navigate between pages on the internet. (Moz.com)

SEOs will probably tell you that gaining ‘natural’ links is one of the hardest parts of their job, and that’s because building high quality links takes time. It’s rarely achieved through emailing someone (à la the above example) and brazenly asking for one.

Sometimes, as part of my remit I have to work on outreach activities in order to get a piece of content placed (or an editor interested in commissioning one) on a relevant, third party site. It can be really hard, because you’re likely starting from scratch for your company (or your client). Even if you find the right contact to approach, they’re totally ‘cold’ in terms of the relationship you have with them, and they’ve never heard of you.

Your first instinct might be to just Tommy gun everyone who looks relevant with the same email, asking them to include a link somewhere - for the love of God, ANYWHERE on their site.


A piece of specially-created content which has the blessing of your target outlet’s managing editor, content manager or journalist will have complete buy-in from them when it’s published. This means it’s far more likely to be promoted via their mailers, and perhaps through their social channels too. Equally, creating a well-written press release (ideally with some kind of ‘hook’) that will be of genuine interest to a particular industry or target audience can be worth the time investment.

Paid-for links? I don’t actually agree too much with the concept of paying for placed content to get a backlink, but I suspect there are cases when it’s fair enough to do so. For example, is a paid-for entry on a relevant, established industry directory or review site account worth a shot? Maybe…

If I was doing this kind of activity for a client, these are the steps I’d usually work by:

  • Research the market and identify relevant sites/outlets - and the best contact for each. Pay attention to little details such as how their name is spelled!

  • Carefully tailor your email and pitch, and try to include some bespoke angles or ideas for their site/publication - you want the recipient to be inspired or feel like something ‘fresh’ is coming over to them!

  • Don’t ever assume they’re going to get back to you (but hope for the best)

  • If someone does get back to you, promptly get back to them, and talk about what might work, share ideas and see if you can agree an angle

  • With their blessing, create some unique content for their site which both parties (client and outlet) are ultimately happy with

  • Get the piece approved and over the line. The outlet/site is more than happy to publish it - and ideally, no money has changed hands

The trick is quality over quantity, and trying to second-guess what’s going to be genuinely tempting to the outlet/s you’re targeting.

This method takes a lot longer than just pinging someone an email and brazenly asking them to include a link or publish something rubbish with a link, but the former is the way I’d always do things given the choice.

Just think of what you might unlock for the client by way of benefits through all this hard graft…

How to make your content shareable — 8 key characteristics

How to make your content shareable — 8 key characteristics

What is UX writing?

What is UX writing?