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I've done a bunch of email outreach for a variety of reasons, from content promotion and link building to strategic partnerships, sales, and more. I'd consider myself pretty good at it. I've also received a ton of email outreach due to, for a time, holding the editorial keys at CXL and now being at HubSpot (you get lots of sales pitches when you have a firmographic profile like that). So, I looked back at the underlying rules of my outreach and came up w/ a few rules I follow: -Talk like a human talking to a human -Save time, but not at the expense of quality -Don’t beat around the bush -Don’t treat people like they’re stupid -Follow up a few times but don’t be obnoxious Also, add value, but that's obvious. Hope this guide helps you do email outreach, get better results, and put out less email pollution into the world!

  • RF

    Ryan Farley

    about 2 months ago #

    Thank you for this post. I'm so sick of getting the same 'can you switch this link' and fake requests for feedback copied straight from a 5 year old blog post. Giving value is so key yet rarely done.

    • AB

      Alex Birkett

      about 2 months ago #

      We've all received our share of bad outreach, so it was with the utmost effort I wrote this post w/o only using shaming screenshots of the worst offenders. Didn't wanna just put out an angry rant :)

      Thanks for the comment, and for sharing an example of a bad outreach email you got w/ me!

  • ML

    Mark Lindquist

    about 2 months ago #

    I've never really understood how "traditional" linkbuilding can be effective. I get that you can spray and pray to ~100 targets, use the "great article! My piece is relevant, I think a link to it would really add value to your piece" type outreach, and pick up 5 or 6 links or whatever. But I think I'd rather be unemployed than do that for every article I write.

    I understand conceptually how a good, relevant link in an article improves the article itself, but in the real world I don't think it adds enough value for anyone who values their time to go back into their CMS and add a link to the article with nothing expected in return. I get that it does happen, but I don't understand why anyone would do that unless they were bored and felt like helping a fellow marketer hit their link numbers.

    I also think it's ironic that marketers preach empathy and 'put yourself in your [customers'] shoes', and then send an email asking the recipient to do something for them for nothing in return. It's just like how marketers call it "direct mail" when they're the ones sending it, and "junk mail" when they're receiving. Hypocrisy.

    Everything in marketing, including linkbuilding, behaves the same way as everything else in business; it's 100x more effective when it's based on a relationship. Sustainable linkbuilding efforts work when you know the content creators in your space, have demonstrated that you're not full of shit, and give as much as you take. Just like any business relationship. The links you get out of that are much higher quality than the ones you get from spray-and-pray outreach, too.

    Marketers should build relationships first and build links second. It may take a little longer to get links, but those links will be better, and the relationship you get out of it will pay off way beyond the link.

    • AB

      Alex Birkett

      about 2 months ago #

      Thanks for the rant, I totally agree.

      Was just chatting w/ another friend in marketing about this, and I put a little piece in the article about the probability rates of success based on a succession of factors. I think of these regarding any ask, but it's transparently true in email outreach:

      -Does the person know you?
      -Does the person like you?
      -Is your ask aligned with their goals?

      Really, you can most of the time skip the first two if you hit the last one, and sometimes you can skip the last one if you have the first two. But if you hit all of those, your success rate has to be near 100%.

      And if you have none? That's when you get those spray and pray, 1-2% success rate campaigns that are all too common (and annoying)

    • RF

      Ryan Farley

      about 2 months ago #

      It's not junk mail, it's gold mail.

      -Someone who has done a ton of direct mail in his day

  • NR

    Nikola Roza

    about 2 months ago #

    Hey Alex, thank you for this post.
    It opened my eyes a bit because for a long time I thought that good pitch+ 100's of cold emails sent = successful email outreach.

    But then there was also a nagging idea present that I should first get my name out there in front of influencers; As someone who tries, who gives, and who does not ask for anything.

    Then, over time that effort will compound into recognition and appreciation and finally... natural links.

    I think the mistake most folks make is copying templates from influencers and thinking that it will work like charm; And that is the template that is key, and not the man behind it.

    But actually, it's all the hard work upfront that makes a difference.
    I also like your emphasis on being honest.
    "I know what you want and I'll give you that link... If you can convince me it is in my interest too".

    It's only fair that way.
    Thanks!

    • AB

      Alex Birkett

      about 2 months ago #

      It may just be a product of having gotten a ton of outreach myself, but I really respect a straightforward and honest ask at this point.

      Whenever I feel like someone is trying to "trick" me into responding it grates me.

      Maybe just a pet peeve, but figured it was worth writing about. Anecdotally, I feel like I get better results when I'm honest/transparent and it's easier to send those emails (no need to really think about writing it, you just kinda write like you'd talk).

      • NR

        Nikola Roza

        about 2 months ago #

        Yeah, honesty is key. It is proven that humans can naturally recognize a fake smile, it's a skill built we all have.

        I think that professional bloggers can also recognize falseness inside an email, because:
        They are exposed to it daily
        They know that most people choose the easy route of link begging/nagging (seven emails), rather than to spend time developing a genuine relationship with the blogger.

        And the thing is:
        it's really easy to make a positive impression.

        The key is giving some value.

        Blogger love their websites. They are proud of them and think of them as their children.
        So it's easy to sway the influencer by:
        Sharing his work,
        Writing about it,
        Commenting,
        Pointing a 404 link (without suggesting a replacement).

        Honesty is key here, because once again,
        if it is all just a ploy to get a link, people will see right through it.

        And then what you've achieved?

  • HF

    Henry Foster

    about 2 months ago #

    The worst part is that when you reach out to someone in a genuine manner, they immediately assume you're looking to sell them something. You end up getting responses like the below if you don't write a proper email:

    "What do you want?"

    "No"

    "Take me off your list"

    "Not interested"

    It's hard to sell yourself as genuinely trying to reach out and develop a relationship. Maybe relationships should begin with a lower touch than an email?

    • AB

      Alex Birkett

      about 2 months ago #

      That's a bummer. I wonder if that's an macro level emergent property of 'scorched earth marketing':

      "There is a desperation at play in most marketing organizations, a low-grade panic to solve for short-term needs — the lead goal that month, for example, or a choice media placement." (source: https://thinkgrowth.org/marketers-this-is-why-we-cant-have-nice-things-8fef2c4adfec)

      In other words, these people have gotten so many spammy pitches and cold outreach that it's easier for them, as a heuristic, to assume that most/all are that way so even the genuine ones aren't getting through.

      No good answer to that one on my side other than to keep chugging along genuinely and hopefully you'll break through the defenses when it matters :)

  • OB

    Olivia Bolkhovsky

    about 2 months ago #

    Another awesome post Alex! Your final thoughts couldn't be more spot on! Funny because this is literally how we first connected –via your outreach. So it clearly worked :)

    • AB

      Alex Birkett

      about 2 months ago #

      That's right! Forgot how we had connected until now, but totally true. Funny looking back and seeing connections that started out as cold outreach :)

  • TC

    Tad Chef

    about 2 months ago #

    Good common sense insights here. I wish most marketing and PR people would actually talk to others in outreach messages. Most messages I get now are sent to a list of people at once.

    I even get automated outreach messages every day saying "Hey There, I love your blog, I also write about technology. Can I guest post on your site?" without even mentioning my name, blog or adding any context whatsoever. They simply lie.

    Just a pet peeve with your article: citing a former US president with a proven track record of wars and atrocities is risky to say the least. That makes the post a bit weird. Don't mix politics into business when not necessary.

    • AB

      Alex Birkett

      about 2 months ago #

      Always the same outreach emails! When it's transparently a template, that's the worst.

      And ya got a point. I just really like the quote! I suppose I could have taken something from N.N. Taleb regarding "skin in the game," as well, but I suppose he's a bit controversial in some ways as well. In any case, point taken and I respect the feedback!

      • TC

        Tad Chef

        about 2 months ago #

        No problem. I'm infamous for nitpicking by now.

        When it comes to outreach templates are fine - I use them myself - but they are so highly personalized that nobody notices.

        Many outreach messages even use different fonts for the copy and pasted text and the actually customized parts LOL.

  • BI

    Benjelloun Ibrahim

    about 2 months ago #

    Great post alex as always,I have a question for you please, can you tell me how you can identify a quote in a post or a post that is a good fit for backlinks?
    Thanks in advance

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