Wordpress Automated Email Link Building

Jul 22nd

James from Semvironment created a plug in to automatically email webmasters you link to from within Wordpress blog posts. When he launched it, the opening post sent me an email

Hi! We linked to your website in our post: Link Builder for Wordpress - Download it Now!. Please stop by and check it out, subscribe to our blog and if you find something useful on our site or blog - we would welcome a link back anytime ... no obligation - we're happy to link to high quality websites and blogs like yours! To your continued success, [Your Name Here]

That link was broken (pointing to a revisioned archive version of the post before the URL changed), but even beyond that I sorta do not like the idea. Why? Automated communications is the enemy of relationship building. And the worst people to offend are the people you find interesting / important / influential enough to want to talk about them. You can get the person's attention just as easily by clicking the link in the post a dozen times and by commenting on their blog. And most of them would even be up for lending their time to you if you stoke their egos.

As more people start using a wider array of automated link building tools the effectiveness of automation will drop. And you can't train an automated tool to be personal. A tool like this might work in some verticals for a year or two, but if people find it effective look out for the tragedy of the commons to be heading toward your inbox some time soon!

Published: July 22, 2008

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Comments

July 22, 2008 - 11:52pm

Hi Aaron,

Wow - I'm so embarrassed...lol. I didn't even configure our own plugin properly. I thought I uploaded the right config file...sorry for the non-personal email Aaron!

The tool is actually quite manual...it is designed to simplify the process of notifying those you link to but you have to put in a custom email address or addresses, confirm that you want to send the message by checking the 'send' box and you can customize your message as often as you want.

It is not automatic by any means in the sense that you have to actually choose who to send a message to and click 'send' when you're done.

Messages are not sent upon publishing a post.

I can only imagine the recklessness and spam that would occur if it were 100% automated! Ack!

Anyhow, I'm sorry I sent a bad message to you...that means others received them too - I guess that's what happens to a greeny wordpress plugin launch. :) Obviously, I'll be taking a lot of precautions to make sure this embarrassment doesn't happen again!

Thank you for fixing the link in your blog post!

To your continued success,

James

July 23, 2008 - 2:15am

I see then James. I guess if it is a fairly manual process then I guess I would not see the big need for an added plug in then...that is what made me think it was automated (that and the non personal email) :)

No harm though...I wouldn't have mentioned it if I felt harm or anything. I think to really make it crank it should have a mail merge format where there is the generic templating, and then allow each email to have name, their website, and custom blurb of text added to each mail.

Not sure if it does this already, but I also would be sweet if it works for non Wordpress posts...like if I could fire it up on one website to mail for another. :)

July 23, 2008 - 3:44am

You're right - it would be nice to make it universal to the web...I like that idea a lot!

The need we were trying to solve was the simple fact that we link to 2, 3 and sometimes 4 or 5 posts quite often from a single blog post. It would be nice to switch directly to gmail or Thunderbird or Outlook and find the email address associated with the link then email them but that takes quite a bit of time.

The way this is a time saver is that there are a default subset of email addresses (in case you don't know the right person to send a friendly message to) or you can specify custom email addresses if you can find or do know who to send it to. You do have a preset customizable message to send so you don't have to craft one every single time.

The plugin also tracks the links you made in your blog post so you can revisit those you linked to throughout the week on Friday (or any single day) and send them a message...thereby eliminating the need to really remember exactly who you linked to and from where. That would make it a weekly task instead of a daily task.

I learned a lot from this post! Thank you for your suggestions and input!

July 23, 2008 - 1:38pm

I'll tell you what; it's uncanny how often your posts coincide with stuff that we discuss and/or are working on over at my agency.

One of the things we're thinking through is a contact management system for link building prospects (sort of like salesforce, but for link-building targets instead of sales targets) but the big question was whether or not to automate the initial outreach email by dynamically populating the contact's name, etc... and using a manually written pitch letter template.

One of my senior link-builders is against the idea for more or less the same reason that you mention in this post; that you run the risk of killing the relationship before it even gets started.

Thanks for chiming in. It helps to get external viewpoints on the matter.

July 24, 2008 - 1:20am

Great minds think alike ;)

July 23, 2008 - 3:01pm

Doesn't seem any worse than the 'trackback' feature of most blogs. As it isn't automated, I don't see how this isn't an improvement.

July 23, 2008 - 3:35pm

Thanks Ryan!

I agree - I am biased though. ;) Trackbacks are still enabled but this just adds that semi-personal touch to it...if somebody is going to take the time to send a message to me, letting me know they linked to me, I'll probably pay more attention to that than a trackback...

July 23, 2008 - 5:19pm

Just as you mention, James, I can see how the plugin could be a valuable relationship builder if used in the right way. For example, the following message might be alright even in an automated environment.

Hi Aaron! I'm just writing to let you know that I mentioned you today in my post "Aaron Wall's just a downright great guy". I'd love to listen to what you have to say. Please, stop by anytime.

Sincerely,

DavidM

July 23, 2008 - 6:13pm

Perhaps the plugin should have been called "Relationship Builder" and the default message similar to what you wrote in your comment, David.

I like that idea...I probably shouldn't have pegged it as "Link Builder" because it is meant to be very low key - and more relational than anything.

We can still relabel it before it gets accepted at wordpress.org.

Thank you!

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