Link Building Services – You Get What You Pay For

I'm kind of sitting here in shock right now. I've been in the online marketing game for well over a decade, but this morning I had an email exchange that dumbfounded me.

To be clear, this isn't an “outing” post – even though I could do so – I just don't believe in “outing”.

This post is a lesson for people hiring link building services.

People often wonder why some link building companies are so expensive when there are TONS of other companies offering to build links at a fraction of the cost.

I've got one word for you – quality.

This morning I had an email exchange initiated by a link builder posing as a woman. She had social media profiles on Twitter and Facebook. She interacts. And she's the perfect example of when link building goes wrong.

She had retweeted two of my tweets this morning and then sent the following email via my contact form (that I now know was written by someone else but her).

“Dear Editor,

I have been following your blog for a while. I can say without hesitation that you have done some remarkable work and put a great and informative content on it. Moreover, I have noticed that you are accepting guest posts as well, so I thought of contributing my ideas to your blog. I have done a comprehensive research on the topics that are related to your blog and can offer you a piece of them.

It will not only attract more visitors but also help them get the informative stuff on the subject. Please let me know if you can accept my blog post. I assure you that the content will be informative, relevant, unique, and will provide help to the blog visitors. Furthermore, being a professional writer.

I Hope for a positive and professional response from your side.

Thanks & Regards,
[Fake Name]”

My son had woken me up before 5 AM, I was feeling a bit snarky, so I responded with the following.

Dear Link Builder not named [Fake Name],

1. Had you truly followed my blog for some time, you'd have addressed me as “Rae” and not “Editor” since it's a personal blog – with no editor.
2. You waited a good amount of time after following me a few days ago before contacting me as a “long time reader” – which was good. Most people wouldn't know that you were only following me to create a “connection” to have a better shot at me accepting your guest post – I had to “more” my followers 4 times to find you.
3. The amount of time you waited between retweeting a second random article of mine and filling out my contact form was too short. I would have waited 30 minutes to an hour. Seven minutes between retweet and form submission was too short a timespan. If the “editor” hadn't clearly given away that you had never even looked at my blog before, that timespan would have given away that you copied and pasted an email because you didn't have time to write that whole thing out in that timespan.
4. “I Hope for a positive and professional response from your side.” < Never insult the blogger. By telling me you're "hoping" for a professional response, what you're saying is you think I might send an unprofessional one. Why I don't know. 5. Never, EVER pitch an SEO blog. Ever. Had I wanted to be an ass, I've have said yes to the post. Then had you send it. Then I'd have used parts of your bio to find all your other posts and could have potentially outed some of your clients had I posted about it. Pitching SEO blogs, in general, is dangerous with this kind of craptastic link building. 6. Your profile image is Mandy Moore. Tsk, tsk, tsk. You're honestly lucky you didn't end up on my blog. Cheers, Rae

And that would have been that. Until, “she” responded with something that floored me.

“Thanks for reply me,

I Wish to doing more business with together, I have a good blog network to post your article, So are you doing to deal with me then reply me.

I send my all list to you.

[Fake Name]”

Wait, what? So I responded:

Are you seriously kidding me right now? Is this some online version of Punked?

And “she” responded back:

“No I am serious to talk with you, I have really good blog network for you to post your article Rae….”

[blink] I answered:

“So wait, you want ME to post an article somewhere on YOUR network now? Are you for real? I'm speechless right now.”

And “she” answered:

“Yes right,

Dear tell me theme you like to post your article i show you okay”

Awe. Shock. Amazement. I responded:

Well since you said Dear – I'd like to post an article on Link Building Do's and Don'ts.

“She” responded with the following. Underneath it, was a list of 10 URLs.

“I send my site okay… Check all okay”

Ok, you're just fair game now. You were fair game a while ago. I'm blatantly mocking you. You are responding STILL trying to get a link. So I respond:

Do you want to post on my site too?

“She” asks me to send her a list of my blogs. I tell her I have one blog – “She” responds:

“Okay fine….SO please tell me which type of article do you consider on your site? And also send me require of article length and you adding one link on my website.”

I answer:

One on How to Build Links the Right Way. 300 word minimum.

And “she” answers:


please let me know are you accept affiliated marketing article on your site then i go ahead to write for that..”

And I replied:

Yes, that's fine. But I need it soon – I have a post to put up about this.

About 20 minutes later, “she” responded:

“Hello Rae,

I am interested to write an article on “How to Build Links the Right Way”, once you ready to post my article on your blog on this topic.

Don’t worry, I’m a good blogger and have had my posts featured on

[3 known blogs in the SEO/Social Community]

Let me know if you are interested, I already know your blogging style, plus I understand what your readers love… as I am one.

Waiting for your quick and positive response.”

The Funny thing was, all three links she sent were posted by the same person – a man who (headdesk) owns an SEO company – but not “her.” So I sent her an email asking who [man's name] was. “She” told me:

“Absolutely right, He is director of my company and I am working and writing articles for him.”

And there you have it, folks. Some dude using a network to build client links and using his own horribly bad link builders to even build links to his company.

The Lesson

The above is what you get when you try to take shortcuts.

The above is what you get when you worry only about the cost of link building and not the effect it has on your brand, your legitimacy, your SEO, your reputation, and your livelihood.

The above is what you get when you worry about building links solely for ranking purposes and not building an outreach program – internally or by using an external service – that takes more than simply “does this site have PR to pass?” into account.

The above is what you get utilizing link building services that keep their costs low by using non-English speaking employees to do the job a person flawless in English, and experienced in Journalism and Public Relations should be doing.

Posted in


Rae Hoffman aka "Sugarrae" is a veteran digital marketer and SEO consultant. She is also a serial entrepreneur. You can find out more about her entrepreneurial efforts here. Rae is most active on Twitter.


  1. Jason Mathes on March 26, 2013 at 8:10 am

    Rae – just wanted to say you made my morning with this post! I can tell you with just my little blog that I get emails like this on a daily basis.

    I just started charging a $20.00 fee (non-refundable) for me to review articles like this. Guess how many takers I’ve had on that one? Nadda.

    Amazing that people still try and go the “cheap and easy” route instead of just putting in the work.

  2. Kevin Raposo on March 26, 2013 at 8:46 am

    Rae- It’s amazing the lengths people go to get a link, and this is a great example! Great post!

  3. Jeremy Rivera on March 26, 2013 at 10:28 am

    “Hello, and pleased to meet. I am attempting bad process for people to taking shortcut. Very much good work, want participate? ” Who does that? Seriously?

    Sheesh! It’s almost as mind boggling as the fact that some percentage of people actually buy products from spam messages.

  4. Sean Lade on March 26, 2013 at 11:09 am

    Hi Rae, I can’t get over how poor said link builder was at basic grammar! I’m no Dickens, but that just takes the biscuit. Really enjoyed this post though. My first time here.

  5. Rachel Kim on March 26, 2013 at 11:23 am

    Found this article through Inbound Org – At first I thought, how bad could this be… but this was way more than I imagined. I’ve seen some bad link building before, but this is something else. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Alan Morte on March 26, 2013 at 11:32 am

    Rae you just made my morning. I can’t believe how terrible the grammar was.

    You have inspired me to start putting people like this on blast.

  7. David on March 26, 2013 at 11:35 am

    SEO rule number one; find something that works and then ruin it with scale.

    I’d be shocked if this outreach ever worked on a site that had even the loosest editorial control. It’s essentially just article bank submission with the facade of a relationship thrown in so it can be classed as guest posting.

    Nicely baited Rae.

  8. Dragan Palla on March 26, 2013 at 11:45 am

    Hi Rae,

    I’ve also received a couple of “strange” requests for guest posting . The most funniest thing is just like in your email, starts with “I have been following your blog for a while…” and at the end “…could you give me some guidelines…” Guess what, submit a guest post is on my home page :).

    Thanks for making this almost everyday story into a great and instructive post.

  9. Travis Jamison on March 26, 2013 at 11:48 am

    Thoroughly enjoyed this. I am now going to retweet it, but unfortunately can not be bothered to wait the required 30 minutes.

    In all seriousness though, on a large enough scale I’m guessing that this strategy is still working for them, especially since I’m guessing he is from a place with an low valued currency, aka doesn’t need frequent large sales.

  10. DarrylM on March 26, 2013 at 11:56 am


    I have received these types of solicitations as has my partner. We find them funny, and at times banter back. It’s both funny and sad. Thanks for the read.

  11. Greg Shuey on March 26, 2013 at 2:19 pm


  12. Michael on March 26, 2013 at 4:24 pm


    I think the biggest mistake is having people with very low English skills building links. I think that person did not get half of the stuff you wrote.

    I would love to hear from someone how much success there is for spam like this? Is it 1%, 0.1%, well most likely 0% but who knows.

    Funniest thing is that many agencies are outsourcing link building to similar kind of people.

    • Rae Hoffman on March 26, 2013 at 4:33 pm

      Oh, I agree. “She” did not understand MOST of what I was saying.

      • Slava Rybalka on March 27, 2013 at 3:12 pm

        I think he/she understood. It’s just that they don’t care and they don’t show that they are offended. All they are focused on is the # of links they need to secure in order their boss to pay them $50 in the end of the week.

        • Rae Hoffman on March 28, 2013 at 7:05 am

          I think she missed some of the nuances of the English language in my emails. I.e. “She” read “Are you seriously kidding me right now?” as an actual question where as anyone with a firm grasp on the English language would have known it was sarcasm and not an actual question wondering if she was truly serious about posting on my site.

  13. Christina on March 26, 2013 at 5:12 pm

    “Your profile pic is Mandy Moore.” Classic!

  14. Stewart Kelly on March 26, 2013 at 7:11 pm

    Still LMAO Rae. My initial thought is was some kind of automation software and then it dawned on me it was probably outsourced overseas. Only one question Rae; did you get your hook, line, and sinker back? That “blogger” swallowed it pretty deep.

    • Rae Hoffman on March 26, 2013 at 7:13 pm

      As soon as I knew 1. the network and 2. the company – I was done playing :)

  15. Mike on March 27, 2013 at 8:05 am

    You make happy me – good time! ;-) Great reminder Rae on shortcuts and how it won’t get you were you want to go.

  16. Courtney Seiter on March 27, 2013 at 9:12 am

    Aw, man. I really wanted to read the blog post (s)he came up with. :) Thanks for sharing what all blog editors really want to respond with sometimes!

  17. Richard Horvath on March 27, 2013 at 9:41 am

    Wow! Cannot believe the bad grammar! It’s amazing how many people would rather go with cheap link-building than quality/long term link-building.

  18. Catherine Kolkoski on March 27, 2013 at 1:56 pm

    This is hysterical. You exposed something important and you created a blog post out of it. Two birds with an email exchange… good work!

  19. Slava Rybalka on March 27, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    Rae, you don’t understand one thing – the person who pitched you has a different mentality than you do. They are in a third-world country and you are in the US. $5 make their day. They have adapted their link-building style to what’s popular and working today, but it looks clumsy because their bosses/clients need volume. I used to be on their side 4 years ago, before I started attending SEO conferences in the US. Please don’t blame and mock these people – they are just trying to feed their families over there. I respect you very much and I myself get emails and blog comments like this on a daily basis.

    • Rae Hoffman on March 28, 2013 at 7:11 am

      Slava – I agree – “she” is just doing her job… my attempt was not to mock “her” as an individual – I’m sure (s)he is a very intelligent person, especially when communicating in “her” own native language.

      But I absolutely was mocking this person being used for this type of outreach by an SEO company. And I absolutely blame the person who owns that company for selling this kind of service to a client.

      When I told “her” nevermind, “she” proceeded to badger, beg, etc. The most recent email said…

      “Hi Rae,

      I just send you article please please do it and that is my last chance okay..

      But please do it for me.

      I hope you mind are change for me because i am your good friend right please.”

      The damage this kind of outreach could do to a company is nuts – both branding wise and SEO wise. So, while I appreciate people like “her” are just doing their job – my issue is more it’s a job they’re not qualified to do. I don’t take any offense to your comment – just wanted to explain my angle on this. :)

    • Richard A. Lewis on June 21, 2013 at 2:43 pm

      Slava… I actually do cast a wide net of blame on these types of e-mails. Mainly because they flood my e-mail daily and I am unable to see the true linking opportunities that might present themselves. While someone legitimate might get lost. Overall the person is also sending out hundreds of unsolicited e-mails every day which is against CAN SPAM.. which no one in other parts of the world seem to feel they need to abide by at all. This is the telemarketer calling you while you are at home eating dinner of our time. They instituted the “do not call list” for that but what recourse do we have for these emails? So overall I do feel that Rae should be able to be indignant towards this person just as I would a telemarketer calling me. That is my opinion though.. and this is not judging someone because they live in a developing country.. because I don’t want SPAM requests from anyone no matter where their IP address is.

  20. Matt Antonino on March 27, 2013 at 4:36 pm

    haha! That’s LEGENDARY! (Unless one of my team did it, and then email me so I can cut their heads off. Kidding, my team doesn’t do this type of email outreach. It’s BANNED here.)

    Great read – I was kinda in that “oh, that’s typical…wait they replied … and again? OMG JUST STOP!!!!” mode. *still laughing*

    I had to write the spammer version of my comment. Please don’t ban me! :)

    Dear Editor,

    Great you are blogging post on your most excellent blog service. Mandy Moore my favorite photo is beautiful. Please accept me comment you blog and share with my friends. Longtime reader going to follow you now after finding on this Inbound.


  21. Dave Simpson on March 28, 2013 at 7:12 am

    Great post Rae. I too have just found your blog but I wont be asking for any guest posting deals (for now anyway :))

    Its a constant source of frustration for me, as I’m sure it is for many small SEO companies, and independent consultants.We need to charge ‘proper’ rates but we are always being trumped by low cost outfits like the ones you highlighted here who couldn’t care less about quality and informative content. To them a link is a link and everyone is fair game.

    But,as you say, you get what you pay for…

  22. Kristoffer Wedholm on March 28, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    Fantastic blog post!

    My guess: Language barrier + low Indian wages.

  23. Johnny on March 28, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    lol !!!!! Absolutely brilliant article, made my evening. Totally agree with you with regards quick fixes for link building, they don’t exist. Building a brand takes time. There are some great products out there but it’s taken me 4 years of learning and failing to know what works and what doesn’t.


  24. Dave on March 29, 2013 at 7:40 am

    Like some other folks I do feel alittle bit of sympathy for these folks cranking out these form letters to websites. In business plenty of folks think its ok to go offshore to produce “widgets”. Backlinks are viewed as “widgets” by some folks so they are sold to potential clients as a cheap product.

  25. Loretta on March 29, 2013 at 7:55 am

    I enjoyed this post so much I want to hug it.

    I’m pretty sure I’ve had that same copy and paste email sent to me via contact form at least 5 times in the past two weeks for different blogs. I just deleted mine, but seeing the reply stream you got I kind of wish I had played along now :-p

    Also, I’m glad I’m not the only person on the planet that says craptastic. Must show this post to my teenager who insists “Mom, that’s not a thing.”

  26. Sunita on March 29, 2013 at 2:29 pm

    “Well since you said Dear – I’d like to post an article on Link Building Do’s and Don’ts.” ~ Humble. Very humble of you, Rae.

  27. Elaine Clay on March 30, 2013 at 4:43 am

    A very entertaining post for my first visit but a sad one too – sad that these practices are still being used by SEO agencies.

    And, unfortunately, these practices will continue until the average business/website owners educate themselves on how to employ *ethical* SEO providers.

  28. Pawel Reszka on March 30, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    Rae, I get these kinds of emails all the time. In fact, too often lately to be honest. You should see the articles they produce once you tell them to send it over – Total garbage! Last time I got one I felt like I forgot how to speak English after reading it.

    What does make me mad though is that their sites rank well. One time, I got an email from an outsourcer that wanted to do a 3-way link exchange. I replied because I wanted to know which site he would want me to link to and guess what? it was a well known site in the industry that ranked on the front page of Google for its main keywords.

    I was literally on fire when I saw it because it was during the time when Google penalized so many sites, but yet that guy was doing 3-way link exchanges and ranking on top. Thought about outing him, but he is no longer ranking so I guess Google caught up with him :)

  29. Jae Rustia on April 2, 2013 at 2:44 am

    whoa, that’s one headache causing conversation :), our team also receive such letters daily, in fact, we have dozens of unread emails with the same intent to post on our blog as a guest, but we coudn’t find the courage to open those emails because 90% is just like the email you receive, whew! we also do outreach, though i can say that we do better than that.

  30. Ecommerce Partners on April 2, 2013 at 8:06 am

    This post is both entertaining and scary. My favorite is the terrible grammar “Thanks for reply me.” Like you said if they were really a “fan” of your site they would have addressed you as Rae not editor. As an SEO professional you should read marketing blogs daily so there is no need to pretend to be a fan of a site. This gives other SEO professionals a bad name. Like you said the purpose of guest posting is to build a relationship and share your professional knowledge with that sites audience not for a quick link. Hopefully they read this post (since there such a fan of your site) and it discourages them from continuing this practice.

  31. Wheel on April 2, 2013 at 9:24 am

    It’s good to go fishing like this once in a while to see what people are doing. I run a blog in my industry that’s completely separate from everything else I do, because it’s run as a honeypot. I bought a decent quality but defunct blog for $500 and then basically hung up a ‘whoring this blog out’ sign up (linked to some obvious link buyers, added some seed text, etc). Made my money back multiple times, but the info on who’s buying links in my industry is worth even more than that.

  32. Rachel K on April 3, 2013 at 11:49 am

    Wow! That is really all I can say.

    After your first response, I can’t believe they continued to correspond with you. You made it pretty clear you were onto them. Again, WOW!

  33. elliot on April 4, 2013 at 11:28 pm

    I can’t believe they keep replying to you about it ! You’re just so amazing to make yourself pretty clear.

  34. Baruch on April 5, 2013 at 7:05 am

    Amazing blog post. Don’t do it the offshore way do it the real way work hard and remember a link is hard to earn.

  35. DiTesco on April 11, 2013 at 10:38 am

    That was a good read and quite hilarious if I may… quite frankly I am awed that you even took the time to “reply back”. Nonetheless, this is something that everyone should know, bad link builders are all over the place, and mind you, I just acquired a client who was using these type of services (I mean the low quality ones). After a bit of analysis (did not even bother wasting time), there was not one single link that could be considered even a so so..

    Sadly, they will come back. Interesting is that I got an email with the exact same wording as that one. Wonder if it is from the same person :)

  36. Jo Greenwood on April 11, 2013 at 1:01 pm

    That made my day :) As long as there are idiots out there like that, I can feel happy with the work I do.

    I get so many crappy spam comments on my blog along the lines of ‘wow you know everything, you are so wonderful, I follow your blog so closely yes’. It’s astonishing the audacity and stupidity. I blame outsourcing and offshoring.

  37. Amanda on April 15, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    This was phenomenally hilarious. You made my day with this. Thanks for posting it. And yeah, I’m kind of curious in a train-wreck sort of way to see what this person would have actually submitted.

  38. Julian Hooks on May 22, 2013 at 4:26 pm

    Hahaha I’m mad I didn’t see this a few months ago. I’ve seen my fair share of awful outreach requests but the persistence/ignorance kills me. This reminds me of a very funny story about SEO spammers…

  39. Daniel Ripoll on May 24, 2013 at 1:09 am

    Rae, you killed it. Great post. Still ROFL.

    I preach this gospel to SEOs and link builders all day long.

  40. Alex Babenkov on July 5, 2014 at 12:42 pm

    Do you really think a cheap link building service is going to spend an hour looking for one great link? Probably not. They are going to go for the easy wins to make themselves look good and pad their link building report, but it’s really just a lot of smoke and mirrors. If you aren’t going to pay for quality work you can’t expect to get quality links.