Email can be highly effective for both sales and link building. If you are a DIY link builder looking to improve your outreach skills by better understand the psychology behind a good link outreach email, this post is for you. If you are looking for tactics or strategies, be sure to check out The only 3 link building tactics you need in 2020.
We will be going over the qualities of a solid outreach email, methods to use, and some basic formats. We’ll also be looking at what we can learn from sales professionals, such as their psychology, triggers, and some proven formulas.
Let’s dive in.
Why Do Link Builders Need to Learn About Cold Outreach Emails?
As part of an SEO or digital marketing team, you might be well-versed in plenty of other aspects. You’ve learned about the latest SEO trends, can look for keywords blindfolded, know all the plugins to optimize your page speed from memory, and have a knack for the written word.
What do you need cold outreach emails for?
Let’s look at it from the angle of a professional sales professional.
As a sales professional, every meeting is a chance to show off your product or talk about where you work. The Office fans have to remember Bob Vance’s first episode and his classic line as he introduced himself to multiple other people:
“Bob Vance, Vance refrigeration.”
Even though Bob may not have been trying to sell someone a fridge or freezer at that moment, he recognized meeting new people as a new networking opportunity.
That way, if someone down the line has their fridge break or needs to buy a new one, ding! They may remember Vance Refrigeration.
Link-builders, in a way, have to be constantly aware of their networking opportunities. But, it’s much harder for a link-builder to have those leads or network with others by simply shaking their hand. About 90% of the job is sending these cold outreach emails.
Chances are, you’re not going to go to a party this weekend and meet 5-6 people who have authority websites that are looking for guest posts. If you do, then consider yourself very lucky and thank the SEO gods for your good fortunes.
Your form of networking is going to be completely digital and the easiest form of digital contact these days is email, and you’re going to have to use that written word talent to come up with the ideal email to grow your good link-building opportunities.
Components of a Cold Outreach Email
Whether or not you realize it, we’ve all played the role of sales professionals a few times in our life. In interviews, you’re selling yourself and explaining why you would be a valuable addition to the company.
As a child, you were selling your ability to take care of a pet as you pleaded with mom and dad while walking past the pound. How could they say ‘no’ to so many cute faces?
Maybe you’ve played the role of sales professionals while trying to convince your friends that you should all go to Chicago for vacation instead of New York (we hope you mentioned deep-dish pizza).
So don’t fret and feel like you have no idea where to start. Sure, you may have to refine the language a bit here and there, but you’ve already got a solid foundation, to begin with.
When looking at a cold outreach email specifically, what are some top-notch qualities? We are going to go section by section and lay out the basics.
The Subject Line
Your first step in the right direction is having an attractive and enticing subject line. It works across all sales, as almost 50% of people open emails on the subject line alone.
What makes a good subject line?
We like to say that subject lines should be short and sweet. The longer the subject line, the less likely your recipient is to read it. While some experts say it should be five words or less, we would put that limit around 10 words.
Your subject lines also need to be enticing and unique, showing exactly what you plan to write about or why you should contribute to their blog. Tell them what you’re going to be doing, so they know what’s coming when they open the email.
Or, lead off with a number or question. Something that will make them think or make it easy to read.
Now, we’re getting to what sales professionals call “the elevator pitch”. You’ve gotten to the point of shaking their hand and now it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty of what you’re offering them.
Someone once told me that when you meet a person at a networking event, tell them your name twice. Once when you meet and once at the end of the conversation when they have a reason to want to remember it.
It sounds a little harsh, but the reality is, people get bombarded with emails, so to stand out you need to capture their attention. The easiest way to get them to keep reading to the body is to start out by letting them know what they have to gain from reading your email.
Just like your old high school and college essays, the body is the meat of your email that is going to help convince the recipient to let you guest post or contribute a blog on their site.
Here, we stress the importance of getting right to the point. Now is not the time where you have to reach five pages and start filling your essay with useless fluff.
Give them a bit of extra information about who you work for and what you’re planning on doing. As with any pitch, you’re going to be providing a solution or solving a problem for them.
With link-building, that could be anything from driving more traffic to their website or helping them link to more authority websites. This is the time to build upon the value you offered in the introduction.
The Call to Action
It’s important to remember that you’re sending this email in order to spur someone to take action by letting you guest-post or building a relationship down the line. Leaving the end of your email open to interpretation increases the likelihood of you getting a non-committal answer.
Make sure you’re calling them to action!
Tell them exactly what they should be doing next and how you will proceed after that. Once again, this can just be in a few lines but you need to be clear and precise. Don’t leave them wondering what they’re supposed to do next.
Later on, we’re going to talk about what you can specifically add to your link-building outreach emails.
What Can We Learn From Sales Professionals?
There are many elements of a sales professional’s craft that we can take with us and others than we can’t. Let’s check out what we can take with us and how we can learn from them.
It’s a Numbers Game
Hang around any sales professional for longer than five seconds and they’re going to tell you how sales is a numbers game. In order to sell more, you need to see more people, meet with more clients, and simply be more out there.
Many sales professionals have stories about how they went through countless meetings, perfect pitches, and made a real connection with the client. They came home confident every day that the sale was a done deal. The champagne was ready and the celebratory dinner spot picked out.
But then, the client ghosts you and you have no idea what you did.
How frustrating is that?
That’s just the fact of the matter. You can have the best subject line, a perfect intro, and great back-and-forth but as Bruce from Bruce Almighty used to say “that’s just the way the cookie crumbles”.
So don’t be frustrated by the number of “no’s” you’re going to inevitably be receiving along the way. Chances are, there are going to be more “no’s” than “yes’s”.
But, it’s all part of a numbers game and it helps to have a short memory.
Personalized Approach Vs Mass Outreach
Sales professionals know that not every client is the same. Many use something called “personality matching”.
While we may think of every sales professional being a ruthless, hyped-up individual like Alec Baldwin’s character in Glengarry Glen Ross, many of them have the ability to match personalities with the individual they’re trying to sell to. (in case you have never seen the famous scene of Baldwin from that movie, you should check it out on YouTube. It comes with a huge NSFW tag).
Sales professionals aren’t going to bring that hyped-up approach full of energy to a client that’s not an energetic person. It’s all about matching their personalities.
Although every sales call may follow a certain script and have plans laid out ahead, each individual sales call is going to be different. Different people have different strokes.
Anyway, back to the numbers game.
With link-building, you’re going to be sending a lot of emails…a lot of emails.
That can sound a bit dire when you’re thinking about the number of sites you’ll be reaching out to and people you’ll be speaking to, but in reality, that is why you have to put sites into two different “buckets”
Authority Sites: High Value – High Barrier to Entry
This group of sites is going to include well known websites like Business Insider or even highly coveted niche specific websites. In order to even get considered for these sites, you need to craft a highly personalized and well thought out pitch. Sending generalized emails to sites like this is going to be a waste of time. The problem with this tier of sites is that even really good pitches are going to have a low response rate.
Mid Tier: Quality Sites – Easier to Connect With
This is where a lot of great SEO links come from. We consider mid tier sites to be those ranging from a DA of about 30-50. Of course niche relevance and organic traffic are also important. The great thing about these sites is that you can contact them using templates with personalization and still get a good response rate. This group of sites is what we often use for our blogger outreach services and we have some really impressive results to date.
Now that you have a better idea of the two types of sites, let’s look at how to start building a winning outreach email.
Building Value In Sales
Let’s look at examples from two different sales pitches.
“Hey, welcome to Bob’s Car Lot. We’ve got some great cars, like this Ford Mustang. It’s $50,000.”
“Hey, welcome to Bob’s Car Lot. We’ve got some great cars, like this Ford Mustang. It’s the brand-new model and boy howdy is it a beauty. The top speed is 120 MPH and it goes from 0-60 in 3.5 seconds. It’s got a 400 horsepower engine and the latest breaking system, whenever you want to stop, you speed demon! Not only that, but it’s got enough trunk space to fit a subwoofer and a double-din head unit that comes with GPS navigation. You’ll get free updates for a year and works both on and offline. It comes with a 2-year or 100,000-mile warranty. So what do you say, want to take it out for a spin?”
(special note, the author doesn’t know a lot about cars so all this information could be incorrect)
Which sales pitch is better? The second one, obviously. Without even mentioning the price, the sales professional has helped tell you what a great car it is and the amazing value it has.
The key takeaway is that you should be building value when you speak with a potential site or in the case of sales, a customer.
- Content quality
- Past results
- Great ROI
Building up value can help take someone who’s straddling the fence to your side.
Looking for Sales Triggers
Have you ever heard of a sales trigger? While you may not be familiar with the exact term, you’ve no doubt heard or used them in your life before.
In its simplest terms, it’s an event that creates an opening for a sales opportunity or chance. It can be something as simple as “I need a bigger car, we’re expecting twins” or “I’m hosting an event for 50 people this weekend, what catering options are out there?”
As with sales, a link builder can use news or a change up to a prospects website to initiate a conversation.
As discussed earlier, your closing statements should be about calling the recipient to action by letting you guest post or establishing a contract.
All sales professionals have the same goal: to sell something, duh.
But in order to do that, they’re closing statements have to be about calling the person to action to make a purchase or sign a contract.
Going back to the Glengarry Glen Ross sales scene with Alec Baldwin, he puts up two acronyms on the board.
The first one is:
While that may not apply to link-building emails as much, you always want to have the mindset of closing the deal with a publication from the beginning. Everything is built around “closing” the deal. In the Military, this is called “end state planning”, which means you start with the goal and work backwards to find a way to achieve it.
His second acronym ties more into what we’re going for:
You want to get their attention with a great opening cold pitch, gauge their interest, help them make a decision, and then take action.
Stick to the Script
While it is important to make personalized pitches for each email and sales call, almost every sales professional has a script that they start out with or stick to.
That script may evolve over time and change with each passing year, adding updates about new products or removing lines that didn’t seem to resonate with customers.
Scripts can also serve as a guide. If the customer says “I’m not sure” you counter with ‘X”. If they say, “Yes, but” you should counter with “Y”.
While your approach should be personalized, you shouldn’t be changing your qualifications, reasons people have chosen you in the past, and what you offer. Keep your values the same while making your message personal. Scripts or in the case of link outreach, templates with some personalization are great for the mid-tier sites mentioned earlier.
Ongoing Relationships and Follow Ups
It’s always easier (and cheaper) to retain customers than it is to acquire new ones. The same goes for any websites where you guest post or build links. If you’ve done it once, the more likely you are to be able to do it again in the future.
Think about the last time you bought anything online or even talked with a customer representative over the phone. What happened after? You either received a call for a customer satisfaction survey or you were asked to share a review.
Of course, this is part of the company’s wider mission to promote their own self-image but it’s also them reaching out to gauge your personal satisfaction.
The completion of a sale doesn’t mean the end of a transaction and sales agents continue to interact with their clients after it’s all said and done. They stay behind to answer questions, have a conversation, and get to know their clients better.
You should be doing the same, even after you’ve completed a successful sale. Keep in contact with the publication, get to know them on a personal level, and keep their contact information close by. You don’t have to be best friends, but it’s always good to keep an open line of communication with any past sites.
The Steps Before Your First Email
OK, now we’ve covered the parts of a successful email and the ideas and values that we can take from your average sales professional (Alec Baldwin excluded, kind of).
So, what can you add to your emails to make them more appropriate for outreach link-building?
#1 -The first step is to make sure your content lines up with the website itself. While some websites offer a wide range of content, it’s best to find your niche and work with some established websites. You’re going to want to write content that is appropriate for them. You wouldn’t write about European travel on a tech website but you can get creative.
Instead of writing about the five must-see places in Europe this summer, write about what gadgets you can take with you to make your trip easier or some tech travel hacks.
#2 – If you’ve ever applied for a job, there comes a point in the interview where you’re asked why you want to work for them. While you may not get the exact same response in an email, you should have a legitimate reason to work with them besides “boosting up my search rankings”.
Follow them on social media and read a few of their posts to find out what you enjoy about their writing style. Make sure you have a reason why you want to write for them included in your email.
Remember to hold that line between a nice compliment and cringe-worthy flattery.
#3 – It’s time to summarize your entire pitch. Remember to keep your subject line and intro short and to the point. Let them know who you are, where you’re from, and what your ultimate goal is. No one these days has time to read a long soliloquy.
Make sure it’s straightforward enough where they understand what your goal is without throwing in too much fluff.
#4 – It’s time to edit. While you never want to overthink an email, you want to make sure it sounds clean and looks easy to read. Remember, you’re reaching out to a fellow writer and those people can be sticklers for grammar.
There’s nothing wrong with writing a few pitches, but you don’t want to be the person that’s changing your pitch for each email you send out. Making is personalized is important, but you don’t want to completely rewrite the script every time, unless you are targeting a top tier authority website.
Run your email template through something like Grammarly and then read it out loud to make sure it sounds perfect. Once you’re confident that everything looks ready, hit the send button.
#5 – The hardest part about any cold reach email is the waiting. Sites with high authority likely receive tons of these emails every day and they may take a while to respond to them.
However, if you don’t get a reply to your first email be sure to follow up. The guidelines of the site will often include an average time to respond. In cases where it does not, 6-7 days is a good time in between.
Here are some stats from an actual outreach campaign, so you can see how effective the two follow up emails can be.
Remember that people are busy and we’ve all had those moments where we receive a text, intend on responding, and then just completely forget, right?
So don’t worry if your email isn’t immediately answered. Good things come to those who wait.
Finding the perfect words to your cold outreach email can be tough. However, if you apply the principles discussed here today, remember to quickly show value to the reader, and are prepared to send a lot of emails, you can build a lot of great links throughout 2020.