This article will improve your outreach skills and help turn you into the outreach Jedi you’ve always dreamt of becoming.
Welcome to the world of outreach, or as I like to call it, the expanded universe of link building.
My guess is that when you decided to pursue a career in digital marketing, it wasn’t because of link building. But here you are, crafting email after email, patiently waiting to hear back from people who are stoked to share your content.
The fact of the matter is people create infographics and content every day, and for some reason just expect that it will be found and shared.
For those who believe that, I have only one response: (insert Jabba the Hutt laugh here.) Good content won’t go ANYWHERE without good promotion!
Now, the outreach game isn’t very glamorous or exciting. It requires long hours of borderline cyberstalking people, crafting the perfect customized email pitch—and never hearing back from them.
You can’t take it personally—it’s just a part of the job! No matter how you slice it, outreach is tough. There’s no “secret formula” to picking up top tier links.
But remember, part of Vader’s attraction to the Dark Side was his desire for instant results and power. Be patient, young one. In the meantime, here are my five best outreach practices that I’ve learned from my own successes and failures.
1. Build a Relevant Outreach List
In my early days as a young outreach Padawan, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.
I would build these giant outreach lists, thinking that out of 800 contacts, a few were bound to pick up an infographic. Yeah, not so much. They’re usually not the droids (or targets) you’re looking for.
In all honesty, I did find some top tier success (CNBC, Business Insider, Yahoo, Inc.) with mass emailing, but that was more due to our killer content than my outreach skills.
I imagine many outreach “experts” might blast me for saying it, but mass emails can secure quality links depending on the content.
Ok, let’s get back on track.
My first step, which should be completed before the content is created, is building an outreach list to figure out who, if anyone, is going to care about this content.
I like to create a list of topics or beats to mesh with the content. However, sometimes this just won’t happen, leaving you to promote content with cold outreach emails.
Once I’ve figured out who cares about the content, I use a slew of different platforms to find influencers.
Here’s a list of of services I’ve found success with:
Now comes the fun part! Sifting through all the potential names that programs spit out will take a while, so brace yourself.
This is a good time to plug in your headphones and blast Pandora, Spotify, or the tunes from the Mos Eisley Cantina. This is also the time to figure out if these writers would care about your content—and be honest with yourself.
If the answer is yes, the next step is finding the person’s contact information and “studying” their site or social media accounts, like Twitter or Instagram—whatever you have to do to find a personalized angle for your email. Without a relevant outreach list, your outreach empire is destined to fail.
2. Deliver Only the Best Content
In 1996, Bill Gates said, “content is king” —and he was 100 percent right! Having great content to share with bloggers and writers makes life a million times easier (only a slight exaggeration).
Most writers you’re going to be pitching are receiving 50–100 emails a day from people just like you. Don’t let your email go straight to their junk folder. Make sure there’s value in what you’re selling.
When crafting your email pitch, you only have a few seconds to catch their attention, so make them count. Show the reader your content’s value right away.
One thing I’ve learned is that if you provide readers with valuable content, good things will happen for you in outreach.
Now here’s a success story to give you hope when the chips are down. I was working on promoting a blog post and was struggling to find links for it, despite the great content.
One morning I received this message on Twitter.
My initial reaction was that of Latin soccer announcer Andres Cantor.
If you have quality content, good things will happen. I promise.
Here’s an example of one of my favorite quality content pieces that capitalized on a trending topic. (click on the picture)
This baby racked up over 460 links from 231 different referring domains. I seriously love “The Walking Dead.” So much.
3. Get Your Timing Right
In outreach, timing is critical. The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese. Simply publishing an article doesn’t guarantee that readers will still care about that topic months later.
One awesome campaign I ran was for a series of gifs that show the “morph” of American currency over the years. Check it out here.
The campaign’s timing couldn’t have been more perfect: the Obama administration had just announced that Harriet Tubman would be on the $20 bill in 2020. It was a hot and controversial topic—and I was able to capitalize big time, gaining multiple top tier links.
I’ve found that the best days to send outreach emails are on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings and early afternoon. However, this won’t be the case for every outreach target. That’s why you have to do your research.
4. Personalize, Personalize, Personalize
I know my post isn’t the first outreach article you’ve come across. You’ve probably heard it before—but you have to personalize your emails! Sometimes generic templates will score you some sweet links, but that’s probably due to the content itself and a stroke of good luck.
First, your open rates and overall success will increase exponentially if your emails are personalized. Get someone to open your email by writing the perfect subject line.
Next, get on a personal level and connect with the reader in the very first part of the email pitch. This great Buzzstream guide tells you how to write email pitches to land top tier placement.
5. Build Genuine Relationships
The most effective outreach is done long before you ever ask someone to share your content (never ask for a link—share sounds better).
Once you have found influencers you want to target, follow them on social media and regularly follow their postings. The goal is to make your name familiar to the target before you email them.
Engage them lightly with sincere comments on their posts. Try to add value to the conversation and help share their content. I keep up with many of my contacts on a daily basis through Twitter and Facebook. If I see an opportunity to make a contribution, I take advantage of it.
I now consider many of these contacts my friends. I’ll email them regularly with funny stories or just to ask how they’re doing.
However, the most important part is being genuine. Just be yourself and add your personality into the conversation. Focus a little less on what you’re trying to get out of the relationship and just try to get to know the person. Have some fun!
Building friendships in this manner will give you a well of contacts to draw from when you need to build links for a content piece in the future.
Become the Outreach Jedi You Are Meant to Be
There is no quick fix for good outreach. You can always continue sending out mass emails with generic templates, gathering links here and there—but eventually your luck will run out and you’ll need a new strategy. Might as well start now!
I know, I know. Putting in all the time and effort to do it the “right way” is frustrating. It can be hard to know where to begin.
For a great starting point, take a look at this great article from BuzzSumo.
Becoming an outreach master is a job not many people want to do. Outreach success does take lots of time and effort on your part. But trust me, it’s worth it.
May the outreach force be with you…always.