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A major part of successful online marketing campaigns involves reaching out to influential websites, social media stars, and industry insiders. You may be looking for an endorsement, a guest post opportunity, or a simple link that points in the direction of your website.

This is nothing new, and, as far as strategies go, it’s pretty established. We even recently went over the importance of building relationships with industry influencers, ourselves. It isn’t always easy to get started, but it can have some major benefits for SEO and reputation management.

How to Completely Fail at Online Outreach (1).png

Outreach – whatever the final goal – starts with making a connection. If you’re lucky, you’ve already got some connections that will start this particular ball rolling.

However, if you’re starting from scratch, you may be facing a pretty big challenge, because it’s always tough to start a relationship out of thin air with nothing more than an email.

There is a lot of information out there about how to do influencer outreach right. So, why, then, do so many people get it wrong.

Outreach can be extremely beneficial, which means that there is a lot of effort going into making the process simpler, faster, and probably automatic.

Unfortunately, that kind of thought process isn’t really conducive to building relationships… which is what outreach is really all about.

This post was inspired by an email I recently received. Emails are great. They’re the way most people initiate their outreach and try to make some kind of connection and propose some kind of action.

Then again, emails are so impersonal, and there’s a great chance that you are just getting a stock email with a few of the details changed.

Case in point, this email:

outreach email poor example

This is a fairly standard email, and I’m willing to bet that a lot of you have seen emails that follow a very similar pattern.

However, in this case, the writer (or the email template with certain information filled in) made some mistakes that guaranteed we wouldn’t be interested in the request.

My hope is by analyzing these things, we can develop a better approach to this kind of email outreach.

Let’s take it from the beginning.


outreach email introduction problems

  1. The email was sent to our contact@seo.com email, rather than to the writer (Melissa McGibbon). Now, I’m not saying that Melissa’s email is readily available, but that does bring us to the next point.
  2. The email is addressed to “Hey There.” Now, as the resident content guy, I’m going to immediately wonder why this email thinks that “There” is a proper pronoun, but that’s not the real point (but it is a small point). Would it have been that hard to address the actual email to the person who wrote the article it is going to cite in the next paragraph?

Speaking of the next paragraph.


outreach email first big mistake 

  1. The writer here says that he was reading our post, “The Top 50 Most Socially Shared Twitter Marketing Articles for the Past 6 Months.
  2. He says that he noticed that we linked to the Hootsuite tool, and that apparently, we even recommend this as a useful tool in the article.

This is, of course, would be a very strange thing to say, if he had, in fact, read the article. Heck, this would be a strange thing to say if he’d read the title of the article.

Nothing in the title – and nothing in the referenced article – has anything to do with recommending social tools.

It should be abundantly clear that it is a list of articles about Twitter. That’s it.

It just so happens that one of two of them link to articles on Hootsuite’s blog.

So, when you really want to fail at your outreach, make it clear from the beginning that you haven’t actually taken in interest in the content you are referencing.

Next, if you want to really want to increase the level of failure:


continuing problems with outreach email

  1. Offer to provide the content to add to the post. Actually, offering to handle the heavy lifting isn’t a bad thing – but this is only after you’ve shown that you know what the article is about and can, in fact, write in a professional way that matches their style.

After all, if someone has made it clear they haven’t actually grasped the content of the original article, why would anyone want your content on their site?

Now, let’s take a look at the conclusion.


less than optimial outreach email conclusion


Whether you’re hoping to get a link or a whole new relationship out of this, you can think of an outreach email as a sort of cover letter for a resume. After all, you’re trying to sell yourself here. You’re trying to give someone a reason to work with you. So, I ask you, would you put an emoji in a resume cover letter?

  1. We’re all totally buddies here, right? After all, I left a smiley face in the email.

There is something to be said for being casual in your approach, but this is still a business-to-business correspondence. You’ll have time to be buddies later. Then you can emoji all you like.

And, let me put it one final way. If the content of your email can’t stand on its own as either professional or casual (i.e. if you don’t feel like the meaning of your words are fully communicated without colons and parentheses to set the tone) then maybe it’s time to re-examine your writing style.

  1. Have you ever been tempted to respond to the email and ONLY answer questions like this?
  2. Of course, you want to leave things open for future collaborations, right? Because you’ve shown how much effort you’ve put into the foundation of this relationship already.

And, this is just the old content writer in me, and I realize that it’s just something that’s done, but:

  1. Exclamation marks are only okay in texts and instant messages. They really shouldn’t be part of your professional outreach because the simple inclusion of this punctuation does nothing to convince me that you are actually that excited about the prospect of getting a link.

Now, let me be clear. This is not just a simple little rant based on the reception of a single, mass-produced email sent to anyone who happened to link to a certain website.

This is worth understanding because this is not the first time I’ve received such an email. (And I’m guessing you’ve seen them yourself.)

For example, I’ve previously received an email pointing out that I had linked to HubSpot in a certain post, and that this company had a similar product as HubSpot and wondered if I would be so kind as to link to them instead.

In this case, I must have been in a bit of a mood that day, because I actually did respond to them and point out that they were asking me to change the link to HubSpot in an article that was a summary of a presentation given by the Principle Content Marketing Professor at HubSpot.

So, no, I wasn’t going to change that link either.

Do the Opposite and Win

Outreach really is a critical part of SEO. That means this isn’t something that works if you’re trying to take a lot of short cuts.

Let’s consider some simple things one might have done to NOT fail with their efforts.

  1. Show that you’ve actually read the post you’re referring to.
  2. Take some time to engage with the post you’re referring to. Leave a comment and see if you can get a discussion started on their website. This may get you noticed before sending an email.
  3. Try and send the email directly to the writer, if possible.
  4. Do not talk about future collaborations until you have a reason to believe they’d be interested in such.
  5. Treat this like a resume. No one will want to work with you if you can’t show how you can be a benefit to them. This does not mean showing off the benefits of your product or service. It means showing that you can contribute something of real value to their own internet marketing efforts. (Quality content, already linking to their site, already participating in discussions on the blog or on social media, etc.)

It is easy to fail at outreach, especially when you treat it as hunting and gathering links rather than building and nurturing relationships.

Will these email work sometimes? Probably. Can you always devote all the necessary time to building extensive relationships? Not really.

Can you follow some of the above suggestions to increase your chances of successful outreach?



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