The (Previously) Unwritten Rules of Outreach

by Jon Cooper

For what it’s worth, outreach doesn’t get much love.

There’s nothing wrong with prospecting, but everyone seems to focus on it and forget the actual nitty gritty of outreach.

Although these rules can be applied to other strategies, I’m going to be breaking down outreach for broken link building, just because it’s one of the few quality things that can be scaled at the moment. 

1. Word intent can make or break you

Even though they could be considered synonyms, one word might be OK while the other is a complete deal breaker.

For example, Melanie Nathan talked about how she used to use “found” instead of “encountered” in her subject lines. This made it sound like she was looking for broken links. That doesn’t sound very natural to the webmaster, does it?

Choose your words carefully. Think about the intent of verbs you use so you don’t sound like you set out to find broken links & try and get links in return.

2. Avoid industry jargon

Whether you say “cite”, “share”, or “reference”, try to avoid saying “link” to this!

Webmasters in today’s web environment are so turned off to SEO that if they even smell something SEO related going on, it sets off an alarm that makes it VERY difficult to get a link from them.

Avoid using any search related terms. Either go for:

  • Acting like a grandma using a computer for the first time (she wouldn’t know what link building is!)
  • Sound scientific and/or professional (that’s why I like “cite”, because it sounds scholarly)

Once again, choose your words carefully!

3. Make conversational investment your #1 priority

It’s easy to see an initial email and never respond to it. In our society we’ve grown accustom to reading & not responding to half our inbox.

That’s why you need your focus should be on getting a response. I don’t care what it is, as long as it’s not completely negative.

Once they respond to an email, they’re MUCH more likelier to respond back again when you start trying to get that link. They’ve already invested in starting the conversation, so they’re not going to just stop responding (they could, but again, likely they won’t).

Because they’re responding back, they don’t want to sound unreasonable, so if you’re providing value in some way to them (by fixing a broken link), the law of reciprocation comes into play and they’ll probably do a quick favor in return (give you the link).

For example, what’s been working for me is emailing the prospect who I should get in touch with so they can fix a broken link, even if I know they’re the right person. If they’re not, then great, I now know who I should be getting in touch with (pro tip: if that’s the case, don’t send them a new email, just forward them the response you got!).

4. Show credibility

If you’re wanting them to update a broken link with a link to an article of yours, show credibility so that they can trust linking to what you wrote.

For example, if it was a post on cancer research, talk about how it was written by a university professor.

I’m not saying you should lie, but if there’s credibility behind your work, let it be known.

5. Follow up religiously

Just like a website without proper CRO is leaving money on the table, you not following up with prospects that never initially responded is pure lost opportunity.

Use tools like FollowUp.cc to make sure you follow up until you get a response.

I usually stop after the 2nd or 3rd follow up, but you can take things further. It might sound like you’re bugging them, but in the end, it’s only going to increase the number of responses you get (which means higher success rates), so you’ve got nothing to lose.

6. Increase trust by association

Don’t only suggest your site to be linked to after they fix the broken links. Suggest another great resource first, so once they see it, they automatically think better of yours just because it’s grouped together.

Props to Ross Hudgens on this one!

7. Make time investment decisions based off opportunity

For some prospects I go above & beyond to help them out. I might ask if I could update the content on that page, add new content, fix broken images, or whatever it might be. But I only do this for highly valuable prospects (i.e. a PA 60+ page) that I got a response from.

The point is, our time is limited, and we should make decisions on how we should use it based off opportunity. If it’s a low level prospect, scale up those emails and don’t bother trying to find another helpful resource to suggest alongside yours.

8. Keep track of your contacts

If you’re taking the time to do outreach then you should have some type of CRM, Excel sheet, Google Doc where you can reference your previous interactions, make notes and keep their contact information available for future outreach campaigns (I personally use Raven Tools CRM for this).

Thanks Jeremy for this one!


What did I miss?

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This post was written by...

Jon Cooper – who has written 129 posts on Point Blank SEO.

Jon Cooper is a link builder based out of Gainesville, FL. For more information on him and Point Blank SEO, visit the about page. Follow him on Twitter @PointBlankSEO.

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  1. Razvan says:

    The most important one …

    Point Zero (or Blank lol). Make it personal. Personalize with entire phrases not only names. Show that you did some research on them. Write unique stuff.

    Just my 2c

    • Jon Cooper says:

      Totally agree Razvan. That should be your priority from day one; if you didn’t get the message on that one, none of the above matter.

      Thanks for stopping by!! 😀

    • Chris Weber says:

      I would say that the unique stuff is the best way to go about it because not everyone out there has already tried that. Sometimes I will write things that make people scratch their heads even to wake them up.. haha Big fan of yours Jon!

  2. Steve says:

    Great post as always, Jon! 🙂

    RE: #2, “accredit” is another good one, as you’re effectively simply asking for a favour to be returned, especially if you’re talking about giving free content to someone (in the form of a guest blog post). I think it was Lexi Mills who mentioned it at April’s BrightonSEO conference, so hat-tip to her!

  3. Johann says:

    Nice ! I like those tiny details that can have huge effects.
    I might add also not to promise the moon, because it can look suspicious.

  4. Peter Attia says:

    Great post John!

    Along the lines of keeping things personalized like Razvan mentioned, I found it pretty useful to offer personal incentives that don’t match their blog topic. For example, buying a business blogger tickets to a show they tweeted about. However, that depends on your position in offering incentives 🙂 I know some consider this equivalent to paying for a link.


  5. Devin says:

    Webmasters have seen it all and are probably burdened by more pet peeves than anyone on the net, so their stubbornness is what it is. It certainly takes creativity and selflessness to get through to them so I appreciate these tips!

    Any advice on the subject line? What has worked well for you Jon? I’m anxious to hear from others as well.

  6. Frances says:

    Thanks for the post Jon. This is definitely the area I know my team can make the most impact on our conversion numbers.

    Do you use a CRM? Or just the Followup.cc tool?

  7. JR Oakes says:

    Thanks as always Jon. I would throw a couple of tips in there

    Make the Subject line professional >> targetsite.com: Found a broken link on your site

    For organizations or when forwarded to a department it helps out the IT team to know the site in question.

    Tell them what you were doing >> I was researching an article I am writing for website.com (Great Article Topic relevant to the site) and noticed a broken link on blah pointing to blah. let me know if you need help locating the link.

    Your Name
    website.com << Important.

    This worked very well for me because it gets away from having to parse words with how you got to the page.


  8. I actually never really do blog outreach until I have followed the site/blog for a few weeks – months and have read and commented on a few of the posts. I think it makes it a lot easier to approach a site that sees your offering insightful information to their site. By addressing them by name and referring to a couple of posts that you commented on or read makes the conversation natural and you have been giving something to them first. The would found has gotten me in a lot of trash bins I could only imagine.

The (Previously) Unwritten Rules of Outreach - Point Blank SEO