How to craft high-conversion outreach emails

Outreach emails are probably one of the biggest challenges faced by SEOs. In this post, I will run through how we write ‘high-conversion’ outreach emails. By conversion of course I mean getting them do take the desired action.

It all starts with a mindset…

  • Don’t be afraid of email – you will get some people ignoring you and you will get some people saying no but don’t let it get to you
  • You are trying to offer them value (you’d better be!!) so make sure the email conveys that – don’t pitch it as a favour or anything of the sort
  • Put yourself in their shoes – don’t be like 99% of other linkbuilders, make the effort, respect their time and pitch something worthwhile

The humble subject line…

Keep it simple and focused on your message. In my experience mentioning anything about a link in the subject line is likely to get your message auto-filtered into spam or manually deleted by the recipient.

Try subject lines like…

  • “Guest Post on YourSite.co.uk”
  • “An infographic that may be of interest to you”
  • “An issue with YourSite.com/resources”

It doesn’t hurt to swipe Copyblogger.com’s tips for more effective subject lines…Be Useful, Ultra-specific and Unique (that last one isn’t always possible when it comes to outreach emails).

*Be sure to look at their site guidelines as sometimes they require you to put a specific subject line e.g. “Guest Post Proposal” – complying with these guidelines infinitely helps your chances

Crafting a killer opening paragraph

Like a great album, your opening paragraph needs to be all killer no filler. There’s no need to promise the earth but you do need to attract and retain their attention. I find the most effective opening paragraphs cover 3 of the 5 Ws…

  • Who am I
  • Why am I sending this email to you
  • What do I want

As much as we would all like to infinitely scale our outreach efforts, there is a certain amount of human input still required and the opening paragraph is one such instance.

WHO

Covering off the who am I statement is fairly easy and can be templated to save time, the other 2 Ws however, I always personalise.

WHY

One reason that we enjoy such a good response rate to our outreach emails is because we invest time in tailoring the opening paragraph to the recipient. To cover off the “why” in your opening paragraph I compliment (in a genuine way) a recent piece of work they did, article they wrote or comment on a piece of news that’s pertinent to them – something which makes them realise you haven’t just fired off this exact same email to hundreds of other people. There’s no need to go overboard but a pleasant remark which demonstrates you’ve paid an interest in them – remember we are all ego-centric people so a little ego-massaging to open the email can go a long way.

WHAT

To complete the opening paragraph, I explain what it is that I would like from them AND how this could benefit them.

The cardinal rule of crafting a killer opening paragraph is that it respects the recipient’s time – they should get all the information they need to make up their mind whether to delete or read on for more details.

Don’t try and pitch content ideas in the opening paragraph unless you feel it is essential – I find most respond negatively to this practice as you can appear self-serving or presumptuous.

Persuasive body copy

We do write some outreach emails from scratch but we mainly personalise templates – this gives us a bit more scale. For example, when it comes to running guest posting campaigns, we have two templates that we use, template 1 has very proactive wording and is much more ‘sales’ focused, whilst template 2 has a softly-softly feel to it, being persuasive without being too hard sell. Both templates have their place and are useful in different industries and we continue to work feedback into both to improve them and roll out across all our campaigns.

Crafting proactive body copy

We find template 1 works best in industries that are familiar with the practice of guest posting – fast moving industries where website owners might receive multiple guest post requests each day. Our aim is not to convince them that guest posting is a good idea but explaining why they need a guest post from us.

We use the body copy to pitch two content ideas and a question to ask which they prefer – this is a little tactic I picked up from my days spent in sales and that is that you should give people a choice whereby they are in control but either way you get what you want. Psychologically you are encouraging them to pick a post which distracts them from the other option of whether to accept a guest post from you or not.

Another simple tactic is to make one of your post ideas really stand out (employing the power of contrast – eloquently explained here by Finch). In simple terms, this tactic involves making one idea a lot less interesting than the other, this helps the prospect make up their mind quicker which heightens the chance of a swift and positive response.

Crafting softly-softly body copy

In certain industries, guest posting is far less prevalent. Your prospect might have a vague idea of what guest posting is but you’ll need to explain it in more detail and you may need to hold their hand.

In this case, we will work from template 2 which pitches the content in a nice and easy format, no sales tactics as such just a bit of gentle persuasion interweaved into our explanation of the guest posting process as well as the type of content they can expect from us.

Regardless of the approach – we always explain the content idea being pitched rather than just a post title. It gives further opportunity to personalise e.g. suggesting an appropriate section on their site where the piece might fit or highlighting how the post supports or extends some other content they already have published.

Closing statement

Wrap up your email in a short but courteous fashion, if they’ve made it this far then you’ll also want to remind them what it is you want them to do. We have found some of the most effective closing statements centre around a question e.g. “Does this sound like something you would like to go ahead with?”. Or to be certain your prospect knows what the next step is, you could try a proactive statement like “Please let me know which post you would prefer and we can get started”.

What tactics do you use when persuading prospects in your outreach emails?

10 Comments

  1. avatar
    Alessio January 26, 2012 at 2:54 pm #

    I pay attention a lot to the WHO part. I mean, when I receive an email where the WHO part is really long, I’m getting bored. after the first contact, you will have plenty of occasions to say more about you and your work. Go straight to the point. I have the impression people really get bored to long email , because they receive 100 mails per minute + tweets + facebook notifications and google+ updates.

    Keep short and rock on!

    thanks for sharing!

  2. avatar
    Al January 27, 2012 at 1:51 pm #

    James – another fine piece of writing.

    It’s good to see that I already practice most of the points here, but always good to read over these things so they’re fresh in your mind whilst picking up the odd pointer.

  3. avatar
    John Abrena January 30, 2012 at 4:36 pm #

    Good post! I was thinking of writing an article like this these past few days, just didn’t have the time to do it.

    I actually have 3 types of e-mail outreach that I do for guest posting. Short and sweet, tailored and detailed, and as a blogger (which I just relationship build on). Knowing what to send on to a certain prospect is my key on getting replies back.

    • avatar
      James Agate January 30, 2012 at 5:09 pm #

      Thanks John – you should definitely write a post of your own on your methods – it’s cool to hear how others do it so we can develop our processes to.

      Understanding which email template to customise for the different kinds of prospects is essential to be successful at outreach.

  4. avatar
    Keith February 15, 2012 at 9:59 pm #

    I like to copy the formatting on the page that I am requesting a link to be added to. Then in my email I provide the link I am requesting in the format that page is in. This makes it easy for them to just copy and paste. Make it simple for them to add your link as much as it can be made to be simpler.

  5. avatar
    Fabian February 16, 2012 at 6:41 pm #

    Nicely done. Eric Ward also provides fantastic tips on his blog as to how to reach out to others. Definitely make sure you have something of value to their readers, otherwise don’t waste your time.

  6. avatar
    Courtney Cox March 21, 2012 at 4:09 pm #

    I’ve been using this for my infographic outreach. I find that many people do not know what an infographic is, and this template helps those people by outlining the benefits of infographics. You guys are welcome to use my template!

    RECIPIENT,

    INTRODUCE YOURSELF. I’ve been looking through your SITE TYPE, and COMPLIMENT/DRAW ATTENTION TO AN ERROR. I have an infographic that I thought might be of interest to you to SUGGEST PLACE TO USE ON SITE. Infographics are a great way to make information easier to digest. That’s why I think including this graphic on your site would really benefit your readers.

    DESCRIPTION OF INFOGRAPHIC AND WHY THEY NEED IT.

    Let me know if this is something you’d be interested in, and then I’ll let you know how to include it on your site.

    Thank you for your time and consideration,
    YOUR NAME

  7. avatar
    Anthony May 23, 2012 at 3:11 pm #

    We also tried a couple of different approaches and found something similar with sectors such as travel being more responsive and less guarded than finance for example. Guessing which approach to use for a new sector e.g. DIY is a good game for one or more players.

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