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SEO 17 min read

Link Building Outreach: How To Run Successful Outreach Campaigns That Get Results

Link Building Outreach: How To Run Successful Outreach Campaigns That Get Results
Link Building Outreach: How To Run Successful Outreach Campaigns That Get Results 16261788141232
Graham Grieve
SEO Consultant with over 7 years experiece at A1 SEO Glasgow, helping local businesses win more traffic and leads through search engines.
If you are reading this, then chances are you have tried, and maybe failed, to carry out a successful outreach campaign. Despair not! This post will arm you with the right techniques to conquer holistic link building through outreach and dominate your niche.

Link building in 2020

The art of link building changes every year. Goals for link building are still similar – gain domain and industry authority.

Some websites still rely heavily on directory links, PBNs, and paid links. Do these methods work? If done properly, then sometimes. Are these methods risky? Yes.
But come on, we all know that these methods of link building are frowned upon. When it comes to PBNs Nathan Gotch's summary is pretty accurate in my opinion:
Make sure you understand the risks associated with PBNs;
If you can get ROI from PBNs then do it;
Don't fully rely on only one method;
The cost involved in setting up a blog network can be spent elsewhere, usually for much better ROI.
That leaves "White Hat" link building. Pre-penguin there were websites gaining natural links the same way that they are still doing now. For these sites link building has not changed that much.

That is because these sites will be creating content and reaching out to suitable bloggers for relevant links.

Why is outreach so vital for link building?

Whilst some sites rely heavily on directory links, PBNs and paid links these methods are becoming more and more risky. Google should spot these but some go under the radar. It is a good guess that Google will be able to identify all of these and act accordingly.

Editorial links gained through outreach have always been safe from regular Google purges, and there is no evidence to suggest that this will change.

This raises the question "why doesn't everyone use outreach?"

Well to answer that question – it is quite hard! The trick is to find websites that will find your content interesting and promote your content to that website's owner or editor.

Outreach brick walls

If you have ever implemented an outreach campaign, successful or not, then you will know that at some stage you will hit a brick wall. Below are a few examples of the brick walls you will hit and how to overcome them.

#1: Small pool of websites

In some very tight niches you might simply run out of websites. Fear not the obvious solution is staring you right in the face! Simply widen your horizons. Is your content relevant to a wider pool of websites?

For example, let's say your niche was a very specific type of flooring. Simply widen your niche to include all types of flooring or to include the even broader niche of home improvements.

You should try and be as niche and relevant as possible. However, if you are not getting much traction being extremely niche then don't be scared to widen your niche.

#2: Time investment

Researching potential links, bridging the gaps in your internal content and sending out emails is a huge time investment. Be prepared for this.

I have run outreach campaigns where I have sent over 50 personalized emails, received 6 replies and ended up with 2 links as a result. All in all, this campaign took me just under 15 hours but the two high quality links I ended up with were editorial mentions from high DA sites in an incredibly competitive market that we now dominate online.

#3: Rejection

No one likes being ignored or told no. But if you are serious about getting decent results from your outreach campaigns then you have to be prepared to take a lot of people saying no to your idea or simply outright ignoring you.

Take my last example, I sent 50 emails and received 6 replies. Was it worth it for 2 high quality links? Hell yeah!

#4: No suitable content

Sometimes you may find the perfect site in your niche but not have any suitable content to promote. Something I have done one too many times is reaching out to that website with nothing to offer simply to tick that website off the list.

I learned the hard way, through burning bridges like this by being too abrupt, that link building is a process that is vital to SEO success and not a task that you carry out in bursts on a Friday afternoon.

My advice would be to plan a gap in the prospect website's content and reach out once you are fully armed with your awesome piece of content.

Why outreach fails

Now that we have talked about the brick walls you will face when running an outreach campaign let move onto why your outreach campaigns ultimately fail. Outreach mainly fails because SEOs simply do not understand that outreach is a sales pitch and should be treated as such.

Too many webmasters are spammed with 'hey check out this content that I am sure you will love' emails. These emails get deleted as there is no effort or real content behind them. So the outreach ultimately fails because your emails suck.
The biggest reason your emails suck is most likely due to either:
Trying to get the job done quickly and spamming inboxes with generic emails.
Not properly researching a blog or website enough before emailing.
Here is an example of an email I was sent requesting a link on a website I look after:
Link Building Outreach: How To Run Successful Outreach Campaigns That Get Results 16261788141233
I did consider this "outreach email" but 9/10 times if the person puts zero effort into their outreach emails, they put just as much effort into their content. This was true here and the article looked suspiciously spun. I am pretty sure this is done in template fashion like so:


I had a look at your post [insert post name]

[insert post url]

We have a simiar article that goes into a lot more depth, check it out here:

[insert post url]

Please link to this if you think it is valuable.


This example had very little effort and the sender is most definitely focused on quantity rather than quality.

How to research a link opportunity properly?

Like any good salesperson, you need to do your research! Find a "hook" that makes your pitch relevant to someone's current strategy.
Read a few blog posts. This will tell you a little about the person writing the blogs and their personality. For example, is it a casual/light blog with a conversational tone? Great! Then a lighter approach might work better. Or, it may be a very serious blog, full of accurate facts and figures. Take more of a serious approach here.
Find a "hook" where you can instantly grab the site owner's attention. Find out what makes your content unique and linkable. Could it be a gap in the other website's content? Or maybe you have a guide or more in-depth information on a subject that has previously been covered in a past blog on the prospect's site?

If you are a website owner and someone reaches out to you for a link you don't want the hassle of finding a place for the link in your content. That is why a content hook is so important – find information that will help you nudge the website owner towards where your link will fit in.
Make sure you find out the correct email and name if it's available.
Sometimes when you are reaching out to a website they will often accept guest posts. Reading the guidelines can give you a good understanding of how to approach the site owner.

How to write the perfect outreach email?

Now that you are armed with all your research it is time to craft your link winning email. Follow these steps and you will be writing awesome emails in no time:
Delete your email templates! Instead, write a personalized email that pulls in the reader's interest.
Assess your content. Do you have any unique research or relevant blog posts that will interest the prospect?
Find an opportunity to show them that you read and appreciate their work. Are there any blogs that you are genuinely interested in or that correlate with your work?
Try and add a relevant question. This will increase the probability of a response. In this case, even if you don't get a link you have the chance to create some dialogue that will lead to a relationship. Next time you email this potential link you will have the opportunity to reach out like so:
"Hey [Name], You might remember we spoke about [subject] a few weeks ago…."
Make sure you ask for a link. Most webmasters know an outreach email when they see one, but outlining your intentions means there will be no confusion down the line.
Re-read your email. This sounds obvious but the amount of outreach emails I receive with spelling mistakes in them is laughable. Granted I don't care about spelling mistakes in emails, but some webmasters are pretty picky about this. Especially if the email is about "high quality" content.
Overall, simply use your research and sell your content/idea/services. Make each email unique and be as personable as. Circumstance will always change your email. Although I hate templates, HubSpot has 9 Link Building Email Outreach Templates That Actually Work. Have a look at these for guidance, but copy and paste at your own peril!

Here is an example of an email I recently sent out that got me a solid link:
Link Building Outreach: How To Run Successful Outreach Campaigns That Get Results 16261788141234
Here I have properly researched the website, have asked a direct question and found direct relevance between my content offer and the website. It would have been good to shorten this email a bit but it worked.

Check out an interview, where Ann Smarty, a former Editor-in-chief at SEJ, tells about the main points editors of the popular blogs pay their attention to while reading the guest posting request and how to make your letter stand out of hundreds of other requests.

If you want to take your outreach emails to the next level, read this post by Neil Patel. In this article, he goes through 7 things that make him delete outreach emails he receives. Avoid these at all cost! Also, if you fancy a bit of a laugh, read John Doherty's examples of bad outreach emails.
Q&A With Ann Smarty: Discussing Influence Marketing With a Real Marketing Influencer

Important: Follow Up!

Make sure you follow up. I have nearly missed out on a few solid link building opportunities by reaching out on the wrong day. By following up I secured these links. An excellent tip is to use Boomerang.

A lot of people use Boomerang to schedule a reply if the receiver does not respond. I instead change this to send me the email back if I have not received a response. This way I can craft a more personalized response.

To use Boomerang for Gmail, install the extension on Chrome and follow the steps below:
Put your own email in the to field.
Click the red Send Later button.
Tick the box "Only if nobody replies".
Pick the time you would like the email sent back to you.
Hit confirm.
Link Building Outreach: How To Run Successful Outreach Campaigns That Get Results 16261788141235
Link Building Outreach: How To Run Successful Outreach Campaigns That Get Results 16261788141236

How to find relevant domains for link exchange?

Link building should start with an assessment of site quality. This can be done using the Serpstat Backlink analysis tool.
Check the basic data about the domains.

Open the Batch analysis report and add the list of domains. Then you will receive date on:

  • Domain Rank;
  • Pages indexed;
  • Referring domains/Referring pages;
  • Nofollow backlinks;
  • Referring;
  • IP-addresses;
  • Referring Subnets;
  • Text links;
  • Redirect links;
  • Image links.
You can click on any of the indicators and see a detailed report for each website.
Serpstat Links Intersection report helps to find common donors for several web sites, check donors who link to your competitors but not to your site, create a visual graph comparing the reference mass for the analyzed domains.
Links Intersection report
Such reports will help you to make a quick link mass analysis of the competitors and check the quality of links. This will determine which sites would link to your domain and vice versa.
Want to get detailed instructions on how to choose a quality link for your domain? Leave your email in the form and receive a whitepaper with a step-by-step guide.
Link Building Outreach: How To Run Successful Outreach Campaigns That Get Results 16261788141238

Final thoughts

Every good SEO knows that link building is an important aspect of climbing the ranks and dominating a niche on Google. Different link building techniques come in and out of fashion, but outreach has remained one of the most effective (albeit painstakingly time-consuming and difficult) approaches to take.

Use this guide to make sure you are getting the most out of your outreach campaigns and please give me a shout in the comments with any questions :)
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