Let’s pretend for a moment that, as an SEOer, you’re not a raging extrovert who is only mildly toned down because you’re behind a laptop.
We all know you’re the life of the party, a blabbering socializer, always linking up with people, and turning strangers into your Best Friend Forever! in a matter of minutes.
The last thing you are, of course, is socially awkward and working out of your mother’s basement, but for the sake of this article, let’s just pretend for now.
So, we’re going to take some of the social charisma you’ve been stockpiling and use it for a very noble quest and purpose: outreach for link building.
This is where your irresistible charm and social graces can burst forth in glorious song and dance.
Sometimes you might hold yourself back or revert to a blubbering spammer.
To maximize your treasure chest of links, we’re going to talk about how to schmooze your way to more links than you could ever dream of.
Wait, Isn’t This Illegal And Frowned Upon?
Not the kind of activity we’re talking about and I want to make that clear from the beginning.
This is not about running a pyramid scheme of links and creepy tactics.
Think of it more of as being back in high-school or something.
If Google was a person, s/he would be like a school principal at a high-school dance.
You know, he or she will quickly slide up next to you as you’re dancing, peer at you through glasses that are slightly pulled down over the nose, clear their throat, and ask “just what you think you’re doing by getting a little bit too close to Daisy”, saying that you’re “smiling and laughing a little bit too much”, and “those hands should be kept above the waist at all times”
Next thing you know, you’ll get a slap on your wrist with a ruler and after-school detention.
That’s kind of how Google is, especially when it comes to “link schemes”.
You can broadly define such evil, nasty schemes as:
Buying or selling links that pass PageRank. This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link
Excessive link exchanges (“Link to me and I’ll link to you”) or partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking
Large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links
Using automated programs or services to create links to your site
Now, what we’re talking about here is not some grand master plan with a message about devising evil conspiracies of nefarious linking, sorcery, and trickery.
Nope, I just want you to know how to provide real value to those you contact and how to not be that socially awkward nerd who creeps people out.
The best way of creeping people out and providing zero value?
If you approach it with a “scalability” and “automation” mindset, for starters.
Why You Shouldn’t Do This At “Scale” Or “Automate” It
You will have better response rates (5% seems to be average) and better success if you do this the good ol’ fashion way.
Everyone throws around the buzzwords of “scaling” and “automation”, and some SEOs just wants to push a button for thousands of links.
Doing something “old school” and semi-manually can seem to be too much work.
Well, SEO outreach can actually be more efficient and effective if you do it right.
Also, buckle up and grow some mojo — don’t shy away from a little bit of work and sweat. All your competitors are sending out emails that start of with “Greetings and Good Tidings” and promises riches from Nigeria in exchange for links.
You’re going to be smooth when you send out emails to webmasters, bloggers, and others whom you want to meet-and-greet.
You want to get links, but stop approaching it like a video game, instead see it as a way to do outreach and providing value in a manner that works (being socially attuned).
Always start from a place of making their lives easier and websites better.
6 Practical Tips For Being Socially Smooth
I’ve put together a few key points that will get you started and off to the races on how to not be socially awkward and creepy when you email random people.
You’re basically sitting outside someone’s house with binoculars — time to freshen up those social graces a bit.
1. “You Had Me At The Subject Line”
Yes, you want to approach Jerry Maguire levels of smooching and flirting with this one.
How you make the approach will either motivate someone to open your email or simply turn the other way and ignore you — or worse, throw a drink in your face.
You should experiment with using their first name, questions, incomplete sentences, referencing something they’ve written or done, and so on.
You have to keep in mind that you’re competing for their attention in an inbox filled with emails from family, friends, colleagues, funny Youtube videos, and other requests for their time and effort.
Your carefully crafted email won’t even get a glance unless the subject line gives them a good reason to click. Remember: all you need is for them to click open, and then it’s up to your first sentence or two to compel them to read more.
2. Craft The Email Like A Love Letter (Sort Of)
Now is not the time for you to share your life story, personal struggles, favorite food, or how often you take a shower.
No one cares about you and you have a face only a mother can love.
This is not a time to write a high-school essay with your Emo ponderings.
Be very specific, very brief, and seriously consider not even jockeying for a link in your first email. It’s better to get a positive response than a negative or no response at all.
Show that you actually care, that you’ve done your homework on the site, and demonstrate why they should give you a second of their time versus all the other random strangers soliciting them.
Brief, specific, clear, relevant, personalized, and helpful — this is how you make your outreach emails valuable.
So, to do all that, you need to know a little bit about these people that you’re, basically, interrupting, right?
3. Actually Know Who You’re Contacting
This could make or break your efforts.
How often have you seen emails from some joker using a @yahoo.com email, sending “greetings” and clearly having no clue who you are or what your website is all about?
All the time, right?
Yeah, don’t be like that. Go as far as you can when finding contact information. Look for the person who may be in charge, their name, their email, their favorite food, favorite color…
At least find one way you can provide value, even if it’s bribing them with cookies, cupcakes, or coconuts.
Don’t stop short of just sending them an email. Why not tweet them, connect with their LinkedIn profile, or interact through comments or forum?
You might not want to actually call them — that’s a bit stalker-ish — but how much is a PR6 backlink worth to you?
The simple point is: know who you’re contacting, what makes the tick, and how you can be of value to them.
4. Clean Up Their Mess Of Broken Links
This isn’t anything new, but it’s not as widely used as you’d think. You basically find “broken links” (404’s) on websites, contact the webmaster about it and even include suggestions of alternate link sources (if applicable).
Don’t just run off and share your own content here for outbound links only — make sure you also mention any internal links or website issues that you might come across.
Type up a friendly email where you’re not even asking for anything in return, just that you want to help them.
You can read more about this tactic here.
5. Whatever You Do, Don’t Mention Links
Think of it as a game of “spot the long-tail”. You can probably come up with more creative words and ways of talking about “links” than just mentioning them. If you’re trying to reach out to people, keep in mind that they’re probably getting 7,812.34 emails per day from people just like you.
Anything that smells remotely like spam and you asking for links without providing value will probably be relegated to the trash.
Instead, use language such as “include”, “cite”, “share”, “add” and so on.
Yes, they probably know what you’re asking for. But it’s really all about how you ask for it.
6. Sign-Off With Your Handwritten Signature (Consider Writing It In Blood)
A last quick-tip that’s often overlooked — your signature will probably matter. People want to know who is emailing them and if the person is real.
You probably want to experiment with not using words like “marketing” or “SEO” in any title — or not use a title for yourself at all — this may add a personal touch that feels more authentic that for someone to just be a person on your list of bloggers to email this week.
For some that you email, though, adding a title and link back to your company may add authority and trust to the message.
Portent has a great infographic that covers some additional advice on this.
That’s It For Charm School, Now Go Practice
I know, you might’ve picked SEO as your life path because you don’t want to be in the spotlight or interact with people.
Well, tough luck, buddy.
The web is, in general, becoming increasingly personal in all kinds of ways, not counting social media.
The fact that your pretty face can show up in the SERPs with Rich Snippets (and seems to command a higher CTR because of it) is a testament that people want to connect with people.
It only makes sense that your outreach should be grounded in good social graces and value-bombing.
Be friendly, don’t demand someone’s time and attention, provide value (helpful, short emails), and take the time to craft messages that are compelling for someone to pay attention to.
You will find that, instead of spamming 100s of people with crappy outreach emails, you can end up contacting, perhaps, 20 high-profile, high-value websites with personalized emails that gets you the kind of links that matter.
What tips do you have for SEO outreach?