OkCupid has some great sources for helping you get people to respond on their site (and hopefully get a date). Interestingly enough, there are a number of similarities between sending a message on an online dating site and writing a link request email. After reading this, you should be able to get more responses on dating websites and/or improve your link request success rate.
1. The focus of OkCupid’s post “Don’t be Ugly by Accident” is on having a good profile picture — and they aren’t talking about taking all your clothes off. There are many different factors that can make or break a photo such as the lighting, the setting, and possibly the most important factor, the camera. OkCupid has found a direct correlation between the type of camera that you use and how well your photo is perceived. As the chart below shows, if you use a SLR (interchangeable lens) camera to take your photo, you are doing well; if you use a camera phone, well you have a lot to compensate for.
What does this mean for link request emails you ask? It means you need to have a good looking site. If you have a site that looks like rubbish, it is going to instill a lack of confidence in your company/product and the quality of the content on your site, regardless of your actual content. Which site below would you feel more comfortable linking to? Moral of the story: have a killer design for your site.
2. Alright, on to the next section: “Optimum Message Length.” Based off of OkCupid’s research the optimal message length, for men contacting women, looking at efficiency, is about 200 characters. Clearly communicate your message and say something interesting but don’t bore them with your life story – that is you have a profile. The goal with your message is to get someone to want to learn more about you; communicate that you are awesome or unique in someway.
While each link request should be done case by case, and there is no magic length of a link request (kind of like keyword density). There are two key points you should keep in mind: 1) Everyone’s time is valuable, not just yours. Stay focused; don’t ramble on and on. 2) Send long enough emails not to look like a spammer.
3. Lesson 3: Be a girl. While the focus of this post is on how race effects reply rates, the bottom line I am seeing is that the reply rate for women is about twice as good as the reply rate for men.
Female Response Rates
Male Response Rates
This would be worth looking into for writing link request emails as well. It isn’t uncommon for a team to use a persona for doing link request and outreach emails as this can be easier to manage. If you do use personas, consider setting up one as you normally do and one for a girl. Run a test, like OKCupid did, and see if you get a better response rate with one or the other. If you choose to test this out, make sure that you create a persona, not just a name and email. A persona should be complete with unique characteristics and quirks. Typically people tend to have social networking profiles, with friends; this could be important to make the test a fairer comparison
4. Being Literate is critical. OkCupid recommends avoiding Netspeak. Messages with words like “ur”, “r”, and “u” have a significantly lower response rather than messages not containing them as shown by the message below.
In link request email, being literate doesn’t necessarily mean using proper diction and grammar; rather it means using relevant diction and grammar. Match the tone and writing style that they use on their site. You want to come off as likable and similar to the link granter as possible in order to make yourself relatable. If you can relate to someone, you are more willing to link to them.
Further, this post goes to recommend using an unusual greeting. People who used “how’s it going?” and “what’s up” were far more likely to get responses than people using “hi” or “hello”. Maybe it makes the message sender sound more personal or like they care more about the recipient. Regardless of the reason, avoid using “hi”.
When you are writing your link request find someone’s actual name and email address to get a better response rate. Don’t send a generic email addressed “Dear Webmaster”. Emails that start this way are typically pretty impersonal and usually contain some form of a link exchange request. Do the extra legwork and find a name.
5. Physical compliments are shallow and worsen your odds of getting a response – avoid them. If you are sending someone a message and use words like “sexy”, “beautiful”, or “cutie” you are significantly less likely to get a response than if you avoided these words. Conversely, if you use “awesome” and “fascinating” in your message you are more likely to get a response. Point out something that is on their profile that you have in common, prove that you actually read their profile and didn’t just look at their picture.
While you probably aren’t going to typically call someone sexy when you are asking for a link, there is something very applicable in the advice to not tell someone they are sexy. Don’t BS them. Don’t tell them they have a great site that you read everyday if it sucks. Instead of BS’ing someone, try and build a connection. Try to emphasize something that you have in common or a way to create some kind of connection with the recipient Be specific; tell them what you specifically found helpful. Letting them know there was one post that was particularly helpful is better than saying you have a very resourceful site. It means you actually spent time on their site and didn’t just look at their PageRank.
While there are a lot of differences between online dating and asking for a link, there are a lot of commonalities. Appeal to your recipient by being like them; match their interests and the language they use. Top it off with having a good looking site and you should have a good start on writing your link requests.
Geoff Kenyon is an SEO Consultant in the Seattle office and is determined to find the best burrito in Seattle. Outside of work he spends his time playing ice hockey, building igloos and eating maple syrup.