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Sunday, December 10, 2023

What To Do When Your Link Building Campaign Fails


You spent weeks crafting the perfect link building campaign. The content idea you came up with was researched, drafted, and re-drafted — and the final piece was fantastic! People were identified for outreach, emails were sent, tweets were tweeted, and then… crickets.

The piece didn’t get nearly as many shares as you’d hoped; it garnered no links; and many of the people you reached out to didn’t even respond. What gives?

Did something go wrong? Is it possible the campaign wasn’t as awesome as you thought it was?

Unfortunately, as with most marketing initiatives, not every campaign is going to be a massive hit. The key to future success, however, is being able to push aside your frustration, take a step back, and figure out what to do next. After all, you don’t want all of that time and effort to go to waste.

To help you get back on track and make sure your next campaign performs better, here are a few tips on what to do when your link building campaign fails:


First and foremost, reevaluate your promotion strategy. So often, a content promotion/link building strategy simply entails finding people we think should be interested in our content and then telling them about our content. No.

However, just because someone might like a piece, doesn’t mean you get to send them unsolicited emails or tweets telling them to read your article or check out your site.

Don't do this.

Don’t do this.

Part of creating a successful promotion strategy, especially when it involves outreach to those you don’t know, is identifying people early and interacting with them before your content goes live.

That way, when your content is ready to go, you aren’t a stranger spamming them — you’re someone they know and (hopefully) like.

In addition to connecting with people beforehand, it’s important to make sure you’re connecting with them the right way.

Find The Right Medium

At an event several years ago, a speaker noted that if you wanted to reach him, you should connect with him in a place that’s less crowded. His email was constantly being barraged, and his Twitter feed was hard to keep up with.

What he suggested instead was reaching out to him through Google+ or LinkedIn. These were places where he was more likely to get the message and more likely to respond.

Tip: Connect with people where they are active but where there is less noise.

Find The Right Time

We’re all busy. Between work, family, and life in general, there just isn’t a lot of extra time in the day — and there certainly isn’t a lot of time in the day to help a random person promote their content.

When evaluating your content strategy, take a look at when you did your outreach. Did you send an email on a Monday morning? Did you look to see if the person was traveling or on vacation?

Before you actually send that email or push out that tweet, do some research on the person to find out if they are even in the office. Take a look back at previous messages or previous social updates to see when they are most active and/or most likely to respond.

Tip: By identifying the most optimal time, you increase the odds of your message being seen and acted upon.

Communicate The Benefit

When reevaluating your outreach, take a look at the messaging itself. Did you actually communicate the reason your recipient would be interested in your work, or did you simply tell them you had a piece of content you thought they’d be interested in? If it’s the latter, there’s a good reason they didn’t help you.

I won’t go into the “hows” of crafting an email for outreach in this article but it is imperative that you create a message that piques interest and makes it about the person on the receiving end.

Tip: The outreach message shouldn’t be about you and your content. It must help the person in some way.

Track Your Outreach

There are some great free tools out there (e.g., Rapportive, Sidekick, Yesware) that will tell you if and when an email was opened.

Take a look and see if your emails were even opened. Perhaps they went to spam, or perhaps they were opened once and forgotten about. In that case, think about what you can do in the future.

For example, at KoMarketing (my employer), we were trying to get a client featured on a news publication. We emailed an author, and by using the tracking tool, we saw they opened it a couple times throughout the week.

After they opened it a third time, we reached back out immediately and were able to secure a post. Since they had opened it multiple times, we figured they were interested, but perhaps we weren’t hitting them at the right time.

If You Aren’t Quite Ready To Move On…

As you reevaluate, if you decide you just aren’t ready to throw in the towel on the content you worked so hard to create, consider doing a quick paid promotion. A small budget could help your piece gain some traction. Don’t believe me? Check out this piece from Larry Kim — $50 could mean major press.


Don’t let your great piece of content go to waste! Seriously.


After spending all that time and effort, make sure you get the most out of your content. Whether you turn it into an infographic, a Slideshare, or a blog series, make sure you don’t just set it and forget it.

Tip: Neil Patel has a really useful guide on the various ways you can repurpose content, and it’s well worth the read.

On the other hand, if your promotion plan was spot on and you can’t figure out a way to repurpose your content, perhaps the content wasn’t quite as great as you thought.

Which leads us to our next step…


At my last job, we came up with an awesome contest that would drive links, build brand awareness, and get people talking about us. Except that it didn’t.

While I still stand by the fact the contest idea was awesome, our execution wasn’t done as well as it needed to be. On top of that, the timing was way off.

The problem is, after you’ve gotten buy-in from execs and the money to execute a campaign, failure can be really hard to swallow. It can also make it really hard to get buy-in and budget the next time around.

Refocus your efforts on some of the smaller things that can help drive results. As long as performance continues to improve, you’ll likely be able to try a bigger campaign down the road.

Even though the campaign I mentioned above wasn’t as successful as we’d hoped, the next one was. We evaluated what went wrong, what went right, and what we could have done better. Then we made sure that everyone understood the objectives and what we needed to be effective.


As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, all campaigns are not going to be a hit; unfortunately, even when links seem warranted, you may not get many. As I heard at SMX Advanced last week, links are harder to come by these days.

Less people link than share via social. Look at what content was shared more so than linked @nchimonas #smx

— Casie Gillette (@Casieg) June 2, 2015

The folks at Page One Power noted that even though people share things on social or they may reference a piece of content, it isn’t always linked to. So true!

At the end of your campaign, be sure to take a look at the overall results. Even if there weren’t hundreds of links generated, that doesn’t mean the campaign failed. Take into consideration that sometimes, a mention might be as good as link.

And remember, this industry is full of ups and downs — and we must always be pushing ahead. Don’t be afraid to revamp the campaign and try again, or start something completely new. Just be sure to keep in mind the lessons you learned from your failed campaigns.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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