The Outreach Mindset Becoming successful at outreach will take some time and will require more than just grabbing a few templates from a guide and getting going. That's why I'm starting with this chapter, rather than pressing straight into some examples and strategies. This guide will focus on the outreach strategy, and not how to use the tools I mention. There are plenty of guides for those and you'll all choose to use the tools you prefer anyway. If you read, and fully understand, this outreach guide, you'll be more self-aware, and more able to create your own strategies and ideas for outreach, rather than just relying on being spoon-fed by the latest blog posts. By the time many people had heard about broken link building, everyone was already pounding those streets. When 'authority interviews' to build links went mainstream, less and less authorities wanted to be involved. The way to stay ahead is to always be creatively thinking about opportunities to connect and reach out to people that gel with your broader marketing strategies, not just latch onto the latest gimmick or technique. With that said, I want this guide to be for everyone so the very first thing I share after this section will be a simple strategy, that's guaranteed to work, for almost any niche, and regardless of your skill and ability to think creatively. It won't have the highest returns but it will allow everyone to have some success. After that initial guide you'll have to start digging deep with the self-awareness stuff because most of the other ideas will be way more time consuming. If you do them right and you're able to consistently come up with pitches that win, you'll get way higher results. But... if you aren't able to do that you'll just waste a lot of time. The final, and most important thing to start thinking creatively about, is how to target and find the people you want to outreach to. A common trap is to take shortcuts and end up targeting the exact same people everyone else is reaching out to. Or to waste time reaching out to people who rarely/never respond to pitches. I'll be covering a couple of examples of thinking more deeply about this and hopefully it'll open the floodgates for many of you. Oh and stop paying for links. I know paid links work, and you might think your industry is 'too tough' to get 'free links' and so on but you don't need to pay. I worked on a long campaign for a viagra site and we didn't pay anyone a cent. The more lazy people who pay, the more people want to get paid and the higher the prices get. The Easiest Way To Get Some Links Forget all the fancy talk by the big-name SEO companies at their fancy conferences about how they get their links. All the slow, laborious, personalized outreach they preach is reserved for the best sites like when they want a link from TechCrunch. Many of them are really following some variation of this model I'm about to share. It's not difficult and it's not very smart but you'll be able to start picking up links without using your brain for more than an hour or two at the beginning. It is quite time consuming, however, if done manually. Step 1 – Make Up Some Tangentially Related Topic This is where a lot of people fall down. Content that's too related to your brand's main service won't have much 'general interest'. Content that's too random or bullshitty (what if lawyers were zombies or something) is going to just get weird links. Weird links apparently still work now, but I'm sure Google will figure that out more in future so I like to keep my team in the habit of working on relevance not zombie linkbaits. Plus you'll see later why relevance is good for non-link related reasons. Pro tip: pay for a writer if you suck at writing in the language of the target sites. Probably even if you're 'not too bad' still pay someone better. Example: Commercial Cleaning Company They Solve: Dust and stuff Helps: That helps people with asthma since dust and stuff might be bad for them Outcome: Write a guide titled something like "10 Ways To Ensure Dust In Your House Isn't Triggering Your Child's Asthma" Publish that on your site's blog. It's worth noting here that the better your content is the more links you'll get. If you have the budget to put up a pretty-looking 5-10 page guide here with lots of dust and asthma tips, photos and so on you'll do a lot better, but a good one-page article will suffice. Step 2 – Decide Who To Write To Personally I use Garrett French's Link Prospector for this part but you could use scrapebox or manually search Google and download 100 results at a time using the Moz Toolbar. Clearly here we want 'parenting sites' and 'asthma sites' as our most likely targets. The asthma sites will tend to work out better for you because it's more targeted to them. If you're using Link Prospector, you'll tend to find that scraping about 300 deep and using the blogs and links pages options will get you the best results. For big campaigns I tend to look for both and use a different outreach letter for each batch of data. For the examples below we're going to focus on the parenting niche. Keyword Tips Link prospector deals with the 'blogs' and 'links pages' parts of your searching so just putting in 5 relevant keywords will get you a good wedge of data eg: parenting health tips childrens health parenting childrens asthma cleaning tips families asthma guide for parents If you're manually searching you'll have to mix in things like 'blog/magazine' and 'links/resources' etc onto the end of those search terms to get the ones you want. Step 3 – Write A Short, Simple Outreach Letter This letter is super simple but will work. It only includes two psychological tricks, the 'appeal to authority' in terms of the statistic, and the use of 'because', well because it works (see this study). Generally I like to be 'straight up' and just say who we are and what we want. You can get creative here if you want, but we're doing fool proof outreach here so you can just stick to it as-is. Pro tip: If you're not a native speaker you can find an editor somewhere like Fiverr that will kill off the 'unusual' word here and there and make your letter a lot cleaner. ----- Title: Parenting and Asthma guide for [their site name] ----- Hi [name/there], I'm the content manager for RockStar Badass Cleaning and I came across your article [link to their article – the one you found when searching Google and scraping eg http://iuhealth.org/blog/detail/a-guide-to-helping-kids-with-asthma/]. With the CDC reporting that 8.3% of children have asthma it's a problem that more and more parents are struggling with. A clean home can be crucial to alleviating symptoms. We've put together a guide with that in mind, which really shares some great information for parents. [link to your guide] It would be great if you could share it with your readers, perhaps with a short mention on your blog because many of them will find the simple tips help them with their child's symptoms. If you'd like, I'd also be happy to write a short intro for the piece to go along with sharing it. Best, Steve Content Manager, RockStar Badass ----- Obviously if you're doing the links pages too you just customize that by saying you came across their links page, and you'd like them to add it, and remove the part about writing an intro. Step 4 – Send the letter and chase the intros you send Using the above letter, a decent guide, on a site that doesn't look completely terrible and spending just a few seconds making common sense adjustments when the data doesn't quite match (eg a homepage is in there or a slightly too irrelevant article from the site) you could send out about 1,000 e-mails and wind up with anywhere between 15 and 40 links. You'll have to decide on your own criteria eg if you want to delete DA30 and under. I generally recommend you don't 'waste' any DA70+ opportunities with this generic approach BUT... if the guide is really good you'll pick some up anyway. A lot of them (5-30) will usually end up being 'insta links' where you don't have to do anything except thank them. A whole bunch will ask for introduction paragraphs to use and depending on your persistence chasing (I recommend 3 chases a week or two apart for intros) and the quality of your intros 30-80% of those will end up live. The beauty of the intros is you control the surrounding text, noise links (so it's not super obvious you engineered the intro – pick something else preferably a content piece on another non-competing commercial site to mention along with yours) and so on. That's less work than it sounds. Depending on how you sourced the data it would have taken between 2 minutes (Link Prospector or Scrapebox) and 2 hours to get 3,000 or so contacts. I'd dump those onto Buzzstream which dedupes them for you and finds contact details for about 1/3-½ giving you the 1,000 you need. Taking a few seconds to customize you can send 50/hour on there so 20 hours work to do your 1,000. Say you have to write 10 intros at 18 minutes each and spend 3 hours chasing that's 6 more hours. 28 hours max, worst case 15 links. Under 2 hours for a link is pretty good for a total beginner. Good job! Don't Believe Me That Big Agencies Are Doing This? Here's One Of Their Letters I'm not going to out anyone, but here's a junior outreacher from one of the big award winning agencies that always designs beautiful stuff. All they had put together was a very pretty one page gadget guide for a particular niche with photos of the gadgets, pricing and links to the sellers. Rewritten slightly to protect the innocent. ----- [Guide] Increase [redacted] with smart devices ----- Hi, I’m getting in touch to see if [redacted] would be interested in featuring our guide on how [people who read my site] can use smart devices in their [thing that interests them] to save money and so increase their profits? For example [people who read my site] could use [one of the gadgets] so they’re immediately alerted of [problem it solves]. By reducing this risk [people who read my site] could save the cost of repairing damage caused by [problem it solves] which can be very expensive. You can preview the guide here: [link to their guide] I look forward to hearing from you. Many thanks, Jenny ----- You're already as good as someone working on a $50k campaign! (That's the minimum this agency has listed for their campaigns on Moz.) Congrats again. Notice how they haven't bothered to use my name (I put 'there' if I really can't find it but that should be way under ¼ e-mails and not if the name is on the site...). By not offering to write something off the bat, I had to write back to them and ask. Many people just wouldn't bother if they didn't want to write themselves. I do like the short title though – by using [Guide] then the benefit they make sure it shows the whole title on a lot more mobile devices. Notice how the rest is similar – sell the benefit to the READERS of the site you're pitching (parents worried about asthma can solve it, my readers worried about damage can solve it...). Also note that she chased up the first e-mail. I don't bother doing this as while it boosts your conversion rate it can annoy some people (small risk if you have clients who get worried about stuff like that, no risk if it's your site and you don't care) and it didn't reduce the time per link by much. Plus 15-40 links for one piece seems plenty to me. You don't want a site that's all about one project unless you invested a huge amount on building it in the first place. The only exception is if you don't have enough data. Improving On This Basic Model Improving your results with this basic technique will be all about becoming better at understanding that penultimate point from the big agency case study – the benefit to the readers. Understand PR Psychology Read lots of PR blogs (writing to journalists is harder than writing to bloggers, they often have way better tips and advice for tailoring your story than SEO blogs). Read outreach psychology articles. Try to really understand what the readers of each site you write to want and tailor why your guide is great for them specifically. Improve Your Data Better targeting and better contact detail finding will also yield better links. You may wish to pick an authority range to manually work on eg 50-70 and trust Buzzstream with the lower ones. Better links, happier clients, better rankings and so on. Get more data and be more picky about specifically which 1,000 you send. You'll already be skipping a bunch on Buzzstream because you 'can't quite' get your message to fit, but with more data you can be insanely picky. Reach Out In Different Ways Tip: Contact forms often have close to 100% delivery to the target inbox so consider using a contact form filling tool and doing a lot of outreach there instead of by e-mail. Oh and don't forget there are all these other social media things like Twitter… just don't put out 20 public tweets in a row outreaching or people know you're just a spammer! 5-10 spaced out Tweets in a campaign where you spotted some prolific Tweeters might yield 2-4 links though for virtually no effort. Take Advantage Of Sharers Tip: Tons of people will share good guides on social media but not link. There are two ways to approach this: Thank them and ask them again if they'd like an intro and maybe a custom graphic to share it on their blog Give the social share some interaction from your team and if applicable the client's staff. Social has led to a long forgotten guide (in the form of a cheap infographic) continuing to get links as it's useful. One blogger even printed it out, pinned it to their wall, took a photo, mentioned it in one of their guides, and linked to it. Social has also led to outreachers halfway through a campaign starting to get replies like "oh I saw that on social and loved it...". You can guess how the campaign started to pick up steam there, and how the responses improved. A lot of your targets follow each other on social which when you're doing things at scale gives you a great shot for overlap. Facebook, for example, shows posts with more engagement more, so by engaging with the shares you ensure more of their followers see it. So instead of thinking … damn no link … be happy you got social shares. Clients like the traffic and social shares anyway. Especially if they are retargeting (pro tip tell your clients to run retargeting ads) traffic to their site. Think About SEO When Coming Up With Topics If you make a guide that's better than what comes up when people search for that topic already, and do the on-page SEO well it'll start to rank by itself because it's about to get a ton of links, traffic and user engagement... and it's good. People will find your guide and link to it. Visitors will buy your clients product (immediately or via retargeting) and so on. Making Dumb Ideas Smart (Advanced Outreach) Becoming an advanced outreach practitioner has got nothing to do with reading every article you can find on every new idea and grabbing generic template ideas like the ones I shared above. It's all about thinking about different ways to reach out to people, legitimate business reasons for a link to exist, ways to make other people's dumb spammy ideas actually useful, and ways to find the right people to reach out to. So I still want you to sign up to every newsletter and read every blog out there being shared by PR professionals, SEO outreach tipsters and so on. But I want you to start critically thinking as we'll demonstrate in this section of the guide so that you can be one step ahead of the copy and pasters. Improving 'Dumb' Ideas The ideas we're going to cover here aren't 'dumb' in the sense that they weren't a great idea at one point. It's just that people have overdone it and they don't work as well as they once did for one reason or another. You can use what worked before to achieve great results with a bit of creative thought. Expert Interviews The standard approach here is to just come up with your topic and start spamming influencers on Twitter, e-mail and so on to give a useless short quote for a useless guide like "47 SEOs On Why Panda Doesn't Matter". The reason they were good is because influencers sometimes link to places they're mentioned, they sometimes share it with huge audiences and sometimes the guide ranks by itself if the title is smart. But a lot of obvious influencers are starting to dislike doing them, and in marketing industries they kinda suck now. How about we combine the idea with our basic outreach strategy and double down on results? Some of the best links are perfectly relevant. What's the perfect link for our client above? Other cleaning companies. Jeez that's tough right? Well how about we have a section in our guide (woot more content, no cost – and remember what we shared earlier: the longer and more substantial your guide, the better the basic strategy will work) where 10 expert cleaners share their favorite tip. Even better how about we use LinkedIn to ping owners of cleaning companies that the owner knows personally that are in out of town and non competing markets to provide the quotes. Make sure you're nice and put their picture up, big up their company and achievements (everyone's got some award or press at some point after all...). Once you're done just write to them again and ask them to share it on their blog and social media. Then go on with the simple outreach strategy to get more links to the guide. You'll find 3-10 of them will link typically (depending on how much they like the owner of your client's company). Suddenly you're working with 18-50 links for an hour's extra work. If you don't have a client, use your own contacts – if you've worked in the stop smoking niche for a couple of years, you probably know a couple of vaping business owners you met at affiliate conferences and so on. One final easy one is to think about this with your content strategy too. You're probably blogging now and then. Sometimes a 'perfect' friend or contact either of yourself or someone at your client's firm could give a quote in the blog post. Do that and help yourself to 15-52 links/year if you blog a couple of times a week with just minutes of extra work. Lawyers do this a lot – they're always partnering up with each other on posts, appearing on each others podcasts and so on. So yeah, think about podcasting with guests (I built links in the poker niche this way all from poker blogs... no spammy sites, just real poker pros and their blogs), and then think some more about other types of content you can collaborate on. Enjoy more links. Broken Link Building This whole strategy plays on the whole 'if you do something nice, people feel like they owe you a favor' reciprocity trick. The downside is that the easiest way – find one big vaguely related .gov url that is now broken and write to everyone who linked to it – is getting harder as those get 'used up'. 'Recreating' the content on the missing page for the sake of it is often suggested but that often leads to content that isn't a fit for your client strategy. So you have to do something better. More on that in a minute, but first let's do some of that thinking stuff... So step 1 here is to think about other things you could do that would make people think they owe you a favor. Some quick ideas – hacked site fixing, new logo suggestion, notice their podcast has had a 2 month gap, suggest your buddy Claire would love to pop on and help them get going again... Anyway onto how to make broken link building less 'dumb'. By itself broken link building used to be awesome. Even in the Viagra niche you could get 10-30% returns on outreach. It's not as easy now but once again we can incorporate it quickly into our basic outreach to boost results. If you want to automate all the scraping you start with the links pages you found and run them all through Screaming Frog (guide here). You don't need to do that, however, it barely adds any time to your basic outreach to just look at the page quickly with a Chrome broken link plugin. You'll get a boost from the 'favor' thing just by adding... ----- By the way I noticed [link] wasn't working while I was on your page, shame as it looked like it might have been an interesting resource. ----- ...to the part of your letter where you told them you found their page while researching. Totally sensible you would have been clicking some links and you get the favor in without trying to pretend yours is 'the same' or 'a replacement' before cracking on with your usual outreach explaining why yours IS a great fit for the page. If you added the expert quotes from your 'friends' and, even if the broken link building only offered a chance to point one out 20% of the time and only gave you a modest improvement, you're now looking at 28-30 links as your 'worst case' performance instead of 15. Guest Posting At the moment I'm only recommending guest posting if you're a good writer, and very good at understanding how to put a story together that the site owner and their readers will really enjoy. The old approach was to just look for sites in your niche that took guest posts using a google search 'asthma inurl:"guest" ' and that kind of thing. Write to them all with some sensible ideas for a post and see who wanted one. Then you slide your link in and hope they didn't take it out. If you were really crazy you stuck the link in the byline to your homepage or something and left footprints all over the web. If you were slightly smarter you put a contextually relevant resource link in the body and covered your tracks with some semi-commercial 'noise' links that would make it hard to tell the origin of the post. Things evolved from there to the old pretend to be a poor working mother, freelance writer, called Jenny, who is busy traveling the world and struggling to make ends meat. Just to get your portfolio together you'd love to do a guest post on their site. These were 'great' for agencies because you could send your outreach (barely tailored – change the experience, niches and example links only) to hundreds of sites and put suitable links in for various clients depending on who replied. The reason I don't recommend all that shenanigans anymore is you'll be lucky if 1-2% of the people write back and you have a 50% publish rate. That's a whole lot of e-mailing and writing guest posts to just get 5-10 links per 1,000 e-mails. So how do you get 30-60% of the people you write to interested in your post? Well the problem is that only certain people accept guest posts at random (beyond the shitty sites that have pages up begging for them... who wants a link there right?). How are you going to find the ones that do? Clue: this stuff has been going on for AGES. The answer is (hopefully you all got this!) to look for other SEO company guest posts. There are lots of ways but to search for them on Google get you started: repeat the first way people did this and find some guest posts. Once you find some names of authors (people were lazy and didn't mix this up) eg search for "guest post by Jenny Roberts". Then there's slamming a content piece you know an SEO did (eg conference brag) into ahrefs and finding all the links etc. Pick out 10 or so guest posts that you want to do and write a really clear, absolutely spot on article outline that's perfect for their site. Do that 10 times and I guarantee you'll get 3 back if you do a mediocre job, 6 if you do a great job. Here's one I did just as a final little bonus for this guide. It was written to a sustainability site with a regional focus and I was promoting a piece about the environment: ----- Article About Sustainable Wine Production In [their region] ----- I came across your site while doing some research for another piece and it occurred to me that the wine industry (which has a notable presence in [redacted]) will need to make significant moves towards sustainability in future. The Irish distilling industry, for example, is making considerable strides due to the changing public mood. I thought your readers might be interested in a research piece, for publication on your site, covering the current state of affairs and what the future might (should) hold for production in the region. My lead writer, Amy, would produce the piece and naturally I'd take care of the writing cost if you're interested. Cheers, Steve ----- Pro tip – we were very thorough and wrote out to all the wineries in the region for quotes. Those 'second tier' links and traffic from social shares make the link more valuable, as well as sending more traffic to your site (notice how even in the guest posting era we were using similar strategies to the 'new' ones people are touting now for their silly "400 seos comment on penguin" stuff). Notice how the topic is fully agreed so acceptance is going to be close to 100%. Conclusion Hopefully you've seen that a basic strategy can get the ball rolling for anyone with any level of experience and the way you build on that strategy is totally up to you. You'll be able to gain experience customizing outreach and using more 'PR' style approaches within a winning framework. Once you start to drive up your conversion rate and 'win more', you'll be able to experiment and come up with smarter ways to find the opportunities you want. More importantly you'll be able to think up smarter ways to take advantage of all the 'new ideas' people are putting out there on blogs without doing the silly copy and paste thing everyone else is doing. Homework Thinking about how to do an idea 'better' than the original poster is an important part of what I'm teaching here. So let's try one. You've just read a post about how in tough niches (eg drug treatment) an award given by your treatment center eg 'top 10 cocaine addiction blogs' to top blogs in the niche is a great way to get links as people often like to link to and share their awards. What two things would you do to increase the number of links you got by choosing better sites to target than your competitors and by getting extra links by mixing in another strategy on top? Follow me on (http://www.twitter.com/sdbrownlie) or add me on (http://uk.linkedin.com/in/sdbrownlie) (I'll follow back either way) and post in this thread if you want me to check your answer or if you're struggling and you'd like a tip to help you work it out. ----- Steve Brownlie is the Director of Consulting Services at Palladous (http://pallado.us) and the owner of Reach Creator (http://reachcreator.com) which helps SEO agencies obtain press coverage at guaranteed per-placement rates to boost their campaigns and client billings. He's also the author of "PR For SEO Professionals" which for a limited time is available free here (http://verticem.com/2015/08/01/6-wa...ur-seo-campaigns-dont-include-press-coverage/).