How to Write a Link Building Outreach Email

03.28.19 // Carly Schoonhoven

I’ve previously shared my secrets to finding link building prospects on the Obility blog, but one question I am often asked by clients is, once you have a list of link building prospects, how do you actually reach out to someone you want to build a link from?

I am going to share a difficult truth with you: Doing link building outreach sucks. It is time consuming, frustrating, and oftentimes, fruitless. However, in my years of building links for a variety of B2C and B2B clients, I’ve found a few ways to make it both suck a lot less, and be a lot more successful.

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Reach Out for the Right Reasons

Sending a cold outreach email can be intimidating no matter what you’re reaching out for, but with link building, it can be especially scary. Big publications get inundated with spammy or irrelevant link building requests, so it can be difficult to differentiate yourself and stand out from the pack. Plus, they are going to look at any link building email with extra scrutiny.

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One thing to keep in mind is that when done right, link building should be a win-win for you and for the publication. For example, if you are doing guest post outreach the publication gets a free piece of content for their blog and you get to build yourself as a thought leader. If you are doing content promotion, they get access to a great story, and you get a link crediting you for its creation.

So what do I mean when I say link building “done right”? Firstly, link building done right involves only using tactics that are within Google’s guidelines. Asking for a link is fine, but offering to buy or exchange a link is not. Secondly, you want to make sure that you are only reaching out to relevant, high-quality publications. Don’t pursue low quality directory links or guest post on irrelevant sites just for a link.


Who You Gonna Email?

Before you actually send your first outreach email, you need to find the proper email to send your outreach to. This might sound obvious, but finding the right contact person can be the difference between a successful link placement and ending up in trapped in a spam folder.

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When doing link building outreach, you always want to try and reach the most relevant stakeholder. If you’re doing guest post outreach, you should always start by reading the site’s guest post guidelines thoroughly (if they have them). In most cases, the guidelines will tell you specifically who to send your email to. If you reach out to someone other than that person it shows that you didn’t do your research, which is not a great way to start a relationship with a publication you want to write for.

If there are no guest post guidelines, start by looking at the About or Team page for a list of employee names and emails. Ideally, you want to reach out to whoever is in charge of blog content or website content in general. If the site lists employee names but not emails, you can use a tool like Hunter, Voila Norbert, or Clearbit Connect to find the email for a specific employee.

If all else fails you can always send your outreach through a general contact form or email, but keep in mind that it may get lost so following up will likely be necessary (but we’ll get into that in a minute).


Outreach Tips

Now you have your link building prospect and the email address you want to reach out to. The next step is sitting down and putting together the perfect email that demonstrates why you are worthy of that coveted link placement.

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Keep It Short and to the Point

Whoever you are reaching out to likely has to sort through a lot of outreach emails. Don’t overwhelm them with a giant block of text to read. You want to make it as easy as possible for them to say yes. The best way to do that is to be clear about what you’re reaching out for and why, and to make sure your thoughts are succinct.

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Honesty is the Best Policy

One of my biggest link building pet peeves is when someone is just plain dishonest. Here is a great example from a link request I personally received recently:

Bad outreach email example

This person is not an ‘avid follower’ of my work. They don’t follow me on my (not very active) Twitter (I checked), and let’s be honest, I don’t blog very often so I am not sure what they would be an avid follower of. You probably won’t be surprised when I tell you that this went immediately into my spam folder (as did the many follow-ups to it).

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If you genuinely are a fan of the publication you are reaching out to then adding a compliment can be a great addition to your outreach emails, but try and provide a specific example so it stands out. If you can’t leave a genuine compliment, then don’t fake it. They will likely be able to tell.

Don’t Outreach in Bulk

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It can be tempting to try and save time by sending a mass email asking for links to a lot of link building prospects at once. This is a great strategy if you want all your emails to end up in a spam folder.

Do your research and take the time to make sure every person you email is relevant to your industry and your offer. You are much more likely to get a positive response that way.

Personalize, Personalize, Personalize

Another reason I hate bulk outreach? It doesn’t make it possible to personalize your outreach emails individually. Most bloggers and journalists get tons of generic outreach emails in their inbox everyday, and they can spot a template a mile away. Adding personalization helps you stand out from the pack.

Follow Up- But Not Too Much!

Send a follow up email about a week later. if you still don’t hear back, send another one 3-4 days after that. Still haven’t heard back? They probably aren’t interested. Take the hint, and move on.

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Subject Line Tips

A bad subject line can guarantee your email gets ignored. Make sure you follow these simple guidelines.

Read the Guidelines

I’ve stressed the importance of reading guest post guidelines to look for the right person to email, but guest post guidelines can have important subject line details as well. I frequently see guidelines that request very specific subject line formatting to make sure your email makes it to the right person. Read any guidelines thoroughly and follow the directions.

Don’t Hide Your Intentions

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This goes back to making it as easy as possible for your link building prospect to say yes. Make it very clear in your subject line what you’re reaching out for so that it’s easy for the prospect to read and respond.

My basic format for subject lines is: [Client Name] [Subject] [Outreach Type]. An example of what this might look like is: Obility B2B SEO Guest Contribution. Simple, clear, and to the point.

Avoid Spammy Formatting

There are a few subject line “tricks” spammers like to use to entice you to click on their emails, like writing the subject line all in caps or including the prospects name in the subject. These tricks have been overused and are more likely to raise a red flag than entice a click.


Go Do Some Outreach!

Like most things in life, link building outreach gets easier with practice. As long as you follow these tips, you should be successful.

And until next, time, goodbye!

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About Carly Schoonhoven

Carly Schoonhoven is a Senior SEO Manager at Obility. As a member of the inbound marketing team, Carly drives SEO strategies to grow organic traffic and build backlinks for her clients. In her spare time, you can find her doing karaoke. View all Carly Schoonhoven’s posts >