Getting backlinks to your website, especially from pages with a higher Google PageRank than you have, can be really valuable for your search engine optimization strategy. And if they use your keywords to link to you, that's even better. And sometimes the only way to get those links is to write to them asking for the link. But there are good ways to ask and bad ways.
Annoying the Other Site Owner Won't Help Get You a Link
Begging is annoying. So is being rude, being demanding, repeating the request numerous times, or simply not taking no for an answer. If you write to most Web designers asking for a link, you might get one and you might not. But you probably won't get an answer via email. If you do get an answer, and it's something resembling "no", writing back to explain why a link would help you sounds like begging. And, as I said, begging is annoying. And most people aren't interested in helping people who annoy them.
Another really annoying thing to do is respond with "suggestions" when the other site author has already linked to you. I can't tell you how many times I've received responses, when I've linked to a site, along these lines:
I really wish you could have linked to me on this page: <URL> rather than where you did. In fact, a link from your home page would be better.
Did you note the one thing that's missing from that message? No "thank you". Sure, getting a link from my home page would benefit you more than a link from one of my deeper pages, but a link from one of my internal pages isn't a kick in the head either.
Market Yourself and Your Site
The best way to get a link on another site is to provide content that they want to link to. And the best way to do that is to know what they already link to - by reading their site. If they never link to external sites from their home page, then you asking for a link from there probably won't do you much good. And if they only link to interesting articles and you want a link to your home page, you're probably out of luck too.
When you do write with your suggested link(s), show that you have read their site. Comments like "I think my article on X would fit in well with your links here: <URL>" will get a lot better response than "Please link to my site in your blog."
Provide Something of Value When You Ask for a Link
Unless they are crazy rich, and most Web writers are not, they are trying as hard as you are to get customers and links. Providing a link to you might not be difficult for them, but it does require some work. I prefer to link to people who tell me right away why my readers would enjoy their product or find their article valuable. I really prefer to link to people who write something like:
I've linked to your article on X on my site here: <URL> and would love it if you could link to my site in return.
That said, I never link to people who hold links hostage, along the lines of "I'll link to you if you link to me".
What I Look for in Sites I Link To
I don't have specific criteria for sites I link to in my blog, but here are a few general guidelines:
- Interesting articles - I almost never link to the homepage of a website because I find these boring. I want to link to the actual article.
- Useful products - I don't link to a lot of products, as there aren't a lot related to Web design, but when I do they need to be something I think would be useful to me or my readers.
- Content - I don't like to read blogs where all they are is links to other blogs (which link to other blogs, ad infinitum), and so I try to only link to original content articles.
- No splogs - You know those ad-supported blogs that often use free content services or even stolen content. I never link to sites that even look like that. So if the first content below the headline on your page is Google ads, don't bother writing me asking for a link. You won't get one.