Link building outreach is a tough endeavor. We’ve found some great link targets for our clients but have very little success in our email outreach. Can you provide some tips to best refine our link outreach efforts and convert more of these opportunities for our clients in 2014?

Barney Stintson Link Outreach GraphicAnswer: If a link is easy to get it’s not a quality link. There is no better evidence to support this than when one conducts link building outreach by email. This type of outreach is notorious for having a low conversion rate.

How many of you reading this have spent hours conducting extensive link research to find just the right linking opportunity for your client? You’ve studied the site, you’ve tracked down the right contact information for the Webmaster, and you’ve written and rewritten your initial link pitch multiple times. You’ve even sent a follow-up, and then maybe one more, and weeks later you realize that the result of all your outreach emails was…nothing. No link and in most cases, no response.

You’re not alone. We get link outreach requests ourselves all the time, sometimes four to five times a day. Most of them are truly horrible; a select few, though are, not so bad. Those that aren’t horrible share some specific characteristics and they are simple tips that we as link builders utilize in our own outreach efforts and which we know will be effective in yours.

As such, if you are conducting email link outreach for your clients (and you should be) here are some best practices and tips that will help dramatically increase your conversion success:

  • 1. Know your Link Target: Mass emails are so 1997. As we mentioned above you should be personalizing your pitch to the appropriate person as much as possible. Checkout a tool like to find the Webmaster contact information or use Mail Tester to test variations of specific @domain emails to find ones that work. Also, consider tools like Topsy and BuzzStream to find public information on individuals associated with your target site and to better personalize your email pitches.
  • 2. Establish Trust: People want to do business with like-minded people they know and trust. One of our more effective strategies is actually connecting with the person first on social media and interacting with them for a couple of weeks BEFORE we send the link request. Another is by sending them links to articles and news items that establish your credibility in the industry. Even better, when crafting your initial link request find something of shared value to discuss. For example, I got a link from a site owner when we bonded over our shared completion of a Tough Mudder. True story!
  • 3. Provide Value for the Target Site: This goes closely with the establish trust suggestion. When crafting your initial request provide them some value that immediately casts your request in a positive light. One of the most effective techniques here is to find an issue with their site they should correct. For example, we’ve used Screaming Frog and the Check My Links Chrome extension to find broken links on a site and bring them to the attention of site owners. Sometimes, we even suggest a replacement link (from our clients) that they may consider rotating into place.
  • 4. Don’t sound like a Template: This seems like a no-brainer but how many of you actually send your link outreach templates to colleagues and have them read in advance? Do this, now. Ask your colleagues and coworkers if the outreach request sounds templated. If so, rework it. This goes back to above tips #1 and #2. Make sure your link requests are personalized and review examples of successful outreach letters from other link builders. Find one you like and then personalize it accordingly.
  • 5. Track your Efforts: The very best way to see if your link outreach is working is to track your templates. Are your link requests being opened? If so, by who and how much? Our recommendations here are two fold. If you are using GMAIL for your link outreach efforts then we recommend BoomerangBoomerang will track opens and makes sure your emails are getting read. For all other programs we recommend BuzzStream Link BuildingBuzzStream has a great link building outreach suite that involves multiple templates, increased personalization options, and robust response rate tracking.

Pro Tip: Be wary of reciprocal links. Clearly if the link to be garnered has value and is niche-related then don’t disqualify it out-of-hand. But steering the link target away from links like this (and links labeled as sponsored) should always be a major goal. If that means you agree to pay for some other advertising or sponsored package on their site for a couple of months (with the goal here being that you get the regular natural, non-sponsored link as a permanent placement) then that is a small price to pay.

Email link outreach isn’t easy but you can dramatically increase its effectiveness by leveraging our five above best practices. Personally, we’ve found that creating some kind of need or benefit-based relationship with the link target to be the most effective method in garnering natural, high-quality, editorially-given links. Implement that technique, and your future link outreach conversion efforts should noticeably improve.Planet Ocean article end

By Casey Markee, Writer & Lead SEO Consultant, Planet Ocean