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The Do’s and Don’ts of Blogger Outreach — An Insider’s Guide

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10 Jul 2020

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The Do's and Don'ts of Blogger Outreach — An Insider's Guide
Guest posting is still one of the most popular (and effective) methods to build links to your web properties.

survey conducted by Revium in 2019 among independent SEOs and SEOs working in-house for digital marketing agencies showed that no less than 94% of marketers questioned would use blogger outreach to build links in 2020.

89% of them specifically mentioned guest posting as a favorite link building method.

Being on the receiving end of blogger outreach emails daily, these stats don’t exactly surprise me.

What also doesn’t surprise me, is that only 8.5% of blogger outreach emails for link building get a response.

Read that again: only 8.5% of blogger outreach emails for link building purposes even get a response.

We all know that the actual success rate of those emails will be much lower still.

The big reason why?

A glaring discrepancy between the amount of effort SEOs put into finding bloggers to reach out to versus the thought they put into their actual outreach emails.

There are plenty of tools SEOs can use to find quality blogs in an efficient way, but crafting a successful post pitch still requires human insight and input.

And that’s where things often go wrong.

If you think an 8.5% response rate for your outreach campaign is enough, or you’re happy getting links from inexperienced bloggers who don’t yet know how this link building thing works, feel free to leave this post and read something else.

But if you’d like to do better, stick around as I take you on a journey to the other side: a professional blogger’s inbox.

How to avoid sending bad outreach emails

Aside from running a copywriting and content strategy service, I’m also the founder of the travel blog Wonderful Wanderings.

This is relevant because the email examples you’ll see below come straight from my inbox.

I received all of them — and many more — in the two weeks before I wrote this article.

Maybe one of them even came from you!

They are all examples of bad blogger outreach.

We’ll look at why that is, and how you can avoid the mistakes these senders made.

Don’t: use automatic “personalization”

A study by Backlinko found that outreach emails with a personalized body have a 32.7% higher response rate than non-personalized emails.f

Unfortunately, many SEOs interpret this advice rather loosely and will automate that personalization.

Here’s an example:

non-personalized outreach email

Bloggers recognize what’s happening here. They know you had some kind of software pull their name, domain, and a post from a spreadsheet and insert it into your email template.

They’re not impressed.

Do: spend five minutes reading the blog

Five minutes of research is all it takes to turn your email from yet another instant “delete” to something they’ll actually read.

Now, five minutes won’t be enough to convince a blogger you’ve thoroughly researched their brand.

But it will allow you to say something sensible about the article that led you to them.

You could also spend those five minutes reading their about page or scrolling through some of their social media channels to see if you have anything in common with them that you can point out.

Don’t: trust your software/yourself

Reaching out to a lot of bloggers manually is a tedious and time-consuming job.

That means you’re likely to make mistakes.

Because you want to streamline the process, you’ll use a template for your first outreach email,

But inevitably, you’ll forget to change a piece of data.

You’ll send an email to blogger B addressing it to blogger A, or you’ll mention how much you enjoyed the article by blogger B to blogger C.

Such mistakes are understandable, but unless the rest of your email is very on point, they’ll probably land you nothing but a “Thanks, but no thanks.”

That’s if you’re lucky enough to get a response at all.

“But correctly automating the process should prevent this from happening.”

You may think so, but having been on the receiving end of countless automated outreach emails, I can assure you that’s often not the case.

All it takes is an empty cell in your spreadsheet or the tiniest misconfiguration in your outreach too, and blogger B’s website name ends up in the email to blogger A.

Do: double-check your emails

It takes less than a minute to go over your email copy before you hit “send.”

So be like Nike and just do it.

Don’t: hire non-fluent outreachers

Why would anyone running a blog in flawless English — or any other language — accept an article from someone who makes grammar and other mistakes in their outreach email?

They wouldn’t.

You may plan on having the blog posts you’re pitching written by a native or fluent writer, but your outreach email is the first impression you make.

It should demonstrate the quality of the article you want to submit.

That means it shouldn’t be a rush job full of typos.

Look at this email, for example:

bad-english emailThere are many things wrong with this email, but the spelling and grammar errors alone are enough to chuck it right in the bin.

Do: spend a bit more and hire fluent writers

When doing outreach, you can stand out from the crowd just by sending an email in flawless English.

It’s a little sad, but it’s also an opportunity.

Why not seize it?

Don’t: be vague about which site you’re doing outreach for

Bloggers get emails like this one all the time:

vague-pitch-1 email

This one actually isn’t too bad:

  • She mentions my name and spells it correctly.
  • She tells me straight away that she wants a guest post.
  • She recognizes that bigger sites often charge for a feature/link.

The problem is that she wants to save herself time by gathering rates from a bunch of bloggers — and probably for a wide range of clients — rather than saving me time by directly pitching me to feature a client relevant to my audience.

Because her email wasn’t that bad, I decided to ask her which businesses she’s link building for.

Here’s her reply:

vague-pitch-2 email

Again, this tells me nothing.

I could’ve sent her my rates and guidelines but by the time she actually contacts me, those might have changed, and I’ll have to do the work again.

Her mistake is making it easy on herself, but hard on me.

Do: be specific about what you want

We all know the game…

Being transparent saves both parties a lot of time.

The best outreach emails are the ones that simply state why a brand wants to work together and what it wants to work together on.

Don’t: use any of these phrases

There must be some kind of “Outreach Template Pack” floating around the interwebs because most outreach emails contain the same kind of phrases.

When your email looks like 90% of the outreach emails a blogger receives, that’s an issue in itself, but these phrases are often problematic for other reasons too.

Here are some examples and why you should avoid them:

Offering the blogger “unique and original content”

If you’re contacting someone with a quality blog, they’ll expect original content as the norm, not a unique selling point.

When you mention that you’re offering “unique and original content,” you actually remind the blogger that there are people out there who just copy/paste a guest post together and call it a day.

You’re trying to say you’re not that kind of person, but in reality, you’re creating a link in the blogger’s mind between that practice and yourself.

If you were a quality writer who didn’t move in dodgy circles, you wouldn’t think of referring to something like “copy/paste” content.

Stating the blogger’s audience “will love” your content without saying why

There is nothing wrong with stating that you have a topic idea you think someone’s audience will be highly interested in, but you need to tell them why.

Telling them why demonstrates that you’ve done your research and know what that blogger’s audience wants.

Otherwise, your statement is meaningless, and you come across as if you have no clue whom the blogger writes for — which is probably the case.

Stating that you’d be “happy to contribute an article at no cost at all”

Offering a freebie may fool small, inexperienced bloggers, but anyone who’s been blogging for a while knows the value of guest posting and recognizes an outreach campaign when they see one.

Pretending that you’re doing the blogger a favor is a bit of an insult.

Ending your email with a variant of “Waiting for your positive response.”

This one isn’t specifically related to doing blogger outreach, but it often appears in outreach emails.

If you’re an SEO running your own business, you’ll understand why this presumptuous phrase ruins what might otherwise be a decent email.

It suggests that the sender assumes they already have the guest post in their pocket — that it’s a done deal.

Convinced that they deserve a positive response, the outreacher implies that the recipient doesn’t know what’s best for their own blog and should just accept the offer.

Nobody likes to be told what to do — so don’t be that person.

Do: write like a human

Write your outreach email as if you’re speaking directly to the blogger, using words you’d also use in a normal conversation.

This is why it’s crucial to hire someone for your blog outreach who is fluent in English (or whatever the language is of the sites you’re targeting).

Native speakers can do more than just follow a few email templates.

They can naturally adapt them as required without sounding like a machine.

Don’t: fake flatter

Fake flattery is saying things such as: “I really enjoyed your latest article, *automatic insertion of URL here.”

Sure, it’s a compliment, but it doesn’t prove you’ve actually read the article, and thus, it doesn’t mean anything.

Here’s an actual example of fake flattery:

fake-flattering_LI email

Why so?

The person who emailed me claims to agree with all the points I made in my Business of Blogging Review, but they don’t actually refer to any of them.

I doubt they actually read the blog post.

Even worse is the constantly used, “I’ve been following you for a long time now.”

We all know that’s a lie.

fake-flattering-2 email

Bloggers are used to being fake flattered.

We recognize it when we see it.

Do: provide a real compliment or none at all

What bloggers aren’t used to, is someone actually taking the time to check out their work.

We don’t really care which article you liked or if you share a hobby with us.

What we care about is that you made an effort.

Making an effort won’t just get you links, it helps build relationships that, if you nurture them, you can call upon again in the future.

If, for some reason, you truly can’t find anything nice to say but still want a link from that blog, skip the compliment altogether.

If it’s not genuine, it does more harm than good.

Don’t: leave out their name

Here is another example of an outreach email I recently received:

no-name-email

I didn’t actually cut the top off. There wasn’t as much as a “Hi” or “Dear.”

An email that could be addressed to anybody is an email to nobody.

Even worse is addressing the email “to whom it may concern,” “the *insert blog name* team,” or “Dear sir/madam” when the blog owner’s name can be found by looking at their blog for a mere two seconds.

Here’s an example:

no-name-2 email

People love hearing their own name so…

Do: say their name and spell it correctly

Spelling counts — and it harks back to the point made earlier about double-checking your email copy.

Sophie isn’t the same person as Sofie. Brendan isn’t Brandon, and Stefany isn’t Stephanie.

Don’t: pitch articles that aren’t tailored to the blog you’re pitching

If you’re pitching a travel blogger, don’t suggest blog posts about website hosting, wedding planning, or baby showers.

They’re not relevant. They won’t get accepted. You’ve just wasted your time.

wrong-topics_email

I received the email above for my travel blog.

It’s more relevant than most because the suggested topics are at least related to travel…

But I’m single, have never written about couples travel, and have nothing about weddings or honeymoons on the blog.

Do: offer to help bloggers out with their backlog or SEO

Actions speak louder than words.

If you can genuinely help a blogger out instead of throwing some fake flattery their way, they’ll be much more inclined to help you in return.

If you’re really aiming high, you could do a quick analysis of their blog to recommend an article you know will rank well and help them build topical relevance.

If you do, make sure they realize what they’re getting.

If you want to make it easier on yourself and on them, offer to help them clear their post backlog.

Brands often think that bloggers are always searching for new things to write about, while frequently, we have a long list of topics we haven’t gotten to yet.

Ask us which article we’ve been putting off writing and offer to create one — with a link back to your site, of course.

Don’t: forget to check the blog’s policy on guest posts and sponsored posts

Most bloggers have a detailed “Work with me” or “Contributions” page where they say whether they’re accepting guest posts and what their guidelines are.

Pitching them a guest post when they’re not accepting any or asking for their guidelines when they’re clearly linked to from the menu is a dead giveaway that you haven’t looked at their blog at all.

I recently received this pitch:

no-guest-posts_LI

This person claims to have seen on my website that I accept guest posts, while it clearly says, “I don’t accept guest posts” on my contact page.

Fun fact: I haven’t accepted guest posts in over six months, and I still get multiple pitches like the one above every day.

Do: check what the blog does and doesn’t accept

Maybe a particular blogger doesn’t accept guest posts, but they do mention being open to brand collaborations.

Is that your way in?

Do your homework when preparing your outreach campaign, so you’re able to create a pitch that has a higher chance of success.

Don’t: rush the subject line

An outreach study by Backlinko showed that longer subject lines are 24.6% more likely to get responses.

However, Backlinko suggests using a descriptive subject line such as “Quick question about your latest blog post.”

That line right there tells every blogger with a bit of experience that they’re going to be asked to place some (usually crappy) link into an article for free.

If nobody else used it, “Quick question about your latest blog post” might be rather intriguing.

But, the truth is that it’s one of those ever-recurring and worn-out phrases like “unique and original content.”

So what to do instead?

Do: get to the point

Again: be upfront.

Tell us what you’re after.

You may think that a subject line such as “Guest post request,” “Collaboration request,” or “Content proposal” will scare us off, but we’re going to find out what you want when we read your email anyway.

Don’t: mention you have a limited budget

Imagine walking into a Chanel or Dior store.

One of the salespeople asks you if they can be of help, and you tell them you’re looking for a smashing new outfit, but you have a limited budget.

How do you think they’ll react?

Exactly.

Expect the same response from a top blogger when you ask for a link on their high authority site with a massive audience that they’ve spent years building, but you “have a limited budget.”

Does that mean you’ll always have to pay (a lot) to play? Not necessarily.

Do: figure out what the blogger needs

As mentioned before, being upfront is often the best way to do blogger outreach.

That means that you don’t just tell bloggers what you want, but also straight-up ask them what they want in return.

If you’re building links for a dodgy-looking niche site (you know who you are), they might only settle for cash…

But if you own an established brand yourself, there are plenty of other incentives you can offer.

We’re not going to beat around the bush here: bloggers with high-quality, high-DR sites and a big audience know what their blogs are worth.

Unless you have something truly of value to offer them, you’re probably going to have to pay for your backlink.

However, some might want you to do some link building for them too.

Others may want products that they can review and promote as an affiliate.

Unless you ask, you’ll never know.

Make a list of the incentives you can offer bloggers when you’re preparing your blogger outreach campaign so you can refer to it when you’re crafting your emails.

Blogger outreach success: a matter of choosing quality

When it comes to blogger outreach, marketers need to make a clear choice between going for quality vs. quantity.

While you can easily use systems and automation to find quality blogs to contact, your outreach campaign’s success rate will depend on the time you’re willing to spend on customizing each email.

That doesn’t mean you can’t start from a template…

But it does mean a human should be the one adapting that template, not an algorithm.

If you plan to hire a blogger outreach service to do the work for you, make sure to ask them not just how they source quality blogs to post on but also how they plan to do their blogger outreach.

Make sure to check for that human element — it can really make all the difference.

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The Do's and Don'ts of Blogger Outreach — An Insider's Guide

SOFIE COUWENBERGHSofie is the copywriter and content strategist behind Let Me Write That Down for You. She helps businesses optimize their website copy and blog content to generate more leads and keep existing customers engaged. As the founder of the travel blog Wonderful Wanderings, she also has more than eight years of experience with influencer marketing. She has been featured on sites such as Business Insider and The Washington Post.

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