In this chapter we provide a step-by-step guide on how to perfect blogger outreach.
In this chapter, we focus our attention on blogger outreach. This is a technique that we at SUSO have been perfecting over the past few years by expanding our own dedicated outreach team and network. This technique has proved incredibly effective for our campaigns and we want to share our knowledge and insights with you so that you can also reap the rewards of following a Google-friendly link building strategy that will help you outrank your competitors in the search results pages.
What is Outreach?
Outreach is an integral part of off-site SEO. If your website is perfectly optimized and a work of on-site SEO art, it still won’t rank without a solid network of links that give it authority.
A backlink is simply one site linking to another – they do so to support their own content’s authority, to point their users to something worth reading, or to a source of data that they might find interesting or to give credit for a piece of content they are using.
If you have amazing content on your site that you’d like others to find out about, share, talk about and link to – outreach is the way to alert people to this content and to encourage them to use it as a reference.
While successful outreach is about building links, it’s also about forming relationships with people in your niche. Your outreach emails will reach:
- Business Owners
- Business Managers
- Content Specialists
These are your “link givers” – and outreachers have the tough job of speaking both to their audience (or that of their clients) and the audiences of the “link givers”.
If you’re doing your outreach right, each of these people will have something important to say about what you’re doing, and if you are also passionate about your business, you will have something to teach them or share with them. Thus, an important connection is made.
Outreach is Personal
Since the best kinds of backlinks are organic and natural – your outreach is going to have to be the same. It’s not enough to zip your whole campaign into a gigantic mail merge and send it to every niche website you can scrape.
It simply doesn’t work like that anymore. Bloggers and business owners get tens if not hundreds of generic outreach every day, and in order for yours to stand out, you have to show them you care about what they’re doing.
In fact, unless someone is blatantly trying to sell you a link, they won’t respond to yet another generic guest post email – would you? Outreach is getting harder and harder – but it doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it.
But like most things in life, the harder it gets, the more valuable it is – the links you get have more value and are based on excellent content that will lead users to your page, and result not only in “link juice”, but in more organic traffic.
Outreach is better when it’s personal because it builds relationships with people from your niche, like a form of networking.
Benefits of a Successful Outreach Campaign
There are many benefits of a successful outreach campaign, and some of them are more measurable than others. While it’s not possible to track exactly how every single specific link affects your page rank and authority, it’s possible to compare your outreach efforts with the changes in your ranking over a period of time.
Some of the unquestionable benefits of an outreach campaign are:
- Better SERPs results – moving up the SERPs means better organic traffic, and more conversions.
- Brand awareness – the powerful referral traffic you get from outreach will help your brand become more known and increase the conversions on your company website.
- Authority – a link is a “vote” for your content. If an authoritative source links to your content, they reference it as a trusted source of information. This doesn’t go unnoticed by Google.
- Brand control – by promoting your content with the help of outreach, you get to be in control of what is talked about when it comes to your brand. Publication of press releases, using your knowledge to educate people in your niche will put you in control of why people come to you.
- Networking – finally, here is a great reason to do outreach aside from rankings. Because you will outreach mostly in your specific niche, it’s a great opportunity to strike a conversation with the people from your neck of the woods. This will create relationships and give you recognition in your specific business community.
How to Conduct A Successful Outreach Campaign
Let’s take a look at the steps that you should take to ensure that your outreach campaign is a success.
Stage 1: Research and Plan
Before you begin outreaching, you need to create a plan of attack. You can’t just write to a blogger and say:
“Hey, I noticed that you write about fish. I sell aquariums – would you link to my store?”
This approach is correct in a nutshell – you want this outcome. However, it’s too direct and doesn’t present any value to the blogger or page that you are outreaching to. You’re not letting them see the why. Here’s another way to word it:
“I love your fish blog! I’ve been working with tropical fish from South America for several years, and I have a great infographic about their natural habitat – I’d be happy to let you use it.”
Here is your chance to tell them:
1. Why you’re interested in their website
2. What you have in common
3. How you can help/network/collaborate
4. You’re willing to share content
Here are the steps that can help you choose the right content for link building before you start approaching prospects:
Step 1 – Creating the Right Content for Link Building
You need to get a few things in order: have something to offer the website you’re approaching.
This is the “carrot” – the thing that you will use to entice web owners to link to your website.
It may be:
- Superior Written Content
- Case Studies
- Press Release
- A tool
- Press Release
In order to produce good content for outreach, you have to ask yourself:
- What do I have that’s unique?
- What can I offer the readers of another blog/publication/website?
- What value do I bring to the table?
- Would I link to this type of content?
You can’t afford to waste time spamming – be short and sweet, but make sure your pitch has substance and a clearly defined benefit for the reader.
Power pages are pages on your website that have especially valuable content on them. These types of pages attract traffic and are relatively easy to link to because of their value. They can be “ultimate guides”, helpful charts that people need but no one else has, or simply a collection of content that is already out there, but is much better structured.
The idea of a power page is to unequivocally prove that you’re an expert at something – and this is the page that you ultimately try to prove that your content is better than anyone else’s in the field.
Step 2 – Know What’s Out There
Even if you consider yourself an expert in your niche, take some time to see what’s going on out there SEO wise. Who is ranking the highest? Who is your competition? What content are they ranking with?
When outreaching, you have to put yourselves in the shoes of your prospects as well. Is their site lacking something? Is there something you see that you can help them with?
Let’s take a look a SUSO field example:
While doing outreach for a British website that was in the travel niche, we came upon an amazing nature blog that happened to be missing some key bird species in their local bird descriptions section.
These were the species that our travel client came in contact with and after some research, we outreached to the website owners offering to write a guide to the particular bird species based on our client’s experience and interest in the matter.
A link was born – not only did it solve the blogger’s problem of not having enough content on a popular species, thus making their readers happy, but it recognized our client as an expert in the region’s birdwatching travel destinations. A win-win situation.
The article has remained in the top 3 positions in the SERPs for over a year, for client-related keywords.
Once you’re armed with a list of the types of content you can provide, you can start the outreach process. There are a few tools that will make it easy on you, and we have listed them in the section below.
You will find that organising your outreach is probably the most difficult task you will encounter.
Stage 2: Making Connections
Outreach is straightforward – before you get buried in emails, content and contacts that is!
Let’s boil it down to a few simple steps:
Step 1: Prospecting
Prospecting means making a list of your potential contacts – and pages that you want to pitch to. There are various paid tools that you can get in order to make it easier on yourself, but in our experience, manual prospecting is always valuable for quality links. Some tools that can help you (they are described fully in the Outreach Tools section below) are:
With their help, you will create a list of perfect niche websites that you can pitch to. They will still have to be sifted through, tweaked and audited before you start sending. Remember that a tool is just a tool – sometimes when building a perfect prospecting list there will be some suggested sites that just don’t work, or are direct competitors.
Important: don’t ask for links from direct competitors.
What information do you need before you write an email?
It might seem obvious, but here is the abbreviated list:
We have put a simple google sheet together that reflects how a beginning prospect plan should look like. Feel free to copy and use it yourself! Here is a short explanation:
Here you can keep track of what kind of content you are submitting, the cost of content and any other resources, how it affects your outreach budget, if the link is active or not. This sheet also helps to keep track of content that you are working on and planning.
It’s a simple tool – a lot of companies charge for complicated content and outreach management plans. But when you’re just starting out, a free sheet will do just fine until you are ready to scale. View and copy it here.
Step 2: Pitching
Pitching your idea is usually the hard part. It’s best to include a few main points in your pitch, in order to get your prospect interested and prove that you are interested in reaching them. Nothing gets deleted faster than a generic mass email. Some of the musts in a pitch are:
- Make sure you are addressing the right person
- Introduce yourself and explain what you do
- Express why you are interested in their website, and why you love their content
- Tell them what you’ve been working on (this is where your carrot comes in).
Let’s take a look at an example.
We’ve broken this example down into the pitch itself (black text) and some comments on what you should include.do (red text).
Make sure you have the right person, but don’t be forward and pretend that “Bobby” is your best friend.
I know you’re busy, and I’ll try to keep it short. My company is an up-and-coming competitor in the Southern California real estate market, and your interior design blog has really inspired us when we set up for viewings and open houses.
Here, we have both an introduction, and a statement of relevance and connection.
I especially love your take on retro design.
It’s helpful when you show that you actually care about what they do and you meant to write to them.
To the point –
(Here is where you extend an idea for collaboration. It can be anything, depending on how much you want this particular link, the level you’re willing to commit yourself, and the kind of content you’re working with. We have thought of a number of examples to give you an idea of something that would get their attention.)
- We have recently put a 50’s era-style house on the market, and we were wondering if you would be willing to collaborate on a photo shoot. (Explain more, if this is your path forward.)
- We noticed that you don’t have anything on period-accurate landscaping, and we were wondering if we could help you out with that – we have a 1940’s style victory garden at one of our properties, and we could send you some great photos if you’d like.
- We have a great article that explores historic Craftsman Homes in our area – we were going to pot it on our blog, but wanted to ask if you’d like to have it as a guest post on your site? It’s about 1200 words long and I’d love to send you a copy if you want to take a look.
- We have a complete guide on the preservation of historic buildings in California – along with materials lists, prices and examples. We’d be happy for you to use it, we’re sure your readers would love all that info in one place!
- Attached is our current list of historic homes for sale in SoCal. We thought your readers would be interested in seeing what’s hot in the retro market right now. Feel free to use it!
(As you can see, the amount of possible sharable content and collaborations are endless. Of course, it depends on how badly you want that link. This is also where pure SEO crosses into the territory of marketing.
An important part to mention about offering a guest post – always pitch a few ideas if you’re going that direction. But not too many! Three solid, interesting article ideas will do.)
Thanks for your time, and I hope this will be useful to you!
Owner, SoCal Real Estate
As you can see, the pitch is personable, within the niche, and respectful to the blog owner’s hard work. Don’t just “ask for a link”.
You can also clearly see how it’s not something for nothing – Bob has put a lot of effort into crafting his content so it appeals to a niche of real estate audience interested in historic homes.
If Bob also sells modern homes, his pitch might go a bit differently to those websites interested in modern architecture and design, or modern environment conscious and drought-friendly landscaping.
Either way, Bob needs to invest in his own content before anyone is interested enough to link to his site. You can offer guest posts alone, but that doesn’t have the same potential as content that is
This is what’s going to make people not only click on your link but stay on your site.
Step 3: Following Up
Don’t be upset if you don’t get an answer right away. Of course, sometimes you will! But according to our experience, about 30% of valuable responses come from follow-ups.
Outreach tools like Pitchbox and Snov are great at setting up follow-up emails automatically. If you don’t want to use tools like that yet, Gmail has a few plugins that will help you control your follow-ups in an organized manner, moving your emails from one section of the “outreach funnel” to the next. Some of the Gmail extensions we like are:
Usually, it’s best to check in if you haven’t received a response in 3 or 4 business days. The follow up should be short and to the point.
Below is an example of a great follow up email:
I haven’t heard back from you and I was wondering if you had a chance to look over my ideas. I know, we’re all busy!
I’d love to hear back from you when you have a chance.
Owner, SoCal Real Estate
Step 4: Tracking
Once you have your answer, it’s important to keep track of who answered you, what you promised them, and other details of your deal.
This is where a well-executed planning sheet comes in. If you are using a tool like Pitchbox, it will help you to keep track of the initial cold emails, but in order to complete the “relationship” part of the deal, you have to deliver what you promise on time.
Once we get a response from a link opportunity, we simply input their information and the type of content we’re providing them with into our planning sheet. We make sure to update the status as it changes throughout the funnel.
There is a large number of tools that you can use to outreach and make your content more relevant. Here are the basic tools that everyone who is doing outreach should have.
Ahrefs is probably the number one program for any outreach campaign – it is the perfect multitasker, showing you not only how a page ranks, but also what your competition is doing, who is linking them and what content is the most popular amongst many others.
We use it in outreach for:
- Looking at competitor backlinks
- Analysing pages that we want to link to – are they worth our time?
- Checking what content is popular in a particular niche
- Seeing what content gap exists between a client and their competition
- Expanding our prospect lists by finding relevant high ranking websites
- Tracking progress and page rank
Aside from all the paid services that MOZ provides, they have some great free tools you can use when you’re starting to outreach, namely their Keyword Explorer, Link Explorer, and the Moz Bar.
This tool also helps with
- Competitor analysis
- Keyword research
- Local ranking factors (a great help with topics and valuable keywords)
- Educational materials for our team members
This tool is great for extracting email addresses from websites that you’d like to outreach to. This tool has a free version, with 50 free email checks. If you’d like to have more than that, you can upgrade to their paid version which can range anywhere from 1,000 to 50,000 email checks a month.
Social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn are great tools for reaching out to people who run blogs and websites. Sometimes, the “contact us” form is a poor way of starting out a relationship, and if you contact a writer or entrepreneur through more creative channels, you might gain access to them quicker and on a more personal level.
The Wayback Machine (or archive.org/web/) is a great and fun tool that you will probably spend an hour on just going back in time on your favourite websites. We use this tool to see what a website used to look like months, or even years ago. It’s great at spotting domains that were bought recently and changed into PBNs. And best of all, it’s free!
As we’ve seen in our Content Optimisation module, Surfer SEO is a great tool for editing your content and optimizing it for keywords, depending on article length. It’s one of the best tools used for planning content based on what the competition is doing.