Is outreach still worth it? It is cost effective?

It’s incredibly rare to earn those links just by publishing content and sharing it socially, getting it in front of an audience unless your audience is extremely linked likely and you’ve already built up some authority and linking is a behaviour that you’ve kind of acclimated your community too. This is tough. It’s not going to work on its own and we also know that link outreach is a hard gruelling manual process. There’s no doubt about that, right? This is frustrating. That’s why many of us try and use social sharing or a subscription or publication to attempt to end around that need for direct link outreach because it’s such a challenge. But I think what we need to talk about, and I know that many of you in the comments and over Twitter mentioned this was what works for link outreach and how can we make that process less painful and more likely to have success. 

And I think the reality is that outreach fundamentally involves an exchange of value, right? As you are going out and attempting to earn a link from someone directly through link outreach through that one to one relationship. Whether that’s happening on social media or happening in person or happening on the phone or happening via email, whatever it is. if you don’t provide value, if you’re simply asking for something, your success rate is going to be extremely low compared to the folks who do provide value before the link or better as part of the link. The link is the way the value is exchanged. That’s actually what Google is looking for. They’re not looking for someone very successful at convincing someone to give them a link for no particularly good reason. They’re looking for an exchange of value where someone who says, gosh, it provides value to my site and my visitors to link to this resource and therefore I want to do it. 

And value can be a bunch of different things. Value could be in the ego that it boosts. It could be in the problems that it helps solve. It could be, in the form of what you’ve given them an exchange. Lots of things. So these are things that we’ve seen that are often perceived to carry real value. And, some of these are taken directly from the buzz Sumo and Moz study where we looked at things that earn social shares and also earn links. And there were some good cases of those and some different types of content. Some of this is also things that inherently earn links as it is used. Things like embedded content. So I’ll talk through these because I think fundamentally when it comes down to it, it’s very tough for me to stand up here and say, Oh, you know, we found, we did some research, I saw this at a conference recently. 

I think it was search love where someone noted one of the things that we’ve been doing that’s had much better success with our link outreach is, we reach out asking if they would like to see the piece that we want them to link to rather than sharing the piece with them directly. And that gets a much higher email engagement rate. Like, yeah, okay, I’ll take a look at it. And then when we do send it to them, you know, those people tend to look at it and link to it more than if we just sent them the link right off the bat because we’ve engaged in that conversation. Okay, look, there’s a lot of tactical tips like that. But if that fundamental thing, that, that piece that you’re providing that value to the linker to the potential linker doesn’t carry real value in their eyes, you can’t have any success. 

And that’s why these items I think are so critical, so fundamental to the outreach formula. So first off, as unique research, and we’ve seen research perform very well, I think because unique research that provides value to entities and organizations and content creators needs to be referenced. It needs that citation. And I think that’s why research, especially research that you do and, or visuals or, or, 

rifts that you take off of research that’s already been created to analyze that data, or to turn it into great graphs or interactive infographics or those kinds of things can provide real value. I’m, I’m a little, well, I’m jaded about infographics personally, but I do believe that a lot of customized, high-quality visuals can work and certainly infographics can be a form of that that does work in some sectors. I think that we’re seeing that in tech and marketing and in places that, 

 you know, in legal, in a lot of places where you see a tremendous amount of outreach, infographics are losing out because they’ve been so saturated. 

And every content creator in those niches has 10 people reaching out to them every week offering a new infographic. You’re just not standing out from the crowd. But I do think there are other forms of visuals, everything from photography to illustrations too, you know, graphics and charts to drawings that can be very valuable there. And that’s why I’ve mentioned here, embeddable content is wonderful because it naturally, acquires that link by saying like, Hey, here’s a calculator, or here’s a tool that you can embed on your site if you’d like to. You get that link back as part of the embedded. And I think that can work great. We’ve also seen a decline, actually embedded content used to be all the rage a say 6 to 10 years ago, it’s waned a little bit. and for that reason I think can be more powerful, can stand out a little when it is used. 

So I think that’s a, a, a tactic that I would encourage folks to try. Again, badges are a form of this, but they’re kind of the mildest, least uniquely valuable form of that. So if you’re gonna do a badge, it better be a badge back to something very powerful or triggers a great commitment, right? So if you’re an Etsy top seller and you get a badge to put on your website or, an embeddable widget from your Etsy store so that people can buy directly from Etsy, from your store, from your website. Okay. Those things provide real value. I’m, of course, I’m going to link to them, but just a badge that’s like, I think you’re a great blogger, eh, tough, API APIs and data plus business development. These are tough things to build, but it can be very valuable if you’re providing data on an ongoing basis, especially to larger organizations or powerful entities who are using that data either publicly or even privately. 

Very often you can include in those agreements some form of a, Hey, we’d like some co-branding. We’d like you to link back to us. We’d like you to say the data was provided by us. Hard to do, but that’s a great thing. because it’s powerful and it gets out link content that makes well your target look good, right? If you are inherently saying, Hey, here’s a piece of content we did at truly substantive analysis of five or 10 players in the field, your product, your service, you, your company, your content stands out in this way and we’ve quantified that and we’ve produced this piece. Yeah, I’m going to be much more like linked to that than just a, here’s a badge that says we like you. Yeah. All right, so I think these can still work well and playing to people’s ego can still work well. 

Guest content. We see guest content still doing very well despite, you know, Google’s warnings about guest blogging. And of course, you know, we talked about that a couple of years ago on whiteboard Friday. Guest content is still very powerful. It almost always includes a link back. The key is that this content has to provide value to the target. And I think if that content does provide great value to the target, you can get a link from almost anywhere. The key is convincing them that it’s going to perform well for them and going to perform well with their audience. As a result, it’s very easy for folks who already have a platform who are already thought of as influencers and thought leaders to get their content onto other sites. It’s much tougher as an unknown and this is one of the reasons why I think building up your platform first and then leveraging guests content can be so valuable. 

the last one that I’ll mention here is a service or favour that makes your target want to refer people to you. Now this is a challenging thing to accomplish, but if you are a service provider or a content provider, a data provider, a product provider who has done something amazing and unusual, something that makes you stand out in the minds of a customer and you know that customer has a website and that customer could be a business or an organization, an entity, those kinds of things. and you know that that organization often deals with people who need services like yours, reaching out and saying, Hey, we’d love it if you’d refer folks and here’s what we’re willing to offer. And those kinds of things can be another great way to go. The outreach email itself is the one is the thing that gets talked about a lot. 

And I, I hear the same advice kind of over and over again around link outreach. I get a little frustrated sometimes, right? So, it needs to be customized and well written and you need to flatter your target and it shouldn’t be automated that those things will get you, that’s just table stakes. That merely sends a good competent email, right? That that is not advice in my or tactical useful actionable advice. I, I get very frustrated when I see those same pieces of advice over and over again. I think where you want to go to places that other outreach emails don’t go. So if you can try and look at a dozen or a hundred outreach emails from other sources to people like those in your target market, if you know that they’ve received those emails and you can even reach out, you can reach out to people in your audience who you already have a relationship with. 

I’m sure you have some relationships like that with people who are influences in your field already and ask them, Hey, can you send me the outreach emails that you get? Like I just want to take a look at him cause I think they’re all terrible and I never want to do that to people. I’ll send you mine. Right? Like what you will find is that they are rarely authentic. They’re rarely humble. They rarely create a real connection that in fact, the vast majority of real connection emails that I get from folks that I’ve never met before are not about outreach. And I think that’s what forms that real connection. I’ve seen a few of these that are outreach emails, but they do create a real connection like they have read things that I’ve made and watch them or been at events that I’ve been at or worked with companies that worked with or you know, whatever it is. 

And they form that real connection in the email authentically. and they need to stand out as unique, unique meaning they don’t look like those other hundred 50 outreach emails. This is the sucky part. These outreach emails do not scale. The ones that work tend not to scale. And it tends to be a link builders job to scale this process because you need lots of links and you needed to point to lots of pieces of content. And so you’re always looking for scale. I would urge you to go the opposite direction, narrow your funnel, worry less about the number of people you’re targeting. And more about the success rate because once you get the success rate high, you can turn up the volume really fast, but if your success rate is low and there’s a limited market of influencers in your field, you can quickly burn all of them with your outreach before you ever have a chance to get good at it. 

Link outreach is supposed to be hard. This process is not supposed to scale. If it’s scaled, it’d be easy. Everyone would do it and there’d be no competitive barrier, no competitive advantage to being great at building and earning links. And so I think this frustration exists in the world. I want to recognize that and have empathy for it and for all of you who have to do link building outreach. But I also want to say that’s part of the magic that happens here. And so you should account for it and expect it and not fear it.