This guide outlines the general outreach process, from an automated search of prospects to email communication. Our outreach process is not just about the technical basics, but also hacks, life-savers, and, really, fun and passion. I’ll show my favorite tools and how-tos that save us tons of effort. But first, let’s go through the basics...
In digital marketing, outreach is defined as the process of reaching out to professionals and influencers in order to promote your content, ideas or products. With outreach, you aim to make other people write, talk, and share information about what you offer.
Very often, outreach in SEO is associated with link-building, but it’s not limited to just that. Outreach methods can be applied to achieve a number of other business goals — generate leads and direct sales, build partnerships, and raise brand awareness, among others. So, the main outreach goals are:
Any domain needs 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 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. Come up with a new creative way to collaborate, and it might turn into a lasting relationship.
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 email outreach, here are the main steps you’ll have to take to achieve them:
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 posts are some of the most powerful SEO instruments. If you can get a high authority website to publish a post with a couple of backlinks, it will be a major contribution to your ranking effort. Here is how you find your guest post prospects.
Step 1. Launch LinkAssistant and open or create a project for your website.
Step 2. Click the binoculars to start a search for new prospects, select the type of prospects you’re looking for (guest posting / reviews), add a few of your seed keywords, and start the search.
Step 3. Once the tool collects your outreach prospects, it is important to go through the list and remove irrelevant or low-quality results. Pay attention to Domain Authority scores, domain age, and the number of pages indexed in Google. If the list is too big to edit manually, use the filtering options to set the parameters for what you believe is acceptable prospect quality.
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, so you’ll need a special set of tools designed for the task.
For blogger outreach, you can use NinjaOutreach to find top YouTube and Instagram influencers, or Followerwonk to find influencers on Twitter. BuzzSumo finds top influencer bloggers across Instagram, Twitter and the web. For the purposes of this article, I’ll be using Awario to find influencers across websites and my preferred social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter:
Step 1. Go to the Awario website and create a free account. Then start a new project by adding the brand name, keywords, and competitors.
Step 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 prospects:
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. Another recent business feature I should mention here is LinkedIn with its add-on Sales Navigator. It’s pretty useful for finding partnership contacts, especially for B2B projects, (although, we are still examining how fast it may pay off, preliminary estimates are around three to six months).
When looking for promo partners, you've got to find niche websites that draw sufficient traffic matching your keywords:
Step 1. Launch Rank Tracker and open or create a project.
Step 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:
Step 3. Once Rank Tracker pulls a list of prospects, 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:
Step 4. Additionally, you can press the funnel icon and use the filtering options. For example, here I select to view the competitors that have domain authority of over 60, match at least half of my keywords, and pull at least 100K of monthly organic traffic:
For general purpose link-building, the best way to find outreach prospects is to spy on your competitors. Find 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. The fact that the websites link to several of your competitors at once means they don’t have an exclusive relationship with either of them.
Step 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:
Step 2. In the dropdown 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 websites that don’t host any dofollow links.
Once you’ve put together your list of outreach prospects, it is time to collect some names and email addresses. You can do it manually, but if your list is hundreds or thousands of prospects long, then it’s best to turn to specialized software.
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:
Step 1. Launch LinkAssistant, click the “+” icon to add the list of your researched domains, and let the tool collect the email addresses for outreach.
Step 2. Once you are done, you can export the list with the contact emails or contact them straight from LinkAssistant.
Some of your prospects might be a little stubborn and will require a custom approach. 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.
Hunter.io, RocketReach, or FindThatLead are among the email lookup services that let you easily find contacts 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.
Step 1. To use RocketReach, install the extension and sign up.
Step 2. Go to the page where you expect to find a contact and click on the extension icon. The add-on will pull all available contacts which you then add to your contact list.
Step 3. 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.
An outreach campaign is a messy business and it’s next to impossible to manage it manually. You have to keep track of everyone you ever contacted, their replies, follow-ups, and potential unsubscribers, among many other things. To this end, I strongly suggest you consider a tool for automating your outreach process.
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 advanced features.
LinkAssistant allows managing your inbox as well. The tool is more apt specifically for link-building. You can set several status definitions, like “1st request sent”, or “Website links back” and the like, and verify backlinks.
Step 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 messages just like in an ordinary email client. For automated outreach, select your prospects, right-click on them and hit to send them an email.
Step 4. Select the Mail template and choose the letter you need. Adjust it if necessary (press the Settings wheel to the right of the field) or create your own template from scratch. The template will personalize your letters and replace all the fields in square brackets of your template with respective data about your prospect. When the email is ready, press Send.
Step 5. Once you send the first email, change your prospect list to the appropriate Status (for example, Form filled). It is also convenient to use Tags and Notes to classify and filter your prospects in the workspace.
I’d like to share some use cases and examples of templates that have had good results in our work. But before I do so, it’s important to note that templates are nothing more than starting points. They help you figure out the structure of your message and remind you of the things you must mention, but they are usually too generic. So, when adopting a template, make sure to give it some of 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 type of promotion, then your main goal is to stress the value of doing you 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. These emails are usually a drag for all involved and there is no good to write them. 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 to an equal footing. You are no longer asking for a favor, but offering a business transaction, so you don’t have to sound as “beggy”. 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 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 deep personal touch, and can hardly be an automatic template. That’s just a general idea of what you can discuss with an influencer.
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” — the email template brought 6.3% conversion rate, Joshua Hardwick says.
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 asking 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 their backlinks, create even a 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 them to create an image 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?
The reality is that 90% of cold outreach emails go straight into the bin. Still, according to a comprehensive study by Backlinko, optimizing your generic email outreach campaign may increase your open rate and response rate. So, what can make your outreach email a success?
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.
Make sure your subject line complies with the CAN-SPAM Act, i.e. it is not deceptive and accurately reflects the content of the message.
Do you often read automated support messages? I bet you don’t. So your message has to look as personal as possible. You need to do extra research on the interests and the portfolio of your target prospect.
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.
You may try to prep the audience for outreach: throw in a hook to start discussing the issue you are looking into. Join a discussion on Twitter or Facebook, send a private message, send an invite to join your professional community.
For a more engaging activity, you can invent an interactive quiz, an opinion poll, a calculator, and send an invite to participate. If the topic really 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.
Say clearly what you expect from your collaboration, and what you are willing to provide in return. Why is it important for you both? Will your content be useful to the audience of your target blog? Listen to Rand Fishkin talk about workable content that will be a tempting slice for sharing, like infographics, embeddable links, etc. A successful outreach offer is the one that provides real value to your target.
How to 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 to get a reply by somewhat 25%. The majority of replies come within the same day, but there is a small percentage of people who get into contact a week later or so.
How fast and how often should you send follow-ups? In order not to get flagged as spam, you’ve got to feel the limit. For general content promotion and original reviews, one or two follow-ups will be enough: if your offer is interesting, you will get a response very quickly; if not, don’t bother them. 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 outreach campaign will create a wealth of information that you will surely want to use at some point 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.
For smaller campaigns, I use shared files on Google Sheets where I keep basic details: point of contact, 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. The tool generates reports based on customizable templates — a useful functionality for a link-builder to measure the 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 saving your project to a shared drive where several people can reach and work over it simultaneously.
To track mentions and the effect of your collaboration with influencers, you can use Awario. Switch to the Mention Statistics to check reach and engagement, positive and negative mentions. You can view socio-demographic breakdown, generate the topic cloud and many other stats from the social buzz around your brand.
These steps show the basics of marketing outreach, and I hope you’ve found the tips and tools helpful. Do you have a story to tell about your own effective outreach activities? I will be happy to learn from your experiences, please share them in the comments below!
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