Emails, Link Requests, and the Death of Politeness

Why are people so freaking nasty? Seriously…WHY?

“I’m not going down on my knees begging you to adore me
Can’t you see it’s misery and torture for me?”
Depeche Mode, Shake the Disease

My link builders are truly lovely people. Well, most of them are. Anyway, they get abused like nobody’s bidness. I’ve reviewed every piece of correspondence that they’re involved with, too, and there’s just nothing there to cause someone to spew the venom that they do, based on getting a polite email. Yes, it may be unsolicited (hell, it’s no secret what we do!) but it’s still nice and really, if it bothers you that much to get an email, to the extent that you write back paragraphs and paragraphs of hate, you have a very serious problem. I get loads of unsolicited emails every hour but you don’t see me threatening to fly to Nigeria and whoop someone’s ass.

I understand the mentality of just not being able to take it any more, of course, but for me, rage comes from traffic: people who can’t drive well, people who sit in the right turn lane with their signal on to turn left, people who don’t pull up so I can get out of the parking lot, and those grungy dirty-haired cyclists who think that cars are evil and will purposefully weave in front of me in traffic as I’m trying to get to Target. They’re damned lucky I like the front of my minivan and value my lack of prison experience. Even so, I don’t really do anything other than try to ride as close to them as possible without actively running them down, although running them off the road is something else entirely. I curse a lot in my car, and then call them every derogatory term in the book until I get to Target and see something shiny and cheap. An email, though? Holy hell. That just doesn’t make me homicidal. Unsolicited and nicely-worded emails? Trash them, for fuck’s sake. Don’t become a crusader.

There seem to be two types of people online: those who know the score, and those who don’t. If my mom had a blog, I’d link to her with the keywords “those who don’t.” She doesn’t, thank God. At work, we seem to hit a lot of the ones who don’t know the score. These are the people who get an email and immediately think we’re trying to scam them out of their life savings and murder their loved ones. Hey, we just want you to see our great content and maybe, just maybe, consider linking to it. The ease of blogging has caused everyone and his great-great-granny to get online and write…that’s nice at times, but these people sometimes lack any of the other necessary skills to actually deal with life online. And can they even read, I wonder? I am fairly damned sure that none of my link builders has ever sent out an email suggesting that we rape anyone’s bank account. (goes to doublecheck email logs…)

Some say email requests for links are dead. I don’t buy it, as I see how far it gets us. Yes, we do use a variety of methods for link building, but by and large, our emails are working. If we didn’t get so many hateful responses, I’d say that our emails work because we’re just nice people and our clients have great websites and that naturally comes across in the written word, but heck, that theory’s shot straight to hell isn’t it? My poor, poor link builders have been called every name in the book. I tell them not to take it personally, but when someone’s accusing you of being a tiny bit less nasty than Hitler, it’s hard to step back and keep going.

We tell all our of potential hires how tedious the work is. No matter how you build links, it’s a lot more work than many people think. However, now I may need to start warning people that they need to be ready to be abused. I’ll start looking for masochists, or anyone who comes to the interview wearing a Smiths t-shirt.

What I want to know is why this happens. Why would you not just ignore an email that you didn’t want to receive? Why would you take time out of your day to respond with such hatred, or even write a blog post about it? OK yes I kind of did that once but I type very, very quickly so I wasted maybe 5 minutes only.

I know people sure as heck abuse the victims and perpetrators of all manners of accidents and crimes, which makes me think that people really just enjoy spouting off loads of crap no matter what. You stick your hand in a pond to retrieve a golf ball and the local alligator understandably eats it off, like alligators do, and well, you damned well deserved it. Husband ran off with his slut of a secretary and you decided to kill them both? Good riddance to them and maybe all their coworkers, too, who also deserve to die. The bile inherent in people today is disgusting. Just read the comments on any local news story or SEO blog. People are mean mean mean.

I will be honest. Some clients have absurdly boring (to me, at least) content, sites, and products. I don’t think that I have ever been interested in freezer repair, nor have any of my link builders, but we try our best. It can be a massive effort, but what isn’t, honestly? It just sucks to get smacked around when you’re only trying to be nice. Um, and move your clients up in the SERPs. Oh, and get more relevant traffic too yada yada yada. So if you get an email from one of my lovely beribboned link builders, please just delete it ok? Don’t respond with all the things you think they should have done to them in a Turkish prison.

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19 Responses to “Emails, Link Requests, and the Death of Politeness”

  1. hmm… you make a few good points, but getting hateful responses is the nature of the email beast. I agree with you. It is far from dead, but people are certainly becoming more and more hostile toward unwanted emails. I’d say, the more specific you can be about the company or person you are contacting, the less likely they are to have a violent reaction. Go into more detail on why their website is so good. People love flattery :)
    Also, a closing line that says something like “I’m extremely sorry to have bothered you if you are not interested.”
    Probably all things you’ve thought about, but important things to consider.

  2. I think Julie is in need a group hug ;-)

  3. Julie Joyce says:

    Just a few good points??? OK I’m kidding, and thanks for your comment btw Mr. Hamilton. I am surprised you could tear yourself away from the Oreos.

    I agree with you, actually. I would love to feel confident enough to actually post some of the emails/responses that I’m talking about so you could see how amazingly nice and polite AND detailed for the site that they are, but in this industry, there’s just no way I’m going to. Suffice it to say that the link builder who incurs the most wrath is actually the nicest person in our office, and her emails are dead-on with what you’ve said. She’s detailed and polite, she tells the person why she’s contacting him or her, does the whole “hope I’m not bothering you” bit, then gets called all kinds of names for it.

    You’re right that getting hateful responses is the nature of the email beast, though. I imagine that’s true for anything, no matter what you’re emailing about. I’ve had a few “email hug” ones that have made me want to kill the sender.

  4. Julie Joyce says:

    It’s awesome how you both used smiley emoticons in your comments.

  5. Sarah says:

    I just can’t get past the part where you quoted depeche mode, I love depeche mode and will be humming all day now.

    Also didn’t you get the memo, we are all evil (someone on the the internets said so), trying to be anything else is just silly.

  6. Lisa Myers says:

    Fabulous blogpost Julie!

    I totally get where you are coming from, there is just NO need to be mean about a simple email. They could a) not bother replying if they are not intersted or b) simply say: no thank you. There is no need to go into personal attacks.

    I do really think that people becomes meaner online, I bet most of those people would never dream of saying those things in real life, or even in a letter! It’s like the keyboard is their weapon to become a mean ugly sadist dicatator who somehow in a freakish world has a moral hihground over linkbuilders. Did their mothers not teach them any manners, did they not get cuddled as a child…

    Unfortunately I think you are right, linkbuilders have to be thick skinned, have the patience of a saint and the temper of a nun…

  7. Julie Joyce says:

    Sarah…yes me too. Thank God for Spotify.

    Lisa…you cute little Viking, thank you! I agree that people are much meaner when they can hide behind a machine. (that applies to me too)

  8. Anna Spear says:

    Having read this earlier, I’ve just got an email that seemed to invite abuse, even though it was being extra polite, quite ironic…

    Do you find you get more abuse if you start the email with apologies should the email offend (this one had this sentence before ‘Hello Webmaster’) rather than if the email doesn’t incite any emotion at all and can be deleted with less thought?

    I don’t know what technique(s) you’re using but I’m thinking that people feel the need to respond more when their personal thoughts/opinions are involved.

    Personally I’ve never noticed any hatred back from emails that don’t include an apology. Has anyone else noticed this possible correlation?

    Hopefully something can irradicate the abuse!

  9. Julie Joyce says:

    Hi Anna,

    That’s a damned good question, and not something I’ve paid much attention to but it’s something I should examine. I wonder if, when you go ahead and apologize, the recipient thinks you’re weak and thus subject to abuse? Maybe we should try being outright hateful and see how far we get!

  10. Anna Spear says:

    Lol, not sure about ouright hateful! Perhaps somewhere in between would work best? (although it would be great fun to see the reactions that a hateful email would incite, I’ve not had experience of hateful link request emails yet!)

    It’s probably worth working out what lines in standard emails incite which reaction in people, hate might incite fear and compliance for all we know…?

    I’d probably stick to neutral though, no niceness (agree it might show you as weak) and nothing too anything really, if that makes sense. Leave reaction and opinions out of it and it may be more of a business option.

  11. Diane says:

    I’ve had some pretty inane link requests recently. I’ve not yet ranted back bigstyle but it’s been close.
    I hate anonymous style link requests almost as much as I hate the really structured ones where they issue you with a password.

  12. [...] Link requests and the death of politeness – comes from uber groovy SEO Chick, Julie Joyce where she lashes out at all the meanies, the lame and the death of direct contact (she believes it’s still alive and well btw). [...]

  13. [...] Link requests and the death of politeness – comes from uber groovy SEO Chick, Julie Joyce where she lashes out at all the meanies, the lame and the death of direct contact (she believes it’s still alive and well btw). [...]

  14. Would you mind sharing a sample email requesting the link? I am curious to know if you are asking for specific anchor text or making them aware that there is basically nothing in it for them if they link to you. Thanks!

  15. Julie Joyce says:

    Hey Ulana,

    Basically, I am talking about the initial email, which never ever specifies much of anything in terms of what WE want out of it. I could understand it more if we were being specific and/or demanding, but we’re not.

  16. Rob Woods says:

    I only really mind the poorly crafted totally irrelevant link requests which obviously come from overseas and are essentially a form letter. I can’t imagine why a well written email from someone who’s taken the time to look at your site and find out your name would enrage someone. I have way more important things to do than take time to answer annoying emails. Up until now I haven’t done a lot of email link requests but of the few I’ve done recently have actually been very successful, hopefully because I took the time to understand the company I was communicating with and because it actually made sense for them to link to us.

  17. Patrick says:

    Julie has written a flawless, and universally factual post. I agree with you 100%. But the people you talked about are no different from Rob Wood who in blatant display of affective prejudice, thinks people from abroad are irrelevant and often write poorly.

    “I only really mind the poorly crafted totally irrelevant link requests which obviously come from overseas and are essentially a form letter.”

  18. Jonathan says:

    Very nice post. But please, be more considerate of Nigerians. Thank you!

  19. Donna Menner says:

    As for link building – is it best when getting a link for a directory to just have your url or do you need to vary it and use other product page titles? For example I sell a number of things, amplified phones just one type of product, should I just get the link in my business name or some other way?

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