Do You Work For Them? – A Link Building Hypothetical

by on September 7, 2011 | posted in Marketing

You’re using a persona for a broken link building campaign. This means that you are pretending to have non-association with the company you are link building for when you send e-mails. You send out a relatively innocent e-mail (or so you believe), reporting on some broken links and innocently suggesting a new one for them to add to their oh-so-impressive resource list.

They reply back, not in a negative fashion, but not in a paticularly positive one, either. Their e-mail is as follows:

“Thanks so much for reaching out.  I’ll check out that resource.   Do you mind if I ask if you work for COMPANY or sell their products?  Is it a national company?”

Do you A) continue the “non-associated” act – B) come clean – or C), romp down some other path? Why?

  • Joel

    In that scenario, probably B. I’ve already offered them value by pointing out he busted links and I’ve tried to be useful. If they’re asking that question, their suspicions are probably already aroused. I’d just be honest and say yes.

  • Don Rhoades

    Great question Ross,
    I generally start the outreach being associated. Meaning the persona is a person that ‘works for them’. Create a short back story and everything. This eliminates that type of response. I’ve not tried it your way, but if I did (to answer your question) I would most likely continue the act. Chiefly because I think the door would be slammed n my face if I came clean. Not sure what other paths to romp down. Any suggestions on that?

  •!/ThomasFjordside Thomas Fjordside

    I would go with b too and answer the additional questions they asked. I don’t see anything but trouble by not admitting it at this point.

  • Paul Tyler

    I’d also come clean so B. It does of course depend on the persona and the link target but by continuing to hide the truth there is the risk of negative PR if found out. Is a lost link prospect worth that much trouble?

    They also seem open to checking out the resource and could consequently be interested in working directly with the brand which you might never find out without coming clean.

  • Steven Weldler

    Thanks for restoring this post Ross, I’m interested in hearing peoples opinions on this.
    The only time I would keep playing the “non-associated” game is if there was a very good reason that I didn’t want the site to know that my company was targeting them.
    Otherwise, the truth is, you’ve already been busted. This webmaster is obviously savvy enough to understand what the game is. Further denial is probably not going to be believed anyways. If you come straight back with a cute, sheepish email, like “Busted! You got me! I do work for company xyz, but the truth is, I would never have suggested it to you if it wasn’t relevant to your needs”, probably has a better chance of getting you that link. In my experience people like being told the truth.
    I find it interesting that they asked if it is a national company. Could it be that they want to reach out to you for some other reason and they are excited that they may have found an in? Just a thought.

  • Chris

    This is a tricky one Ross. Not that I have any experience with this *cough…cough*, but I have heard from friends that say you have to stick with the plan man…. =]

    The reason for the persona was to not be associated with the company, so IMHO, I would definitely not blow the cover.

    What do you hope to gain by informing the company that you were misleading them in the first place?

  • Ross Hudgens

    I guess the problem with continuing fibbing is that when that occurs, you pretty much have to get the link in the e-mail that follows, or the door is shut on any authentic conversation. Continuing with “please link to that site” after claiming disassociation is pretty weak. But then saying we were essentially fibbing (or not telling the whole truth), also seems to lend to less links.

    So really perhaps the conundrum is that this kind of response is normally on the trail to no links – although I have seem situations where one can be wiggled out, so it seems like there may be an “ideal” path to take.

  • Nick LeRoy

    You do what it takes to get the link. Not every e-mail outreach has to result in a new best friend or a long term relationship. While ideal, its absolutely NOT essential.

    If there is one thing I have learned from the last two weeks (with my post and the responses) is that nobody is willing to admit working outside of the “white hat” persona. it’s funny because I believe that the people who scream “White Hat” loudest are typically the ones that actually use the shadiest of techniques.

  • anthonydnelson

    I always link build as myself, never choosing to go the persona route. I am a big fan of the broken link building method as well. Here are my 3 best pieces of advice on this topic.

    1) Compliment their site or list.
    2) Make a somewhat obscure comment about their site/interests to prove you are a real person and appear to have genuine interest in the subject and your previous compliment was not overly generic.
    3) Suggest your site as a possible replacement and stress the value it would give to their websites visitors.

    If you don’t get the link this way, I don’t think a persona would necessarily helped out in any way. A more probable reason you didn’t get the link is they didn’t read your email, their site is old and no longer updated or they don’t think your site actually has any value. Building links for a good site makes things a whole lot easier.

  • H Hudson

    I have to go with Anthony on this one. It makes it easier in the long run and negative PR is hard to counter. And yep, building links for a good site makes my job easier. When doing competitive link leveling, I try to go with what makes sense for the site.

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