This SEO outreach guide outlines the general email outreach process, from automated search of prospects to email communication. It includes proven tips on how to send better emails and get a good response rate.
You will learn about email outreach tools that will allow you to scale your outreach process for link building, content marketing, lead generation, and many more tasks. And besides the technical basics, you will learn a few hacks and life-savers that make email outreach fascinating.
In digital marketing, email outreach is defined as the process of reaching out to professionals and influencers to promote your content, ideas, or products. With outreach, you aim to make other people write, talk, and share information about what you offer.
In SEO, link outreach is a tactic of building backlinks to a website in order to improve its organic rankings. Link-building outreach is done through a variety of techniques, such as broken link building, skyscraper link building, covering competitors' backlink gap, etc.
Very often, email outreach is associated with SEO and link-building, but it’s not limited to just that. Outreach applies to digital marketing in general when cold emails are sent to achieve some business goals: for example, to get in touch with influencers, establish partnerships, generate leads and direct sales, and raise brand awareness, among others.
So, the main outreach goals are:
Any domain needs high-quality backlinks to build authority. But what if you’ve just launched your site and are still relatively unknown in your niche? That’s where your outreach is needed: to gain backlinks and increase visibility. Typically, by pitching a linked mention, a guest post, or a product review.
You might be also looking for bloggers and partners in affiliate marketing, to promote your content or products, for direct sales, or other forms of partnership and advertising. When pitching influencers, suggest a new creative way to collaborate, and it might turn into a lasting relationship.
Public relations, or digital PR, is a long-term strategy aimed at creating a positive image of a company with the public. Traditionally, PR is done by publishing press releases and working with news media and influencers to spread the good word about a brand. It also involves handling reviews and customer feedback on search platforms and social media.
Social media marketing is in the vanguard of modern-day reputation management. So, one day you will surely need to resort to social media influencers to win the hearts and minds of millions.
Now that we know the goals of outreach, we can shape an average email outreach strategy, going in these basic steps to achieve them:
It’s next to impossible to manage an email campaign manually: if your outreach list contains hundreds or thousands of rows, it can easily turn messy. You need to keep track of so many things: replies, follow-ups, bounced emails, and unsubscribers.
To this end, I strongly suggest you consider specialized email outreach software to automate your cold marketing outreach, link-building, blogger outreach, etc.
And the truth is that we often need a combination of tools: one for finding contact emails, another for automated sending, a third one for tracking the effect of the outreach campaigns, and so forth.
Just as an example, here are a couple of cases when and how we can use such software.
Email address search can turn into a real quest. On the one hand, some email scraping tools may fail to find any contact details. On the other hand, among dozens of discovered contact addresses, you may find out that the response rate from these email boxes is close to zero.
So, strike a balance between quality and quantity. Mostly, it involves testing half a dozen email-finding tools to choose the ones that work best for you.
Hunter.io, RocketReach, or FindThatLead are among the email lookup services that let you easily find email addresses matching a person’s name. The tools have a free plan with around 50 free searches per month, so it’s easy to give it a try.
With dozens and hundreds of emails in a campaign, hardly anyone edits and sends them one by one. For example, RightInbox for Gmail allows scheduling, taking notes, setting reminders, tracking open rates, and sending bulk emails with email templates. Another tool, Mail Tester is good for scrubbing and verifying your email lists (the functionality will help you clear your list from hard bounces). Wiza is best to verify emails with LinkedIn Sales Navigator. And Mailchimp seems to offer the most generous free plan as well as lots of advanced features.
Usually, when we say outreach, we imply SEO and link-building. LinkAssistant was planned as specialized software for link-building outreach. That’s why, on top of researching backlink prospects, it allows managing your inbox as well.
After examining the discovered prospects and scraping their email addresses, you can plan and send customized email outreach campaigns. You can set several status definitions, like “1st request sent”, or “Website links back” and the like, and verify backlinks.
By the end of the campaign, you can track your link outreach progress with LinkAssistant. The tool checks the presence of the links you’ve built, and besides, you can create link-building reports based on customizable reporting templates.
There are dozens of tools to reach out to bloggers and influencers. Some of them are universal, others might be convenient for working with a particular platform.
For example, Awario is a social listenting tool that allows finding mentions and leads on Facebook and on the web in general, as well as measure the sentiment of the mentions.
For blogger outreach, you can use NinjaOutreach to find top YouTube and Instagram influencers or Followerwonk to spot influencers on Twitter. BuzzSumo finds top influencer bloggers across Instagram, Twitter, and the web.
When looking for outreach prospects, it is important to have a clear goal in mind. Your approach to this task will differ dramatically depending on what kind of outreach you are doing. Are you looking for leads? Collaborations? Backlink placement? Each of these will require a different tool and a different overall outreach strategy.
Guest posting is one of the most powerful SEO instruments. If you can get a high authority website to publish a blog post with a couple of backlinks, it will be a major contribution to your ranking effort. Here is how you discover your guest post prospects.
1. Launch LinkAssistant and open or create a project for your website.
2. Click the Start a New Search button to start looking for new prospects for your email pitch. Following the search setup, you can configure the search by country, keywords, topics, and other important factors to make the search more precise.
3. Once the tool collects your outreach list, it is important to go through the list and remove irrelevant or low-quality results. Go through the list of prospects and remove irrelevant or low-quality results. Pay attention to:
If the outreach list is too large to edit manually, use the filtering options to set the parameters for what you believe is acceptable prospect quality.
It is vital to find high-quality prospects that are relevant to your niche and generally strong. If your website has a high domain authority, you’re lucky because it is much easier to find new partnerships.
Stronger websites generally perform better on Google, rank for keywords with larger search volumes, and have larger audiences. So, read this guide to Domain Authority, what it means to SEO outreach, and how to estimate the quality of outreach prospects.
The goal of this type of outreach is to find relevant social media influencers and have them feature your product or service. This is a little more challenging because social media platforms are not as easily mined for information, s so you need to know special hacks and tools designed for the task.
In this outreach guide, I’ll be using Awario to analyze influencers across websites and our preferred social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter:
1. Go to the Awario website and create a free account. Then start a new project by adding the brand name, keywords, and competitors.
2. Once the project is built, switch to the Influencers tab to see the accounts that mention your topics of interest most often — those are your prime social media targets:
While still in Awario, check out the Leads tab. It shows great opportunities for direct collaboration and sales. The tool collects posts where people ask for a recommendation of a product similar to yours and finds posts where users complain about your competitors. This way you can get a feed of sales opportunities in the app in real-time.
By the way, there is Pressrush software for more serious influencers, professional mass media, and journalists with whom you could arrange a pitch for your product or services. Another business feature to be mentioned here is LinkedIn with its add-on Sales Navigator. It’s pretty useful for finding partnership contacts, especially for B2B projects.
When looking for promo partners, you've got to find niche websites that draw sufficient traffic matching your keywords. Here you can use Rank Tracker with its powerful Competition Research module.
1. Launch Rank Tracker tool and open or create a project.
2. Go to Competitor Research > Topic Competitors, enter your seed keywords, and select the search method. Search by domain when you are interested in a site at large or by exact URL if you want to find individual pages:
3. Once Rank Tracker pulls a list of prospect domains, you will be able to sort it using any of the parameters you believe are most important, like website or page authority, organic traffic, or keyword intersection:
4. Additionally, you can press the funnel icon and use the filtering options. For example, here I select to view the competitors that have the domain authority of over 60, match at least half of my keywords, and pull at least 100K of monthly organic traffic:
For a general-purpose link-building strategy, the best way to find outreach prospects is to spy on your competitors.
Detect those websites that link to two or more of your competitors, and you’ve got yourself a list of prime backlink prospects. The fact that the websites link to your competitors means they must operate in your niche. And if the websites link to several of your competitors at once, it means they don’t have an exclusive relationship with either of them.
To discover link gaps, try SEO SpyGlass which has a powerful feature for analyzing intersecting backlinks of several domains at a time.
1. Launch SEO Spyglass, go to Domain Comparison > Link Intersection, and add two or more of your top competitors. Once the tool is done analyzing your competitors, you will get a table of overlapping backlinks:
2. In the dropdown menu above the table, switch to Prospective domains — the table will show those websites that link to your competitors but not to you. Use further filtering options to eliminate low authority websites and those that don’t host any dofollow links.
Once you’ve put together your list of outreach prospects, it is time to find email addresses and relevant information about your prospects. You can get help from automated tools to find thousands of contact emails at once – with different success rates, though.
For a mass extraction of contact information, I suggest you start with LinkAssistant. The tool should be able to manage the majority of your list:
1. Launch LinkAssistant, click the “+” icon to enter the list of your researched domains, and let the tool collect the email addresses for outreach.
2. Once you are done, you can export the list with the emails or send a message to them straight from LinkAssistant.
Some of your targets may be too cautious to provide an email to access openly on a web page. The task can be made easier if you know something about the owner of your prospect domain, for example, their name and location.
Here, email lookup services will help you find contacts that are not easy to uncover.
For example, you can use the RocketReach extension. First, sign up, then go to the page where you expect to find an email address and click on the extension icon. The add-on will pull all available emails which you then add to your contact list.
Alternatively, you can proceed to the website of rocketreach.co and perform a search there. Enter the name of the prospect owner and set additional filters to narrow down your search.
The first half of the cold outreach process, actually, the biggest one – collecting the outreach list with the prospects’ contact addresses – is done. So, the next question is how to write a good outreach email.
The reality is that most cold outreach emails go straight into the trash bin. The success rate of your cold email outreach campaigns depends on several basic factors:
The content of your email letter depends heavily on the niche, the type of business, and the audience you target. So, good recipes for emails appear from lots of testing. There are a couple of general tips on how to write a good email:
The best cold outreach emails are the ones that get opened. You’ve got to invent a subject that grabs attention in a moment. Longer subject lines, personal names, emotional hooks, inquisitive tones, and promises make emails look more appealing.
The difficulty with cold emails is that we are complete strangers. A cold email is a letter to someone you have not been familiar with before. I bet you have neither time nor desire to open another stranger’s email – or even dozens of emails a day.
Taking the fact that cold emails are so annoying, you’ve got to make the message as personalized as possible. You need to do extra research on the interests and the portfolio of your target prospect, such as:
Many automated email-sending tools allow adding the fields automatically into pre-made templates, making each email sound really personal. It is much more appealing than the clichéd “Dear Sirs”.
In a personalized outreach to influencers, a reference to something familiar can keep the reader’s attention. Mention where you’ve met before or bring up some comment you’ve left on their Facebook post (the real one that you left), or anything else you might have in common.
The rule of inverted pyramid applies to cold emails the same way it does to news articles: be up to the point and present all important information at the beginning of the letter. Put the most important stuff first, adding supplementary details along the way.
The inverted pyramid design of the email pitch goes according to the following structure:
Another trick is not to overflow your recipients with too much information. After all, who reads all the letters to the end? From our experience, the best-performing cold email campaigns have a maximum of three-four lines.
If the person in contact gets interested in your pitch, they will ask for details and soon become involved. On the flip side, long communication extending for weeks is tiring. But if the game is worth the candle, do not give out all the cards in the first email – get the prospect asking.
A successful outreach offer should provide real value to your target. Include the incentive and state clearly why your offer is valuable to your outreach target. What do you expect from the collaboration and what are you willing to provide in return? Why is it important for you both? Will your content be useful to the audience of your target blog?
Make sure to include a clear call to action. This is not only about a button that calls on the recipient to click, to buy, to order. A more versatile CTA message will help the reader understand what they will get by clicking on the button.
Writing a cold email that converts requires particular copywriting skills, good design, and a lot of testing. Run A/B tests of your subject lines, the sizes and colors of buttons, and the messages to see what works better with your audience.
For example, it worked for us that email newsletters performed better with one large CTA rather than a couple of same-level smaller ones – testing different types of newsletters revealed that. And it made us move on to the next important point.
The best outreach emails are those that get the highest response. An in-built video piece or an image in your email will increase the click-through from the letter to the page. So, add some actionable content that will be a tempting slice for sharing, like infographics, embeddable links, etc.
Keep in mind, though, that they must be formatted and named properly. Otherwise, suspicious links, images, or attachments in an email may come across as spam.
At this step, there is some out-of-the-box stuff to do before we start sending out our emails. We can kind of warm up the audience by raising their curiosity about the topic.
You may try to prep the audience for the outreach: throw in a hook to start discussing the issue you are looking into. Start a discussion on Twitter or Facebook, send a private message, or send an invite to join your professional community.
For a more engaging activity, you can invent an interactive quiz, an opinion poll, or a calculator, and send an invite to participate. If the topic appeals to your prospect, they will be happy to participate and share it. Later on, you will not be another stranger from the street. Your name will ring the bell, and you will have something interesting to share.
1. Go to Project preferences and enter your credentials to integrate the email client into the application:
Step 2. Go to the Email module and choose to Receive all the correspondence.
Step 3. You can manage individual emails and send bulk cold emails just like in an ordinary email client. For automated outreach, select your prospects, right-click on them, and hit Send Email To Selected Partner(s).
4. Select the Mail template and choose the outreach template you need. Press the Settings wheel to the right of the field to start editing the letter template. The tool will personalize your letters and replace all the fields in square brackets of your template with respective data about each recipient.
5. When the email is ready, press Send, and the tool will start sending personalized emails to your recipients.
Once you send the first email, change the Status for your prospect list to the appropriate defintion (for example, Form filled). It is also convenient to use Tags and Notes to classify and filter your prospects in the workspace.
How do you get your outreach emails opened? That’s where your writing skills are important. Our average response rate for link-building is about 8% for mass outreach. The second reminder increases the probability of getting a reply by somewhat 25%. The majority of replies come within the same day, but there is a small percentage of people who respond a week later or so.
Send your emails to the right audience at the right time – luckily, there are scheduling tools to postpone the sending for the most fruitful time of the week and day. Email tracking tools will help you pinpoint the best-performing hours to schedule.
How fast and how often should you follow up on your emails? In order not to get flagged as spam you’ve got to know the limit. For general content promotion and original reviews, one or two follow-up emails will be enough. For more technical issues, like getting a backlink instead of a broken link or getting an image credit, 2-3 follow-ups are acceptable.
Your email outreach campaign will create a wealth of information that you will surely want to use in the future: contact details, arrangements, click-through rates, successful placements, and so forth. It’s a good idea to have these things tracked and organized.
As you proceed with doing email outreach, you will get plenty of stats from the email-sending services: open rates, response rates, success rates, completed purchases, etc. The tracking tasks as well as the tools for them are very versatile. So, rather than describe all possible use cases, let’s just stop on a few ones related to SEO outreach.
For smaller campaigns, I use shared files on Google Sheets where I keep basic details: the purpose of the pitch, date of reply, terms, progress, links, clicks on the links, etc. Such information has to be unified in a single place, especially when you have several people working on your outreach implementation.
Being a link-building outreach tool, LinkAssistant tracks and verifies link placement. It takes care of the correctness of all the information you’ve filled in about the placement: the anchor, the dofollow/nofollow attributes of the links, and the like. So, LinkAisstant will notify you if it finds out that some of the links are missing.
The tool generates reports based on customizable templates — a useful functionality for a link-builder to measure progress. Simply switch to the Reports module, where you will have some basic reports prepared (you may add or remove data blocks).
Besides, LinkAssistant allows sending your link-building reports to your or your customers’ emails. Alternatively, you can save your project to a shared drive where several people, e.g., your colleagues at an SEO agency, can access and work on it simultaneously.
To track brand mentions and the effect of your collaboration with influencers, you can use Awario. Switch to the Mention Statistics to check reach, engagement, and positive and negative mentions. You can view the socio-demographic breakdown, generate the topic cloud, and see many other stats from the social buzz around your brand.
Cold email marketing is often an annoying business. Remember how many cold emails you have placed in spam folders without opening them? That is why it is useful to take notice of the best outreach email templates that proved to be effective.
Note that templates are nothing more than starting points. They help you figure out the structure of your pitch, but they are usually too generic. So, when adopting an outreach email template, make sure to give it your own, authentic voice.
When you are running a paid promotion, you can afford to be more direct, as long as you are not pushy. You are not asking for any favors and your prospect will be compensated fairly, so just state your business as it is and see if they are interested.
Hi [THEIR NAME],
[YOUR NAME] here, Partnership Manager at [COMPANY].
I'm running a promo campaign for [PRODUCT] and I was hoping to have it featured on [URL]. I’m open to any number of placement options, be it an in-depth review, a mention in a listicle, or an ad — whatever it takes to find an organic fit with your platform.
Let me know if you are interested and we’ll talk terms and formats.
If you are not offering to pay for link placement or other types of promotion, then your main goal is to stress the value of doing a favor. Is your content really great? Will it benefit your prospect’s audience? Are you willing to return the favor? Do your best to make it about them rather than about you.
Hi [THEIR NAME],
I’m a content manager at [COMPANY] and my job is to cover non-trivial [INDUSTRY] topics for [BLOG URL].
My most recent article on [TOPIC] turned out especially well. [DESCRIBE WHAT SETS IT APART]
I’ve noticed you have a few articles on the same topic (like [URL1] and [URL2]), and I was wondering if you would consider linking to my article as a further reading kind of thing. I believe it could be of true value to your readers.
Let me know what you think and let me know if there is anything I can do to return the favor.
While some websites explicitly state they accept guest posts and name the costs, others may do it upon request, so it never hurts to ask. Try to be concise, sound genuine, and let your credentials speak for themselves.
Hi [THEIR NAME],
[YOUR NAME] here, editor at [COMPANY].
I’m a big fan of [THEIR BLOG] and I believe I’m ready to transition from a long-time reader to a first-time contributor. Would you consider collaborating on a guest post?
Here are some of the topics I had in mind for your audience:
I guarantee no generic shortcuts in the writing. I’ve been in the field for [NUMBER] years, and I do my best to share only the most valuable and in-depth insights from my own experience.
Here is a couple of my recent article for you to check out:
Let me know what you think!
With an affiliate program, we are back on equal footing. You are no longer asking for a favor, but offering a business deal. Tell your prospects about the product and the terms, be transparent, highlight your biggest advantage, and let them decide.
Hi [THEIR NAME],
I'm [YOUR NAME], Partnerships Manager at [BRAND].
I've noticed you’re promoting some [PRODUCT CATEGORY] on [URL], and I was wondering — would you like to join the [BRAND] affiliate program as well?
[BRAND] is a [PRODUCT], which has been on the market for [NUMBER] years, and is currently used by [NUMBER] clients from all over the world. (other benefits described).
A few months ago, we changed our affiliate policies. And our affiliates are now getting a [%/$] commission for every new customer they bring.
Also next week, we’re starting a huge promotion — the period when conversion rates skyrocket and our affiliates are seeing huge earning boosts. So it might be the perfect time for you to join in.
Let me know what you think and don’t hesitate to contact me with any inquiries!
That’s a simple template to write a marketing pitch to bloggers/companies who you know are open to collaboration.
Hi [THEIR NAME],
This is [YOUR NAME], Head of Marketing at [COMPANY].
I was hoping to enlist your help in promoting one of our products — [PRODUCT NAME].
Since your audience is [EXPLAINING WHY THE OFFER IS RELEVANT], we were thinking of offering them exclusive access to our product/service. You’ll get some love for providing access, and we’ll get some new clients.
Let me know if you are interested and let’s talk terms. We’ve got a solid subscriber base and would love to give you a feature as well.
Don’t hesitate to contact me with inquiries and counter-offers, we are willing to explore even the craziest of collaboration ideas.
Influencer outreach is done with a deeply personal touch, and reaching out to bloggers or celebrities can hardly be done in bulk using an automated message. This influencer email template is just a general idea of what you can discuss with your prospect.
Hi [THEIR NAME],
My name is [YOUR NAME], I’m a product manager at [COMPANY].
I’m a big fan of your [MEDIA] content and I believe that your voice would be a great match for our brand. Right now we are looking for brand ambassadors who are [LIST THEIR DEFINING FEATURES]. Would you be open to a partnership?
Your job would be to [JOB DESCRIPTION]. In return, we will [TALK COMPENSATION AND BENEFITS].
Let me know if you are interested!
One way to gain backlinks is by alarming people they’ve got “a problem on their site”. Scrape your competitors’ 404 pages and see who links to them (another place to find such links is from expired domains). Then reach out to those linking sites and ask to link to you instead (of course, create a good substitute for the missing pages). Always mention where the broken page lies and what wonderful alternative you have.
Hi [THEIR NAME],
I am [YOUR NAME] and I do SEO for [COMPANY].
I’ve noticed you have a broken link on your site [URL], it leads to a missing page [URL].
As luck would have it, I’ve got a great substitute for the missing page — real top-notch content [URL] on the same exact subject. Would you be open to swapping the broken link for the one leading to my website?
Let me know if there is anything I can do to return the favor ;)
Another great link-building tactic is to find a ranking article, investigate its backlinks, create an even better copy of the article, and invite the linking domains to link to your fresh update.
Dear [THEIR NAME],
I am [YOUR NAME], a content creator at [COMPANY].
I came across your site [URL] and absolutely loved it!
I like the way you present information in your articles, and I’m eager to use some of the tips found here [THEIR URL].
By the way, I’ve created a comprehensive update on a similar topic [URL], it provides fresh stats/infographics. I think it would be a good addition to your story, and your users will love it as well.
And I wouldn’t mind if you hit me with a backlink :-)
Let me know if you are open to the idea and if there is anything I can do to return the favor.
You surely know you can search by images on Google and find out who uses your valuable images without copyright attribution. That can become a good case for link-building outreach: ask the editors of the website which published your image to place a backlink to your website.
Thank you for sharing my image in your article [article link]! I am happy you’ve found it useful.
However, it seems you’ve forgotten to add the attribution, have you? If that’s the case, could you please add an image link to the website [URL] the image originates from?
And if you've been busy with cold outreach grinding out tons of emails, jump on this comprehensive guide to cold email outreach, you will surely find a few more inspirational ideas.
The bottom line is: the key to a successful outreach campaign is finding the relevant targets and being up to the point in your pitches.
These steps are the basics of email marketing outreach, and I hope you’ve found the tips and tools helpful.
Do you have a story to tell about your most effective email outreach activities? I will be happy to learn from your experiences, you can share them in our social media user groups.