By Cory Collins
21 Oct 2015

Link Strategy: Preparing for Outreach - LinkaratiLive with Jeremy Rivera

Hello everyone! Welcome to the recording and recap of LinkaratiLive with Jeremey Rivera, where we discussed link strategy, specifically preparing for outreach.

We had an absolute blast chatting with Jeremy and covering the topic of pre-campaign research.

Without further ado, let's get into it.

Hello everyone! Welcome to the recording and recap of LinkaratiLive with Jeremey Rivera, where we discussed link strategy, specifically preparing for outreach.

Thank you so much to Jeremy who was our first ever outside guest on LinkaratiLive. I can't say enough nice things about Jeremy - he's a technical whiz, a tactical genius, and an overall great guy. If you need an SEO consultation or an in-depth technical site audit Jeremy is your guy. 

We had an absolute blast chatting with Jeremy and covering the topic of pre-campaign research.

Without further ado, let's get into it.

Linkarati Live Episode 6 image

The Participants

We were excited to have:

  • On controls: Mike Bryant, Event Coordinator, Page One Power
  • Moderator: Andrew Dennis, Content Marketing Specialist, Page One Power
  • Panelist: Jeremy Rivera, SEO Consultant out of Nashville, Tennessee
  • Panelist: Nicholas Chimonas, Director of Research and Development, Page One Power
  • Panelist: Cory Collins, Content Marketing Manager, Page One Power

The Overview

The webinar ran 60 minutes long during which we answered 5 questions. We were verbose!

The first few were created between us and Jeremy to reflect our topic: preparing for an outreach campaign. All other questions came from our active audience, chosen either for their relevance to the conversation at hand or for the virtue of the question.

The following is a summation of the questions and each of our individual responses. They're not direct quotes but rather a summation of our opinion and reply. If you want to hear specifically what was said a video queued to the question will be provided above the question and you can listen in for yourself. 

I would encourage you to actually listen to the audio for questions directly applicable to you or your work - we talk often at length and my summation will capture the spirit, but not every detail. 

Thanks for tuning in, and I hope you enjoy. 

The Questions

  1. What research is necessary before beginning an email outreach campaign to build links for a client?
  2. How do you identify potential opportunity for a client?
  3. What tools do you recommend to improve your outreach success?
  4. When doing outreach I get about a 20% response rate. What subject lines get the best results?
  5. Should you change your outreach language to match your target site?

Let's jump into the breakdown. 

Question One: What research is necessary before beginning an email outreach campaign to build links for a client?

The discussion of question one begins at 3:10.

The question lasts until 14:00.

JeremyThe first thing you need to do is measure your red tape.

  • Do you need your client to approve every website you outreach to?
  • Do you need your outreach template approved?
  • Can you get a domain email?
  • What creative options do you have for link assets?
  • Can you guest post?
  • Do they accept guest posts?
  • Is there any products or services you can give away?

You need to understand what opportunities you have as a vendor working with a client. What things are happening in the business? How will that affect your outreach?

Andrew: Absolutely - communication is just so essential early on in a project.

Nicholas: Jeremy is totally correct about all of that.

Pre-campaign research absolutely informs your strategy.

You need to asses every opportunity and what value your client has both on their site and within their industry. That really dictates who you're going to contact, what's important to that audience, and how you approach them.

Cory: Can't agree more with understanding red tape, and the limitations of that red tape.

Nothing bogs down a campaign faster than thinking you'll be able a use a variety of tactics just to find out red tape is slowing down the project and you've already built certain expectations with the client. 

To speak to what Nicholas said as well, people still see SEO and link building as a very technical, code-writing type profession. Link building isn't that anymore. We're not putting together code to trick people into linking to you. We're going out and promoting your website, content, products, and value in a persuasive manner to other sites in order to explain why they should link. 

We have a link-first mindset which helps us find the opportunities. We're very intentional, but we're not magical.

It boils down to understanding your industry, the website you're working for, and their value within the industry and finding opportunities.

Jeremy: I have a perfect example of how red tape can stretch out your time line. We spent time researching a piece of content for a guest posting opportunity, found an interested site, and had an over 1,000 word post put together. Sent it to the client for approval and the client just wrote back "it's fluff". After a couple weeks of back and forth he finally said it was way too basic.

After three rounds of rewrites he still wasn't happy, and we decided to move on after more than a month invested into the opportunity. That's kind of the worst case scenario in hitting red tape. If we knew on the front end that there'd be such a difficult approval process we would have pursued a different tactic.

Nicholas: We've hit that exact same scenario many times at Page One Power.

You have to be really empathetic with the client and understand what their expectations are. You'll need to find the path of least resistance, particularly with very technical-oriented clients. 

Sometimes clients are their own worst enemy in allowing us to get the job done.

Question Two: How do you identify potential opportunity for a client?

The question begins at 14:00

We cover this question until 29:45.

Nicholas: There's a couple different aspects to this. 

  1. What opportunity your site has in terms of assets and pages likely to get links
  2. What opportunity exists across the web and other websites to build links. 

Many clients think we can just blast links to product pages but that's often not the case. You need something resourceful, something of value where people will actually want to link. 

BuzzSumo is particularly great for finding those opportunities, and what type of content is being shared within an industry. 

Jeremy: Totally agree. You need to look at what your site is composed of. What type of content already exists? Can you find a hidden gem that you can brush off and make better?

One client mentioned offhand that he'd witnessed the last ever public execution in his state, and that a PDF existed of his account on his site. It was bone-chilling, gripping, really well-written content. 

We brushed that off, made a blog post out of it, and started promoting it across the web. It turned out to be a huge link magnet and really got lots of traction all across the web. 

You need to always research and talk with your clients about their industry. I knew nothing about hunting but after my time at Raven I moved over to another agency with a ton of hunting industry clients. I quickly was able to find opportunities just by having conversations with our clients and combing through the web. 

You need to treat every industry as unique and take the time to do the research. 

Cory: Couldn't agree more. 

One thing I'd add to all that is that not only is every industry unique, but they all have different linking environments. 

It's actually really fascinating because the more time you spend building links across different industries is that you'll find different industries link differently. Some link to specific content, some WON'T link to certain types of content, some have different types of sites they will or will not link to - it's like a subculture in every industry you research. 

You really just need to take the time to not only understand the industry, but understand how they're linking, why, and what opportunity exists. 

Nicholas: One tactic I really like to employ when I'm working within a niche I'm unfamiliar with is diving into forums. 

An example of this is I've spent a lot of time in the last half year rebuilding this 1966 Mustang, learning to basically be a car mechanic. Tons of super useful content exists solely on these very niche forums, ranking super well for specific longtail terms. 

Continuing with the example, so many of these helpful forums posts link out to product pages citing which product they're using and what they recommend. Often these links 404 over time because these websites move their product page or update it and don't realize all these wonderful links exist. 

Forums are a great way to learn about a niche.

Jeremy: I would piggyback on that and say find the appropriate subreddit. Reddit is practically the new forums. 

Look at Quora as well. If you do a search in your niche and a Q&A site pops up, see what questions are being raised. 

Even just doing a search - it's incredible how often a client says they want to rank for this or that term, but haven't even actually looked at the SERP. What types of results are showing up? Products? Local search? Video?

You need to make sure your pages are optimized for that query - not just for search, but the actual phrase you're targeting. 

Cory: I love all the research Dr. Pete has done and the posts he's put together show the shifting landscape of Google's SERPs, including answer boxes, the knowledge graph, rich snippets, etc. 

You need to understand what your important SERPs are composed of, and what it will mean to be listed as an organic result. 

Nicholas: Absolutely - look at your competitor's marketing funnel as well. If all you have is product pages on your site but your competitor's are providing information, creating resources, tools, and content then they're building trust with your audience. So even if you do get a product page to rank, it's likely your competitor will have earned more trust with that audience. 

Jeremy: Authority Labs did a SERP analysis of all the different elements and snippets and knowledge graph you can trigger - it's a great resource. 

Question Three: What tools do you recommend to improve your outreach success?

The conversation begins at 29:53. 

We discuss the question until 40:30.

Cory: One of my favorite tools for outreach success--even though it's not specifically an outreach tool--is BuzzSumo

You need to know what you're pitching and why it has value. BuzzSumo will allow you to research and see what's getting traction within an industry. If I can't speak to value within a pitch I'm going to have a much harder time building a link. 

People just don't link without just cause - it's what makes links so valuable. 

In terms of actual outreach tools we use BuzzStream here in the office, and I'll let Chimonas speak to that. 

Nicholas: BuzzStream is our outreach platform of choice. It's very robust and has greatly improved our ability to collaborate and track our outreach as a company. 

They have so much functionality, between contact relationship management, success tracking, email integration, click functionality, integration with Chrome. Really can't recommend them enough. 

Anyone interested in learning more about outreach platforms should head over to Jon Cooper's Point Blank SEO. He's got a fantastic, monstrous post comparing many different outreach platforms for link building

Andrew: To add on to that, Brian Dean of just did a huge post on SEO tools that's worth digging through as well. It covers 131 different tools, so it's pretty huge. 

Jeremy: Yeah, I was using Raven Tools' CRM and actually just started using BuzzStream myself.

The biggest is a good backlink analysis tool as well. I use Majestic and ahrefs to pull backlink data. 

Another quick tool is VoilaNorbert which helps you find anyone's email address.

Twitter is also fantastic for outreach. People forget or overlook social as a means to outreach, but it can be really effective. 

Twitter lists are great for compiling a list of people you want to be more involved with. Social is also great for developing relationships, whereas an email tends to be more direct. If you can get your name out there and in front of them it's much easier to secure a link. 

Cory: Another great tool that we don't use personally, but that Gisele Navarro covered in a wonderful post for us, really recommend Yesware. Her digital PR agency, NeoMam, uses it to great success in their outreach. 

Nicholas: To add to what Jeremy said we often try and develop a relationship before we reach out to a contact, particularly if they're operating on a high-value site. We'll sign up for their newsletter, respond to them on social, spend time getting our name and face in front of them. 

It shouldn't end with the link either. Keep that relationship going. 

The question ends at 40:30. 

Question Four: When doing outreach I only get about 20% response rate. What subject lines get the best results?

The discussion begins at 43:50.

We stay on the question until 49:45. 

Jeremy: I'm a big fan of "A quick question"

Of course every industry is different, and you should personalize for your audience. But a quick question is a great subject line because it hits two important subjects: what is the purpose of the email (a question), and how long will it take (not long - quick). 

Depending upon your industry a 20% response rate is actually quite high, but of course we always want to improve. 

One tip - look at your client's inbox. Ask them about the emails they receive, and what emails they ignore. You can learn a lot about the industry, the emails they receive, and compelling subject lines that way. 

Cory: I would echo learning from your client. 

More than subject lines though--which are of course key--there's an element that I've found to be overlooked and just as crucial if not more to improving your response rate: following up on your emails. 

People are so busy and often have email inbox overload. 

If you really want someone's email you need to be following up, politely. If you're not following up on your outreach email, you're not doing your job to the degree it needs to be done. 

Nicholas: In addition to following up, you might try a different avenue to follow up. 

Social media, a blog comment, a different email address - look for a new in-road. 

An email out of the blue isn't often trusted. If you can find a different way to grab their attention you'll have a much higher response rate.

But honestly, 20% is not bad. That's pretty average - somewhere around 15% depending upon industry has been pretty common among our efforts, according to the data we collect. 

If we have the right audience, the right topic, and a valuable offer we've seen upwards to 40-50% response rate, however. 

Don't forget personalization to your industry, as well. We had a pet-friendly client and we would include our own pets in our outreach, including a photo and their name and our response rates skyrocketed. 

The question ends at 49:45. 

Question Five: Should you change your outreach language to match your target site?

The discussion begins at 52:16.

Cory: I think it really, really depends on the industry. I would err toward being as authentic as possible. 

You should be using the correct jargon and industry terms to speak the vernacular, but to actually change to match the site your emailing may or may not be appropriate. I wouldn't recommend a large shift from your natural tone. 

Stephanie Beadell when she was at SEER wrote The Smart SEO's Guide To Effective Outreach which is one of the best pieces of content on outreach that I've read. The whole point of the post is about being concise, honest, and presenting value as clearly as possible.

I can't recommend that post enough. In my opinion the most effective way to get results within any outreach, email, or communication is to define value for your audience and stick to that. Lead with why your audience should care and what value you're representing, and your outreach will be much more effective.

Basically value should be your foremost consideration in your outreach. 

Nicholas: There are three different types of people we interact with:

  • Journalists or publishers
  • Bloggers or small business owners
  • SEOs, IT, or webmasters

All three need a slightly different approach and should be considered differently. You need to know who you're talking to, and how to speak to them well. 

IT, webmasters, or SEO you should be concise and value-focused. With a blogger you'll want to be much more personal, friendly, outgoing. 

Jeremy: How do you reach out to these different audiences? Do you act as an independent third party, do you act as a representative of the company, do you reach out as an SEO?

Nicholas: Again, it tends to depend on the audience. We want to be honest in how we represent ourselves, but if we're dealing with someone more official, such as a journalist, and we're trying to build a fresh mention into a link, we'll want to approach it much more as a representative of the company. 

With SEOs or IT we can speak more technical and acknowledge the SEO aspects. But honesty and being human is the most important thing. 

Cory: It really ties back to that red-tape conversation we had earlier, as well. It depends on what degree the client feels comfortable having us represent them. Can we get a domain email? Can we describe ourselves as an official representative? It depends on the client, to a degree. 

Nicholas: To tell the truth, we once upon a time made "personas" relevant to our clients. Pen names made to stand on their own separate from the client. We found that though to be a waste of resources and not as honest as we wanted to be. 

Now we work to be much more personal and human and we've moved away from the use of personas. 

Cory: It all ties back to value-proposition as well. If it makes sense for the site to link, they'll link. It doesn't matter what name you're using or who you are - the link makes sense, for them. 

Jeremy: Yeah, I've been using much more the straightforward approach as well. I typically approach it as a representative of the client. 

And that's a wrap!

It was a pleasure! Thank you all for joining us and special thanks again to Jeremy Rivera for joining us as our featured guest!

We'll see you at the next LinkaratiLive on Wednesday, November 4th! Register here: 

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.