Any SEO pro understands the importance backlinks play in their online ranking strategy. In fact, as far as local optimization goes, link signals have been shown time and time again to be the most influential organic ranking factor.
That’s why many marketers turn to email marketing to get links— oftentimes epically failing. They ping your contact@mycompany email with annoying, super-sketch link exchange proposals:
“Hey, my name is Bobby and I thought you might like this article I wrote. Will you link to it in your article? I’ll link back on my website!”
It’s because of these lazy, mass-sent messages that link building emails get deleted. But when utilized correctly, email marketing can be a powerful tool for building backlinks.
Before we begin to teach you how to craft authentic emails and build better quality inbound links, here’s a quick warning:
This Kind of Link Building is Not for Lazy, Impatient Marketers!
Email outreach is not going to produce the instant rewards that buying backlinks does. It’s time-consuming.
Those who purchase “$1,000 backlinks for $10!” don’t do any work themselves. They set aside five minutes to find an overseas SEO “expert” on Fiverr.
In order to get backlinks without seeing spammy, you will need to do your own research and execution.
Keep these things in mind before choosing to do linking building through email:
- You are unlikely to have a high-yielding return. // You may devote three or four hours a week to your link building campaign, only to get three or four connections out of it.
- You will have to do research and strategize. // You must be willing to learn a few things about each company you want a link from and do all the thinking for them. You will have to craft personalized messages with suggestions for how they use your content to complement theirs.
- You will have to wait to see results. // You may wait days at a time before someone gets back to you, or weeks following up with prospects.
- You may have to test different types of content or link building strategies. // Different forms of link building work better for different companies. Here’s 12 Link Building Strategies for a Year’s Worth of Tactical Testing to experiment with what tactic works best for you.
All these things sound challenging, but here’s the silver lining:
- You are more likely to gain higher quality backlinks. // The idea is, these links will be more valuable than the random pool of links you’d get from a paid backlink builder. You hand-selected brands you trust, with well-rounded expertise and credibility.
- Your new links will seem more “natural” to search engines. // Links from unrelated, foreign websites can cause Google to second guess your legitimacy and potentially penalize you on the SERPs. For example, if you sell computer parts and a cosmetic company links to you, Google might think something’s fishy. Because you took the time to choose domains that closely relate to your content, these website connections will be authentic.
- You are in control of your off-site SEO! // Unlike other “black hat” link building services, where you get a random batch of links that could be inappropriate or low quality, when you choose to do your own outreach, you are behind the wheel of your linking strategies. You’re able to research your target’s domain authority, ask them to use specific, keyword-laiden anchor text and know where exactly the link will be listed.
With all that being said, let’s explore some ways you can leverage email to gain quality inbound links.
Step 1: Choose Your Share-Worthy Content
Your email campaign will require something of value to offer a potential linker. Use amazing pieces of content like your super in-depth pillar pages, top performing articles, a helpful video, new infographics or anything really!
Start off by looking at your proudest content— the pieces which have received a lot of feedback and traffic. Confirm their popularity with SEMRush, narrowing your list down to the ones with the highest number of inbound links.
Decide to Go Broad or Get Specific
Once you have some content you’d be confident sending to potential linkers, look at how each piece addresses its topic. Is it broad, like an article explaining the basics of your topic, or is it specific?
For example, if your business sells sheds, do you want to email a generic infographic about different shed styles— or, do you want to hyper focus on people who are considering converting their sheds into “man caves” with a slideshare of inspirational ideas? Pick ONE piece of content to direct link lovin’ to.
If, after a lot of thought, you realize you need to create the right content for your plan, that’s okay! Make sure you crank out something you yourself would link to, or keep creating more content until it’s truly remarkable.
Step 2: Do Some Cherry-Picking on the SERPs
Now you have to find your targets, which you can do with a few strategic Google searches.
Open up an Excel or Sheets spreadsheet and make a column for Domain Name, URL, Contact Person Name, Contact Person Email/Phone, Date Contacted and Notes.
Hop over to Google and start searching for related keywords by clicking on sites on page one and two of the SERPs. If you decided to focus on man cave shed ideas, look up keywords around designs, DIY inspiration, creative uses for sheds, etc.
Dig through each ranked page and look for a way to leverage it. If you think they might be interested in your content, add these ideas to your Notes tab with the site’s domain, exact URL and a contact method.
Remember, a generic email sent to a company’s “contact” email will likely be transported immediately to a spam folder or reviewed by someone who’s answering direct inquiries and doesn’t care about link building. Look for someone in marketing and send it directly to them!
Search a handful of keywords until you’ve compiled a list of maybe 25-50 probable contacts. Next, use SEMRush (or the MozBar plug-in while you’re on each site) to look up their individual domain authorities (DA), the individual page authority and their number of backlinks, to help you narrow down your list. Aim for DAs higher or close to your website’s own score.
Again, it’s better to have a short, highly-qualified list of 25 really promising targets than 100 shot-in-the-dark prospects.
Make Friends with Your Competitors, When Appropriate
We understand that not all competitors are going to be thrilled about the idea of promoting you on their website, but supporting one another could be a mutual exchange, so try to leverage these competitive relationships whenever possible.
If your service complements theirs, instead of directly rivalling it, even better! For example, if you sell sheds and are sending out your man cave article, reach out to a bar-installer who would be able to help them organize your clients’ liquor cabinet inside their caves. Get creative!
Step 3: Crafting Your Link Building Email Template
Remember, even via email, you want to facilitate a human-to-human interaction with someone.
Here are a few ways to personalize your message:
- Address someone in particular. // Find the person who wrote it and send the email directly to them, using their name in the message (psychologists argue this rapidly builds a connection). If you can’t find a name, and would be forced to send to a generic email, cross it off your list.
- Expand on something you’ve learned from the article. // Don’t just say you liked their article or website. Snooze. Pick out a particular point and be genuine. Give them an example of how it helped you. If you can’t pick out one thing you’ve learned for their content, cross it off your list.
- Don’t send your content right away. // Preview the fact that you have something that they might find helpful, but don’t shove it in their face. Ask them if they want to see it to consider using or learning from it? That’ll at least get the conversation going and elicit that first reply.
Try something like this:
“Good morning, Gloria!
My name is Jenn, and I wanted to thank you for sharing all these incredible photos of the man cave shed conversion you did for your husband.
I’m so glad you recommended putting a big cork board behind the dart board. I would have nicked up the whole back wall!
One of my clients actually added a pool table inside their shed, and I don’t think they realized how much space those things take up. He actually wrote an article that includes all the measurements and techniques for getting it inside with the least hassle. Would you want to see it? It might be something that you could reference in your piece to or consider as your next upgrade!
Let me know if you want me to send it over! Again, thanks for the advice.
- Expect to wait a little. // Give your prospects a week before following up, and when you do, only follow-up ONCE. If they aren’t interested and you keep harassing them, you will be that annoying, spammy marketer.
- If all else fails, pick up the phone. // This article is all about how to use email to get backlinks, but email just doesn’t win with everyone. Try a similar approach to what you said in the email but make it more conversational. Actually talking to the person could be exactly what you need to make a connection.
Take Control of Your Rankings
Your search engine optimization team can’t neglect developing powerful backlink campaigns if you want your site to appear on page one of search.
Although backlinks are an important ranking factor, there are a handful of other reasons why you may not be getting the organic traffic you desire.