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The human approach to link building outreach

To be upfront and honest, I have never been an “email marketer,” worked in sales, or have extensively even used emailing as a strategy before link building. While my professional experience may be lacking, I look at it as not having the opportunity to build bad habits, and I have been able to learn slowly from my mistakes. I know what gets me the best results due to rejections for one reason or another. Without great outreach, link building becomes 100x harder, because how can you expect to secure a link if you can’t get anyone to communicate with you? Without further ado, here are my main strategies for successful outreach for links – mainly for guest posting.

Be Conversational

Email isn’t the prim and proper form of communication like it was in the 90s when everyone was treating it like foreign way to write a handwritten letter. While addressing someone as “Dear Sir or Madame” might be proper, it comes across smelling like spam because it’s obvious that you don’t know whom you’re addressing. I always try to find the contact’s first name to address them informally like, “Hey Mike…” You might cringe at this idea, but right away this comes across as more personal and my voice comes through rather than sounding like a stock email.

Chain Links
Photo credit: MyTudut

Avoid Stock Emails

Speaking of stock emails…I know email marketers swear by them, but I have limited success with them. Typically the webmasters/bloggers that respond to stock emails are low-hanging fruit, and any site worth its salt is going to need extra effort. Sometimes I even get a bit unprofessional if I think the contact will appreciate it. For example, this site wanted off-the-cuff writing so I tried to break away from formality – this is the main pitch from one of my personas.


An example of an original guest post outreach pitch.
Some of my outreach pitches may not be by the book, but there is always a method to my madness.


The site in question has a 72 Domain Authority as well as a PageRank of 6 as I write this and it’s very relevant to the client, so it would be a great place for the link. I know the editor gets dozens of guest post requests a day, so I wanted to stand out and be somewhat memorable. In fact, my original pitch was rejected but the editor suggested an even better article idea that was published in a matter of weeks with a great link back to the client’s site.

Always Follow Up

A lot of webmasters think guest blog or other linking requests are spam and won’t give your initial email the time of day other than to click delete or spam. That’s why I make sure to follow up frequently and consistently. Typically I’ll try contacting again after 3-4 business days. After that amount of time most inboxes will have buried my first email and I’ll never get a response. On the third (and last) outreach attempt I’ll get funny with the outreach and try to crack a joke, or I’ll go the frustrated route and ask if the email is even working. More often than not, a curt third attempt will generate some sort of response where the first two failed.

Don’t Rely on Email

While email may be your most powerful outreach tool (besides the phone if you’re comfortable with that route – I mainly work behind persona names so phones aren’t much of an option for me) but don’t get complacent with it. I make sure to circle authoritative webmasters on Google Plus and will share their content on Google Plus and Twitter. All of these actions should give them a notification that puts my name in front of their eyes so my email will be more recognizable. If I’m not getting any response from emails and I see they’re still being active on their blog and social media I’ll reach out to them directly on social media asking if they got my email and ask for a response.

The Cons to My Approach

There are none.

Okay, that’s not true – but I do believe strongly in how I do things. That doesn’t mean I’m not constantly adapting and changing my techniques as we find better strategies. The biggest downside to my approach is time. It can take a good chunk of time to write out an original email pitch, especially when compared to copying and pasting a stock email.

I also make a request for a particular guest post only one site at any given time because I want to limit the chances of posting duplicate content. Many link builders will send out the same article dozens to hundreds of times to maximize their link building potential. But I don’t worry about the number of links as much as I worry about the quality of links I’m building. And quality links require effort.

I’m aware that there isn’t much new to my “strategy,” but a lot of SEOs and online marketers overlook how well simple and down-to-earth successful outreach tactics are. The only tools I use are Boomerang (which keeps track of email follow-ups) and Rapportive, which finds the contact’s name and social media profile). There are plenty more tools that could boost my outreach attempts per hour, but I do not want to sacrifice the quality of my outreach emails for the sake of boosting my numbers–and I think this is a mentality that is gaining ground across the industry.

Let me know your thoughts on outreach in the comments below.

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