One of the most prominent aspects of a successful link building campaign is strong outreach.
Your outreach efforts will set the table for your entire campaign. People link to people and you have to find ways to meaningfully connect with others in order to build links. If you are unsuccessful in your outreach, your link building project won’t ever get off the ground.
Outreach is important because it’s the initial step in the link procurement process and your chance to make a good first impression. Even if you don’t have spectacular content, quality outreach can greatly improve your chances of successfully building a link. As my colleague Jesse Stoler often says, “You’re far more likely to get grade B content published with grade A outreach as opposed to the vice versa.”
Typically, you will be conducting the majority of your outreach efforts through email. However, certain occasions may arise that call for more unconventional techniques.
When it’s Appropriate to use Alternative Methods
As mentioned before, usually you want to outreach to your link target via email and often it’s not apt to pursue channels outside of email. But you aren’t constrained to email and there are times when it can be appropriate, and more successful, to use alternative methods.
The most obvious time is when you can’t actually find an email address. Just because the person doesn’t list their email on their site doesn’t mean they can’t be reached through other means.
Also, if you have located an email address and sent multiple messages, but they have proven unfruitful - it may be time to try something different.
As with any aspect of link building, when doing outreach it is important to consider the niche you are working in. Every niche is different and some actually lend themselves more to alternative outreach methods.
In terms of utilizing these methods, you have a few different options to choose from.
One of the best creative options for outreach is social media.
Social media can often be much more effective at getting through to the person because you avoid the risk of having your message buried in an overflowing inbox. With social media you also circumvent the risk of mistakably being sent to the dreaded spam box. However, there is still a chance that your message could get lost in all the other social media noise.
Social media can also give you more credibility and show the person you are not a spambot as they can look at your social profile for verification (as long as it is fleshed out and doesn’t look fake). Social media gives you the chance to put a face with your name.
Twitter and Google+ both offer viable outreach methods as the person you are contacting does not have to be following you first.
However, outreach doesn’t always have to involve cold-calling. In fact, engaging with people on social media first can build relationships that will make things easier later when you outreach.
You can even use social media in conjunction with traditional techniques by initiating the conversation on social media and then moving to email for further communication.
Social media adds an extra personal touch to your outreach that can often be the difference between getting a response or not.
Another alternative outreach method you can use is commenting on blog posts or in forums.
Like with social media, blog/forum commenting offers a great opportunity to cut through the noise and contact the person you’re trying to reach directly. Commenting provides a great way to avoid getting lost in the shuffle, especially blog commenting. AJ Kohn explains why in this excellent post about the power of blog commenting:
“Creators hang out in the comments section. So take advantage of the implicit focus creators have on comments.” - AJ Kohn
Both forum and blog commenting offer a great opportunity to thoughtfully engage with people before you discuss anything link-wise. Find forums/blogs within your niche and enter the conversation about topics related to your industry.
Again, this can be an excellent way to build a relationship BEFORE outreaching – increasing your chances of success.
Offline Outreach Methods
Another alternate approach for outreach is to take your efforts offline.
There are three main options for offline outreach:
- Use the telephone
- Send snail mail/packages
- Attend offline events
Use the telephone
One of the most overlooked outreach tools has to be the telephone. Much of the work in link building is done online and it can be easy to forget you don’t have to use a computer to contact someone.
A simple phone call can be tremendously effective as it shows you’re a real human being and is more personal than any of the other creative outreach methods discussed earlier. Try connecting with the person on social media first and building a relationship before calling to increase your chances for successful outreach.
Send snail mail/package
Another option that’s easy to overlooked is utilizing snail mail for your outreach. Although it can be a bit more time consuming than email, traditional mail can be effective where email may not be.
There is power in sending a letter or package to someone. It shows you cared enough to take the time to address and mail it. Snail mail also provides the person with a physical copy of your outreach message which can be helpful in reminding them to respond.
Eric Ward references the power of sending traditional mail in this Search Engine Land post:
“Because They Get Read… One tactic I’ve never written about that works like a charm. Make your first outreach introduction via FedEx. That’s all I’m saying” – Eric Ward
Attend offline events
Finally, what better place to do some creative outreach than at an offline event? Specifically, an offline event related to your industry/niche.
There are all sorts of events to attend – tradeshows, conferences, local networking groups, community events. These events offer a wonderful opportunity to build relationship and do some face-to-face outreach.
Outreaching in person is clearly the most personal of all, so it is important to keep in mind when this is or isn’t appropriate. You don’t want to come across too “salesy” at these events so try to build a rapport with the person you plan on outreaching to before discussing any linking opportunities.
Typically outreach is conducted through email and it can be done effectively this way. However, in terms of link building outreach, email is not the only option at your disposal. In certain situations you may be more successful by turning to unconventional channels for outreach and the methods outlined above can provide useful alternatives.