Link Building Through Outreach
Natural links, that is, voluntarily and organically generated backlinks are only obtained through content that is convincing to the link-giving party. Therefore, well-researched, appealingly presented content that is geared towards real demand has to be created and marketed. Also, the content does not always have to be in text form. It can also be a video, an infographic, a webinar or any other type of popular content format.
Link Building Outreach
Link outreach is the term used to describe contacting webmasters as part of link building. The primary goal of link outreach is to build high-quality backlinks. The contacting of the site owners is usually done by e-mail or via social media.
Usually, this type of outreach is part of a content campaign for which particularly high-quality (= link-worthy) content is produced. This is why it is also referred to as content outreach. It is also often referred to as link acquisition. As it is often done to place guest articles on other blogs, it is also commonly referred to as guest post outreach or blogger outreach.
The goal of link building outreach is to build high-quality backlinks. In particular, gaining industry-relevant links from expert sites that help build up great credibility. This kind of high-quality backlinks can only be obtained through outreach and not, for example, by buying random backlink packages from SEO agencies. Because these agencies usually don’t have access to the truly relevant sites.
No matter how good your content or linkable assets are: Before anyone may link to it, they first need to know that this content is out there. This is called link building outreach, where influential multipliers are approached individually, ideally linking to the content themselves and/or distributing the content, e.g. via social media or other channels, among the target group (= other potential link providers).
High-quality pieces of content created explicitly to attract links are also referred to as linkable assets among link building professionals. Thus, the first step in natural link building is to create linkable assets.
Here’s a list of content types that are particularly well suited for a link building or content marketing campaign:
- Case Studies
- Controversial Content
- How-To Guides
- Complete Guides
- Shocking Content
- Curated Rankings
- Curated Content
- Blog Interviews
- Pillar Pages
- Tangential Content
If you have ever tried to find out what content marketing actually means, you may have been left a little confused. All sorts of things are advertised as content marketing. In the context of SEO, however, content marketing always consists of the combination of linkable assets with outreach. As far as I’m concerned, this is the only link building method that actually works in the long term and is highly scalable.
If the quality of the content is high enough and if it offers a strong added value, there is also a chance that it will be further distributed or linked to by influencers. That way, you can quickly reach a large audience and benefit from the influencers’ reputation.
More than backlinks
Incidentally, content marketing brings more than just backlinks and traffic. By definition, linkable assets are particularly high-quality content, which is characterized by the fact that it is well received by visitors. Those who regularly create linkable assets also show that they are real experts in their field and thus gain the trust of potential customers.
Content outreach is a form of content distribution in which contact and relationship management with multipliers are used to promote coverage or sharing of content. The target audience or target persons for outreach can be editors, bloggers, influencers and other well-connected multipliers. For example, the following areas of responsibility would be considered content outreach:
- Media collaborations
- Influencer relations
- Blogger relations
- Press relations / media relations
Content outreach can also be defined as the publication of content on third-party media for which the company itself does not have editorial sovereignty. This includes the following formats:
- Guest articles
- Talks at third-party events
- Editorial contributions on radio and television
The advantage of this type of distribution is that you can gain access to new target groups via independent media or generate additional reach for your content and brand. Plus, you benefit from the authority and credibility of the publishing medium or the publishing individuals. This increases trust in both the content and the content creator.
Course of a Link Building Campaign
- Decide on a subject and medium: The first step is to be clear about the subject. If a very extensive topic has emerged during brainstorming, an e-book is the ideal solution to accommodate everything. Texts, graphics, photos, surveys, statistics, questionnaires and much more can be included, evaluated and processed. If you want to present an issue in a clear and concise way, an infographic is preferable. Infographics are created from the relevant data and processed graphically. This way, the central information is visible at a glance and the findings remain in the reader’s or rather viewer’s memory. Compiling a statistic is another option. Depending on the amount of data and the time required, this can vary in scope. It is important that you publish something in addition to the statistics, putting the findings in writing.
- Content creation: By its very nature, a lot of time, energy and budget will go into this step. Depending on your budget, you may do everything yourself or hire a copywriter and/or graphic designer, video maker, photographer, or other professional. From experience I can say that people usually underestimate this part of the process. Beginners often just hire a copywriter on some outsourcing platform and post the result 1:1 on their blog. My advice: Be honest with yourself and only publish content that you like to consume yourself.
- Sourcing link building opportunities: After a lot of work has gone into creating the content, it’s time to find appropriate websites that will promote and link to your content. When researching potential link partners, you should pay attention to quality. Things like the layout or first impression of the link-giving website matter, as well as the site’s overall subject, up-to-dateness, and of course its SEO metrics.
- Outreach: Send a personalized, well-worded mail to all identified contacts. In general, though, a personal reference is always good and increases the chances that you will receive a response to your inquiry. Now you have to be a little patient and wait for the feedback. If someone is not interested in your content, ask why. From the feedback received, you can learn for future projects and do better next time if necessary.
It is always best to contact the responsible editor of a department directly or – if writing to the central editorial address – to name the desired contact person. This way, it is much more likely that the message will end up with the right person.
If you know the person or it’s someone from the industry, you’re welcome to contact them directly on Facebook. This usually allows things to be clarified quickly and effectively. In all other cases, you can’t beat e-mail. If you get through to the right person, he or she usually responds very quickly. However, if the person does not get back to you after the second follow-up, let it go.
Show your expertise
It is important that the person you are talking to is able to assess your expertise. If you don’t know each other, the contact person needs information about you in order to be able to evaluate to what extent you match the content and quality of the publication being addressed. Other than that, they are interested in what exactly you want. Would you like to include a quote? Write a guest article? Just a backlink – no matter how? The motivation behind the contact is often already a good indicator of the quality that can ultimately be expected.
The Perfect Outreach Email
If possible, write a personalized email that piques the reader’s interest. Try to add a relevant question. This will increase the likelihood of a response. In this case, even if you don’t get a link, you have the opportunity to start a dialogue that leads to a relationship.
By the way, you increase the chance of a response tremendously if you offer your counterpart something that will benefit themselves. Be creative! There is no boilerplate approach to this. For example, e-commerce companies typically offer free trial products, SaaS providers offer free access, and others offer free exposure via mentions on social media channels or blogs.
Keep it simple for the link donor by offering them a ready-made piece of content that they can publish with minimal effort. This could be a unique, high-quality post for their own blog, or any other type of content that works for them.
If your looking for ways how not to do it, check out SEOButler’s Bad Outreach Email Hall of Shame.
What should you never do to avoid being dismissed at the first contact?
- Choose a totally non-personal form of addressing someone.
- Even worse: misspell names. Some surnames are not easy to pronounce, but typing them without errors should be possible.
- Taking some random topic/article as a starting point for your request.
- Following up too quickly: Unless it’s a time-sensitive issue, there’s no need to follow up the very next day. Sometimes it takes a while to deal with a topic and just because other tasks are more important at the moment doesn’t mean that the email in question is unimportant.
As a general rule, if you know exactly who to contact, avoid sending bulk messages. Think about why the other person ought to deal with the subject. That way you will be listened to without writing entire novels full of platitudes.
It is exhausting to receive inquiries that do not fit the general subject of one’ s publication at all. If someone hasn’t even bothered to click through the navigation and see where their contribution might end up, they probably won’t be a reliable partner.
Blogger outreach entails leveraging the reach of bloggers for one’s project. Well-known bloggers from a niche often reach a large mass of people with their blogs. Blogger outreach means to make your content known via bloggers and to generate as many backlinks as possible.
For most bloggers, nothing is worse than receiving unpersonalized bulk email. 99% of these will simply be deleted. The blogger is annoyed and the sender wonders why they don’t get a response to their great bulk email.
Relevant blogs are primarily found via Google search and other search engines. For example, type “blog + your keyword” or “inurl:blog + your keyword” into Google and you’ll get a great selection of blogs (depending on your niche).
Keep in mind that bloggers are human beings and are very likely to feel belittled by a boilerplate bulk email. Therefore, avoid making your email look like bulk email or spam. There is nothing more awful than an unpersonalized email. It is therefore important that the email does not sound anything like a bulk email. So always use a personal approach and include personal information in the email to make it as authentic as possible.
Many people write “I like your blog” in their cover letter – that’s not enough! Give honest feedback. You have to stay authentic or the praise won’t seem genuine!
Major bloggers receive heaps of such emails and recognize your intentions immediately. If you ask them to do something for you, without them requesting it, some of them may feel pressured and ignore your email out of spite.
So for larger, better-known blogs with a large readership, omit the request. If your content is valuable, it will be shared without asking.
For smaller bloggers who are new to the business, a friendly request for a link or guest post often helps achieve the actual goal.
Guest Post Outreach
Guest articles on well-trafficked blogs are very popular for generating backlinks. They bring traffic, boost your popularity, and improve Google rankings.
For this reason, however, many large blogs are pestered almost daily with guest article requests, usually from one SEO agency or another. In order to be given the chance of writing a guest article for the desired blogger by sending a single email, it has to be short and meaningful.
The benefits for the blogger, if you are allowed to publish a guest article on his site, must be clearly emphasized. Be convincing that you deliver great content through your guest posts. The best way to do this is to refer to previous guest posts you have written.
One long-term, highly successful, but much more involved method is to establish a relationship with individual bloggers before asking for links or guest posts. Watch the particular blog or subscribe to its RSS feed, or follow the blogger on social media.
Once the blogger publishes a new article, be sure to comment on it immediately in a meaningful way. A “thank you for the article” is not enough here. After all, you want to be remembered by the blogger. Therefore, try to start a kind of discussion, ask questions or give suggestions about the article. This is how you manage to leave a first impression on the blogger. Write an email to the blogger. Ask him about a particular topic or give your feedback on one of his articles.
Now it’s easy for you to ask them for feedback about your site, what they think of your article, and if they want to share it with their readers. Or you can ask them directly about publishing a guest post on their site.
Another option is to contact key target outlets before you publish. It pays to invest time in this approach. That way, you stimulate interest before publication, potentially obtain important additional information, and create an atmosphere of excitement.
The most obvious way to find link opportunities is to search for them yourself. Simply use Google to find a few interesting pages that match your site’s theme. These sites will ideally use similar keywords as you do. If you run an online store, it’s evident that a better-ranking direct competitor is unlikely to be interested in sharing your links. But there are plenty of other possibilities. Many blogs and communities exist that focus on topics that fit your store’s range of products.
With the help of SEO tools, you can analyze the link profiles of strong competitors. This way, you will find websites with a high chance of placing your own website there as well. This gives you plenty of useful addresses for link placement and, on top of that, data on industry characteristics – such as the frequency of keyword link texts. Using this as a guide has two advantages. You can develop a link profile that contains substantial backlinks and is furthermore typical for the industry from Google’s point of view.
In the long run, it is wiser to not only take but also give links. If another website owner notices that you have linked to his content, he will one day return the favor with a link as well, at best. Does that sound too much like gambling to you? If you have the necessary resources, you can build up targeted partnerships with industry authorities and influencers. If this leads to a cooperation, there’s a lot in it for you: reputation, publicity – and hopefully a backlink.
Which links help your SEO?
Basically, every link of reputable origin helps. However, links from websites that are related to your topic are particularly valuable. Ask yourself on whose website a link to your website would be helpful.
Below are some of the aspects that are important in selecting potential link partners:
- Does the site on which the link will be located have anything to do with you thematically?
- Does the website give a professional impression? Links from websites that are dubious or blacklisted by search engines can harm you!
- How many links are already on the page (the fewer the better for you, the more links on the page, the more questionable the value of such a link).
- Does the link appear in the content of the page or in the footer or other areas that are recognizable as advertising links?
- How many links point to the page your link partner is linking to?
- Is the link one-way or is it expected that a link will be returned?
- Is the website that links to you considered an authority on your subject? For example, does it appear among the first Google results when you type in search terms that are important to your business?
- Is the page on which the link is placed also found by search engines?
- Does the link go directly to you? Especially links from advertising banners etc. are often not placed directly, but redirected via another page to enable statistics. This can destroy the value of a link (in terms of search engines).
- Avoid entries on link pages that randomly list websites.
Every link has a certain SEO value. In the good old days, it was all about the Pagerank of the link-giving site. Since Pagerank no longer plays the role it once did and is also no longer made public by Google, a number of alternative metrics have emerged. This is something that SEOs place a lot of value on. However, for all SEO metrics it is true that they should be met with a healthy portion of skepticism. When in doubt, trust your own judgment. To evaluate backlink opportunities, the following metrics are often considered:
- Trust Flow (TF) and Citation Flow (CF): these two metrics are provided by Majestic (formerly MajesticSEO) and are intended as a proxy for Google’s Pagerank. When a trusted and quality website links to another website, the Trust Flow of that site increases as well. Obtaining a good trust flow rating is more difficult than obtaining a good citation flow rating. Basically, the value of the Citation Flow is higher than that of the Trust Flow, because it is easy to get many links, however, the quality plays a superior role here and not all links are relevant.
- Domain Authority (DA) and Page Authority (PA): The Domain Authority metric originates from the company MOZ (formerly SEOMOZ) and is composed of some components of a domain that are considered relevant for SEO. In addition to the components of the page itself, offpage signals such as incoming links, social media signals or user behavior have an impact. The Domain Authority is to be distinguished from the Page Authority. Although the latter takes the same or measured values for calculation, it only refers to a specific page on a domain.
- Domain Rating (DR): Domain Rating is the name used by SEO company Ahrefs to evaluate links. Domain Rating (DR) is determined based on the number and quality of a website’s incoming backlinks and is also geared towards Google’s PageRank.
- Referring Domains (RefDomains): This is simply the number of different domains that link to a website. Ideally, nofollow links and other irrelevant links are excluded.
Best practice advice
- Content matters: Whether someone responds to your outreach emails depends in no small part on the content itself that you promote. It is clear that the length of the text and the way it is presented play a role. If you can tell that the content was created with a lot of effort, you are more likely to get a response than for a short standard SEO text that you bought cheaply on a text marketplace platform. Practical experiments, unique ideas, research results or similar are very well received.
- A well-known brand makes the difference: if you are already known for quality within your industry, you can definitely look forward to more feedback. Someone who knows your blog will definitely respond to your outreach email. Smaller, lesser-known blogs in particular often feel honored when a well-known name in the industry reaches out to them. But even if they don’t know you yet, your background matters. For example, if a company founder writes the outreach emails himself, it will be better received than if the request comes from an intern.
- Compensation is demanded: A link is very valuable and nowadays almost everyone knows that. Therefore, many people want some form of compensation. What exactly you offer or accept here is ultimately up to you. Basically, you almost always violate Google’s guidelines by offering something in return. The truth is that this rarely stops people from doing it anyway.
- A lot helps a lot: The more outreach emails you send, the more backlinks you will get. Even if you don’t do everything right and your content doesn’t win a Nobel Prize: If you keep at it, you will get backlinks sooner or later.
Link outreach is not easy
SEO outreach is incredibly exhausting and often frustrating. If you want to do it really well, it’s even more exhausting. And even if you do everything 100% at perfection, you’ll have more setbacks than successes.
Tim Soulo of AHrefs sums it up this way:
- People don’t care much about the quality of your content unless you have a strong brand to back it up.
- Even if you do have a strong brand and great content, many people would ask for a “deal.”
- There are hundreds of thousands of potential link candidates, but most of them are just SPAM (which wastes your time if you don’t filter them out).
- There is no magic template that will make your outreach campaign a success. Your email pitch is only as good as your content.
Let’s face it, it’s incredibly hard to gain free links through email campaigns. But that doesn’t mean you should throw up your hands in frustration and refuse to do it.
You should strive to create more remarkable content, promote it any way you can, build your reputation, and network with interesting people in your industry. The more you do that, the easier email outreach will be for you.