When you’re starting from zero with SEO, and you’re focusing on whitehat SEO, you can’t get anywhere without email outreach.

You need to reach a very targeted audience who manage or contribute to established websites that are relevant to your business.

But even getting cold emails opened is a challenge — much less having them read and getting positive responses.

On average, you’ll be lucky to get a 3% response rate if you just send personalized emails at scale. And that’s just email responses, not necessarily a “yes.”

Obviously, you don’t want to send hundreds of emails for each backlink. In this article, we’ll break down the psychology of outreach emails, cover what works, and share 7 templates you can use to start building more links today.

The psychology behind writing outreach emails that work

When you’re creating an SEO outreach campaign, it’s easy to get lost in your own goals. “I need to get backlinks for my new site ASAP so I can start ranking on Google and make the big bucks!”

Me, me, me.

But that’s a perspective that won’t lead to successful outreach emails. You need to focus on the recipient. What value are you delivering to them?

Focus on your recipient, help them relate to you, and offer them value

Especially if you’re trying to reach a busy blogger or CEO, you need to give them a reason to even open your email.

It needs to be relevant to them. For example, this email landed the CEO of Gray not just a high DA backlink to his site, but a dedicated blog post talking about how awesome he is at writing emails, and a friend for life.

It might just be the happiest ending I’ve ever seen for a cold email — a sales outreach fairy tale.

Good Outreach email example

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Noah Kagan (founder of Sumo, previously AppSumo) shared this on his official blog.

The appeal focuses on a psychological tendency in which we tend to treat people who are similar to ourselves more favorably.

Basically, there’s four layers to the pitch:

  • Relevant subject line that grabs Noah’s attention: it references actual events and close encounters with Noah.
  • “I’m just like you”: Not only is he Jewish, he’s also a successful business owner with his own insights to offer. (For SEO, this is all about doing your homework and finding websites that are directly related to your site and business. You can also get creative, like including a picture of your dog if you know the person is a dog lover.)
  • “What’s in it for you”: An app pitch from a successful entrepreneur. (For SEO, the most straightforward approach is pitching a high-quality guest post. It helps if you have a helpful resource, new interesting case study, or other incentive.)
  • Social proof: He isn’t just some “nobody.” He has 70 employees and operations in China.

While we don’t condone spending $600 on a pair of used shoes, you can learn from everything else in this email.

Personalized, well-targeted emails perform a lot better

So we’re not only relying on personal anecdotes, let’s examine some cold email data.

Cold emailing tool Woodpecker examined thousands of emails in a recent study. They found that small-batch personalized messages get a reply rate over 5 times higher than large-batch semi-spam emails.

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Cold email sequences sent to over 200 people had a reply rate of only 3% when not personalized. With a 16% reply rate versus 3%, you’d actually get more responses from 50 people than from 200.

How to apply these principles for SEO outreach

As a website owner (as long as you get any semblance of traffic and rankings), you’re bound to get asked for links eventually.

Some of these emails just blatantly ask for a backlink. Some offer to pay. While others take a more measured approach, offering something of value.

A recent email I received was pretty close to the mark, pitching a unique free resource that I could add to a recent blog post.

Gmail Outreach Email Example

But the subject line wasn’t very attention-grabbing, and the message itself wasn’t personalized, either. It all felt a little too transactional.

The trick to doing link building right at scale is to use a reliable set of templates that force you to do some research before reaching out.

Make sure they already know of you

The final trick is to get your foot in the door before you ask for a favor. Make sure that the blogger knows who you are before you reach out.

If you’re in the same industry, this is as easy as following someone on Twitter (or their social platform of choice), and actively engaging with them in conversation.

BuzzSumo Influencer Search for Twitter

You can use a tool like BuzzSumo to search for active influencers who have high domain authority blogs in your industry.

It doesn’t have to be complicated. Be human. Interact naturally with people in your industry who also have websites, and even if you don’t pitch a guest post, you’ll land one eventually.

7 SEO outreach email templates you should start using today

In this section, we share 7 professionally written templates you can use to improve your SEO outreach campaigns.

Broken link template

Go beyond the typical mass cold emails with this broken link template.

Sometimes being straightforward can help. Many SEOs see success with some variation of the subject line “You have a broken link in X post.”

Subject: Quick question about [post] / Found a broken link in [post]
Hey Sarah,

While reading your blog, I noticed that your post about [post title] includes a broken link to an Acme marketing case study [link].

It looks like they moved the post to this url [link].

P.S. If you want a more up-to-date case study to add to the list, we just released a new one in February 2021: [link]

All the best,

Bob

Guest post suggestion template

Do a little research and find a way to pitch content that directly adds value to the audience. In an ideal world, you might be able to, for example, cover a conference that the blogger can’t make it to.

Subject: Interested in a post about ABC Martech Conference?
Hey Sarah,

Bob from XYZ Analytics here. We’re big fans of your blog, especially your future of martech series. We saw that you won’t be able to make it to the ABC Martech conference this year — how about we write a roundup post for you instead?

Here’s what last year’s post looked like: [link]

All the best,

Bob

To get a head start, check out our list of 40+ high DA sites that accept guest posts.

“We featured you” template

Quid pro quo.

Subject: We loved your latest video so much, we shared it on our company blog
Hey Sarah,

Bob from XYZ Analytics here. We loved your latest video explaining analytics so much that we decided to feature it on our company blog.

Here’s the link: [link]

P.S: We agree that analytics platforms are typically hard to set up, but ours is different. It only takes three clicks on most major CMS. If you want to see how it works, I’d love to set you up with a demo.

All the best,

Bob

You can also use the opportunity to start small and take advantage of the Ben Franklin effect. Ask for a Twitter shoutout rather than a dofollow link on their site. From there, you can start a mutually beneficial relationship.

Content collaboration template

For this approach, up-front research is everything. Find an outdated post that needs a revamp, something you can contribute a case study or data to, or a series you’d love to join.

Subject: Want some help updating [article]? We have a 2021 case study lined up
Hey Sarah,

Bob from XYZ Analytics here. We’re big fans of your blog (especially your future of martech series), but noticed your post about the power of analytics is a bit outdated.

We write about analytics on our own blog, and just finished a case study, but figured it might reach a bigger audience and help more people on your blog.

We’d love to help you update your post with the latest data and trends.

All the best,

Bob

Asking for an opinion/interview template

In many industries, the best way to get a backlink is to offer to feature them on your own blog. Popular website owners get inundated with guest post pitches and broken-link emails.

Switch it up by giving the influencer a platform, instead of asking for theirs.

Subject: Quick interview about martech?
Hey Sarah,

Bob from XYZ Analytics here. We’re big fans of your blog (especially your future of martech series), and would love to get your input on the new trend of AI-powered personalization.

We’re featuring industry expert opinions about the latest developments and we’d love to have you on board.

If you prefer to do it by email, I can send the interview questions over ASAP, or we can schedule a quick 5-minute call next week.

All the best,

Bob

Resource/data/case study template

Original research and case studies are one of the absolute best ways to generate authentic backlinks and buzz online.

But if you go about it the wrong way, your data could sit there, ignored for the foreseeable future.

Instead, use this template.

Subject: Exclusive: First look at cutting-edge Martech data
Hey Sarah,

Bob from XYZ Analytics here. I love your series on the future of martech, and thought that as a fellow martech geek, you’d appreciate an exclusive first look at some data I’ve compiled on over 273 Martech companies.

It includes revenue growth numbers, most common pricing models, and more.

Best regards,

Bob

Essentially, it boils down to this:

  • Highlight a recent piece of content relevant to your new data or case study.
  • Offer an exclusive first look at your research.
  • Explain why it’s a great asset (highlight a few geeky details that a fellow industry writer will appreciate).

Roundup/list post outreach

One of the most effective cold outreach tactics is contacting blogs that already finished list posts (that don’t have you on them).

Find them by searching for “best PRODUCT CATEGORY – YOURBRAND.”

Google SERPs for best to-do list app

Not only can this land you high-quality backlinks, you can earn a lot of trickle-down traffic. The original post ranks highly for a popular search term, after all.

But you have to do this in the right way. The last thing the blogger wants is another email shamelessly asking for a link.

Instead, use some humor and creativity to stand out.

Subject: Why didn’t we make the cut? 
Hey Sarah,

Bob from XYZ Analytics here. Our whole team has followed your blog for a long time, so when you posted your “top 20 martech tools for 2021” post, we were pretty psyched at maybe getting a mention.

With the release of [new features] and our dedication to customer success, and since you covered 20 tools rather than 10, this year we thought we finally had a shot. Looks like we didn’t make the list (again). Why didn’t we make the cut?

If you’re not familiar with our platform, I’d love to get you set up with a demo so you can play around with our new features.

Best regards,

Bob

How to find the right email addresses in the first place

The biggest mistake you can make with a blogger outreach campaign is to just use contact forms. (Unless they have a dedicated form for guest posts.)

For smaller sites and businesses, they mostly have the forms for one purpose, and anything that’s not about an appointment gets ignored outright.

In a worst-case scenario, you may even go straight to the spam folder. So don’t do that.

Find the right person on LinkedIn (or in the company profile)

With larger publications, you’ll struggle to reach the right by just targeting a general company email or contact form.

Instead, you can find the right person on LinkedIn, like an editor or content manager.

LinkedIn search

You could then try a combination of LinkedIn messages and emails to get in touch with them.

Use an email address finding tool like Hunter

If LinkedIn comes up short, you can instead try an email finder like hunter.io. You can just type in the domain name, and it will give you the email addresses you need.

(You can find the editor’s name on the website or blog you want to guest post for.)

Hunter email finder tool

3 common email outreach mistakes to avoid at all costs

Even if you take advantage of all the psychological principles and use our templates, you can still go wrong.

Here are 3 common mistakes you need to avoid.

Droning on and on

Editors and owners of popular blogs are busy. Get to the point. Avoid droning on and on. Keep things short and sweet.

Not following up

Sending a single follow-up email increases the reply rate by 44%. So if you only send a single email, you’re leaving almost half of all potential backlinks on the table.

Don’t be afraid to follow up, especially if you’ve done your research and know you can provide something of value.

Sticking too close to the templates and sending boring emails

There’s a reason we showed you real full-fledged examples, and not just a basic [first name], [company name], [topic] example.

Your emails need to be relevant, appeal to the person directly, and attention-grabbing. They must be worth reading.

Don’t be afraid to use some creative flair if you notice a common interest.

Conclusion

To sum things up, outreach emails only work when they’re personalized, offer something of value, and help the person relate to you.

You can also use psychological “tricks” like making sure the person is familiar with your name and face, or starting by asking for a smaller favor.

Of course, to get good results, you need to repeat this process dozens or even hundreds of times.

If that sounds like way too much work, we’ll happily connect you with a professional SEO agency that can handle it all for you. Our matching service is 100% free.

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