Most outreach campaigns get less than 10% response rates and 5% success rates. (Unless you’re a big name in the industry.)
It is important, though.
Blogger outreach is still the best (or only) way to proactively get backlinks and shares.
But, there are ways to make it suck less.
With these 18 outreach strategies, my average response rate is 45.8% and my success rate is 24.8%.
That’s one share or link for every four emails.
I’m not talking about expert roundups or guest blogging. Most of my outreach strategies are for normal articles.
If you want to get better at optimizing your content and email for outreach, try these strategies.
1. Don’t use “quick question” or “about your post” in your email subjects
If you Google for outreach email template right now, you’ll find many of the examples use “quick question” and “about your post” for the subject lines.
Here are 2 examples from HubSpot:
But they’re not effective.
Maybe they worked in the past — now they don’t.
Or, maybe they only work for the experts because they’re well-known, so subject lines almost don’t matter to them.
Anyway, there are two reasons you shouldn’t use these subject lines:
First, they’re overused.
Even worse, these subject lines are mostly used by spammy marketers.
The influencers in your niche probably already know if an email is an outreach email before they open it. So, they won’t.
Second, they’re not ideal.
Influencers, especially popular bloggers, receive over 20 emails per day — from their readers alone.
They don’t answer (or even open) all of these.
If you use “quick question” or “about your post” in your subject line, they’ll think you’re just one of their readers who wants to ask a question.
So, here’s the solution:
Don’t use vague subject lines.
Just say what you want without seeming like you’re asking for a favor.
Here are some examples for different outreach types:
- Roundup interview: “5-minute interview for a blog post…”
- Broken link: “There’s an error on your website.”
- Guest blog: “Do you accept guest posts?”
- Asking for a share: “This could be useful for [blog]’s readers”
- Featured in a post: “I featured your content in my article.”
The 4th one is still vague, but it’s as good as you can get without asking for a favor. But, if you keep reading, you’ll find a better way to get a share.
Anyway, here’s my point…
If someone doesn’t want to do an interview for your roundup post or doesn’t accept guest posts, using a vague subject line won’t change their mind.
Some of them might open it, because you tricked them.
But they still won’t do it.
So, it’s better to just tell them what you’re up to so they won’t skip your email.
2. Give people a reason to click your link
You’ve published a GREAT article. You sent an outreach email to an influencer, thinking they will gladly share it with their followers, just because it’s a great article.
Here’s the email you sent:
Hey [name], I stumbled upon one of your articles. It’s amazing.
By the way, I just published similar article. Here’s the link.
If you like it, please share it.
This is a simplified version of a very common outreach template, by the way.
Will they click on your link?
Why would they?
So what if it’s a great article? It won’t change their live.
You have to give them a good reason.
The reason must be about THEM, not you. “Great article” is not a good reason to open your link because it focuses on you.
At the very least, explain why your article is great and why they or their followers NEED to read it.
Starting from strategy #4 below, we’ll learn how to give people reasons to open your outreach emails and click on your link.
3. The 2-step outreach doesn’t always work. Know when to use and not to use it
There’s this new outreach strategy called 2-step outreach.
You send your first email without a link, ask the influencers whether or not they want to see your link. If they do, you send them another email with your link.
People say this works better than normal outreach email because it uses a principle of persuasion from the book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Dr. Robert Cialdini.
You get a small commitment (replying to your email), and then ask for a bigger commitment (sharing your link).
In theory, it kind of makes sense.
However, in reality, this doesn’t always work.
For example, if you’re just asking people to read, share, or link to your article, the 2-step outreach doesn’t work.
If you want to showcase your work, this method is inappropriate.
Because the influencers don’t have any obligation to read it. Their lives will be just fine — even if they don’t read your article.
They won’t reply to your first email.
If you think about it, the 2-step outreach method is really inconvenient (in this case) because people have to ask YOU for something before reading YOUR article.
This gets even worse if you use this strategy on a top influencer. You’re no one to them, why would they ask something from you?
However, in some outreach types, this method does work.
Here are some examples:
- You want to point out something on their website (broken link, misspelling, design error, etc.)
- You want to show what you’ve gained by following their method or strategy.
- You want to identify a mistake in one of their articles.
If you’re not sure, consider this:
Think about what will happen to their life (or business) if they know or don’t know whatever you’re going to tell them.
If it doesn’t change anything, don’t use the 2-step outreach method.
If you’re offering something of benefit to them, or if they could lose something by not reading your message, you can use the 2-step outreach.
4. Add a link to their content and make it stand out
As I mentioned above, you have to give people a reason to open your email.
“Good article” alone is not enough.
The easiest way to optimize your content and give people a reason to open your email is to include them in your article.
It’s easy; you just need to add a link to their website.
This works for two reasons:
- People are more likely to do something to you if you do something for them first.
- People are more likely to share something that makes them look good.
However, you have to make the link stand out.
Here’s a bad example:
Who doesn’t like a good, fresh pancake for breakfast? While not the healthiest option, it’s a great treat once in a while.
Even your readers will probably not notice this link.
Here’s a better example:
Who doesn’t like a good, fresh pancake for breakfast? While not the healthiest option, it’s a great treat once in a while.
If you rarely make your own because of the potential hassle, don’t worry — Lifehacker offers this easy-to-remember pancake recipe.
Basically, you mention their name, their blog name, and directly tell your readers to go to the link.
Here’s another, even better example from ConversionXL:
5. Feature them or their website as an example in your content
This is even better than just links.
If you know an influencer has done something related to the content you’re writing, include them as an example.
For example, imagine you’re writing about “intermittent fasting”.
One of your target influencers wrote about their journey of losing several pounds via intermittent fasting.
Include their story in your content.
Here’s a real-world example:
Nathan Barry started a 24-hour product challenge back in 2014. He wrote and sold an eBook in just 24 hours.
Some people were inspired by Nathan and started their own 24-hour challenges.
One of them is Amy Hoy from UnicornFree.
She wrote this on her blog:
Then, Nathan tweeted the post:
— Nathan Barry (@nathanbarry) December 1, 2014
(I actually don’t know if Amy sent an outreach to Nathan or if he just found it. But, you get the idea.)
6. Tell your success story after using the influencer’s method
If you’re a blogger, you know how this feels:
You write thousands of words. You give out tips, guides, and strategies for free, thinking people will apply them and get good results.
But, reality is different.
Most readers just ask the same question over and over, even if you’ve written an article about it. You have to repeatedly explain the answer.
At best, they’re just thanking you in their comments.
Be honest, this is what you really want them to say:
Hey, I tried your method and lost 30 pounds over the last three months!
But, no one says it.
So, if you’ve tried an influencer’s method (or at least a method similar to theirs), tell them how it went. Write about it in your article and outreach email.
They’ll be really grateful.
As a result, they’ll read your article and share it.
But, it doesn’t end here…
As you may already know, bloggers and businesses love case studies because it increases their credibility. If you do this strategy, you have a chance to get featured on their website.
For example, Jim Harmer of Improve Photography applied a viral content strategy he learned from Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income.
Here’s the result he gets:
Jim shared this result with Pat.
Then, Pat interviewed Jim and featured him on SPI in one article specifically for his story.
7. Ask for influencers’ input in your content by interviewing them
By now, you already know that one way to increase your outreach success is to include people in your article.
But, what if we take this one step further?
What if they actually contributed to it?
If someone directly works on something, they’ll be more inclined to share it.
Here’s an example:
You’re writing an article about “8 Weight Loss Tips”.
Ask influencers for one or two of their favorite weight-loss tips. Then, include their answers in your article.
You don’t have to create an “expert roundup” with 20–50 expert opinions. You can just ask 1–3 influencers (in addition to your own content).
(Expert roundups get better results but they are more time-consuming.)
But, will experts want to contribute?
Sure. If you tell them they’ll be featured in your content — with their names, photos, and links — most influencers will be glad to contribute.
Just remember, don’t use “quick question” in your subject line.
Let’s see an example from Contentacle:
Jarratt Isted from Contentacle wrote this article about building relationships with influencers:
He asked for a quick quote from some influencers, Hillary Weiss is one of them:
@jarrattisted definitely! Feel free to shoot me an email if the details are over 140 characters. 😉
— Hillary Weiss (@HCWeiss) February 29, 2016
Then, Jarratt included her answer in his article:
Finally, after he published the article, Hillary retweeted it:
8. Don’t create content on an overused topic with only slight improvement
So, you wrote another “Beginner’s Guide to Increase Productivity”? Is it more in-depth than the other 99 articles out there?
So what? Everyone already knows about this topic.
You’ve probably heard about Brian’s Skyscraper Technique. It’s a great method to create a high-quality article and get backlinks.
But, there’s one thing Brian forgot to tell you:
It doesn’t always work if you choose an overused topic.
Think about it…
If there are already more than one A-grade articles in the Google search results, it doesn’t matter if you write an A+ article.
There won’t be much difference.
Let’s say you write a 3,000-word article. In reality, probably only 300 words are “new stuff”. The other 2,700 words are the same old content.
So, it’s not worth it to share them again.
Even if it really is better.
But I’m not saying you can’t create a content on a popular topic. You can, but either you have to make it 10x better, or choose a different angle.
Make it “new”, not the same old article with slight improvement.
If you HAVE to use an overused topic, try the following 3 strategies to make it different and better than your competitors.
9. Make the points in your article unexpected
Here’s a way to create a “fresh” article from an overused topic.
But let’s see a bad example first:
You want to write an article about “Tips to Save Money”.
On the first Google page, there are many similar articles: “23 tips”, “15 ways”, “52 strategies”, etc.
Because the Skyscraper Technique stated more tips = better, you decide to write 100 tips.
But, here are the first five saving money tips in your article:
- Keep a budget
- Cook your own food
- Grow a garden
- Take advantage of coupons
- Start recycling
These are super-obvious.
If you send this article to an influencer, they’ll stop reading it before they even reach tip #5.
They won’t care that you have 100 tips.
They won’t share it because they know people already know these things.
This is why you have to make your article unexpected. Surprise readers with unexpected points.
10. Come up with new techniques, methods, and strategies
Another way to make an overused topic feel original — not just more recycled content — is by actually creating an original method.
Introduce a new, better way to achieve a goal.
This may seem hard. But, if you spend an hour or two thinking about it (and if you have actual experience in the topic), it’s easier than you think.
Your method doesn’t have to be original.
You can create a new method by modifying an old method based on your own experience.
People do things differently. Even if we follow a proven method, we often modify it slightly. Use this to create your own method.
Examine these examples of people who created their own methods:
- Learn the 3×333 Method to Get More Work Done by Jason Zook
- How to Write a Book: The 5-Draft Method by Jeff Goins
- $300k More in Leads Using the Visitor Vocab Technique by Giles Thomas
And of course, The Skyscraper Technique, which we have mentioned above.
They modify a well-known process and give it a new name. The method itself isn’t exactly new and 100% original. But, they do look 100 times more interesting.
11. Present your article in a different style than normal ones
Plain text is boring. No matter how interesting the content is, readers prefer images and videos to text.
This is why infographics can go viral so easily.
But, it’s not easy to create infographics. You have to have top-level design skills (or a few hundred bucks to hire a designer).
…there’s an easier way.
You can present your articles in a more interesting style (with less than $50) with a drag-and-drop page builder.
These are two of the most popular options:
Both are WordPress plugins.
You can use them to build attractive pages without knowing HTML and CSS.
Take Gael Breton, for example:
On his blog, “Authority Hacker”, he created an article on a very competitive topic: “How to Make Money Blogging”.
Look at the content:
He presented it in an interesting way; it has a table of content, numbers, graphs, tables, and animations. And — it’s very readable.
Look at how many shares he got:
And how many backlinks he earned from this post:
But here’s the best part… this content ranks on the first page for its main keyword:
If you ask me, this is totally worth it for 50 bucks.
12. Use data-backed and high-emotional-value headlines
The very first step to outreach success is to get influencers to open your emails. We’ve talked about how to do this.
The next step is to get them to click on your articles.
To achieve this, use data in your headlines.
Alex Turnbull split-tested one of his articles on Groove with two different headlines. One had stats and one did not.
Here’s the result:
The headline that had data got 42.23% more click-throughs than the one that didn’t.
So, make sure to include data in your titles and emails.
Be careful, though. Don’t made up fake data just because you want to have some. Find your own real data or cite someone else’s.
The next, final step is to get the influencers to share it.
According to CoSchedule, you can make your content more shareable by improving its emotional value.
Here’s a tool you can use to find out a headline’s emotional value.
If it’s lower than 70, improve your headline.
13. Create content your readers can implement right away
One of many reasons people share content on social media is because they want their friends and followers to try it.
Influencers do this, too.
They share content because they think their audience will try it and get immediate results.
This is why “life hack” articles often go viral.
Because people love learning something that immediately affects their life.
If you only write a “why” content, it’s hard to go viral because people don’t need these ideas right away.
(Unless it’s really interesting and well-researched like “The Fermi Paradox” by Wait But Why.)
Think about it — Wikipedia has a lot of great content.
But, people rarely share Wikipedia articles on social media because no one needs this knowledge right now.
So, here’s the takeaway:
If you want to increase your chances of outreach success, create content people need to know right now that they can apply immediately.
14. Split your influencer list into two tiers and treat them differently
I’ve talked a lot about what you need to know about outreach and how to optimize your content. Now, we’re going to talk about the actual outreach process.
One way to increase your success rate and be more time-efficient is to split your influencer list into two tiers.
Tier 1 is for influencers with large audiences.
Tier 2 is for influencers with smaller audiences but who are still big enough to target.
You can add one more tier (if you want) for even smaller audience that still worth the effort.
Think of Tier 1 as the best-of-the-best in your industry. In the marketing industry, for example, Tier 1 influencers include Brian Dean, Neil Patel, Rand Fishkin, etc.
Ideally, you want to build relationships with all of your Tier 1 and 2 influencers.
However, you usually can’t.
It would take too much time.
But, I’m not telling you to focus on Tier 1 alone. In fact, you’ll probably end up spending more time on Tier 2.
It depends on where you are right now.
If you’re an unknown, it can be really hard to reach Tier 1 influencers. Most of the time, you’ll get ignored because they’re busy and they don’t know you.
In this case, Tier 2 influencers are your friends.
Just like you, Tier 2 are the people trying to build relationships with people in their industry because they’re still growing their business.
So, build relationships with them as someone with the same level of expertise.
If you’re new, only go to Tier 1 if:
- You have something that benefits them
- You want to do a quick interview
- They accept guest bloggers
- You are confident your content can blow their minds
- You actually have a good opportunity to talk to them
Otherwise, go with Tier 2 influencers until your name is out there.
15. Do these things before sending your first outreach email
Keith Ferrazzi, the author of the bestselling book Never Eat Alone said:
You should build relationships before you need help, not when you need it.
It’s because it’s easy to tell whether someone is just “brown nosing” you or if they sincerely want to become friends.
To increase the success rate of your outreaches, build relationships with influencers days (or even weeks) before you send them your outreach emails.
Okay, but how?
Some people say you just need to follow their social media accounts and share some of their content.
But, this alone is not enough.
Influencers already are getting hundreds of shares per day from their readers. One more from you won’t change anything.
Here’s a better way to share their articles:
Let’s say you’re about to tweet one of their articles.
Instead of using just the article title as the tweet, write a short comment about the article and give them a mention.
Here’s an example from Kevin Duncan of BeABetterBlogger:
— Kevin J. Duncan (@kevinjduncan) March 10, 2016
The second way is to actually have a genuine conversation with them.
The following is an example of how Tor Refsland from TimeManagementChef built a relationship with Evan Carmichael by participating on his Twitter Chat:
Speaking of Tor, you should sign up for his free blogger outreach course, it’s a goldmine.
The third way is to comment on their article.
However, don’t just say “thank you” for the article. No matter how long or sincere you comment is, don’t just say thanks.
There are two reasons:
First, they’ve received gratitude from hundreds of their readers. You don’t want to be just another of these, they won’t notice you.
Second, you want them to see you as an equal.
Nothing screams “I’m a newbie” louder than a “thank you”. This is not how you want to be perceived.
You want them to see you as someone who knows about the topic and practices it on daily basis. So if you write an article and send it to them, they know it’s worth their time.
Try one of these, instead:
- Tell them you agree with their opinion (if it’s an opinion-based article) and add your own supporting opinion.
- Tell them their method is effective. Tell your success story about using their method (or another, similar method).
- Tell them humbly if there’s something wrong in their statement (not just spelling mistakes) and tell them how to fix it. For example, if they’re using old statistics, offer them newer ones.
Here’s a great example by Michael Pozdnev:
Michael agrees with Brian’s article while demonstrating he has knowledge of this area by showing his work.
By doing this, he gained Brian’s recognition of his expertise.
Blog comments outreach isn’t just about adding more value to a website. It’s about showing your experience and knowledge.
Anyway, while we’re talking about Michael, you have to read his excellent article about blog comment outreach:
16. Outreach to people who have shared a complementary content
Before we begin, I need to tell you something:
You should have an influencer list before you create your content. By doing this, you can optimize your content to an influencer (as we’ve discussed previously).
To get the most out of your content, create another outreach list after you publish the content.
In this strategy, we’re going to talk about the second outreach.
Alright, let’s begin now.
Logically, if someone has recently shared an article about “How to Create a Resume”, will they share another article with the same title?
So, if you create a “How to Create a Resume” article, don’t look for people who’ve shared articles on that exact topic.
Instead, find a complementary topic.
For example, if someone shared a “How to Create a Resume” article, they’ll probably be interested in “Tips to Improve Your Resume”.
Makes sense, right?
Now, we reverse this thought process.
Let’s say you have an article about “How to Gain Muscle Faster”.
Think about topics that are one level below yours or which are complementary with your article.
For example, try “Muscle Building Workout Program” or “Muscle Building Training Routine”.
Find articles on these topics on Google or BuzzSumo:
Click the “View Sharers” button to see people who shared the articles.
Now, you have a new outreach list.
Finally, send them your outreach email.
Here’s an example of an outreach email for this purpose. Don’t use it as a template, it’s not real — this is just to give you the basic idea:
I noticed you tweeted about muscle building training programs from [WEBSITE] last week. I think that is an amazing guide to get started. Have you applied it? How’s your training progressing?
Anyway, I just published an article about how you can build muscle much faster. It has 24 tips that I think can be helpful in your workout sessions. Here’s the link, if you want to read it:
Let me know what you think!
Again, because I don’t know what your content is about, you shouldn’t use the above example “as is”. It’s not optimized and personalized to you.
17. Outreach to bloggers who publish link curation content
Imagine a blogger published a listicle of the best paleo recipes. He included links to articles from other blogs for each of these recipes.
In these cases, it’s usually very easy to get a link by asking him to add yours, too.
Here’s an example from one of my articles:
So I sent him an email asking for a link.
Few days later, he added my article:
To find bloggers with curation-style articles, do a Google search for these phrases:
- Best [topic]
- Free [topic]
- [topic] articles
- [topic] from the experts
Your [topic] must be in its plural form (for example “workout programs” or “paleo recipes”).
Here’s a made-up example of the outreach email:
I stumbled upon your list of [TOPIC] articles a few months ago. Great collection! It actually inspired me to write one, too.
By the way, if you’re still updating the list, I think my article will be a great fit. Here’s the link:
If you want to add it to your article, I can write the explainer paragraph so you don’t have to. Just let me know.
You can use the 2-step outreach for this outreach. So, instead of sending the link, you’d say something like “mind if I send you the link?”
18. Outreach to people who link to complementary content
Curation articles don’t exist for all topics. If you can’t find one on the topic you’re writing about, use this strategy.
Just like #16 above, you shouldn’t find articles with the exact same topic.
People won’t edit their article to add your link just because your content is better than what they’ve currently linked to (unless it’s a broken link).
So, you have to find complementary content.
We’ve discussed how to find it. Re-read #16 if you missed it.
Now, we’re going to find people who linked to the complementary content.
First, open Ahrefs (or Moz Open Site Explorer if you don’t have Ahrefs). Paste in the URL of the complementary content.
Next, find the “New” inbound links to see the most recent backlinks:
New links are better than older ones because people are more willing to edit recently published posts.
This is your new outreach target. Find their contact information.
Here’s the outreach email example:
I stumbled upon your blog around [TIME] ago and have been reading some of your articles. They’re amazing!
The reason I’m sending this email because I just published an article about [TOPIC] on my blog and I could use feedback from someone like you.
Here’s the link:
Let me know what you think about it.
That’s just the first part.
If they reply to your email with positive feedback, send them another email:
Thanks [NAME]! I’m glad you liked the article. It took a lot of work and it’s nice to see positive feedback.
By the way, I just read this article on your blog [URL]. Would you add a link to my article in this post? I think your readers can get something useful from it.
I’d be more than happy to write a paragraph about it so you don’t have to. Just let me know.
If they give you neutral or negative feedback, you can still ask them to add your article. However, your success rate will be lower.
So where do I start?
I used some of these strategies on my other blog to get a 45.8% response rate for my outreach emails and a 24.8% success rate (either links or shares).
If you want to get the same (or better) results, here’s how you can get started:
Step #1: Create an influencer list (if you don’t have one yet) and split it into two tiers.
Step #2: Build relationships with them right away — before you need them to share your content.
Step #3: Create your content and optimize it for specific influencers.
Step #4: Reach out to the people on your list.
Step #5: Find people who have shared and linked to complementary contents.
Step #6: Find people with curation-style articles related to your topic.
Step #7: Do your 2nd outreach.