How to Write a Link Request Based on Tips From OkCupid

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.

Photo Attractiveness by Camera Type

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.

AP Logic - SLO Web DesignSuperior Web







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.

how long should a link request be

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

Female Response Rate


Male Response Rates

Male Response Rate


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.

link request email instructions


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

Geoff Kenyon

Geoff Kenyon is a senior consultant at Distilled where he leads the strategy and execution of online marketing strategies to drive traffic and revenue for his clients.  Geoffh264 // Geoff joined Distilled in 2010 after working in-house and...   read more

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  1. Thankyou for your information about asking for links,you provided some really useful content and tips, I also think some of your tips regarding how to address webmasters could also be used in email marketing, I am going to give that ago and see if make a difference to open rates. So now that I know how to do it,
    'How's it going, I have enjoyed the article about links to your site and I think it would be awesome to have a link from your site to mine. Oh by the way I am a real woman!' Regards Becky

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  2. geir

    Isnt using "personas" illegal?

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  3. I really like those charts. It's aweful giving the advice to pretend being a girl, just to get better response rates. Doesn't that suck? ;) yes it does - it's like real life, right?

    Again linkbuilding is a really hard business and costs more time than years before. Lots of webmasters know more and more about SEO and "detect" those messages immediately.

    Tough times for linkbuilder :)


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  4. Hey Geoff, I really liked your post. This is an awesome analogy. Not "Calling someone sexy" is more crucial than most people think. I get emails all the time of people asking me if they should give someone a link and when I see the email that was sent to them all I see is "...I really liked your site..." etc. and my answer to them is always the same. No.

    Personalization and non-generic/non-generalized comments are the way to a good link hands down.

    Again great post. Keep up the good work!

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  5. Hi Geoff,

    I really enjoyed your post on link requests, especially like the data you've gathered and the charts you've put together. It's interesting to find out how 'urban slang' terms have a positive effect on response rates. Being a girl, on the other hand, concerns me a bit. I think being transparent with the person on the other side would serve you better in the long run.

    All the best,


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  6. Thanks for the post. What I like about this posts is that it diggs into information not commonly shared. Most of the articles I have read about link building says "Request a link from trustable sources" but when I actually sit and think how to write it, I am lost. This gives me a good idea.

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  7. how is it going geoff? awesome post. i send emails for a living so it was good to read your perspective on this space

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  8. A nice post, I am a link builder for about a year now and I must admit being a girl is generally helping with getting more responses.

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  9. Interesting case. I can also confirm that 'be a girl' works far more better when it comes to respons. A nice test would be if you became friends on facebook or twitter first and than send out the e-mail for link requests.

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  10. Jas

    Interesting findings but not overly surprising - as someone else mentioned it reflects real life. However it assumes the webmaster is a guy ... or a lesbian. What are the chances?

    It is tough doing legitimate link building - I do around 5 hours of it every week and I get very little response, but will give these tips a try.

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  11. Nice post, Geoff. But I do have to disagree with your "Be a girl" tip. Integrity and transparency are two characteristics that separate legitimate marketers from spammers.

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  12. Really good info here. As a male I never though of setting up a persona as a female to improve response rates. I’m going to give this a try and test the results.

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  13. @ Jas on Sun, I don't think it's assuming the webmaster is a man or a lesbian. In general, men are perceived as more of a threat than women. A female webmaster may be able to relate better to a female asking for a link, and women, in general, may appear less threatening. I think it's more about comfort than attraction.

    An alternative for creating a female persona, you could always higher a woman to do the link building.

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  14. Geoff,

    Great post. There is definitely cross over between link building and email marketing. In both there is a need to be personal but also polite and engaging. In my experience, subject lines play a major factor in getting a good campaign response. Also, know that people really only scan your email message for 10-15 seconds at first glance. Before deciding to write the "War and Peace" of link requests, consider a short and concise email.


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  15. Great insights... I am looking forward to trying the varied greeting. I often find myself writing "hi or hello or good afternoon" and it just feels so uptight. With statistical backing I now feel justified to use a more personal greeting like "what's up."

    Do you think "howdy" would work?


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  16. I've been looking at how to write my emails more casually because I've felt I approach them too formally and this has given me some really good direction. It's so easy to forget sometimes that your dealing with individuals and not just websites when you email a lot.
    Also The girls I work with always seem to get more links than me so I can totally see that aspect of it.

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  17. When I contact other web masters or people in my field for collaboration, I just am myself, and use friendly semi-causal conversation, and I find that it works great. :)

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  18. I don't agree with pretending to be someone your not. I think honesty is the best policy, but you could always hire a woman.

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  19. Being a girl definitely works. For some reason, both men and women are more likely to respond to you if you're a girl.

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  20. Great info Geoff... I really needed this! Thank you.

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  21. Very interesting post. I will have to try out the female persona since all my personas are male.

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  22. Wow. Phenomenal depth of guys at Distilled keep raising the bar. Thank you Geoff - keep it coming.

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  23. I don't tend to believe that there would be a correlation between a woman sending an e-mail asking me for a date and a woman sending me an e-mail asking me for a link. One is an emotional reaction (the hope of a future romantic connection) and the other is a financial/reputation decision (do I want to give up valuable authority or real estate on my site). The other points you make in this article are quite valid though.

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