A lot of webmasters struggle with email outreach, especially was a way to build links. Some have even taken to calling the practice "grey hat," even though no legitimate and successful inbound marketing strategy can neglect this kind of outreach.
I could go on for days about how to write these emails, but this is one of those things that's easiest to learn by example. Take a look at the these 5 real world examples and find out how to make link building emails work for you.
1. PR Outreach from BuzzStream
Paul May of BuzzStream shared this email with John Doherty. They used this for PR outreach when they launched:
Don't know if you remember me, but I've commented on a number of your blog posts and we've written a couple of posts on the (YOUR COMPANY) blog that continued discussions you'd started (I think the TOPIC post was the most recent one). I wanted to reach out to you about YOUR COMPANY, the PR/SEO startup I co-founded.
We're now preparing to launch (DATE) and I wanted to see if we could setup a time to brief you on it. QUICK BACKGROUND ABOUT YOUR COMPANY. WHY YOUR COMPANY IS GREAT.
Here's the gist. You can:
SELLING POINT 1
SELLING POINT 2
SELLING POINT 3
Launch is happening DATE. We'd love to find some time to show the thing to you. Are you comfortable with an embargo until TIME a.m. ET on DAY, DATE (i.e. late Monday night PT)? If so, here are some suggested times...pick your poison ;)
TIME OPTION 1
TIME OPTION 2
TIME OPTION 3
Thanks in advance.
There are a few reasons why this works:
- They offer context for the discussion, specifically referencing the fact that they have written comments on their site, and that they have followed up with blog posts of their own. Referencing a site or an influencer on your own blog before reaching out to them is always a good idea, and when you bring it up in your email, it becomes especially powerful.
- They don't ask for a link. They ask when would be a good time to show them the site, and only after explaining why this would be helpful for them. This is important for overcoming automatic psychological filters.
- The email is relatively short and smartly organized, but it isn't excessively formal, and sounds like it was written for a human being.
2. Derek Halpern Promotes Social Triggers
If you haven't heard of Derek Halpern, he's the guy who writes about the intersection between online psychology and marketing, and he built an audience of 17,000 subscribers in less than a year. He did it using emails like this (PDF link):
I stumbled on some academic research that proves design is king. It was conducted at a University in London, and the researcher found that when people distrust websites, 94% of the time they cite design related reasons. If you'd like me to forward that research your way, let me know and I'll gladly send it over
Here are a few reasons why this approach has worked so well for him:
- It's short and to the point.
- He's offering value. He was contacting influencers about things that they cared about. These were bloggers and webmasters who had previously argued either that design was king, or that content was king. The information he was sharing was already of extreme interest to them.
- He isn't bragging, and the recipient hardly has to trust him as a person at all. Since Derek is referencing academic research, rather than his own opinion or product, he completely bypasses the need to be seen as authoritative, at least at first.
- Like BuzzStream, he doesn't post a link in the email. Instead, he asks if they would like to see the research. He knows that if they ask him for the research, it won't seem fishy when he sends them the link. Besides, asking for permission to send over a link is simply the polite thing to do.
3. Distilled Earns Guest Posts in the Medical and Financial Industries
In this case, Distilled didn't share any of the specific emails they sent. However, they did share their success rates, which were 28 percent in the medical industry, and 31 percent in the financial industry. Those are good numbers in any industry, let alone health and finance. So, what was their approach?
- Prospecting and pre-qualification - Create a list of high quality targets, 15 to 20 or so, and approach them with blog post ideas that you know will be in high demand.
- Engagement and acquisition - Pitch 3 titles, two that are relatively "safe," seen-it-before type posts, and one that is more unique and possibly controversial. Personalize the outreach email as much as possible. Handle objections by thinking long term. They might not be interested in X now but they might be interested in Y later.
- Stay in contact, regardless of whether you successful earned a link or not (assuming they aren't begging you to please just leave them alone).
The reason this approach works is because it is value-focused. You aren't trying to convince them to link to you. You are selling them on the idea that your guest post will be valuable for their blog.
4. Peter Attia Earns EDU Links
While there is nothing special in Google's algorithm that treats .edu domains differently from .com domains, or any other top level domain, links from educational institutions are often way more authoritative than your typical website, and perhaps more importantly, harder to get. That didn't stop Peter Attia with this correspondence:
What's the key to this success? Obviously, the resource he is sharing is very valuable based on the response, but that's not what really makes this work. Peter calls this the "soft email" approach. His first email isn't trying to do anything except get a response from the webmaster. This is useful because once the webmaster actually takes the time to respond to an email, they will pay more attention to anything you have to send them afterward. Tiny commitments like these make a very big difference.
5. Gregory Ciotti Gets on LifeHacker
LifeHacker is one of the most popular sites on the web, and it takes talent and an understanding of their audience in order to get something published on their site. Needless to say, the content needs to be better than good, but outreach is an important part of it as well. Here's the email that got Gregory Ciotti on LifeHacker to and in front of 200,000+ views:
Here are a few reasons this one works so well:
- He establishes credibility and context by saying that he's a friend of somebody who has already been published on LifeHacker.
- He confidently explains why he thinks his post will be beneficial to them, and briefly explains what it's about.
- The focus is on how well Leo's post did, and why Greg's post is likely to perform similarly.
A rule of thumb Greg is using here is that you shouldn't ever feel the need to say "please" during your outreach. This doesn't mean you should be rude (far from it). Instead, it means that if you ever feel the need to say please, you probably aren't offering enough value.
To sum up, smart email outreach:
- Is more interested in getting a response from the initial email than it is in getting the webmaster to take a look at something right away
- Builds authority quickly, either by using somebody else's authority, or by establishing credentials
- Puts the focus on how you can help them, not how they can help you
- Often avoids posting a link in the first email entirely
- Tends to ask permission to send something over before actually sending it
- Gives the email context so that it doesn't seem contrived
Hope this helps, and thanks for reading.
Image credit: Lali Masriera