Here we are in March 2021, roughly a year since the COVID-19 pandemic really took hold in the United States.
With the health crisis still raging on, many SEO professionals have questions and concerns about executing link outreach during a pandemic.
Over the last year, my team has had to find ways to continue delivering the same level of quality, relevant backlinks our clients expect.
Through this process, we’ve learned some helpful insights about how to adjust link outreach during a pandemic.
The lessons learned from these challenging times can be applied to your outreach to be more successful in securing backlinks in all circumstances, but especially in times of crisis.
Link Outreach Personalization Is King
In the era of COVID-19, personalization is king – especially when it comes to email outreach.
Times are tough and people are struggling, and you need to be sensitive to that.
Now more than ever, you must be able to put yourself in the shoes of the person you’re contacting and consider how things might have changed within their industry due to lockdowns, restrictions, mandates, etc.
You need to truly understand what’s important to them within the context of the pandemic, and how your asset fits within that.
For example, if you’re promoting an asset about mental health and wellness, your top targets could be .edu websites that are still struggling with reopening and accommodating their students.
Most of these sites would welcome content that supports the mental well-being of students and staff.
If you can clearly state how your asset would help their audience in the context of “pandemic life,” you’re much more likely to be successful.
The stresses and challenges of our current pandemic world also mean people have less time, shorter attention spans, and even less patience for lazy, templated emails.
Personally, if I get an email with a generic greeting (“Hi there,” “Hey team,” “Hello sir,” etc.), I delete it right away without reading.
If the person emailing me can’t spend the effort of figuring out what my name is, why should I spend time reading their email?
Take that little bit of extra time to find the name of the person you’re contacting, and go a bit further by asking how they are holding up or mentioning something that’s been helping you through these tough times.
This humanizes your outreach and demonstrates you’ve taken time to consider the position they’re in. These types of outreach emails get read.
Following Up on Outreach Emails Is Even More Critical
Obviously, a lot has changed in our lives since the pandemic began. Even now, I’m still adjusting in my daily life to handling new challenges (like my boys’ daycare getting shut down for two weeks due to a COVID scare) that arise because of COVID, and this is the case for everyone.
With this constant chaos in our lives, it’s easy to see why follow-up is even more critical within link outreach.
Remember that people are even busier than usual and might not have time for your request.
In fact, it’s entirely possible that their website simply isn’t a priority at the moment, and you should just circle back around later when things have calmed down.
Many people have had to take on extra responsibilities during the pandemic.
Responding to external emails might not be their primary job – be patient with these people and send a simple follow-up message to let them know you’re still trying to reach them.
While consistent follow-up is essential during these times, you also need to be respectful within your follow-up emails.
A common practice I’ve seen is to send an email with a humorous or more aggressive approach after sending multiple emails with no response.
For example, something like:
“Helloooooo? Is anybody there? Am I shouting into the void?!”
While this approach can be effective within the right circumstances, I strongly advise against it during times of crisis.
You have no idea what the person on the other side of your email could be going through, whether that’s losing a loved one, being forced to lay off staff, facing bankruptcy themselves, or any other potential tragedy caused by this health crisis.
Now more than ever, you need to be sensitive and polite in your follow-up.
It’s not the time to be pushy or try to make light of the situation.
Don’t Limit Your Outreach to Email
While email outreach is still the most common and effective way to promote your webpages for links, you shouldn’t limit your outreach efforts to email alone.
The pandemic has forced us to make many behavioral changes, but not all of them are negative.
I believe the shift to almost exclusively online communication has opened some new doors in terms of link outreach.
As a society, we’ve become more comfortable with video conferencing as more and more workers find themselves working from home.
This presents an opportunity for link acquisition, as you might see contacts are willing to hop on a quick video chat to discuss the asset you’re promoting.
This can make the whole outreach process simpler as you can avoid a long, back-and-forth email thread by getting on a call and succinctly explaining why you think they should add your link.
Furthermore, with screen sharing, you can show them exactly where you think it would fit on their site and why, and you can show them your asset and highlight the portions that are most relevant to their audience.
If nothing else, this could save time on a 10+ email exchange that ends in rejection.
You should also leverage social media within your outreach.
Not only does social provide another avenue for reaching your target contact, but it can also provide the context that is so essential to creating a personalized outreach message.
Social media can provide the most up-to-date insight into how this person’s business or website is performing and adjusting during the pandemic, which will empower you to create outreach that stands out from other link requests.
During this pandemic and other times of widespread crisis, it’s even more important to spend just a little extra time on your link outreach.
You need to identify the right person to contact, then really put yourself in their shoes to understand what they might be going through so you can craft a sensitive, humanizing message.
Along with learning more about their personal situation, this extra investment into research can also help you better frame your asset in a context that’s compelling to them.
Obviously, this health crisis has created unique challenges for all of us, but if you approach your link outreach with care, you can still successfully earn relevant backlinks.