in Link Building, Marketing, Search Engine Optimization

Analysis of Link Building Outreach: What Signals Success?

Many marketers and SEOs cringe at the thought of link building due to how monotonous and labor intensive it can be. Not me though. Since it can be much harder and not everyone has the patience for it, it’s an excellent opportunity that some of us can capitalize on. I understand that some people still think link building is sketchy or unnatural and the only way you should get links is by earning them, but if that were the case, most businesses online would never be able to compete in organic search. Links are an important factor in organic search and hold real value for your ranking ability.

Regardless of your experience level, outreach is the most difficult part of building good links… Link prospecting isn’t easy either, but it is pretty straight forward: It’s mostly about building out a list of qualified targets, something most marketers have solid experience in.

Once you have that list of prospects, comes the sweating and pit stains. Finding who to email, what to say to draw them in, how to “sell” your link to be included on their site, and ultimately getting links is truly what separates the amateurs and the pros. Having your emails simply opened can be a tough task, so taking it a step further and actually getting a new link placed on a page gets pretty tricky.

There’s no set-in stone way to conduct link building outreach. There are variables to consider like: who you’re link building for, what their website is like, what kind of email address you’re sending from, what’s the niche itself like, etc. However, beyond these variables, there’s still a set of basic fundamentals to incorporate into your outreach methods to yield more conversions.

I’ve pulled a few different examples of link building outreach emails sent in hopes of gaining a backlink for a client added to a niche specific resource page. This is often called “resource link building” and it’s both the simplest kind of link building to learn and most difficult kind of link building to master. Let’s look at these outreach attempts and see what didn’t work, and what did. I’m going to focus on 4 key principles:

  1. Personalized
  2. Clarity
  3. Value Add
  4. Sign Off

EXAMPLE 1: DARK TIMES

Below is an example of an outreach used that was never opened or responded to after several attempts. Let’s dig into what went wrong!

link building outreach - bad example

Personalized:

  • Both subject line “additional car resource” & the opener “Good afternoon” show no personalization to either website name or recipient name; email has name Charlie associated with it.
    • Implies laziness and leans towards a really bad template.

Would you open an email from a stranger?

If someone can’t take the time to craft the email to you, is it worth the energy to read?

It’s important to note that in email inboxes, the intro is the recipient’s quick glance into who the email is from and the context of the email, so the more specific and eye-catching you can make it the better. First impressions are everything and your initial outreach should be treated as such.

Clarity:

  • “Car Resource” is very vague
    • How is this relevant to recipient’s website? How does it add value to the site’s users?
  • No page title or URL included for link addition
    • Where do you want your link to be added?
    • Does their “links” page have a specific name or title?
    • What if the recipient of the email works with several sites?

When requesting your link, should you really make the recipient do most of the work?

People are busy & time is limited so the easier you can make the whole process by including the URL or name of the page of where you’d like the link placed, the greater chance they’ll be willing to check your link out and possibly add it.

Value Add:

  • No clear competitive value outlined in link being pitched.
    • Low prices, name brands, and easy to use search option for your site aren’t’ a REAL competitive differentiator in 2017.
  • Identical sites already listed.
    • Does this really make it a great fit if there’s already similar sites offering a service you do? What’s unique about your link that adds value for their users as well as the site itself?

If you cannot “sell” the value of your link addition or explain how your link offers a unique value to users and why it should be on the page, should it even be added?

Sign Off:

  • Spelling error in “Kindly”; was spelled “Kindley”
    • Whether you’re using a customized “template” or drafting up a unique email, you should always check your spelling before sending.
  • Made up job titles
    • What’s “Web Outreach?” Is this a real job title? If you are link building and pitching a relevant link that makes sense and adds value…you can be upfront about it.

You’ve made it this far with your link request, please don’t make them cry with spelling errors and falsified job titles. Don’t wait until the end to lose their trust.

EXAMPLE 2: CLOUDY TIMES

Below is an example of an outreach that was opened and received a response but the link was still rejected. Let’s dig into what worked and didn’t work.

link building outreach - bad example is a little bit better

Personalized:

  • Lack of personalization in subject line and opener.
  • Sender introduces self and business affiliation.
    • Helps recipient understand intent of email.

Clarity:

  • No URL included for where link should be placed but website name and specific linking page title are used.
    • Recipient shouldn’t be confused on what site they want to have a link added to and what page specifically it should be added to.

Value Add:

  • First asks if they’re looking to add resources to the list.
    • It’s a nice show of faith that you’re asking and not telling. A warm gesture where you aren’t strong arming them into adding you link can go a long way.
  • More unique value and link detail are discussed regarding the link addition.
    • Videos, instructionals, guides.

Value add is still kind of vague. Try addressing a specific issue not being serviced or what is unique about your site compared to the other sites linked. You can also discuss the relevancy of having your link added in relation to both the site and its users. Lots of link additions may be “relevant” but not hyper relevant and that can hinder your link conversions. Ex. You run a health site related to blood pressure and pitch a link for a general health site. Sure they’re “relevant” but are they THAT relevant?

Sign Off:

  • Standard email sign off.
  • Made up job title “Outreach Representative.”
Now this email did receive a reply and here’s the response!

Reply:

reply to cloudy times link building outreach example

  • Link is relevant but not hyper relevant.
    • Lack of connection on why link should be added.
    • Sender could have better explained relevancy and why link made sense for site and its users.

What’s important to note is the email did receive a reply whereas the first email examined didn’t. The difference in the two emails is a clear indication that with better outreach comes better results; i.e your email was read and replied to.

EXAMPLE 3: BRIGHT TIMES

Below is an example of an outreach that was used that received an email with the best news ever…your link was added! Let’s dig into it and see what worked.

Personalized:

  • Subject line expands on resource in a niche specific light-hearted way.
    • Connects intent of email in a more fun & attention-grabbing way.
  • Name of website is used in opening.
  • Introduces who they are and who they’re affiliated with.

Clarity:

  • Explains intent of the email.
  • Specific URL where sender would like link added is included.

Value Added:

  • Uses light hearted and niche specific language to describe the link suggestion.
  • Explains relevancy of link in terms of the page and the resource; guitars.
  • Addresses potential apprehension in link addition and why it’s unique and adds value to the page and the users of the site.
    • This helps gain a competitive advantage and offer something different from the current list of links shared on the page.
    • Written in a way that’s user focused; free, user satisfaction, and customization.

Sign Off:

  • Standard email sign off.
    • However, uses a niche specific phrase to end the email on to further reinforce the light hearted and fun nature of the email “Rock On.”

One clear distinction between this email and the first two is the tone is much more light-hearted and informal, with niche specific language and delivery, which comes off much more natural and personable. People like speaking with other people, and feeling like their emails are unique to them. Anyone involved with digital marketing understands that people are going to use templates in some capacity, but that doesn’t mean you can’t customize it and tailor it specifically to the site and its users.

Key Takeaways

Upon analysis of these three different initial outreach emails we looked at, there’s some key takeaways that should not be ignored:

  • Personalize your email subject line & intro to person and/or website you’re emailing.
  • Make the specific intent of your email clear.
  • Point out where you’d like your link added and why.
  • Highlight unique link value for both the site and its users
  • Speak like a human, treat the recipient as such, and have fun.

Seems straightforward, right? That is because It really is. Sending outreach emails for resource page link additions can be frustrating at times, especially when the client you’re working on doesn’t always have the best website or most unique content or service. However, if you follow these guidelines in how to conduct your outreach, you will see better results. I’ve used these guidelines when conducting my own link building outreach and it’s resulted in more emails opened, more emails replied to, and more links obtained. It didn’t matter the website or the niche I was in, I improved my ability to have my emails read, responded to, and most importantly convert. If you know something so simple can yield much more positive results, what do you have to lose?

Write a Comment

Comment

  1. Thanks for this excellent reminder Devin (and Paul). Especially the 3 examples.

    Most of us know better, but sometimes a post like this helps steer things back in the right direction.

    Last December I did some resource page link outreach for my personal (non marketing) blog. Almost as an experiment. I sent out 10 extremely personalized and wildly varying emails – and after 4-6 weeks, landed 8-9 backlinks. This stuff really works!!!

    -Jay

    • That’s awesome to hear Jay! Proof that if you take the time to reach out to have your link added to a page that makes sense for both the site and the user, and it offers up something valuable, the link should in fact go up if the page is still being updated! Hope those links helped generate some new traffic too! 🙂

    • Having a brand/clients that can attract links on their own is way awesome and wish more brands could have that success! Glad you dug the advice. Thanks for reading/commenting Boris!

  2. Thanks for sharing those email samples Devin! We can surely learn a lot from other people’s mistakes. I was wondering, up to what point do you think is best to send follow-up emails on an outreach? 🙂

  3. Awesome stuff Devin! I have an article that I’ll be requesting resource links for and this provides a great starting point. To follow up on Emmerey’s question, what kind of follow up email do you send if you don’t get a response? I have MixMax so I’ll know if and when they’ll have seen my email. Do you keep it simple with something like, “Just wanted to bump this up your inbox because I know how buried emails can get. :)” Or do you send something of similar length and provide value or make your case in another way? Thanks again!

  4. Hey man,

    Great post. Very interesting to get a peek behind the curtain about link building and the actual goings on.

    I do high volume SaaS sales. I write emails all day, every day. Templates, cadences, tracking, etc. I would recommend that you shorten them up when possible. Keep in mind, (my guess) that like 60% of emails will be first viewed on a phone. You want something natural with the intro. Props to using the first name, Dale Carnegie would be proud.

    “Hi Devin, I would like to discuss link building through your site. I work doing SEO for many domains other than and would like to speak with you to discuss opportunities between and .

    If you can get me set with a link near the top of I’d like to have a quick discussion to return the favor by facilitating introductions to my other domain clients.

    You available Tuesday at 2pm EST to speak with me?

    Cheers,
    Your name here
    Your phone number”

    Now of course, some of the verbiage above will be off as I am not specifically in your industry, but nonetheless, the above is me taking a crack at it, half cut on a Friday evening.

    PS: Hellraiser pic is Boss.