Anatomy of a Great Outreach Email
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According to research from Social Media Today, 41% of marketers consider link building – the process of reaching out to other publications and asking for backlinks – the most challenging part of search engine optimization (SEO).
It’s easy to see why. Good link-building practice is equal parts public relations (PR) and SEO. It requires all the savvy of a PR pro, with the developer’s technical thinking – two methods that don’t usually mix.
Effective backlinking involves plenty of hard work, from content strategies to building relationships. We’re going to discuss one of the most important (but often overlooked) parts of the link-building process – the outreach email.
Optimize Your Research
The secret to great outreach emails is excellent PR, and the secret to great PR is research. Effective research is essential to crafting an email pitch that will result in a backlink. We recommend the following:
Read Articles Before Cold Emailing
This is important for three reasons – firstly, to avoid pitching an article that was published recently, and secondly, to check for content themes and make sure that you’ve targeted the proper journalist or outreach manager (don’t pitch the digital specialist an article about sales).
However, the essential part of this research process is checking for backlinks within the copy. This step is critical – if a publication isn’t already including backlinks within their copy, do not approach them for a backlink.
Check the ‘Submissions’ Page
The submission page is a gold mine for outreach email information and guest post policies. The page will give you helpful information about who to contact with your pitch, relevant information to include, and any specifics about how they like to be approached (only on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, etc.).
Conduct a Social Media Investigation
Some journalists and outreach managers are not receptive to an approach for a backlink. The experts at PR Week summarize a 2019 link-building scandal beautifully. To be completely safe, we recommend a quick scan of a journalist or a publication’s professional social media accounts on Linkedin. Check the influencers and bloggers they work with for their overall content marketing strategy.
The Anatomy of a Great Cold Email
After conducting research, it’s time to personalize your pitch. We’ve highlighted the essential parts of a great outreach email below:
- The Name on the Salutation of the Email is Correct: you can craft the perfect pitch, complete with context and stats that’ll blow the journalist or outreach manager away – but I guarantee that if you address the email to the wrong person, or misspell their name, the outreach manager won’t read beyond that incorrect heading. The easiest way to get an outreach email or pitch rejected is to send an email addressed to the wrong person. Double and triple-check the name of the journalist or outreach manager. It also never hurts to do one final check for typos in the email’s subject line. Email templates should always be customized.
Note: Sometimes this is unavoidable (the person in the role has changed), but in many cases, it means that the link builder hasn’t done their research.
- Context First: an important (but often skipped part of the outreach email) is context. The journalist should know immediately why your pitch is relevant – context is the “hook” that draws them in. Appropriate research and statistics are fantastic to build context, and be sure to mention any recent industry events, scandals, or occurrences.
- A Quick Article Summary: a successful outreach email should tell the publication why the proposed article is relevant and indicate the “high points” of the piece. Broad themes give the publication enough information to know what the article will cover and provide flexibility if the writing takes you down a different (but still valid) track.
- A Quick Summary of You: the author of the article is just as important as the topic. A quick sentence establishing mastery, notoriety, and experience is a crucial part of the outreach email.
It’s all well and good in theory, but what about in practice? Let’s say you’re emailing to pitch a potential article on building links, but the submission website doesn’t specify an editor. What would that outreach email look like?
I hope you’re well.
Did you know that 41% of marketers say that link building is the hardest part of their job? Research from Social Media Today suggests that this critical part of SEO is one that professionals struggle with most.
I’d like to write an article covering the basics of link building – the types of links available, why backlinks are most important and share some of my best tips on how to achieve them. As a marketing professional, I’ve spent the past ten years specializing in the backlinking process and have plenty of tips and tricks of the trade to share.
Please let me know if this is of interest or send more information or answer any questions. Looking forward to hearing from you.
This pitch gets straight to the point – context, summary, and a bit about the author. Depending on the publication, the pitch author might throw in a bit of information about articles the outreach manager has published recently. Still, this no-nonsense pitch is a good template to start.
When Pitches Don’t Land
Not every pitch results in a backlink – and that’s okay. Editorial calendars, news cycles, and emails that slip through the cracks all happen, and don’t necessarily mean that you’ve done anything wrong. However, if the majority of your pitches don’t result in a backlink, or you’re not even getting responses to those pitches, it might be worth tweaking your outreach strategy. Some good places to start include:
- Taking a hard look at your content: is what you’re pitching helping your audience? Is there another tack you could take that would add more value? Do you have case studies to back up any claims you make?
- Taking a hard look at your outreach publications: we’d all love a backlink from a big publication such as Forbes and Fast Company. However, it’s important to be realistic, and it is much better to build your repertoire with smaller publications before approaching the big ones. If those big names are on your list, and you need them now, it may be a matter of adjusting your budget – not your backlinking strategy – to get the results you need.
- Tweak your pitch length: one of the most common pitch errors we see is a pitch that’s far too long. Keep it snappy – you don’t have the outreach manager’s attention for long. Short pitches have a higher response rate.
- Making sure you follow up: following up is an essential part of the outreach process. Give the journalist or outreach manager around 48 hours before emailing them again – a quick note asking if the below is of interest is all you need. People in these positions often receive hundreds of emails each day, so your pitch may have just been pushed down in their inbox.
Outreach is one of the most complex parts of the backlinking process, but with a bit of strategy and some tried – and – true tips from a PR, your pitches are sure to land (and result in those powerful backlinks). With the right social proof, personalized emails, and follow-up, your outreach strategy is bound to soar.
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