If you want your site on the front page of Google, one of the most important contributing factors—as confirmed by Google—is links pointing to your site. SEO experts agree; 72% believe backlinks are a significant ranking factor.  

To get those precious links, most people will put together a quick email to the webmaster of a high authority website and ask for a link, please and thank you. 

The typical response? Silence.

If you want to get no reply to your link request, the good news is it’s easy; just follow these five mistakes most people make and you too can enjoy no responses and zero incoming links.

On the other hand, if you’re someone who actually wants to increase the authority of your website and get more traffic? You could always just do the opposite. It’s up to you. 

Don’t: Skip The Research

Who has time to do research? If you’re not worried about actually getting a link, then save your time. After all, it’s a numbers game, right? As long as you send out enough emails, someone’s bound to link to you eventually.

Of course, if you want to get quality links, you’ll want your emails to be highly targeted, which means research. The good news is research will be the fuel that powers your whole campaign. If an email is worth sending, it’s worth researching.

Here are a few essentials to get you started:

  • The name – We’ll get more into this later, but asking someone for something when you don’t even know their name is bad form and the perfect start to not getting a link. 
  • Their direct email address – If you’re relying on a generic address or contact form to make your request, you’re putting yourself on the back foot. 
  • Their audience – What does their audience look like? What are they interested in? 
  • Their recent activity – What are they up to? What content have they been posting on their site? 

The best place to start looking for this information is the recipient’s website. For example, an About Us page might tell you the best person to get in touch, or the type of audience they have. A News/Blog page will give you insight into their recent activities and the kind of content they share. 

Next on the list is their social media accounts. Obviously, this can give you insights into the company’s audience and the content they share, but you can also often learn more about a company from their LinkedIn profile than their own website. 

It’s also worth checking out company databases (such as Crunchbase), which can usually fill in any missing details.

Don’t: Use The First Subject Line You Think Of

Webmasters for high authority websites get emailed every day asking for links, and they’ll decide whether (or not) to open your email in seconds. With a thoughtless subject line, it’s easy for your link request to be lost in a sea of unread emails. On the other hand, if you want your link request to be even looked at, the subject line has to make your email stand out. 

Now, some people will read this and think standing out means using some mysterious, clickbaity line, maybe with a RE: or FW: at the start to trick people into opening them. They may even see their open rate go up. However, anything that makes your recipient feel like they were tricked into opening the email will destroy any trust. That’s why it’s important to go for clarity over cleverness. 

That doesn’t mean you should use ‘Link Request’ as your subject line either. While it’s definitely clear, it doesn’t give the recipient a compelling reason to open your email. Use your research to find out what would be of genuine interest and value to the recipient, and highlight that in your subject line. 

For example, depending on the circumstances, you could try:

  • A comprehensive guide for {topic their audience interested in} – Offer them something they can share that’ll make them look good too. 
  • Loved your post on {topic} – Everyone likes to have their work appreciated (just make sure you genuinely did love their post; more on this later). 
  • Quoted you in our latest post on {topic} – Similar to the above, this subject also sparks curiosity and sets the ground for reciprocity. 

It’s a lot to ask for a handful of words, so don’t be surprised if it takes you longer to write your subject line than any other part of the email. Whatever subject line you choose, make sure your email copy delivers on the promise your subject line makes. 

Don’t: Start with ‘Dear Sir/Madam,’

Presuming someone’s actually made it past your subject line and opened up your email, starting with ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ is an effective way to let them know they can safely ignore what’s to follow. 

First of all, this opening immediately makes it clear you have no idea who you’re emailing. Bravo sir (or madam), you’ve clearly put zero effort into learning anything about me. Take a guess how much effort I’m going to put into reading it…

At the root of this is personalization. According to Ascend2’s 2017 State of Email Marketing survey, message personalization is rated as the most effect email marketing tactic. At its most basic level, that means using their name. Even if you’re automating your emails, a simple {FirstName} merge tag is easy to implement and, more importantly, demonstrates that you at least took the effort to look up their name. 

However, true personalization is more than just the first name. The entire body of the email should be tailored to them and their needs until it looks like it was written solely for them. 

How? Use your research to find what’s important to them and their audience. What are they up to? What’s going on in their business? What are they fans of? What do they hate? Imagine you were talking to them face-to-face. How would you talk to them? By writing your email for that one person, rather than a faceless crowd, you can produce a truly tailored email that’s more likely to get a positive response. 

Don’t: Show Zero Interest

While personalization shows we’ve done our research, you can still reduce your chances of getting a link by simply not showing interest in them. 

This follows one of the key laws of influence as described by Cialdini: reciprocity. Simply put, if we demonstrate an interest in them, they’re more likely to be interested in us. Conversely, if you don’t show any interest in them, it doesn’t matter how cool or useful your offer is—they’ll ignore it like it was never there. 

One key way to show your lack of interest is to ignore any instructions they’ve provided for requesting a link on the site. If they’ve clearly laid out a process for requesting a link, such as using a specific email address or subject line, then follow that process. 

Instead, use your research into their recent activity to demonstrate interest. Have they just launched a new product? Congratulate them. Have they just written a post declaring their despair at the season finale of Game of Thrones? Commiserate with them. 

At this point, I’m obligated to point out the ‘ego-boost’ method has been done to death. 

“I loved your recent post on {topic}. Great job! Anyway, can I have a link now?”

I’ve literally lost count of how many times I’ve seen that opening, and so has the person you’re emailing. To stand out, you need to raise the bar. First of all, if you genuinely liked a recent post they wrote, great, say it. You just have to make it clear you’ve actually read it. 

One way is by commenting on the post and sharing it in your social media. Share what you specifically enjoyed and what you’ve learned or implemented as a result. Now our email looks a little more like this: 

“I loved your recent post on {topic}, I simply had to share it with my followers (and they loved it too)! I particularly liked your point about {key takeaway}. I followed your advice and {positive result}!”

While it won’t be enough on its own, you’ll stand above 99% of the requests in their inbox if you can demonstrate a genuine interest in what they’re doing. 

Don’t: Ask For a Link in the First Email

Now, you may have been taught that if you want something, you should ask for it, and that’s kinda true. Still, if you reach out as a stranger and ask for a link, even if your email is researched and personalized, chances are your email is going straight to the recycle bin. 

So, if you can’t ask for a link, what’s the point in emailing them anyway?

The first email’s job isn’t to get a link; it’s to get in contact and start building a relationship. That doesn’t mean you can’t talk about your content or whatever you’re trying to get a link to. You just have to put yourself in their shoes and look at it from their viewpoint. What’s in it for them? 

For most people, they’ll be naturally interested in content that’s useful to their audience and that makes them look good for sharing it. So, rather than asking for a link, you could ask if they have any feedback on your content, or if their audience would find your content useful. The difference may seem tenuous, but asking for a link makes it about you. Asking for their feedback or what their audience thinks makes it about them. 

If they respond positively, then you have permission to ask for a link in the next email.


It’s easy to mess up a link request, which is why so many marketers make these same mistakes. Doing things the right way is harder. It takes time and effort. Still, if you’re willing to put the work in, getting a link doesn’t have to be a numbers game. Instead, by doing your research, personalizing your email, and offering clear value, you can get links that are actually worthwhile and grow your site’s authority. 

About the Author: Lucy Literado is the VP of Marketing @ Reply. Lucy is #3 employee in Reply with 8+ years of experience in different fields of B2B Marketing. Her main areas of focus are SEO, Content Marketing, Analytics, CRO and a bit of PPC for SaaS companies. Fond of working, traveling and Sci-Fi.