From Link Builder to Email Marketer
Because my company hand-builds links at relatively large scale and always looks for ways to go bigger, we continually test our link-building processes and beliefs. For example, when you have more than 80 guest posts to place in a month, you don’t have the luxury to woo each and every prospect with commenting and tweeting (a common “preciprocation” warm-up tactic). Following are some effective tips on the principles of bulk outreach.
1. From link builder to email marketer
Link builder, it’s time to think a bit differently — you’re now an email marketer. Your task isn’t to build links, but rather to build lists: lists of relevant prospects and their contact information.
Then you must create an offer that will get these prospects to respond to you. Next, you must lead them, often through further inbox dialogue, to take an action that will ultimately lead to a link, social distribution, and/or content that can attract more links.
2. Lists of prospects are everywhere
Though we still scrape search engine results pages for link prospects, we’ve supplemented this method by searching for and scraping lists of websites. Sometimes I even look for lists first, then brainstorm potential offers to make. Other times, I follow a hunch, such as, “If I could find a list of hospitals, what could we offer them that could result in links?”
3. Create offers that work at scale
In bulk outreach, the ideal offer is one that’s relatively unlimited. Guest posts — if you’re pitching great content — are a bit limited. They can work, but they aren’t ideal. Free trials of web-based software? That’s a bit less constrained. Widget installs? Ditto. Go to town! Ask experts to take a survey? Unlimited — you make one survey, then conduct outreach. Remember, you must be certain that your offer genuinely appeals to the prospect list you’ve built and that you’ll get links in the process. Here are some examples of offers that scale:
- Free content (guest posting, infographics, widgets)
- Free products/services (for reviews and contests)
- Participation in expert surveys (they answer questions, you publish answers, they link/share)
- Timely analysis and/or access to expertise (pitching a hot, topical interview with your expert)
- Philanthropy and fundraising participation (ask to spread the word, ask to pitch in, too)
- Help fix broken, rotted, and now-parked links
- Money (not our bag, though some of our best friends are link buyers)
4. Write powerful pitch templates
An effective offer, tailored to your target prospects, is 99 percent of a great pitch. That said, there are some key ingredients that your pitch should contain:
- Make the benefits of your offer crystal clear.
- Make sure the pitch highlights benefits to the publisher and their audience.
- Flaunt your brand. (I like to lead with the brand in my first sentence if it’s recognizable and OK with client.)
- Flaunt relevant success metrics. (My previous guest post got over 700 retweets! Our last fundraiser netted over $5,000! Our last group interview got linked from Time.com!)
- Promote the page that contains your link. (I like offering to pay for traffic from StumbleUpon for guest posts.) And toss in a light dusting of your personality (This evolves for me over time, but it can give the more relational-type prospects. something to respond to.)
5. Simplify your prospect qualifiers
If your lists are targeted and relevant to your offers, then you have far less qualification work to do. In fact, your biggest problem should be taking the cream off the top for high-touch engagement rather than cutting out the junk.
Part of the whole bulk outreach play is developing an offer that works across a spectrum of sites. For this reason, we propose that a principle qualifier for bulk outreach is whether you can scrape the contact information. With a contact finder tool, you can see anywhere from 25 to 80 percent availability of contact info for sites depending on the vertical and how contactable the site owners want to be.
6. Simplify your campaign success metrics
Besides links earned (which isn’t always that simple, anyway), email response rates (number of responses/number of emails) are strong indicators for bulk outreach campaigns. This tells you if you’ve pitched the benefits clearly and if your template is personable enough and can give you a sense if you’re even using the right offer.
We also recommend splitting your list and/or only sending to 5 to 10 percent of your list at first to allow for tune-ups. Make sure you have someone who’s “good in the inbox” for closing the emails that do come back — they need to be personable, chatty, and laser-focused on making those links happen. All this comes out in the responses you get. Getting more responses helps you get more links.
7. Educate yourself on Can-Spam
Can-Spam is the law that established rules for commercial email and messaging, giving recipients the right to no longer receive emails from businesses. Here are some of the basic tenets of Can-Spam:
- Don’t use false or misleading header information.
- Don’t use deceptive subject lines.
- Tell recipients where you’re located.
- Tell recipients how to opt out of receiving future email from you.
- Honor opt-out requests promptly.
- Monitor what others are doing on your behalf.
Since so much of link building is email marketing, you’ll want to learn more than just the basics of the law and how they apply to your situation. Here’s the best resource: www.business.ftc.gov/documents/bus61-can-spam-act-compliance-guide-business.