There are a lot of different ideas about what kind of tone to set in your outreach emails. I’ve developed a strategy that works well for me, but it’s certainly not the only way to compose an outreach email.
To begin with, however, there are a few rules of outreach emails that are absolutely essential. Breaking any of these is almost guaranteeing that you won’t get a mention or a link, and may well give the blogger a bad impression of your site, making it unlikely you’ll get a link from your future efforts either.
- Keep it short: the hardest part of outreach emails is keeping them short and to the point, while still trying to be compelling. In general you want no more than 3 paragraphs, and only one of those should be of any significant length. I’d suggest a word count of no higher than 100 words and preferably less. A big wall of text is rarely read, no matter how awesome the content you’re sharing is.
- Don’t screw up their info: It may be better to use the bloggers name and the site name, and it may not make a big difference. But what will certainly hurt you is if you call them by the wrong name, or call their site by a different name, or leave something like NAME HERE in the email. That is a sure sign that you are mass emailing off of a template. Personally, I often use templates that I personalize, but I make sure the template is written in a way that if I forget to insert the blog name, it still reads well.
- Don’t attach anything: Unsolicited attachments are almost always viruses or malware. So if you send an unsolicited email to someone with an attachment, they are going to be far, far more likely to think that you are a spammer trying to infect their machine. You can include a link to graphics or files that you want to share, but don’t attach them to the email.
- Make it timely: If you launch an awesome piece of content, be sure that you reach out to all of your prospect that day or the next. I’ve screwed this up, spreading my contacts out over a week, and almost none of the later ones linked to the content. I got a reply from one saying, “Yeah, I saw this making the rounds earlier in the week.” Bloggers don’t want to look like they’re posting about old news, so time your content launch for a time when you have room on your calendar to do your outreach.
Aside from these rules, the rest is a matter of testing different approaches and find what works best for you.
My personal style is to be very humble and honest, and to avoid insincere flattery. I introduce myself and my site and point out that I made something they might be interested in for their site. Then I will say one or two specific things about the content that I hope will catch their attention. I also usually apologize for emailing them out of the blue and interrupting their day.
I absolutely do not try to talk about how amazing my site is or the content is — I’m not bragging, but shyly sharing something I’m proud of.
I also make it a firm rule never to even say the word “link.” I might ask them to share the content with their readers, but I’m far more likely to say it’s something I thought they might be interested in, or be interested in for their site. SEO spam is rampant in email inboxes today, and you don’t want to sound anything like that spam.
I always try to close the email with something friendly like an offer to help, and another little piece of humble.
I’ve spent a lot of my life with my email address on various high-profile sites, and as a result I get a lot of spam. I’m used to all the slimy fake-sounding spam emails that make the rounds, and I suspect this is why I go for the honest and humble approach.
Here’s a sample outreach email I used for a piece of content on AwesomeDice.com. I had nearly a 30% conversion rate with this (helped by the fact that the content was actually pretty awesome in the eyes of the target audience):
Hey, this is Brian with Awesome Dice. We just finished running an analysis of over 10,000 dice rolls to determine whether gaming dice really roll randomly, and if precision dice are really better than standard ones. I was hoping you’d consider giving this a shout-out on the site!
The rolling analysis can be found here: http://www.awesomedice.com/blog/353/d20-dice-randomness-test-chessex-vs-gamescience/
Thanks for your consideration, and if there’s ever anything I can do for you, please drop me a line!
Most of my outreach emails these days are some variation on this template. Notice the effort to be humble, pointing out key interesting things about the content, and the extra friendliness at the end.
Here is a generic outreach template that I used when I launched Awesome Dice. For this I specifically targeted blogs on my list that I thought were likely to just give a blogroll link, based on the tone of their blog and whether they talked a lot about dice. If you’re going to just straight-up beg for links with no link bait, this is the approach that I like best. Note that it is short and filled with humble – and I actually gathered a good 20 links off of this alone!
Hey, this is Brian with AwesomeDice.com, and I’m emailing you out of the blue (and sorry about that) to ask if you’d consider giving us a shout-out on your site, or perhaps adding our blog (www.awesomedice.com/blog/) to your blogroll. As you can probably imagine, we’re big gamers and we sell dice, as well as blog about all things RPGs.
Thanks for your consideration, and sorry again for bugging you out of the blue. If there’s ever anything I can do for you, please drop me a line!
Again, my way isn’t the only way. Many sites will recommend that you say something about a recent article they wrote on their blog, as a way of proving that you’ve actually read their site, such as:
Hi, I loved the article you wrote the other day about dressing cats up as lobsters and using them for deep sea fishing bait. I recently wrote an article about using cats as bear bait that I thought you’d like. My article can be found at www.domain.com/meow-roar-this-is-so-wrong.html
If you like it maybe you could share it on your site?
The goal of this approach is to distance yourself from spam bots, and to imply that you read their site. Of course, if you don’t actually read their blog this is a bit disingenuous, and a lot of spam emails now try to make the same approach in an automated way. What’s worse, lots of non-automated spam from crappy SEOs uses this approach now too, so it’s starting to look formulaic.
On the other hand, many people still swear by it
Another common bit of advice is to tell the blogger why it would be good for them to feature your content, or to link to you. I am completely against this tactic: other than the fact that it’s usually lies, this kind of hard sell will automatically make a bunch of sites hate you and your site, and I cannot imagine it really converts that well. But the danger is that even if it does convert, the guys who don’t bite are going to be far less likely to link to any of your future efforts — they may well mark your email as spam to ensure they never even see future emails from you.
The Super Hard (and Authentic) Approach
The final most hard-core personalization approach suggests that you never even email someone until you already have established a relationship with them. When you see a blog you want to get a link from, you first follow them on social media. Make a couple meaningful comments on their posts. Retweet them and reply to their tweets with comments that propel the conversation. Try to get into conversations with the blogger. After doing this for a while (months), when you finally introduce yourself in your outreach email, there is already an existing relationship and the email doesn’t seem like spam at all.
If done carefully and well, I can totally see this approach having an awesome conversion rate. But it’s also a massive time investment. Honestly I have more profitable ways to spend my time and prefer to stick to the cold emails.
Don’t get me wrong, if there’s a blog that I really do like and read, I will go out of my way to try to form a relationship with the blogger. But I don’t have the attitude to go be friends with everyone in the community. If you do, or know someone who does, this approach is great for you, providing you have the time to invest in advance of publishing your link worthy content.
Ultimately you’re going to be sending a lot of these out, so choose an approach and tone that you’re comfortable with and that reflects well on your brand.