The Anatomy of a Kick-Ass Outreach Email – a Guide for Lost Link Builders
All roads lead to Rome.
All link building leads to links.
But some of you might feel LOST.
It’s ok, I’ve been there. So have others. I asked some of my pals about their doubts and fears around outreach:
See? It’s not just you. And to be honest, I still lose my way from time to time.
Sometimes, when I start a new link building client, my impostor syndrome kicks in. Is this the type of link I should go for? Is the content on the site good enough? What if all the link prospects hate my guts?
Then I just start 3 strategies at once, or switch to a different one before I truly tested the first. Or I research every option to death without making any decisions.
OR, worst-case scenario: I freeze and don’t do anything at all.
I always have to remind myself of the wise old saying that goes:
“Just fucking do it”.
Once you start executing, you learn, and you calibrate. And guess what?
You 👏 Will 👏 Get 👏 Your 👏 Links 👏
Whether you’re doing a shotgun skyscraper, broken links, or pitching guest posts – in the end you will get the amount of links you need.
It might take you 50 emails, or 10000. You might need to produce a 5000-word linkable asset, or cash out 5000 bucks. But you will get there.
So What’s Your Point, Felicia?
My point is that whatever works for you, your business, and your clients, is A-okay.
No judgment here about mass emailing, link partnerships, or buying links.
(I do have a pet peeve about being 100% transparent to your clients about your link building strategies and other SEO techniques, but that’s for another time)
BUT if you feel LOST, and you’re wondering if the way you’re building links works best for you…come to mama Bibi.
What Are the Benefits of Bespoke Email Outreach?
Oh yeah! Before we jump into the how-to of bespoke (or unique) email, let me tell you how it can help you with ALL link building methods, and find your way again.
Experimenting with custom link pitches can inform you about what works now, in which niches, with certain types of prospects. It shows you what triggers individuals to open your emails, respond to you, and accept your offer.
It can also help you with content ideation for specific industries, with choosing the types of links, and the value propositions. AND even with creating standard outreach templates.
Aaaaand (this is most important to me): it proves you can do this.
That’s why I think that if you’re feeling insecure and keep switching tactics, you should try this out…at least once.
Personalization: Bespoke Emails vs. Generic Templates
Ok, I lied again. Before we really get to the meat, here’s a quick overview of the pros and cons of unique and templated emails. If you know exactly what I’m talking about, feel free to skip ahead 🙂
Personalization in outreach ranges from standard emails to completely original emails. Every link builder finds themselves somewhere on this continuum.
Generic (“Cookie-cutter”) Email Templates
You can send out the same basic email to prospects, while personalizing some elements such as their site name, first name, and a blog post on their site.
Example of a generic outreach template with slight personalization:
How Much Should You Personalize?
You can add as many personalized elements as you want. For instance, you could create unique headlines just for that specific site to pitch as guest post ideas. Or you could reference something the site owner talked about in their last tweet.
The more you personalize, the more you’re moving towards the other end of the spectrum: unique emails.
Unique Outreach Emails
When hardly anything you write is repeated for another prospect, and you tailor everything exactly to this specific editor or website owner, your email becomes more and more unique.
Below you see an example of a unique email. The tone and word use matches that of the prospect site. There are references to their “about” and “editorial guidelines” page. It even contains a greeting in the language of the company owners.
Example of a unique email:
Both of these types of email outreach will get you backlinks. Which one you go for, is up to you. Each strategy has its benefits and downsides. Here is an (incomplete) list:
Pros and Cons of Generic Email Templates
|Easy to scale: automate & outsource||Prospects might sooner say “no” or ask for money (prospect fatigue)|
|Don’t need much data||Need to send a lot of emails|
|Suitable for A/B testing||Increased chance of being flagged and cause email deliverability problems|
|Cost-effective||Lower chance of building relationships|
Pros and Cons of Unique Emails
|Bigger chance of getting on “big dawg” sites||Brain-intensive|
|Lesser change of getting flagged||Requires a specific skill set|
|More opportunities to build relationships||Not suitable for A/B testing|
What is Prospect Fatigue?
One of the things I’d like to go into a little deeper is something I call “prospect fatigue”.
Back in the day, site owners and editors were happy to link out to other sites. They liked getting free content in return, or referring their audience to great content on another site.
But SEOs started using the same outreach emails over and over again, and sending them out to hundreds of thousands of sites. And now they’re complaining that all bloggers ask for money, ignore them, tell them to fuck off, or flag them as spam.
There’s always two sides. So I asked some blogger groups what the biggest annoyance was with being outreached. The No. 1 most common answer was:
“They never looked at my site”
They knew the outreachers hadn’t looked at their sites because the email was similar to 50 other ones they had gotten, and any blog references in it were generic or clearly auto-generated. Lastly, the content offered was not in line with theirs at all, whether it was for a guest post pitch or a linkable asset to link to.
Other complaints included poor quality of the content offered, fake flattery, spammy sounding emails, and not following their guidelines.
Some bloggers mentioned that asking for huge amounts of money was just a way to scare link builders off. They called it fuck-off money. And that, sometimes, link builders even paid the crazy link fee. Way to ruin the market, yo!
No really, thanks.
When you take prospect fatigue into account, it explains why mass emailing templates with little to no personalization tends to produce lower conversion rates.
This isn’t always true – you could have amazingly creative, funny, charming email templates à la Jon Buchan. Or you can highly segment your prospect lists to ensure everything you send to them is spot on.
But overall, standard email templates have lower conversion. Here is my hypothesisisizzle thingie (now I wish I had paid more attention in school before trying to be all fancy-schmancy):
The less you personalize, the more emails you need to send out for the same amount of backlinks.
(big thanks to John Romaniello for helping me with grammar on this one)
And on the flip side: the more you personalize, the more you counter the complaints site owners have about outreach. And the higher your conversion will be.
But to reiterate what I said in the beginning: all roads lead to Rome, all link building methods lead to links. You just need more emails. Up to you.
How Do I Do Bespoke Outreach?
I’m not a guru. I can only show you what works for me.
What I do know, is that the people who have implemented my tips have had success.
The most important thing is to just try it out, and calibrate as you move forward.
When you start, though, forget about “getting links”.
Don’t be a link builder
Say what!? Hear me out.
Stop thinking like a link builder, start thinking like a writer.
When you’re pitching guest posts or a linkable asset (for resource links, etc), you should be selling that content, not asking for a link.
In addition to this:
Stop talking like a beggar, start talking like a peer.
Don’t beg for a link or be pushy. Be confident that you have something of value, and simply show that value. Don’t use fake flattery – you can compliment someone, but only if it’s genuine and specific. No empty statements about “how you love their blog”.
And most importantly:
Stop copying other link builders and start being different.
A lot of elements that other outreachers use in their emails, make sense. For instance, they refer to blog posts of the prospects, to prove they’ve looked at their sites. They describe the quality aspects of their writing, to prove they deliver good stuff.
But they all use the same structure and the same wording, and every sentence shows the blogger what the outreacher really wants: that linky link link.
So let’s get creative like a writer, and stop being like all the rest.
What makes a good unique email?
A good unique email proves these things to a prospect:
- You looked at their site
- You deliver quality
- You’re genuinely interested
- You’re not just spamming
You don’t need to sound like Neil Gaiman and blow them away with an amazing, 100% perfect email. Just hit these 4 points in a not on-the-nose type of way, and you’re good.
Here’s an example of an email that’s not mind-blowing, and in bits even crappy. But it hits most of the points (and got the link). I’ve edited a bit for privacy:
In terms of hitting the points, here is which element does what:
- This is a play on their tag line (“business marketing for winners”)= proves I’ve looked at their site and triggers them to open
- Apologies which will be referred to in the email= different and triggers to open
- Pitch in the subject line = honesty about intent
- Playful way of apologizing
- Showing I know their site
- Showing quality
- Relating to them as being the same
- Not asking, but proposing as a peer
- Prove I know what they’re about
- Prove I know their audience
- Showing my quality by outlining
- Prove I know their content and showing my equal quality
- Prove I know their content and part of the value proposition (internal link)
- Proof of quality
- Talking like a peer
- Value proposition
- Charming and different
This example was a loooong-ass email but I wanted to show it for two reasons:
First off, to demonstrate various examples of hitting the four points:
You’ve looked at their site, deliver quality, are genuine and not spamming. And on top of that, you sound DIFFERENT.
Secondly, because I did not write that email.
Huh, what, why not?
Because I’m not a writer, I’m a motherfucking LINK BUILDER.
Which brings me to the next topic: how do you do this?
How to Write Unique Emails
Answer is: you don’t have to. I tricked you, I’m sorry.
I know that through this whole thing you’ve been thinking…where in the HELL do I find time for this? To sit down and clear my head and write epic love letters to prospects? How do I train a VA to do this shit?
How about this: outsource it to a writer.
They know how to pitch content, and that’s the only thing the link prospect cares about.
The email example I showed you above, it wasn’t written by me but by my writer. I paid her 5 USD for it. She got no other instruction from me than this:
My pitch order on HireWriters
The cool thing isn’t just that her pitches get me high-quality links (sometimes 1 for every 3 emails!). They also give me ideas on how to write my own pitches. And not just for unique emails, for templates too!
And prospects love it.
How to Ask Your Writer
When you try this out with your writers, give them as little instruction as possible. Just show them the site, the guidelines, and ask them to write an email they think the prospect will like.
Bonus Tip: With Pitchbox, you can have your VA go through the prospect list, do some preliminary research, find guidelines, etc., and save that data for the writer. Make it easier for your writers (turned link builders) to find the information they need to write a great pitch. Pitchbox makes it easy to systematize this process.
Eric Carrell, from DoFollow.io on systematizing email outreach :
Whatever you do, do NOT show them examples of link building outreach. You might have to tweak the emails here and there, and give feedback. Check for the 4 elements I mentioned above, and if they sound genuine and different.
But your writers will come up with incredibly creative ways of getting the same message across that link builders try to. And they can do it without sounding like 10000 others.
Just TRY It
For a while, I thought it might be a fluke. But after my training, I’ve had several people tell me it worked for them as well. Some of them were even able to train their VA’s to do it!
VA did it!
If you can train your VA’s to do high-quality email outreach for you, it’s only a matter of time before you’re able to systemize and scale. And you won’t know until you try.
I hope you take action. If you do, please tell me how it’s working out for you 🙂
If you have feedback, questions, or need help with link building, find me at BibiBuzz.com – I’ll hold my breath…