Since my son became a toddler, I’ve found myself saying, “Don’t do that!” more and more often…so, I thought I’d leverage this newfound “skill” for my column here on Search Engine Journal!
In all seriousness, I manage our blog at Page One Power and get numerous link requests each day, and I keep seeing the same mistakes or poor practices cropping up time and time again.
While it’s merely a minor annoyance for me to receive these emails, there is another person on the other end sending these requests and they are wasting a lot of time and energy (and money too, probably).
Regardless of how valuable the page they are promoting is, I’m not going to take the time to read a poor outreach email.
Nothing ruins a good link opportunity faster than bad link outreach.
So, I want to outline the five major “don’ts” of link outreach to make sure you don’t sabotage your link building efforts with bad outreach.
1. Don’t Rely Too Heavily on Templates
Link outreach is time-consuming, tedious, and has a low conversion rate – so you should try to expedite this process with automation, right? Not exactly.
While some standardization can save time and help you be more efficient with your outreach, relying too heavily on templates and automation can lead to issues that hinder your success. Some examples of these issues include:
- Addressing your email to the wrong person or website.
- Errors with autofill sections, such as “Hello [NAME].”
- Sending the wrong email template.
- Sending a full sequence of emails all at once.
- Sending your email from the wrong address.
These types of errors can crop up if you’re not careful, and they ensure your link request is dead on arrival.
Templates can be used effectively to provide a framework for your outreach emails and save you time on entering the same details over and over.
However, templated emails can be easy to spot, so you should add personalization to every email you send to demonstrate you’ve invested time into your email and that you genuinely care about the link opportunity.
2. Don’t Use a Generic Greeting (Find a Name!)
Your email can’t start with a generalized greeting.
I am emailing you….”
Nope. Not reading it.
I am deleting any email that begins this way, 100% of the time.
I don’t even open these emails as I can see this general greeting within the preview text.
I have yet to read an email that had the information I cared about that began by calling me “sir” – typically the important emails come from people who at least took the time to figure out what my name is.
In fact, when you’re doing link outreach, spending a little more time researching the person you’re emailing has benefits beyond simply being able to address them by name.
You want to try to find the most relevant person to contact to avoid having your request CC’d into oblivion.
Should you email the webmaster? PR person? SEO?
Think about who might be responsible for the page you want your link to be on.
Each website is different, so finding the person who is in control of adding links will give you the best chance of earning a link.
It isn’t always possible to find a human person’s email address.
If your only options are a general “contact” email or form, you can still add a touch of personalization by including the brand or company name (e.g. “Hello X Brand editorial team”).
If you can’t be bothered to take the time to find the person’s name that you’re emailing, why would you expect them to take the time to read your email and then add your link to their page?
Don’t start off on the wrong foot with a generalized greeting.
3. Don’t Be Too Wordy
People don’t want to read.
As a content creator and copywriter, this pains me greatly… but it’s true.
If you send someone an email that is longer than three paragraphs, they’re not reading it. Even shorter emails will likely be scanned.
So, make your email scannable, clear, and succinct.
Remember, you’re a stranger to the person you’re contacting, so if you’re lucky enough to get them to open your email, you have a limited window of time to get your message across before they lose interest and go back to their inbox.
However, brevity does not mean you should be vague. It is possible to be both concise and specific – make sure you explain:
- Who you are and why you’re contacting them.
- Why your link would be a valuable addition to their site.
- And which specific page – and location on that page – would be a good fit for your link.
If you are direct and clear, you can convey this information in a few short paragraphs.
4. Don’t Leave Things Open-Ended
Do not leave your outreach emails open to interpretation – give the reader a defined next step.
Your primary call to action will always be adding your link, but it’s often necessary to include a secondary CTA as well.
Some examples of these secondary CTAs include:
- Emailing you back with thoughts.
- Calling you to discuss the opportunity further.
- Visiting your website to learn more about your brand.
Regardless of which one is appropriate, it’s important that the person you’re emailing knows exactly what they should do next.
If you leave it up to the person you’re contacting to decide how they should proceed next, it’s likely that your link request will be pushed to the back-burner and eventually forgotten altogether.
You’ve got their attention, make sure they take the next desired action to bring you one step closer to securing a backlink.
5. Don’t Give Up After One or Two Emails
If at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again…and then again, and then maybe one more time – then probably stop.
Following up is essential in link building outreach, and if you only ever send an initial email, you are going to severely limit your success.
It’s often the case that your first email gets buried in an inbox or the person you’re trying to reach opens it but gets distracted – people are busy, and sometimes they just need an extra nudge or two.
Furthermore, following up is a quick, low-effort activity.
Follow up in your original email thread so you can simply direct their attention to your first email, with all the necessary details, rather than typing it out again.
Also, make sure you give people time to respond to your emails – don’t send another email the next day!
However, there is a point of diminishing return with follow-ups (where your emails become a nuisance) and it’s clear that the person you’re contacting is not interested in linking.
At Page One Power, we’ve found that three to four emails are usually appropriate, with the highest response rates coming on the third email. If you’ve sent four emails with no response, it is time to move on.
Use common sense when following up and don’t be overly aggressive, but make sure you do follow up or you won’t secure all the links you could.
Outreach represents the bulk of link acquisition, so you need to get it right to earn quality links. Avoid these link building outreach “don’ts” to set yourself up for success:
- Don’t rely too heavily on templates.
- Don’t use generic greetings.
- Don’t be too wordy.
- Don’t leave things open-ended.
- And don’t give up after one or two emails.
I hope these guidelines have been helpful and good luck with your link outreach.