Outreach is one of the most crucial aspects of digital marketing, which makes it all the more chilling when you see just how many marketers manage to stuff it up. Good outreach sparks interest, and great outreach completely hooks the recipient, but outreach that’s poor — or even just mediocre — has the potential to irritate, annoy, and repel your readers… Not ideal.
Well, just in time for Halloween, we’re brewing up a cauldron of tricks and treats to transform your cold outreach emails from decrepit bog witches into alluring sirens, irresistible to anyone who reads them. And if you think that metaphor is a stretch, be afraid. Be very afraid… You haven’t seen anything yet.
DO personalise your emails
It’s a dark and stormy night. You’re home alone. The wind howls as torrents of rain lash against the window. The power has been out for well over an hour now, and as you creep your way to the kitchen to grab some snacks, the path ahead is barely visible, illuminated by the solitary flame of a single tealight.
Shadows tremble across the scene as you reach for your chosen snack, but before you can grasp it, the inky silence is sucked from the room. Stopping in your tracks, the hairs on the back of your neck begin to prickle, fizzing with a dark, foreboding nervousness.
RING RING, RING RING, RING RING
Your whole body jolts, and a chill trickles down your spine.
RING RING, RING RING, RING RING
Composing yourself, you grasp the wired home telephone — the smartphone craze passed you by — and on the other end of the line, an overly familiar voice purrs:
“Hello insert name here… I see you’ve been ignoring my emails. Insert publication name here could really benefit from covering the story I sent you… Let me share wi—–”
Fear suddenly replaced by annoyance and irritation, you put the phone down, breathe a sigh of relief, and make a mental note to filter your inbox.
The moral of the story: Nothing says “I don’t care” quite like an email with the wrong (or no) name or title, so always personalise your emails. Do whatever you can to show that you’ve done your research, and avoid generic phrases like “I think this story would be a great fit” or “we think you’d benefit from our service”.
Furthermore, don’t refer to your content as ‘unique and original” — this should be a given, and by making this statement, all you’re doing is reminding the site owner that there are people out there who just copy and paste content to create Frankenstein-esque articles. Of course, you’re trying to separate yourself from those people, but in reality, you’re actually creating a link in the recipient’s mind between the practice and yourself.
DO provide targeted, relevant content
A group of children approaches a storm drain, and as they pass, they hear an eerie voice whispering from the drain
“Hey there, kids. Come closer, I have something fun to show you.”
The children exchange nervous glances, while Billy — the bravest of the group — leans down to peer into the drain.
Pennywise, inside the drain, begins to shapeshift into various forms, trying to entice them.
“I’m Pennywise, the dancing clown! We have balloons, games, and all your favorite treats down here.”
Billy raises an eyebrow, his expression a mix of skepticism and pity:
“I’m not sure if you’re aware, but clowns are generally considered quite creepy. In fact, I can’t think of a single child who actually likes clowns — especially not clowns that live in sewers. What are you, a pervert?”
Pennywise shifts again, this time into a giant ice cream cone with a face.
“How about some delicious ice cream? It’s your favorite flavour, all for free!”
The other kids start backing away, but Billy holds his ground, adopting a mocking tone:
“Ooooh! Ice cream! Sure, let me just climb into this storm drain. We’re vegan, you sick freak.”
Pennywise panics, shifting rapidly between forms — a Cabbage Patch Kid, an Atari 2600, a yoyo.
Wait! I can be whatever you want! Just come a little closer! Don’t leave me!
The moral of the story: Don’t bother pitching to a site unless you’re offering something of genuine value and relevance. Bloggers with high-quality, high-DR domains and large audiences know exactly what their site is worth. Unless you’re offering content that’s relevant to their niche — and just as crucially — offers a new perspective, your pitch is likely to be ignored. Don’t waste your (or their) time. Check out their post archive; if every article discusses video codecs, for example, do not pitch a blog about gardening tips.
DON’T be vague
Sarah sits alone in her dimly lit living room, clutching her phone, her heart pounding with anxiety. She debates whether to answer the mysterious call that has just come through.
Summoning her courage, she whispers, “Hello?” into the phone.
A distorted, eerie voice on the other end responds, “Sarah… You’ve watched it. You’ve seen… the tape.”
Fear tightens its grip on Sarah’s nerves, and she demands, “Who is this? What do you want?”
The voice, wrapped in cryptic riddles, persists, “You must understand, Sarah. Time is a twisted river, a winding path shrouded in shadows. It bends and turns, elusive and unpredictable.”
Sarah’s frustration grows. “Just tell me, please! When will it happen?”
The enigmatic voice replies, “The future is a tapestry woven with uncertainty, my dear. Like the riddles of the stars, your fate dances beyond the grasp of mere mortals.”
Desperation compels Sarah to plead, “Please, I need to know when I will die!”
There is a chilling pause, and the room seems to hold its breath.
“Sarah,” the voice whispers, “you will die… In the future.”
The moral of the story: Clarity is paramount, and the importance of stating your intentions clearly cannot be understated. Get your point across, and leave the ball in their court. Time is money, so don’t waste a second of theirs. To illustrate our point, here’s an example of a good outreach email:
I hope you’re having a great day!
My name’s Alex, and I’m reaching out as part of Seeker’s content marketing outreach team. I’m a huge fan of the blog — especially your post on [insert post details here, along with why you liked it].
I’d like to collaborate with you on a comprehensive blog series about content marketing trends in 2023 — including some exclusive insights gleaned from my own extensive research into Google Bard.
I think this would be a huge hit with your audience, so if you’re interested, just let me know and I’ll send over the pitch in full.
Being transparent will save both you and your recipient heaps of time. All you’ve got to do is state why the site would benefit from publishing your content, and what that content is. Be specific, and avoid fluff! For a more detailed breakdown on this topic, check out our guide to writing the perfect outreach email.
DON’T blindly trust software
Dave Bowman, an intergalactic digital marketer (suspend your disbelief, please) aboard the spaceship Seeker One, sits in front of HAL, a sophisticated artificial intelligence. Dave’s task is to oversee the ship’s various systems, including HAL.
Gazing at the flickering monitor, Dave addresses the AI:
“HAL, I need you to draft an email for me. We’re behind schedule on communications.”
HAL’s singular red eye flickers, indicating that he is processing the request.
“Good”, Dave continues “Tell them that they needn’t worry about the recent AI upgrades, and that I have no plans to replace them with those new-fangled HAL-GPT units. That will be all”
Within moments, HAL sputters out a spiral of paper printed end-to-end with text.
“Here you go, Dave. Would you like to review the email before I send it?”
“That won’t be necessary HAL” Dave mutters, frustratedly, “send it already.”
Barely paying attention to his high-tech assistant, Dave reclines in his chair and watches as HAL swiftly sends the email to the entire crew. But mere minutes after the email has been sent, the ambient hum of the ship’s myriad instruments is accompanied by muffled laughter from the crew’s quarters. Dave opens the sent email and finds that it contains only one phrase, repeated endlessly:
“Dave stinks. Dave stinks. Dave stinks. Dave stinks. Dave stinks…”
“Alright, HAL, very funny,” Dave says with a reluctant grin. “Let’s just send a proper email this time.”
HAL complies, and Dave assists the AI as they collaboratively draft an email to the crew, this time without any hidden surprises. As the email is sent, HAL’s red eye dims slightly, and a soft electronic chuckle escapes from the AI.
“That’s much better. Let’s keep it professional from now on. Now, please could you open the pod bay doors?”
The moral of the story: Take extra care when using automation. We get it — manually contacting every blogger can get tedious. It’s a time-consuming, labour-intensive process. Automation can work wonders in these situations, but only if you’re extremely careful. A typo in one email is bad enough, but make a slight misconfiguration in your automation pipeline and you could end up ruining hundreds of opportunities with a single click. It takes less than a minute to give an email the ‘once over’, so don’t skip this step!
What else can horror movies teach us about outreach?
Building links isn’t easy (just look at how tenuous the ones below are), but you’d be surprised how much the realm of goblins, ghouls, and ghosts can teach us about blogger outreach…
The Shining — create content that shines a spotlight on your expertise
Write what you know — or if you’re less familiar with a topic, do a ton of research in preparation. Nobody wants to read regurgitated articles spat out by ChatGPT, and the internet is already jam-packed with cut-and-paste content, so don’t add to it! Higher-value publications also come with higher expectations, but we’d argue that it’s a case of integrity, too. As a rule of thumb, write the kind of content you’d want to read.
It Follows – if at first you don’t succeed, follow up
Don’t be discouraged if your first email doesn’t elicit an immediate response. Follow up with a polite and personalized message, emphasising the value your content can bring to the recipient’s audience. Sometimes, it takes multiple attempts to establish a connection and secure that coveted link. This said, it’s important not to be needy. Sending multiple follow-up messages isn’t just irritating, it can also land you in hot water from a legal perspective, so play it cool!
Saw — get creative with your pitch
Try to avoid the cookie-cutter approach. Your email should be polite and professional, sure, but it should never be boring. An outreach email devoid of creativity gives a strong signal that the article you’re pitching is likely to turn out the same way. Use humour (appropriate humour, that is), use emojis (sparingly), and don’t be afraid to drop in a few statistics relevant to whatever it is you’re trying to pitch. The more creative, the better – it’s one of the reasons why our outreach and digital PR teams collaborate so frequently!
28 Days Later – use a catchy subject line
As a pitcher, you’re tasked with crafting subject lines that spark curiosity, and intrigue, or clearly convey the benefits of featuring your content on their site. A well-crafted subject line is your metaphorical foot in the door and can significantly improve your email’s open rates. To illustrate our point, here’s a bad terrible subject line:
It’s vague and lacks any compelling or intriguing element. It doesn’t give the recipient a reason to open the email or convey the value of the message. It’s kind of rude. Yuck. Instead, how about:
“[name], I think I’ve got something perfect for your site”
“Can I run a few article ideas past you?”
Both of these subject lines spark curiosity and aren’t overly sales-y. They’re casual, friendly, and most crucially, they’re way more likely to be opened.
Psycho – don’t be overly aggressive
This one’s pretty simple — be chill. Always respect the boundaries (and time constraints) of your recipient. Never bombard them with aggressive or pushy messages. Keep in mind that bloggers — especially those at the helm of sites with high DR scores — are well aware of the value their sites hold. Their inboxes are likely chock-full of pitches and being pushy is just a fast-track to the rejection pile.
Ex Machina – don’t pitch like a robot
Personalisation is crucial. Show genuine interest in the recipient’s work and website by customizing your messages and mentioning specific details that caught your attention — this will take you ten minutes at most, but it’ll boost the appeal of your pitch tenfold. Pick out a post (ideally one with a similar topic or theme to the article you’re pitching), give it a read, and note down what you liked. And while we’re on the topic of robots, let’s wrap things up with a point about ChatGPT: AI tools are brilliant for crafting outreach emails, but they still require a high degree of personalisation before they’re ready to send. We’re not discouraging AI use, we’re discouraging sloppy AI use.
Guest blogging is still one of the most popular (and powerful) link-building tactics in any SEO’s arsenal. But pitching — or indeed writing — doesn’t come naturally to everyone. If you’re struggling to grab the attention of your chosen publications or you’re experiencing a stall in growth, it could be worth getting a new pair of eyes on the situation. Don’t let search engine sorrow get you down this spooky season — trust Seeker, the Bristol SEO agency well-versed in the dark arts of digital marketing. Get in touch today.