The headline implies there is one thing that matters most, and for what it’s worth, that title occurred to me after I wrote this article, as I decided that in fact there is.

How I gathered information

This article is based on interviews (conducted via an exchange of email) with eight link builders, some of whom represent one brand, and some of whom represent multiple.

I was looking for similarities and differences in how link builders approach link building, both strategy and tactics.

Similarities and differences

The first similarity that jumps out at me is that tactical stuff (the day to day doing of it) dominated almost all the responses. Perhaps that is due to the way I worded my questions, but in reviewing responses very few people identified an overarching strategy that shaped their day to day efforts, and the two who did mentioned “relationship building” as their strategy.

Everyone else jumped straight into the nuts and bolts of doing it. The day by day tactics, practices, and activities. Again, this may be due to the way I worded my questions. I’m not sure.

One interesting difference that jumped out at me is this group does not agree on what tools to use. This was all over the map. HARO, OnePitch, SEMRush, SimilarWeb, and Ahrefs were all mentioned by a single person. Buzzstream was mentioned by three of the eight, and only one tool was mentioned by almost everyone, and that tool is the email address lookup tool Hunter, which was mentioned by seven people.

One other tool deserves mention as I met every one of the eight people through the use of Qwoted, so I know the eight of them use it.

In terms of process, everyone has a standard daily checklist of tasks they run through, and while there are similarities, each person has their own custom checklist.

I also asked everyone what they found to be the most difficult part of link building and what they found to be easiest, and those answers were also all over the place. The only agreement on the difficult/easiest question was that two people agreed that finding the right contact was difficult.

So…

Similarities

  • A focus on tactical aspects.
  • The use of a daily task list.
  • Looking up email addresses with Hunter.

Differences

  • The tasks on the daily task list.
  • What is considered the most difficult and the easiest parts.
  • The tools used to perform and manage the tasks.

Conclusion (sort of)?

From this, what can I conclude?

I’m thinking the conclusion is that link building is (perhaps still and maybe this will change one day) more art than science, and while I think this next comment might be me just making stuff up, it seems the most critical part of link building is the human psychology related to getting people’s attention.

This idea (that seems obvious now) jumped out at me due to two responses I thought were the most interesting:

One person makes contact with people via social media before sending them an email. She said that has greatly increased her email open rate, which she attributes to the idea that when they get the email, she is no longer a stranger.

Another person emphasized the importance of humor and the need to have a personality in their pitches.

In closing (sort of)?

While it is generally appropriate to end a blog post with an “In closing” section where you wrap up and give advice, I’m genuinely not sure what to say here.

The thought that jumps out at me, and maybe this is the advice to give, is that putting thought into whose attention you want to get, and how to get it, is time and effort well spent, yet this seems like such an anticlimactic thing to say.

Having said that, as a link builder, I too have “played the numbers game” and NOT put much thought into that, so maybe I need to change my ways.

I also, as I was finishing this article, did a few google searches for phrases like “link building attention grabbers” and “how to get people’s attention when link building” and I got nothing on topic. I got mostly lists of strategies, which by no means are useless, but all repeat the same suggestions.

So I’m ending this article with a question, rather than a conclusion.

In closing

As it seems nothing influences the success of your link building campaigns more than having your pitches read rather than ignored, why does it seem that no research (of any kind) has been done on how to best be noticed?

The people who participated

Below is the list of people who participated in this article, and I wish to state how much I appreciate them responding to my query on Qwoted and for allowing me to interview them via a few rounds of email.

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