We can talk all we want about creative link building strategies but if we’re all being honest here, most of us would admit that guest posting is still far and away the most scalable and predictable means of acquiring backlinks. It’s simple, effective and relatively risk-free when done correctly by competent SEO professionals. However, done correctly seems to be a subjective term and it can mean different things to different people.
Each day, I receive at least 5 guest post proposals and each day, I mostly don’t even respond to them. Around 99% of them just flat out suck and I can’t imagine the senders enjoying even 5% success rates in their campaigns. Predictably, many of these so-called “outreach specialists” treat their work as a numbers game where you can hit your monthly link quotas if you just spray and pray hard enough.
At GDI, we’ve greatly refined our outreeach process by learning what NOT to do based on the emails we’ve received over the years that try to solicit guest posting opportunities from us and our clients. We found that just by avoiding these, we can dramatically improve our outreach campaigns’ yield of positive responses. Here are the most common:
1. You’re Pretending to be a Girl.
It’s common practice in the SEO field for link builders to use female names on their email accounts. Our own data suggests that having a girl’s name significantly improves open rates as well as success rates in link acquisition operations. I’m by no means saying that it’s a bad idea to use a feminine email account even if you’re actually a hairy old man but I’m saying that you at least have to play the part reasonably well.
Far too often, we receive outreach emails from supposed women complete with good looking pictures and fancy job titles. Upon closer inspection, it immediately becomes noticeable through the writing in the email that it’s likely not a girl who wrote the message. Here’s an example:
I don’t know about you, but this email looks more like a caveman composed it rather than an actual lady who’s claiming to be a blogger. As an outreach specialist, you need to understand that legitimate websites appreciate honesty in the people whom they might allow to guest post. Serious editors want to make sure that real people are writing for them and they might ask to see your LinkedIn profile and other credentials.
The best way to address this issue is to be honest from the very beginning. If for whatever reason you really like to pose as a girl online, at least make a serious effort to write like one.
2. You’re Pretending to be a Westerner.
Many link builders also have the habit of using Western-sounding pseudonyms in their outreach emails. While that might be a viable way to do things, you at least have to write emails like a native speaker to look the part. Unfortunately, this is an aspect of outreach where a lot of folks fail miserably. Take a look at this example:
It’s so easy for website administrators to spot errors in grammar, punctuation, capitalization and word use which will indicate the fact that you aren’t who you say you are. Again, honesty is the best policy here. If you’re using a fake western name because you think that webmasters will discriminate you for being Filipino or Indian, you might want to rethink that notion.
Many legitimate, high-authority online publications are very open to international contributors who have the right qualifications. If these guys discriminate against anyone, those would be dishonest people who hide behind keyboards while pursuing link building opportunities.
3. You’re a Liar.
Staying on the subject of honesty on the web, one of the things that can instant-kill your chances of scoring a guest post is blatantly lying through your teeth. The most common include such lines as “I’ve been reading your blog for some time now” and “ I’m a big fan of yours” when it’s obvious in the same email that you don’t even know the name of the author.
How can you be a fan if you don’t even know the name of the blogger you’re following? This just looks cheap and disingenuous to most webmasters who would shun you without a thought for thinking they’re stupid enough to fall for low-level ego bait.
Besides, most webmasters don’t need your fanboyism – these guys already have significant followings. They do, however, appreciate a little genuineness and some quality content.
4. Your First Line is “My Name Is.”
Webmasters are busy people and while many appreciate guest post proposals, that doesn’t mean they’ll spend all day reading emails requesting for opportunities. For that reason, successful outreach emails are often shorter and direct to the point. The more you write unnecessary phrases in your message, the greater the chance that the webmaster stops reading and moves on.
One of the things you can cut is an introduction at the start of the email. While it may be polite to let the webmaster know who you are, the fact of the matter is that most site administrators just don’t give a damn about it. Besides, your email name already displays it and your email sig will also state it, so why would you make your name the first thing you state in your email?
The better approach is to go straight to the point and let the webmaster know why you’re writing. State only the necessary information and avoid dragging out the message with pleasantries. It may sound counter-intuitive but webmasters generally know what you want when you reach out. No need to beat around the bush.
5. You Didn’t Read the Guidelines.
Many popular, high-authority websites that accept guest posts have very specific guidelines on submitting guest posts. This helps the sites ensure that the content they accept is of high quality and will resonate well with their readers.
While you’d assume that any professional, self-respecting link builder would thoroughly review the points in the guidelines to make sure they send the webmaster a content asset that stands a good chance of being published, you’d be surprised how many outreach specialists ignore these and send their templated emails anyway.
To avoid looking like a spamming jackass, do yourself a favor and go over the house rules. If you don’t, you’re 100% guaranteed to be ignored.
6. The Email is Pointless.
Your outreach email has one goal and one goal only: to get you a link regardless if you want to do it via guest post, broken link building or some other tactic. Therefore, it has to be direct to the point and you have to state in no uncertain terms what you want from the webmaster. In some cases, however, link builders send out noob-ish emails like this:
It’s like asking someone if you can ask a question. You’re already asking a question.
If this person just stated from the start what she wanted and what her article ideas were, I would have responded. Unfortunately, she didn’t and I just don’t have the time and patience to respond and say “yes, you may pitch.”
If you want something, just ask.
Also, notice how the person goes on and on talking about herself, her goals, her passions, etc. I’m sorry but webmasters can’t be bothered with that noise.
When you do outreach, you’re asking for a favor and it’s only right that you present some value to the webmaster in exchange for a guest posting opportunity. Don’t waste the webmaster’s time by talking about what YOU want – we don’t care. Talk about how you can add value to the sites you’re reaching out to and their respective readers.
7. You Send Annoying Follow-Ups
After sending out your emails, you should wait a couple of weeks to get a sense of whether or not your outreach had a positive result or not. Far too often, not receiving a response means that your request was declined. However, some webmasters do receive tons of guest post pitches and it might so happen that your message simply got buried.
In these cases, it would make sense to do a follow-up to make sure your email was read. When you do, try not to do it like this:
I don’t know about you but this one sounds demanding and impatient to me. When you add the fact that this person sent a poorly written initial message to begin with, it just makes the follow-up email even more annoying.
When following up, be as gentle and professional as possible. Always be aware that you are merely asking for a favor from a person who is likely very busy. A little empathy will go a long way, so try to compose a better follow-up than this.
At the end of the day, link outreach is not an exact science and success rates can vary from case to case. However, you can maximize your chances of getting positive responses by avoiding obvious mistakes like the 7 we just identified.