Doing outreach for the purposes of building links has kind of a bad reputation attached to it. Blasting out emails to thousands of people asking for something can make you feel like a spammer, but it doesn’t have to be like this.
Maybe you have a business or website that you want to promote. It might seem awesome to you, the problem is that nobody knows it exists. That’s where you look to Google for how to promote your awesome project.
You read about blogger outreach and are immediately discouraged. Templated emails to thousands of strangers isn’t the most fun thing to do. The chances of rejection are high, if it even reaches their inbox that is.
The good news is that blogger outreach doesn’t necessarily have to be like all the negative stigmas on the internet. If you follow the tips in this article we will show you how to do it properly with high success and minimal rejection.
What is Blogger Outreach?
Blogger outreach is essentially contacting bloggers and journalists by sending them personalized messages, mostly through email. The purpose of this is to convince them to talk about you and get a link to your website.
You might wonder what makes this any better than spamming? Well, there are many different ways to do blogger outreach and most people simply don’t put in the effort to personalize their emails and build rapport.
Here are a few sample outreach emails. Can you guess which one is spam?
It should be pretty clear that the first one is spam and the second is a decent attempt at proper blogger outreach.
The first email doesn’t offer any value and is basically a used car salesman pitch for a link. The second email on the other hand is personal and charming which is what you want to mimic in order to have success with blogger outreach.
Outreach is Broadcasting
The honest truth is that nobody wants to receive emails like the first example. They would sign up for your email list if they did.
To top if off, bloggers are not stupid. A crappy templated email is very easy to spot and once it lands in their inbox they will assume that you are:
- Don’t actually know anything about their business
Great way to connect with someone right?
Two Different Outreach Strategies
In the world of blogger outreach there are two main approaches that people take.
- Sniper outreach
- Shotgun outreach
There are pros and cons to each method. We will give a brief overview of these individually.
A sniper always chooses his target carefully and this type of outreach is done the same way. Doing sniper outreach involves sending emails which are highly personalized to each target.
The aim is to give value to a carefully selected group and hope to get something positive back. We think this type of outreach is best in general and especially for high profile clients.
The shotgun outreach approach involves sending a mass amount of emails to a wide list of targets with very little time spent in personalizing the emails.
The general belief is that outreach is a numbers game. The more emails sent, the more links gained.
We think that the shotgun approach is partly to blame why blogger outreach gets a bad reputation.
It is easy to see why people do it though:
- It’s easy
- Sending more emails feels more productive
- Less time investment
The truth is that the shotgun approach definitely has its place. If you’re trying to get links fast and don’t care about annoying people then this makes the most sense.
When it comes to link building though, sending 50 emails and having a 10% success rate is the same as sending 500 and having a 1% success rate.
Why Sniper Outreach is Better
With this said, there are a few reasons that we would recommend the sniper approach over the shotgun approach.
Only so many good link prospects
It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in. Eventually you will run out of good link prospects. If you blast out spammy templated emails you are going to annoy the highest quality prospects which will massively hurt your link building campaigns.
When doing blogger outreach deliverability issues are a huge problem. That button in gmail that marks emails as spam is going to make your emails end up in the spam folder if enough people click on it.
Outreach is so common nowadays that any blogger with a website has most likely gotten a ton of shotgun outreach emails. Because of this, it’s likely that the shotgun approach will only work on weaker sites that don’t get a ton of outreach emails.
Because of all these reasons, the rest of this article is going to focus on how to do sniper outreach properly.
Step 1: Find Link Targets
Most strategies for link building use a specific way to find prospects to reach out to. For example:
- Skyscrape technique uses websites that link to worse quality articles
- Unlinked mentions uses websites that mention but don’t link to you
- Broken link building uses websites that link to relevant dead pages
- Resource page link building uses websites with relevant resource pages
These methods can work very well but only within the confines of the specific method. There are better ways where you don’t leave as many links on the table.
Here are four ways to find more link outreach targets.
#1 People Who Have Written About the Same Topic
There’s no better indicator that someone is interested in the same topic as when they have written an article about it already.
Here is how you find these people.
Use Google Footprints
Open up Google and search for keywords about your topic. If you were looking for prospects for a web design agency then you would use a series of Google footprints that target those keywords. Here is an example below.
A quick tip is to use a recent date range in the Google settings. People are more likely to update content that they care about, so searching for results within the last month will land you much more of these types of prospects. The way that you use this is to go: tools > any time > choose a date range.
You can also use advanced Google search operators to find extremely specific link prospects.
An example of this would be for this article. It mentions sniper vs shotgun outreach so you can search for bloggers that don’t mention this using the search operator: blogger outreach -intext:”shotgun”.
The good thing about this is that you can use this as an excuse when you do your outreach. Simply say “Hey I saw that you have an article about blogger outreach but didn’t include anything about the two different approaches, I mention those in my article”.
It’s important to note that if you go with this then you should use a scraper like scrapebox to speed up the process.
There are also some free tools you can use. One is the Ahrefs SEO toolbar. All you have to do is install the toolbar and export the search results to a csv file. Linkklipper chrome extension has similar functionality, as does mozbar.
Use Ahrefs Content Explorer
Content explorer by ahrefs.com is a massive database of over a billion pages where you can export thousands of results from. The best part is that it’s filterable and filterable, highly worth the investment in our opinion.
When we search for “web design agency” we get 16,656 results which can be instantly exported to a csv file. The thing is that the content explorer searches for these keywords anywhere in the content so it can be smart to narrow things down a bit.
If we change the search to “intitle” and put the keyword in quotes, then toggle the “one article per domain” button you can narrow it down a ton.
Now we’re down to just 513 results.
You can also use the “highlight unlinked domains” feature to find websites that have never linked to your site before. Make sure to take care when reaching out to these targets because a link will be more valuable than someone who has already linked to you.
#2 People Who Are Featured in Your Article
When writing a long piece of content you will most likely be linking out to other bloggers in your niche, so why not reach out and let them know that you did?
This is easy to do. Just open your post and look for outbound links. Or you can automate it with a tool called https://urlextractor.net and choose “external links” only.
#3 People Who’ve Linked to Articles on the Same Topic
For this technique use ahrefs content explorer and search for a keyword that is highly relevant to your post.
Then do this:
- Set “referring domains” to the minimum number of referring domains you want to the page. 10 is a good number to start with.
- Sort the results descending from high to low.
Then all you have to do is put the URL of the articles into ahrefs site explorer to look at the back links and look for targets.
There are also a couple filters that you can use like “dofollow” “blogs” and “english” to help narrow down the results.
#4 People Who Tweeted Articles About the Same Topic
We have to admit that this technique is the least effective method out of the four. The reason for this is that with the popularity of social media people tweet way more often than they link out. Another reason is that they just tweet a lot in general.
Having said that, you shouldn’t ignore these people if you want to run an effective outreach campaign.
Finding people who tweeted about a certain topic is very easy. Simply put the URL into the search box in twitter.
You will be shown the “top tweets” by default but you can also sort by “latest” to see the rest of them.
Scraping twitter is a pain so just use ahrefs content explorer and check the “who tweeted” tab. Make sure to filter for recent tweets only with this method. The reason for this is that people most likely won’t remember what they tweeted a week or two ago, plus you’ll look weird commenting about an old tweet.
Step 2: Divide Up Your Prospects
There are a few different levels of “influence” that bloggers might have so you want to keep this in mind when doing outreach to them. Here are the four groups to use.
A List Celebs
Celebs are usually massively successful and have a huge audience. Some examples of these people in the business world would be:
- Grant Cardone
- Gary Vaynerchuk
- Tai Lopez
There’s almost zero chance of getting on the radar of these people because they are not reading personal emails. Your only chance is usually through a personal introduction or something really creative.
Because of this we would recommend just skipping these prospects as it’s a waste of time to even try.
B List Celebs
These people are a step down from A list celebs but are still big enough to help out your business. Some examples of these in the internet marketing world would be:
- Glen Allsopp
- Matthew Woodward
- Brian Dean
Unlike the A list, it’s possible to get on these peoples radar with a very personal email. You don’t want to directly ask for a tweet or link though, it’s better to ask them to critique your work or ideas. Reaching out to these people can be difficult but it’s still worth a shot.
C List Celebs
These people don’t have the audience size that the A or B list do. Their websites might just be starting to take off and they will be actively promoting themselves.
Because of this, they usually respond well to personalized, polite and value added emails. You should definitely reach out to these people and expect reasonable success.
These people are just starting their site/business and don’t have a decent size audience yet. Because of this they are highly responsive to outreach emails, even with the shotgun approach. You’ll usually have no issues contacting these people.
The problem with the aspiring celebs is that they just don’t have much of an audience. Given this fact, we think that you shouldn’t put in the effort to contact them. Your time is better spent on prospects that can help your business more.
Now that you know what types of prospects are best for you to target it’s time to filter down your list. To filter out the aspiring celebs just use ahrefs bulk checker and delete prospects with a DR rating of less than 20.
To filter out the A list celebs filter out any sites with a DR greater than 80. These numbers are not definitive by any means but they are good guidelines to follow.
Step 3: Get Their Contact Details
If there’s one sticking point in doing blogger outreach at scale this is it. Most people don’t want to be bothered and go to great lengths to hide their email address.
It can be downright tedious to try and find the correct contact details of the bloggers that you’re trying to get in touch with.
Most people use scraping tools like scrapebox and others to go and find their prospects email. The problem is that it might not be the right one.
Hunter.io is an automated tool that can find a bunch of emails that are associated with a site. You can simply install their chrome extension and let it do it’s thing. The only problem with this method is that you’ll end up with a bunch of emails that you might not recognize.
A much better method is to instead start with the name of a specific person that you want to get in touch with. Then use Hunter.io to find that person’s email address.
The question of how you find a list of names and websites still remains though. If you used ahrefs content explorer it will show author names beside some of the results.
The only thing left to do is narrow the results down the raw domain. This is easily done with an excel formula =REGEXEXTRACT(C2,”^(?:https?://)?(?:[^@n][email protected])?(?:www.)?([^:/n]+)”). Or you can use a tool like this https://www.seoweather.com/trim-urls-to-root-domain-standardise-urls-prefixes/
To trim the results to root.
Then you can filter the sheet so that it shows only results with author names and then upload it into the Hunter.io bulk tool.
Step 4: Make a Pitch
The pitch is a crucial part of the blogger outreach campaign. Most generic guides will tell you to use a template like this:
I was checking out your article: %URL_of_their_article%
I noticed that you linked to this article: %URL_where_they_link_to%
It’s a great post, but I wrote an even better article on that same topic.
Check it out here: %URL_of_my_article%
I hope you can add a link to my post in your article or at least tweet it.
This template isn’t necessarily terrible but it’s still a template which is not ideal for the type of outreach that we recommend.
Instead we recommend that you get rid of the templated method and focus on delivering a highly custom pitch to just one specific person.
Make Them Curious With the Subject
The subject line is critical to your open rate. Get it right and you will have great success. Get it wrong and your open rate will be terrible. Just the fact that 2200 people search for “best email subject lines” every month in the US reiterates this fact.
All the articles about crafting the perfect subject line suck as well. What do you think the end result is when all those people use the same canned subject line?
Instead we would recommend using a subject line that describes why you’re emailing them in the first place while at the same time making them curious.
Try and keep the subject lines short and to the point so that the emails don’t end up truncated in the email client they are using. You also want to show that you know them in the first part of the email as this part is visible in the preview pane.
Don’t Flatter Them
People can usually tell when you are trying to butter them up. Empty compliments are very common in outreach emails and you’re better off not using them. We recommend saying something meaningful and well thought out or not at all.
Tell Them Why You’re Emailing Them
Most people use the same canned reasons for contacting a person. Telling someone that they should check out a post similar to another doesn’t make much sense.
A better approach would be to tell them about a differing opinion or alternate topic they should check out in your post.
This requires a lot more effort of course, so most people just don’t bother. Thankfully there are ways to save time with this.
One method is called prospect bucketing. This is where you group your prospects into “buckets” based on the reason that they linked to an article. Your outreach will be much easier if you do it this way.
End With a Call to Action
A call to action doesn’t mean simply asking them to link to your article. Although there are times when this is the right move, usually it will end with a hard no.
Instead what you can do is end the email with a question that elicits a response. Something like these:
-What do you think?
-Do you agree with our point of view?
-Did I miss anything?
These might still be a bit generic but they are much better at not coming off too salesy and aggressive asking for a link right away.
Only Show Your Best Articles
Most bloggers publish a lot of new content each week. Just because you publish something doesn’t mean that you should do outreach for it though. Too much outreach can burn bridges quickly.
You might wonder now, how do you know which content is your best? Simply plug your URL into ahrefs site explorer and check the “top content” report. This report shows the top content by the number of social shares it has which is a good indicator that it’s popular.
This might sound too simple but the main thing to remember is that blogger outreach is not rocket science. All you have to do is treat people normally and let your quality content speak for you.
Step 5: Scaling Blogger Outreach
At this stage most people do something like this:
-Insert their pitch into an automated tool like gmass
-Replace the persons name with a field
-Upload their prospects
-Mass email thousands of emails
The problem is that this isn’t personalized enough. Personalization and success rate are very much correlated.
So how do you use a high quality pitch and scale it, given how much time it takes to do? The answer is that you can create custom merge fields.
Create Custom Merge Fields
The next thing to do is to replace small parts of the email with custom merge fields. Some examples of custom merge fields could be: %nugget_of_wisdom%, %something_they_didn’t_mention%. This would make the email personal enough to stand out amongst the crowd of thousands of others.
Fill the Merge Fields
Now you need to decide what the merge tags will be replaced with for each prospect. We would recommend using a spreadsheet for this.
All you have to do is open up a spreadsheet and add custom merge fields as column headers. Don’t forget to have their email in there as well which you should have already found.
Next fill in the columns and then check the context of the emails to make sure that it sounds natural when read.
Double Check and Send
Now with everything coming together it’s time to send the emails. Upload your spreadsheet to the outreach software and let it replace the merge fields with the points in the sheet.
We would recommend double checking each email before hitting send. It would be a shame to get to this point and make a mistake so double check!
Follow Up Only Once
Most people that have articles about blogger outreach will tell you that most of your links will come from the follow up. This might be true but you also don’t want to annoy people with aggressive follow ups. The optimal method in our opinion is to follow up just once.
Use something simple and polite like this:
Just wanted to follow up in case you missed my email.
If you’re busy right now I totally understand. I won’t email you about this again.
We would recommend not sending any more follow ups than this. It will just burn bridges and make people mad.
How to Find New Prospects Easily
If you’ve made it to this point in the article you probably know more about blogger outreach than 99% of “white hat” link builders.
You might wonder now what to do when you run out of prospects? Well the good news is that there are a couple ways to continue the campaign.
Relevant Keyword Mentions
Tools like Google alerts can be a valuable tool for marketers due to their ease of use and ability to notify when keywords are mentioned online.
We recommend using them to scan for relevant keyword mentions and then depending on the context of the mention you can decide if it’s appropriate to email the author or not.
Ahrefs has a mentions feature built in that you can use to set up alerts for specific keywords. Just go to Alerts > Mentions > + New alert.
New Links to Related Articles
It’s no secret in the SEO world that any article that ranks number one is continually getting new backlinks. The reason for this is that people use the #1 result and rarely do any further research when they look for references.
This ends up being a vicious circle where people search for something and click on the number one result. Then they link to that page and in turn the page stays number one because of the additional links.
The good news is that you can use this to your advantage by setting up alerts for new backlinks. Simply enter the URL that you would like to watch and you’ll get an alert when they get new links.
New Tweets of Related Articles
Twitter is a huge platform and there are millions of tweets going on every day. Among all these tweets there are going to be some that are linking to articles closely related to yours.
If you look in ahrefs and see that a post has gotten 300 tweets in the past 3 years then that averages out to around one tweet every 4 days. That means you could have a new potential site to reach out to every 4 days.
If you rinse and repeat with a few other posts then that’s an easy 50-100 new outreach contacts every single month.
You might wonder how to monitor tweets? Don’t worry it’s easy. Just to go IFTTT and use the “new tweet from search” function for Twitter.
Some Closing Thoughts
It’s no secret that in the world of blogger outreach that people are always looking for quick “hacks” and tricks to scale their outreach campaigns. These “hacks” are generally small things that people think will make a significant difference with their campaigns.
A crazy one that was floating around is adding a “sent from my iPhone” signature to make it seem like you are busy and important. This is a bit ridiculous and not the best 80/20 of your time when doing blogger outreach.
We hate to say it but there isn’t a single outreach quick hack that’s going to save you a ton of time or increase your success rate. People are not stupid and most outreach is painfully obvious as to what’s trying to be accomplished.
With that said there is one thing that can be done to improve your blogger outreach results if used correctly.
Having Good Timing
You have to consider that if a person wrote an article/ tweeted something years ago then what are the odds that they are still as interested in that today as they were back then? Pretty slim if you ask us.
That’s why it’s crucial that you do your outreach while the topic is still fresh in the Author’s mind. This will seem much less spammy then referencing an article that they wrote years ago and have probably forgotten.
We’re not saying to completely ignore old outreach prospects but it’s important to be selective when sending outreach campaigns to increase your level of success.
Although blogger outreach can seem daunting it doesn’t have to be that way. This might be a long article but that doesn’t mean it will take all that long to implement all the processes involved.
Successful outreach requires organization, problem solving skills and good social skills. The good news is that if you struggle with any of these things you can always outsource them to people that are great at them.
If you follow all these things you will have links on tap for whenever you need them.