How to Get Backlinks in 2021 [Series Part 3: Outreach]


Editor’s Note: The quote on the whiteboard from Paddy Moogan should say: “Do they have the ability to link?”. This is fixed in the image below.

Britney’s back with the third and final installment in her link building series, this time covering the do’s and don’ts of link building outreach (with bonus tips from the experts!). If you haven’t already, be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2

And, if you’re just starting out on your link building journey (or need a refresher on the basics), be sure to read Moz’s new-and-improved guide:

The Beginner’s Guide to Link Building

Link Building Outreach

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Hey, Moz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Today we are going over link building outreach, a critical, critical part in your link building success. So this is Part 3 of our link building series.

Link building do’s

Let’s dive into the do’s. There are lots of ways to potentially get outreach, but there are even more ways to potentially screw it up. So we want to cover all of our bases, give you all the tools you need today to have a higher success rate in the future.

So some of the do’s: 

  1. Be brief. We get so many emails every day. You know just as well as I know. Be concise. Omit needless words. Get to the point. Let me be clear. Your first outreach goal should simply, simply be to just get a response and start to build some sense of rapport. That’s it. You’re not asking for a link out of the gate. We’ll get into that. Again, that’s all we’re trying to do is get your foot in the door. So be brief. 
  2. Personalize. Show that you care and that you’ve done some homework, you’ve put effort into this. 
  3. Provide value. So one way to get someone’s attention is to provide value, help them in some way, shape, or form. That could take the shape of being relevant, providing them some data insights, geo-specific, unique, helping them with something on their website that you’ve noticed. There are all sorts of tactics out there. 
  4. Creating curiosity is another good one. There’s a reason why “Quick?” subject line does pretty well for link builders. 
  5. In Garrett French and the late Eric Ward’s new, updated “The Ultimate Guide to Link Building”, they’ve got a great section on how the psychology of asking for a small favor leads that other individual to think more fondly of you and perhaps trust you more. While we’re not trying to be manipulative at all, we are trying to help your website’s success. We’re trying to help you lead a stronger role in determining link success. Overall, this should be a win-win situation.
  6. You really should be providing value and helping and creating an honest relationship with someone else. I always think that’s a good thing. So again, establish the relationship. 
  7. Spell their name right, for the love of Roger. That’s probably my biggest pet peeve. There’s no excuse these days. You absolutely have to get this right. Just spell their name right. Otherwise that’s going to be tough. 
  8. Social proof is a really great way to get someone’s attention as well. So prove that you run in the same circle, that you both know so-and-so, or you both spoke at or attended this conference. Create some mutual connection.
  9. Have a professional email signature. This is pretty easy to put together and establishes that you are a real individual. You’re not a spammer doing this at large. Someone is behind the effort here. 
  10. Triple check your email. A great tactic — I’m not going to say because I can’t quite remember who said this — is wait at least 30 minutes before sending the email that you’ve created. Just give it 30 minutes. Triple check it. Make sure there’s no spelling errors. Then you’re good to go. 
  11. Keep track of your efforts. Really, really important. Know the date on which you have sent out email outreach, who it was to, if the response has come back, what that was, have you done a follow-up. These are all things you really should be keeping a close eye on. 
  12. Follow-ups are so, so important. A lot of times, even in a regular email life, a follow-up is necessary. It’s always good to potentially mention any other “big names” or media or whatever it is that you’ve crafted in your outreach. You could drop some names. I’m telling you guys to name drop. That sounds so sad. That’s not what I mean. Not what I mean, but you get what I mean. 

So you’re proving value. You’re proving that there is desire behind this simple request or an idea or whatnot. So hopefully that paints a bit of a picture of things you want to get right.

Link building don’ts

Now what don’t you want to do? 

  1. You definitely don’t want to doblanketed outreach. That is the same template to a bunch of individuals. You don’t want to do that. 
  2. You also don’t want to be rude. I feel like this should be obvious, but I have definitely received a couple rude link building requests in my day. Nuts. 
  3. Don’t ask for a link. Now I’m interested to hear any people that disagree with this down in the comments. Let’s have a healthy conversation, friends. I just think that you don’t want to ask for a link in the first outreach. It looks and sounds and feels spammy, and you haven’t even established a relationship or any sort of back-and-forth email with this individual. So I would always advise don’t ask for a link in the first email. Comment down below if you disagree. I would love to see why and if you’ve had success. 
  4. Don’t use spam triggers. So brush up on some of your spam triggers. It’s actually sometimes easy to include some, but Google continues to get really, really good. Different email platforms continue to get really good. But even words like “dear,” “click,” and “opportunity” could be potential flags. 
  5. Don’t spell their name wrong. I put this here twice because it drives me so nuts. Just spell their name right. Just show that you care and that you put in some effort. There’s no quicker way to get a non-response.
  6. Don’t use clunky or confusing sentences. Be clear. Be concise. 
  7. Don’t contact someone again after they’ve been asked not to. That’s super important and another easy way to get you flagged as spam and cause problems for you moving forward. 

So all that being said, those are some of the top do’s and don’ts.

Link building tips

There are so many incredible link builders in our industry. I have learned from the best of them and the resources that they’ve created. Man, there’s just so much good stuff. So here are some of my favorite tips from professional link builders. 

  • Garrett French says, “Use ‘mentions’ or ‘sharing’ instead of requesting links.” Love that. It’s much more natural. I think it’s a brilliant, brilliant tip by Garrett. 
  • Karl Kangur — I don’t know if I’m saying that right, I’m sorry — “Reach out to people already aware of you/your brand.” Brilliant. That takes care of some of the creating the relationship. There’s already some sense of rapport. There’s already some sense of that connection that you can leverage in terms of opening up that conversation. 
  • Debra, OG link builder, “If you want to experience higher open rates for your outreach, I recommend you use a point of commonality in the email subject line.” Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant and this works incredibly well. I remember probably 10 years ago now I was doing link building and specifically targeting individuals who went to the University of Minnesota like I did. So in the subject line I could put “Go gophers” or “Ski-U-Mah.” I tell you what, those were the highest open rates that I had in my efforts. Really fun stuff.
  • Paddy Moogan in his older link building book that I still adore, by the way, I have been a fan of all of these individuals for a very long time, Paddy said, “Do they have the ability to rank?”. His whole theory was why are we putting our energy and our efforts into crafting outreach to individuals that don’t have the power to add a link. That’s very, very important that you find the editor or the webmaster or someone who can eventually provide that link. 

Some resources that I have absolutely adored over the years, and granted some of these are a bit old, but, you guys, I love this stuff. I keep track and I make notes. Let’s just go through a couple of my favorites: 

  • Point Blank SEO. Jon Cooper is a genius. He wrote this a long time ago, and he said it was a little old and out of date several years ago. But I still like it. I still think there’s lots of great stuff in here. He’s also provided some new content that’s amazing. I absolutely adore his work. 
  • Ken McGaffin taught me a link building class probably 10 years ago, and I was able to print this book of his, “Link Building Made Simple”. Still lots of great stuff in here that I use from time to time. 
  • Paddy Moogan’s old book, this was one of my favorites too, “The Link Building Book”. Again, these are from several years ago but still have really, really good stuff in there. 
  • This was just updated. It’s probably the newest one. This is the newest one I have. Garrett French and the late Eric Ward wrote the “The Ultimate Guide to Link Building”, and they just updated to the second edition. 

I have no affiliation with any of these books or e-books. These are just resources I really enjoyed. There’s lots of great stuff out there today. I know Brian Dean has great stuff. So feel free to share some other resources down in the comments and some of those examples. I know this one contains email outreach examples. Various people have been doing some of that lately, which has been really fun to see.

Yeah, I hope this helps. This is really fun stuff, and I look forward to hearing all of your thoughts and comments down below. Thank you so much for joining us on this edition of Whiteboard Friday. Hope you’re all hanging in there and we will see you next time. Thank you.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com





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