By Cory Collins
24 Sep 2014

Improving Outreach Response: 5 Human Methods

Link Building

To build real, worthwhile links requires an intentional, editorial effort from another human behind a relevant website.

The game of link building then (really all of marketing) is to convince another person that you’re worthy of their audience, their exposure.

That makes outreach an essential process in link building.

The ability to communicate value persuasively cannot be overstated. But sometimes, no matter how valuable your own website/page is it can be a real struggle to convince another person it’s worth their bother.

Especially when you only have the space of an email – or even a subject line – to make your case.

It takes a lot of gumption to build links. All link builders will at times feel a bit like a door to door salesman.

Assuming you have a product worth selling (there’s decent reason for them to link) there will still be times you need help to further secure attention. And the best way to secure their attention is to add value to your outreach.

So if you’re stuck in a classic link beg, this article is for you.

Because oftentimes the difference between a successfully acquired link and no response whatsoever is the ability to make a connection and demonstrate even the tiniest bit of value.

There are 5 common ways to cut through the noise in link building outreach:

  1. Build/establish a connection
  2. Put the contact first
  3. Find and include any issues with the page in question
  4. Provide more than just your own link
  5. Learn from your failures.
  6. Establish a Connection

1. Establish a Connection


We live in the modern era of templates, persona profiles, and mass marketing.

If you really want to add value to your outreach and cut through the noise, you need to establish a connection with your contact. And the only way to do that is by being human.

Let your personality shine through. It’s so easy to spot a template, simply because they never use any personality. They’re the verbal equivalent of algebra, simply swapping out X, Y, and Z.

I’m not suggesting you have to become best friends (or pretend to), or lay your heart bare to the person (please don’t do that). Rather, I’m suggesting you find a real and genuine way to connect beyond just a simple link request.

Find a way to start and build a relationship in conjunction with the link.

It should be easy to identify middle ground. You have access to an entire website this person is devoted to, and should be involved with a similar website yourself (or why else would you pursue a link).

Furthermore, you should already appreciate and perhaps even admire their website (or again, why are you going after the link?).

A link is a virtual representation of a relationship between two websites. They’re pointing their visitors to your website, personally recommending you in some fashion. If you want to create a relationship between the websites, it would certainly help if you could establish even a hint of a relationship between the humans first.

You really don’t want to be stuck sounding like the 500 other emails they’ve received that week; make the effort to stand out.

This means your outreach should:

  • Be personalized
  • Be genuine – include your personality
  • Be specific to their interests and their website
  • Explain your shared connection
  • Explain specifically what makes their website stand out
  • Explain why a link makes sense

Links are the direct result of a human connecting with your website first, then making the effort to connect their site as well.

That’s why links are so valuable – they’re a vote of confidence, endorsement, and virtual highway.

You’ll never be effective in your outreach if you’re trying to automate.

2. Put Your Contact First

contact first

Sounds obvious, but based upon my experience it’s far from it.

Good communication is defined by the ability to express yourself clearly and fully. Persuasive communication takes this a step farther, convincing your audience as well expressing your thought, concept, idea.

In link building outreach, your goal will always be a link on the website of the person you’re contacting. Good link building outreach will therefore express the specific desire for the link, where, and why. Persuasive outreach will convincingly express why they should link.

The real key there is “why they should link” – specifically, why it is in fact in their own interest to provide the link. Good websites are inundated with link requests. The only way to be sure you’ll cut through the noise, convincingly no less, is to speak specifically to your contact.

Orient the pitch to them, to their website, to their audience. Highlight first and foremost how they stand to benefit. Don’t assume it’s obvious – anytime you can reduce mental friction and cognitive leaps you absolutely should.

When it comes to value, you absolutely need to state the obvious. The more clearly you explicitly state the value to them, the more convincing that value is. The caveat here is that you need to find a way the link will genuinely benefit the person (or their website or audience) you’re contacting.

As Jon Ball said,

“The easiest way to convince someone that it will benefit them is for it to be true. There needs to be some valid reason why it will benefit the other website to link.”

If you really want to cut through the noise, make sure you’re leading with a “contact first” mindset. Put yourself in their shoes, and lead with what’s important to them.

3. Find and Report Any Issues


Reciprocity is the basis of all human relationships.

If you really want to add value to your outreach and cut through the noise, find a way to help them add value to their own site.

This goes right along with putting the contact’s interests first, and establishing a connection.

One definite way you can help add value to their site is by critically examining it and reporting any issues you find. Critical examination should be a portion of your link prospecting anyways, and if you notice an issue you should definitely include that in your outreach.

Before I go any further, I want to be clear that this doesn’t mean you should dig for trivial issues or “SEO problems” and report those as a hook.

Don’t treat this like a gimmick. You should only report real issues with the page/site, not issues blown out of proportion to make your outreach seem more valuable. And certainly don’t use an issue to cloak your reason for contacting.

It’s not worth the risk. You’ll damage any chance at future contact and relationships if you build links that way, and likely your chance at getting the link in the first place – no one likes to be manipulated.

One of the easiest ways to find issues with a webpage is to simply scan it for broken links. I highly recommend Domain Hunter Plus – it’s by far the best tool I’ve found for quickly scanning and finding broken links.

4. Provide More Than Just Your Own Link

It Takes Many Pieces To Make A Whole

I’m a big fan of direct and to the point pitches in my outreach. Sometimes however, you need a little extra value to really get your pitch noticed.

One great way to stand out is to provide more than just your own link. Give more examples of resources worth including, further information, similar work, etc.

Basically, use others’ work to increase the value within your own pitch. The more relevant resources, information, and content you can include the more likely the person you’re pitching will take notice.

Obviously you don’t want to pitch competitor’s work for them. But there will always be other resources, pages, websites, etc., that support whatever you’re attempting to pitch that aren’t also direct competitors. So go the extra mile and make your pitch even more valuable.

Just make sure your pitch and link stands out above the rest. The last thing you want is to build links to others’ work instead of your own.

5. Learn from Failure

Outreach Benjamin Franklin

The best advice I can give anyone looking to become proficient in outreach is to foster the ability and desire to learn from failure.

Effective and persuasive communication is a social skill. It requires you to engage your specific target audience, which means you’ll often have to adjust for every single person you communicate with. That requires a lot of insight and social intelligence to understand how and why specifically you should adjust your pitch.

It’s not something you’ll pick up overnight, no matter how many psychology books you read (or blog posts, for that matter).

Marketing outreach is fraught with failure, link building more so than many other forms. The desire to learn and improve is without a doubt one of the best skills any link builder can have.


There can be no doubt the internet is loud, wild, interesting place.

Anyone engaged in link building (or any online marketing) knows what it’s like to face rejection, denial, and a general lack of response.

Outreach sometimes requires a little extra value to be effective – to cut through the noise. More than anything, compelling and persuasive pitching requires clearly communicating the value of your proposition to your contact.

Great outreach fosters an audience first tone, instead of a me me me mindset.

There are five ways I generally encourage people to add a little extra value to get the notice and attention they need:

  1. Establish a connection
  2. Put your contact first
  3. Find and report any issues
  4. Include more than just your own link/content
  5. Learn from failure.

Be human, and put care into both your own time and the person you’re communicating with. If you can define the value for the other person, you should be well on your way to successful link building.

Cory Collins

Cory Collins is the Business Development Manager at Page One Power and has been with the agency since 2012. Cory is an SEO strategist, writer, runner, and outdoor enthusiast residing in Boise, Idaho, with his wife, daughter, and (too) many pets.