If there’s one kind of spam I receive as a blogger as often as guest post queries, it would have to be link insertion requests.
If you’re a blogger, you’ve probably received a request for link insertion. Most of the email I receive about this blog, in fact, is either requesting pricing for paid posts, asking about guest posts or link insertion.
I wrote two weeks ago about my guest post policy.
Last week, I wrote about an eye-raising proposal for a sponsored post.
So, this week, I figured I’d tackle the whole link insertion thing.
The emails almost all begin the same way.
They start right off with a lot of ego-stroking for the blogger. They praise the website, the organization, and, of course, the content. They’ll point to a specific post and praise it for being so well-written and thorough.
But you might argue that they clearly think it isn’t quite thorough enough.
That’s when they bring up an equally wonderful piece they’ve written. It would be a perfect fit, they say, to your fabulous post. It provides supplemental information that your reader will surely love.
They ask if you wouldn’t mind — and surely, since their post is just as fabulous as yours, you wouldn’t — inserting a link.
They want you to link to their post from somewhere within your post.
But the posts aren’t usually so great a fit.
I’ll give you an example. I wrote a post recently about the various names we use for different generations. Are you a Baby Boomer, a Generation X, Y or Z? Or do you fall into a generation before or after that? This post, I hoped, would help clear up at least some confusion about the cutoff years for different generations.
I received an email from someone about that post. They referenced my post, saying they saw that I mentioned NPR’s article about “financial resources for Gen Z” within it.
Here’s the NPR article I linked to in that post. As you can see, it is not an article about “financial resources for Gen Z.” I linked to it because I used a few lines from that article in my post. It was one of several articles I linked to so that I could provide more information on the subject I was writing about.
In blogging, whether you’re pulling a direct quote or paraphrasing, linking out to the source is just proper etiquette.
The letter then points to their own article about what Gen-Zers are doing with their newly-developing sense of financial independence. They asked me to link to it as well.
Why you receive a link insertion request
I understand their motive. In a nutshell, it comes down to search engine optimization. You hear about that with its initials, SEO.
SEO is a strategy that’s all about search results. It means taking steps that cause pages of your site to go to the top of search results whenever someone searches for a topic you’ve written about.
You can find plenty of steps you can take to boost your post’s SEO. I use a WordPress plugin called Yoast to help monitor what I write to make sure I’m boosting this site’s SEO.
But you can find plenty of ideas.
One of them involves other sites pointing to yours.
MOZ, one SEO resource, calls links “the currency of the internet,” at least when it comes to SEO. I just provided that site a link pointing to it because I referenced that site. I’m about to reference them again by quoting a perfect example they give to explain why links can be a big deal:
If you went on vacation and asked three people (all completely unrelated to one another) what the best coffee shop in town was, and they all said, “Cuppa Joe on Main Street,” you would feel confident that Cuppa Joe is indeed the best coffee place in town. Links do that for search engines.
External links are links you include in your posts that point to pages on different websites. They are also known as inbound links, depending on the point of view, because they send people “in” to your site. The link I just gave MOZ is an external link on this blog because it points away from this website.
By contrast, look at that first link I included towards the top of the post. It pointed to another page within this website. It’s an internal link.
Google sees links pointing to the same page — external or internal — as a sign that page may have valuable content.
When people email bloggers out of the blue to request that they insert a link to a different site, they’re hoping your link will give their page one more chip of authority on its given topic.
In other words, they’re asking you to help them rank their site higher on Google.
Why I’ll almost never grant that kind of link insertion request
It’s for a similar reason that I don’t accept guest post queries. If I’m going to publish a guest post on this blog, that implies some level of endorsement. Maybe I agree with what the writer says; maybe I don’t. It could be that I find the topic interesting enough that I’d like it represented here. But it has to meet certain standards for me to run it.
For me to link to another site, there has to be a valid reason. A post whose topic is not what my post actually centers on is not a valid topic. There’s no way to protect the flow of my post on generation names if I were to say, “Oh, by the way, if you belong to this particular generation, here’s a totally different train of thought on financial independence.”
It’s a non-sequitur.
If I find the link I’m sent to be interesting enough, I might write a new post on that topic and then link to that post. If I did that, at least my post would relate to the post I’m linking to and it’d make sense.
But honestly, I rarely do that because I’m always working to come up with my own topics, thank you very much. I’m writing this post, for example, about three weeks before it is set to go up. So if I find a post that interesting, it might take me a little time to get around to referencing it.
I’m certainly not going to go back weeks — or worse, even years — to an old post and just add in a link for someone else’s benefit.
That doesn’t serve you, my reader. So it’s not going to happen.
I suppose I’ll have to add a Link Insertion Policy page alongside my existing Guest Post Policy page one of these days. In the meantime, though, I suppose I can always point to this post the next time someone emails such a request.