If You Just Build It, They Might Not Come.
The saying “content is king” has been echoed by countless digital marketers across the globe. While creating useful and significant content for your brand is imperative for SEO success, it’s not enough. In order for your content to rank in competitive search engine result pages (SERPs), people need to link to it. Digital marketers can speed up this process of gaining valuable backlinks by conducting link building campaigns (otherwise known here as “off-page SEO”).
While there are several link building strategies you can implement, all of them have one thing in common—email. Most people have a love/hate (mostly hate) with their email inbox, but distributing your content or guest post inquiries through email is the best way to build links. Yes, off-page SEO can be done through other communication channels, like social media or messenger apps, but email trumps in comparison. Email is still the preferred communication method amongst most people (especially business professionals). In fact, Statista reports that there were approximately 281 billion emails sent and received in 2018.
With that many emails being sent out in the marketplace, it’s important for you to know how to stick out from the crowd. Luckily, we’ve written a guide to help you do this. Without further ado, here are six components of the best email practices for link building.
1. Hit the Right Target
This one may seem obvious, but off-page SEO gets a bad rap due to not-so-savvy internet marketers promoting themselves or their content to the wrong people. Just like most things in digital marketing, targeting the right group of people is essential for success. Before you send off hundreds or even thousands of emails, it’s important that you do three things:
Find the Right Person
Fortunately for all of us, there are several ways for link builders to find the right audience to pitch themselves or their content to. The easiest way is to use Google search queries to find publications and influencers who are in your industry. On that same vein, setting up Google Alerts for industry-related keywords will bring fresh new content (a.k.a. publications to pitch) to your inbox on a daily basis.
Off-Page SEO Specialists can also use Reddit, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media platforms to conduct audience research. Additionally, paid tools like Buzzsumo allow you to conduct thorough research on the top publications and influencers who are discussing topics related to your field.
Make It Relevant for That Person
The contacts that you will email need to find value in the content you are promoting. You want to make their lives easier—not annoy them by crowding their inbox with useless or irrelevant information. Before sending a pitch to one of your contacts ask yourself, “How does this email add value to this person?” If you can’t confidently answer this question, then you need to reevaluate why you are sending that pitch to them. Your pitch has to be relevant, and useful to them or their readers.
Use the Right Tools to Reach That Person
As I mentioned above, you can use Google search queries and social media to find the right audience. But how do you find the best email address? How can you possibly keep track of all of the people you’re emailing? And how do you know if they are opening your emails? We’ve written about the best tools for off-page SEO, so definitely check that out. There are several tools available to find your contact’s email address and keep track of your link building campaigns—organization is key here.
2. Obsess Over Your Subject Line
Subject lines will make or break your link building efforts. You need to grab your recipient’s attention and give them a reason to open your email. If they don’t open your email, then the chances of getting your content covered are extremely slim.
Quick Tips for Great Subject Lines
- Leave out unnecessary information. Minor details should only be in your email body.
- Try using different subject lines for your follow-ups; test out a different angle.
- Use buzzwords that will interest your contact, pose a question, or offer a solution to a problem.
- Use alerts like [Data], [Survey], [Report], or [Map] to describe your content.
Example: Let’s say that you want to obtain a backlink on a huge sports publication via guest posting. You spend a significant amount of time looking for the perfect contact and crafting the ultimate pitch. However, you send the sports editor an email with this subject line:
Unless the editor is desperate for writers, you are most likely not going to get a response.
Instead, try being more specific and timely with your subject lines:
Don’t be afraid to A/B test your subject lines as well. If a high number of your contacts aren’t opening your emails, try sending them the same pitch with a different subject line.
3. Personalize, Personalize, and Then Personalize Some More!
Editors, bloggers, and influencers enjoy authenticity. Personalizing your emails lets them know that you’re an actual person—not a robot spammer. Additionally, it shows that you put forth the effort to get to know them and their line of work. Personalization goes a long way, and it increases your response rates.
In fact, Backlinko recently conducted a study where they analyzed 12 million digital PR emails. They found that emails with personalized message bodies have a 32.7% better response rate. Additionally, they found that personalized subject lines boost response rates by 30.5%. Personalization is the name of the game.
How to Personalize
You need to do more than include your contact’s first name in your email. Any robot can do that! Here are some quick personalization tips:
- Talk about their work in a conversational, authentic, complimentary tone. Skim something they’ve written (obviously you can’t read hundreds of articles for your off-page SEO, but get an idea of what they’ve published). Try to be specific–if you’re too vague, it can come off as disingenuous.
- Ask relevant questions about their work. Asking thought-provoking questions to your contacts will most likely lead them to engage with you.
- Personalize yourself. There’s no harm in introducing yourself. Providing background information about yourself helps your recipients visualize you as an actual person. Be brief if you do this, though.
While personalization leads to higher response rates, the true magic of personalization is that it helps you build long-term relationships with people relevant to your industry. These relationships can excel your link building efforts for years to come.
4. Get to the Point Quickly
While it is true that there are wildly successful long pitches, most editors and journalists that receive your pitch see hundreds of emails daily. Here are some tips to keep things concise:
- Get to the point of your email as quickly as possible.
- Summarize succinctly.
- Have a clear call-to-action, and only one to avoid confusion.
- Use bullet points for easy skimming.
- If you’re promoting content, include a link at the bottom of your email to a Google Drive folder with all the assets your contact will need to write an entire article.
5. Communicate Value in Your Email Body
At the end of the day, you need to provide value to your email recipients. Whether you’re pitching yourself as a guest author for their blog or you’re promoting a recent content piece you want them to link to, you need to quickly explain why your pitch is worthwhile.
If you’re pitching yourself for a guest post, tell your contact that your expertise in your field in unique. Showcase your previous work, tell them why you’re a fit for their publication, and let them know that your article will be useful for their readers.
If you’re promoting a piece of content on your site, tell your contacts why they should cover and link to it. Does your content piece contain data that nobody else has? Is it the most up-to-date piece in your industry? Will their readers find it useful? Why?
The most successful Off-Page SEO Specialists are those that follow a simple rule—be a giver, not a taker.
In the Backlinko study we mentioned above, emailing the same contact multiple times leads to 2x more responses. Website editors, reporters, and bloggers get hundreds—if not thousands—of emails in any given day. It can be easy for your off-page SEO pitches to get lost in the abyss of a never-ending email inbox.
Follow-ups ensure that your pitches rise above the noise of a crowded inbox. However, sending short and generic follow-ups can actually do more harm than good. Each time you follow-up with someone, make sure to provide them with more value. It can be more information about yourself, a fresh idea for their site, or previously undisclosed data from your content piece.
In all of your link building efforts, it’s important for you to prioritize quality over quantity. Emailing the appropriate person, crafting an outstanding subject line, personalization, communicating value, and following-up takes a lot of effort.
Resilience and persistence are the keystones of the most successful off-page SEO campaigns. Your efforts will pay dividends, and over time, your successes will turn into great coverage, quality backlinks, a healthier backlink profile, and better organic search visibility—which makes everyone happy, right? Just remember to use the right metrics to prove your success!