What is a Backlinks Outreach Campaign?
Link Building Outreach campaigns are an ethical and professional method of building up the number of links that lead to your domain. Usually this is accomplished by contacting the owners and managers of reputable websites and coming to a mutually beneficial arrangement, such as a content exchange.
Link building arrangements can take many forms, but usually involves the reciprocal exchange of marketing capital, i.e. trading guest posts, trading backlinks, or trading social posts.
Many potential backlinks publishers also offer sponsored content options, allowing brands to pay a fee in exchange for a relevant post, article, or story about their brand. Sponsored content is very common but if you're paying for backlinks, proceed with caution. Buying backlinks goes against Google’s terms of service, and poor quality backlinks can have negative repercussions for your domain’s authority and trust scores.
Pro Tip: If you opt for spon-con, make sure you’re dealing with a reputable, experienced publisher, and not a shady gray-market backlinks dealer.
Link Building Outreach Campaign Goals
- Increase the number of backlinks that lead to your domain
- Increase rankings and authority for your domain
- Increase referral traffic from high-traffic publishers
- Connect with potential brand ambassadors and influencers
- Build relationships in your industry and related industries
- Increase brand awareness and discovery traffic
What are backlinks and why are they important?
In simple terms, a backlink is a link from one website to another. These connections show search engines like Google that the content on your website is valuable and credible. Search engines consider backlinks as "votes" or endorsements for a particular website. The idea here is that if other authoritative sites are linking to your website, then your site likely contains valuable content worthy of a higher ranking.
Positive effects of high-quality backlinks
- Increase your website's domain authority
- Improve search engine rankings
- Drive organic traffic
- Enhance the credibility and reputation of your website
- Boost brand awareness in your industry
Does Outreach Actually Work?
At the heart of every outreach campaign is one simple question: why? As in, why would other websites want to go out of their way to link to your content? The answer is simple: because there’s something in it for them, too.
The internet is literally made of links, and backlinks are only half of the story. Publishing outbound links from your site is just as important as getting backlinks to your site. In fact, sites that have thousands of backlinks, but very few outbound links can be seen as spammy or fraudulent by search engines, and will often rank lower than sites that have a healthy number of outbound links (editor’s note: a fully optimized website should feature at least one outbound link per page).
How to find prospects for your outreach campaign
There are many online tools that can help you develop a list of potential prospects for your outreach campaign, including premium SaaS products like SEMRush, Moz, or Ahrefs. But you don't have to spend money to start link building today. Here are our favorite tools for prospecting for your outreach campaign.
Google Search - The largest repository of link building prospects online. Use Google to search the most desired keywords for your brand, then scour the results to see who's publishing content that's relevant to your industry, and who's linking to your competitors. Once you find some likely prospects, you can reach out to those publishers for a link of your own.
AHRefs - One of the most popular SEO toolkits online, AHRefs offers link building tools for professionals and amateurs alike. AHRefs also offers a wealth of SEO courses and video content, so if you want to become a link building expert, you can take AHRefs' free Advanced Link Building course.
SEMRush - Another giant in digital marketing SaaS, SEMRush is the #1 toolkit for SEO, PPC, and content-based marketing. FWIW, the SEMRush Link Building Tool is this author's personal favorite. If you want to become an SEO expert, checkout SEMRush Academy, which features free video lessons on a variety of topics, including the SEMRush Backlinks Management Course (another personal favorite).
Hunter.io - A fairly straightforward app that lives as an extension in your browser, Hunter.io can find all the email addresses associated with a domain, page, or even a specific person’s email address. This is an especially helpful tool for outreach campaigns. Hunter.io even offers a Google Sheets extension that can scour a list of domains or URLs and find the emails associated with them, all without leaving Google Sheets!
How to find a prospect's contact info
A publisher or prospect's contact info can usually be found in one or a few places:
- the author's profile at the top of the article (look for the ✉️ icon)
- in the author's signature or notes at the end of the article
- in the publishing website's header or footer area
- on the publishing website's Contact page
- via the author's public social media profiles
- via the publisher's official social media profiles
Once you locate the contact info for a prospect, copy their information or URL into a list or spreadsheet along with notes about the publisher that may be helpful when it's time to reach out. We suggest using a spreadsheet to keep everything organized.
What to say when you reach out to a prospect
When it comes to outreach, there isn’t just one right way to do it. In fact, there are no rules at all, so don’t be afraid to get creative and think outside the box. Remember, you’re reaching out to other professionals who make their living online, so it’s likely that they’ll understand the concept of link building and be willing to participate.
Pro Tip: There’s no wrong way to do outreach. The best method for contacting prospects will vary depending on the publisher. Some publishers make it easy to get in touch, others may not be so easy. When it’s time to reach out to your prospects, explore their website and use whatever method is most appropriate for the situation.
When you reach out, be honest about the goals of your campaign, and what you’re trying to accomplish for your brand.
Not sure what to say to your prospects? Here are some of the outreach methods that have worked for us:
- Offer to supply a guest post in exchange for a backlink - you write the content, they publish it with a backlink to your site
- Offer to trade backlinks - you give them a backlink from one of your blog posts, they give you one in return
- Offer them an interview with yourself, or leaders from your brand/company
- Offer publish a guest post (written by them) published on your site
- Send them a press release (news about your brand)
- Use one of the outreach templates provided below
Using press releases to gain backlinks
One of the most popular methods of link building is with the use of Press Releases about your brand or company. You can gather relevant information into a simple press release that informs readers about what you’ve been doing, what you’re doing now, and what’s next for your brand.
Pro Tip: Include as much useful information as possible in your press release. Make it fun and interesting if possible. The better the press release is, the more likely it is to get picked up. If your press release gets picked up by “the wires” (a network of news outlets) it could wind up being published on hundreds or even thousands of websites, including Google News outlets.
There are 2 ways to get a press release out:
- A) You can distribute your press release manually by sending it out to news organizations and other prospects
- B) You can hire a professional press release distributor. Professional PR distributors have a few advantages, the main one being that they often have a guaranteed distribution to a number of high-traffic websites. Many PR distributors will also write and format your press release to ensure a higher distribution.
Outreach Templates to use in your Backlinks Outreach Campaign
Template A: Honesty is the best policy
Subject: ((Name)) can you help us with our link building campaign?
I’m reaching out to you because my company, ((your brand)) is currently engaged in a link building campaign to increase the number of backlinks to our domain and build awareness of our brand. Because your organization is one of the leading authorities on ((Topic)), a backlink from your site would be extremely valuable to our brand.
Would you be open to adding a link back to our domain in one of your blog posts? In return, we can share your content on our social media channels, or provide a backlink to your site in one of our blog posts (we’d let you choose topic, target, and anchor text, of course). We’d also be open to exchanging guest posts, or other forms of content exchange.
We’d be excited to connect with you on this, please let me know if you're interested. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Template B: The Guest Post Pitch
Subject: ((Name)), I'd love to contribute a guest post to ((Prospect's Website))
I represent ((Your Company)). We’re a ((type of business)) that does ((short description of your business)).
I've noticed that you occasionally feature guest posts on ((Topic)). As a professional in ((Your Industry)), I believe that I can offer valuable opinions and a fresh perspective on a variety of topics that are relevant to our audiences.
At ((Your Company)), we specialize in ((Industry)), and we’d be happy to share information and insights that resonate with your audience. I propose that we write an engaging blog post or opinion piece inspired by ((Article Idea)) that provides practical takeaways for your readers.
In return I'd be grateful for a backlink to our website within the article. This link exchange will mutually benefit both of our websites in terms of SEO and audience reach, and we’re open to the idea of publishing a link to your domain on our own website ((Your Website Link))
Would you be interested in this link building collaboration? If so, please let me know, and I'd be more than happy to discuss this further. Thank you for your time and consideration.
How to choose URL targets and anchor text
Once you’ve sent a few outreach emails, chances are you’re going to get one or more positive replies. If a prospect agrees to give you a backlink, the next step requires some decision making on your part. To receive a backlink, you will need:A) the target URL of the backlink (i.e. the page of your website you want the link to point to)
B) the anchor text you want the publisher to use
WARNING: be sure to exercise caution when selecting URL targets and anchor text. If used improperly, backlinks can cause irreparable damage to your domain authority and trust scores. To ensure the long term health of your domain, always use the best practices outlined below.
- Choose URL targets that aren’t likely to change - If a page of your site has a number of backlinks pointing to it, and the location (URL) of that page changes, you lose those backlinks. When choosing a backlinks target, we suggest using your primary domain, or using “permanent” pages like About Us, Contact Us, or product collections.
- Use domain-safe anchor text - If your anchor text is “too perfect,” it can give the impression that you bought or otherwise paid for that backlink. If you have an opportunity to choose the anchor text that points to your site, the safest anchor text is the name of your business, or a branded keyword that contains the name of your business.
Other ways to get backlinks
Cold outreach campaigns are not the only way to get backlinks and free press for your brand. There are lots of ways to get backlinks to your site. In fact, there are so many different ways to get backlinks, we wrote a whole blog post about it.
Of course the BEST way to get backlinks is to publish great content that other sites will want to link to. If you're an expert on subjects or topics that are relevant to your industry, publish your expertise in the form of written content on your site. The better your content is, the more likely that other sites will link to it.
Popular methods for organic link building
- Publish scientific studies with useful data and insights relevant to your industry
- Reach out to your professional contacts and tell them about your link building campaign
- Appeal to your social media audience e.g. “share our link and get a discount code” - (these “social signals” are technically not backlinks, but social signals do offer value in an SEO campaign)
- Launch a press release with a reputable PR provider. Most PR providers will guarantee distribution to hundreds or even thousands of sites, including Google news sites
- Publish images, infographics and articles on your site that others will want to link to
- Publish resources and tools that provide value for a niche audience