How to Ask for a Link Without Being Awkward

Everyone hates getting cold calls from companies or junk emails (or is it just me?)… they just feel spammy and irrelevant.  So this post may get certain hearts palpitating uncomfortably, but I’ll tell you why it’s necessary for growing your business and it’s not as controversial as it might sound.

First, what is “link-building outreach”?  Basically, it’s the process of showing your content or products in front of relevant bloggers, podcasters, or journalists by sending a personalized email to introduce yourself and what you’re offering.  Okay, that sounds simple enough, but what is your goal?  You are trying to convince someone with an already large audience that is in your targeted niche to talk about you and your company and link back to your website so that your audience grows.  The main question you’re probably asking is, “How do I do this?”  Never fear, the Sparrow team is here!

We’re going to explain how to get started, how to craft an effective email, some do’s and don’ts of what to say, and even give you some sample templates to follow.  This is going to be a big one, so let’s get started.

HOW TO GET STARTED

1. Find potential allies

Well, that’s an obvious one.  You can’t write template emails if you don’t know who to send it to.  How do you find these prospects?  This is where some of our researching tools come in handy Those authors are the people you want to reach out to and see if they would be willing to mention your company or link to your website in some way.  You can also use Google search or another content explorer you’re comfortable with, like LinkedIn… or even Twitter, although you may find it’s not super profitable time-wise for your return on investment (ROI).

The goal is to build a list of people who have written content that is directly related to the content you have written, or tools that you use, or other ideas that you constantly refer to with your audience.  If you’re linking to useful resources within your content and then reach out to the source of that content, you can begin a relationship of “If I scratch your back, you scratch mine.”  This could be a profitable business ally.

2. Organize your allies

Potential allies can be placed in one of four different groups: Huge audience, Big audience, Not a big audience (yet), or No audience.  The two groups you don’t want to bother with are the first and the last.  The odds of getting noticed by someone with a huge audience are not great because they are swamped with emails from people who want to get their attention.  And the one with no audience is someone who is just starting out and are eager to get noticed themselves, so they really won’t benefit you.

The two kinds you want to focus your time on would be those with a big audience and those with a small audience.  Someone with a big audience will impact your business positively if you can get noticed.  Advice on how to approach someone with a big audience is to focus on writing a personal(ized) email and ask for a critique of your work or validation of your ideas.  You won’t need to overtly ask for recognition because they will automatically advertise you without your asking if they find your content valuable. Someone with a small business is actively promoting themselves and is regularly contributing to niche communities, volunteering for guest posts, and participating in marketing events.  All you really need to do is write a respectful email that adds value to their work and suggest an alliance. They are typically eager to build relationships and it won’t take much coercion.

All this talk about writing a personal email sounds like a lot of work, especially if you’re thinking of reaching out to hundreds or even thousands of people in order to gain some traction.  How will this even work time-wise?  Don’t worry… we’ve got you covered.  Keep going, and you’ll eventually reach the spot where we go over how to make a template and still make each message personalized.

3. Do your research

As you’re searching for content that matches your niche and business profile, you’ll be collecting names and email addresses.  It is important to gather relevant information about each person you plan on contacting.  No one likes receiving a spammy email saying “Hey, friend!”  It isn’t difficult to look up someone’s name and if you really can’t find it, use their business name instead.  It shows you put in some effort to be personal.

In addition, checking to make sure the email address you found is the right one, not just a junk folder, is also very important.  Contact information should also be pretty easy to find; but just to make sure it’s a valid address, Zerobounce (free monthly plan available) or Neverbounce (monthly paid plans; free trial available) are tools to help verify your email addresses are valid. Too many rejections (or bounce-backs) could flag your email as a “spam sender” and then no one would ever see your outreach attempts.

While you’re doing your email gathering, take some time to peruse their website and personal profiles on Facebook, Twitter, or other social platforms.  Get to know them a little and see what interests them.  Take notes because you’re going to use that information later on to make a personalized connection.

4. Craft your pitch email

Here’s where we start working on crafting the kind of email that not only gets opened but read and responded to.  This is also where your extra research comes in handy. Consider using a spreadsheet to put all your gathered information so you can see at a glance what you’re missing for any given pitch email.

Your emails should include:

– unique information about each person… it could be a hobby, personal interest, or their business niche

– what you’ve heard or seen written about them (preferably something complimentary)… everyone likes to read stuff about themselves 

– something new or cool they haven’t seen before, specifically what you’re bringing to the table

– social proof that your work is outstanding and that others like it and respect it (use Ahrefs statistics information or website traffic patterns)

– your outreach “excuse”, such as:

“You tweeted this topic, but I have a different opinion”; 

“You wrote a blog post about this topic, but you missed an important aspect… check out my post because I explained it here”; or

“You linked this tool, but I can show you a better one. It’s better because….”

All of the above should be placed somewhere in your outreach email.  Next, we’ll show you a good template email where you can plug in those items in a strategic way.

CRAFTING AN EFFECTIVE TEMPLATE

We mentioned a lot of the information you would need to create a pitch email that will get noticed.  This is where we put all that information together to create a cohesive template that can be used repeatedly and still never sound exactly the same.  We’ve all seen obvious spam emails that were sent to thousands of people.  This would be an example of an obvious template for business outreach (this is a BAD example… DON’T use this one):

Hey %First_Name%,

I saw your article: %URL_of_their_article%

Awesome stuff!

I noticed that you linked to this post: %URL_where_they_link_to%

It’s a great post, but I wrote an even better article on that same topic.

Check it out here: %URL_of_my_article%

I hope you can add a link to my post in your article or at least tweet it.

Thanks!

It’s painful to read, isn’t it?  It’s beyond obvious that the person sending the email did no extra research to make sure the recipient actually fits into their niche or knows anything valuable about them. 

Here’s how you can stay away from obnoxious, spam-like emails and easily personalize it to each business you contact.

  1. Mention which article, tweet, or blog post you saw that encouraged you to reach out to them
  2. Give actual feedback about the article; not something generic like “it was awesome”
  3. Plug your own article or blog post that you feel adds value and introduces your own concepts and business well
  4. Explain what makes yours unique and what they should care to check it out.
  5. Ask for feedback (not a link or shout-out)

Since we’ve covered the five things you need to have in your pitch email, below we’ll cover some basic etiquette to keep you away from poor form thereby being ignored, or worse blacklisted.  You can’t afford to alienate your list of contacts because at some point they WILL run out.

DO’s & DON’Ts

DO use sincere compliments (better to say nothing than come off disingenuous)

DON’T ask for tweets. A tweet has a very short shelf-life.

DO ask for links. 

“Consider linking my content from a post of yours… or mentioning it in a future article.”  

“I’d love your opinion on my work… maybe it’s worth mentioning to your audience.”

DO follow up ONE time 

DON’T follow up repeatedly.  They may have forgotten to respond the first couple of times, but once you’ve reached three communications, you’ve received their answer. Pestering only gets you blacklisted.

DO be quick and polite.  

“In case you missed my email.” 

“If you’re short on time, no problem. I won’t bother you again.”

DON’T say “please”.  It sounds weak.  Rather,

DO use a call to action that invites a response:

“Is there anything I missed?”

“What do you think?”

“Do you agree with my conclusion?”

EMAIL TEMPLATES TO USE (AND ALTER)

#1 OUTREACH EMAIL

Hey, %first_name%!

I just read your post on %chosen topic%: I LOVE the point you made about %nugget_of_wisdom%.

I’m emailing you because I just published my own %recent coordinating topic%, and it mentions a couple of things I didn’t see you mention (e.g., %something_they_didn’t_mention%).

Here’s the link: %provide the link%

If you have a moment, I’d love to get your feedback.

I look forward to hearing from you,

Wendy

Marketing Coordinator

Sparrow Websites

www.Sparrowwebsites.com

The parts in bold are the spots where you would use your spreadsheet with all the information you collected on each of your outreach companies and plug in the missing spots.  You would need a column for their name, the chosen topic they wrote about, the nugget of wisdom you appreciated, your own recent blog post, the missing piece of information that yours provides, and the link to your blog post.  If you really want to get more in-depth, you could go ham on finding elusive personal information and sprinkle other things into your template which would serve to build a closer connection.  But at the very least, these few plug-ins should be sufficient to get you started crafting an email that is less obviously a template.

#2 FOLLOW UP EMAIL

Hey %name%,

I just wanted to follow up with you in case you missed my first email.

If you’re short on time right now—no problem. I won’t bug you about it again.

Thanks.

… and then DON’T bother them.  There will be others who positively respond even if this one didn’t.

The Sparrow team wishes you great success in beginning this exciting journey in learning how to reach out to others in order to grow your audience.  It may seem daunting, but just take it one step at a time.  We’re here for you.  Please feel free to reach out if we can help.

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