What is an Outreach Value Proposition? How To Build Links By Adding Value

04 December 2023

Posted in: Digital Marketing Outreach SEO

Despite claims of the dwindling potency of links as a ranking factor, most SEO professionals know they remain high-value digital currency — with the power to build authority and help you scale the SERPs.

And when it comes to link building, outreach remains fundamental to the whole process. Your approach to outreaching to prospects can be the difference between ample high-quality links and a barren backlink profile. 

As specialist link builders and outreachers, we literally spend days having conversations about content with people all over the world. The one thing that stands out from these interactions? The importance of a real value exchange.

Let’s face it: your outreach strategy is never going to work if you haven’t figured out your outreach value proposition. You’ll send a few emails, receive a smattering of noncommittal replies, probably rile a few recipients, and generally go back struggling to build links.

In fact, you shouldn’t really be doing outreach at all without a good value proposition. Here’s why it matters, what a good one looks like, and how to find yours.

What is an outreach value proposition?

It’s pretty straightforward, really. When conducting outreach as part of a link building campaign, your value proposition is simply the value you offer other sites, webmasters, and bloggers in exchange for a link. After all, you’re far more likely to secure a backlink and/or some precious brand coverage if there’s something in it for the other party.

Think of it as a sort of mutual back-scratching arrangement where there are advantages on both sides. The site you’re pitching to may benefit from exclusive, first-rate content or some illuminating data from a campaign you’ve produced, for example, while in exchange you secure yourself a valuable backlink from a reputable industry source. Win-win.

When it comes to defining your own outreach value proposition, the thing is there’s no one-size-fits-all way of doing it. While a brand’s overall value proposition — a summary of the unique benefits it offers potential customers — is generally fixed, your outreach value proposition is largely dependent on who you’re speaking to and what their primary needs are.

For example:

  • Pitching to journalists? They’ll likely want credible sources and compelling data.
  • Pitching to a digital publication? Editors want hard-hitting content that packs a punch — preferably something with a hook.
  • Pitching to industry-related websites? Some will want tutorials, while others might be looking for graphics they can embed and share.
  • Pitching to professional bloggers or influencers? They’ll want to partner with brands they believe in and feel inspired by.

The main lesson to take away here is: it’s not about you, but what’s in it for them. The whole point of a value proposition is that you’re adding VALUE in some way — and of course, that’s a two-way street.

Your value proposition is not just the enticing “offer” you include in your pitch email, or a “we do X” statement; it’s everything you do: from who you contact, to how you contact them. Ultimately, it’s about ensuring your value proposition is aligned with the people you’re speaking to. 

Creating a value proposition for your outreach strategy

When pitching to a site during your link building outreach process, there’s a number of ways you can offer genuine value to the recipient of your pitch and improve your chances of securing a good quality backlink in exchange. 

Often, of course, you’ll simply be offering some great content (which might be your value proposition in itself), but it pays to think outside the box and occasionally offer something a little different — such as some exclusive industry-specific data or even some training or consultancy.

What might your value proposition look like? Here are some examples:

  • Content (and we mean truly awesome content, not just a generic blog post)
  • Studies (statistics have a perennial appeal thanks to stats hunters. Credit to Stacey McNaught for sharing this tip!)
  • Money (yes, advertorial outreach)
  • Influence
  • Kudos
  • Exclusivity
  • Images or infographics
  • Exposure
  • Community recognition
  • Awards
  • Exclusive data
  • Free trials
  • Social proof
  • Training or consultancy
  • Links (sourcing expert quotes and suggestions in exchange for a credit works really well)
  • Co-marketing opportunities
  • Many more examples besides!

As you can see, there are LOADS of unique ways to sweeten the outreach deal, from paid advertorials to free products and services. 

Our advice? Be picky with the publications you’re outreaching to, offer something you think would be of unique value to them, and don’t be afraid to get creative with your offering. Of course, you could even combine more than one of the above (“here’s some great content for your blog, and in exchange for publishing it we’d love to give you a free trial of our product.”)

Speaking of great content, let’s delve deeper into this as an outreach value proposition.

Crafting awesome content for outreach / linkable assets

More often than not, the most valuable asset you can offer a prospect as part of an outreach pitch is genuinely awesome content. Of course, your content needs to be relevant to your prospect’s site or publication, but it also needs to be compelling in such a way that convinces them they simply need to post or share it.

Guest blogging remains one of the most tried-and-tested link building strategies, but site owners who are open to publishing guest content are likely inundated with hundreds of requests a week — and mostly, it’ll be generic or low-quality blog content they’re being asked to publish (“X Benefits of Digital Marketing”, “X Ways To Boost Organic Traffic”, that sort of thing).

While this type of content might align with the topics they already cover and be a suitable fit for the audience they attract, it’s unlikely to add any new value to their site. Generic, seen-it-all-before content may be fine if you’re paying for it to be published (since the site owner will likely be less discerning over its quality), but it’s rarely conducive to a compelling value proposition.

The lesson here? Your content needs to stand out to be considered valuable. It requires an intriguing hook, an interesting story, or some impressive data behind it. In short, your outreach prospect needs a reason to care about it.

But awesome content may not always be what you think it is — at least, not in the context of outreach. Often, it’s not the projects your copywriter loves working on the most (the fancy, creative stuff) that catch attention and generate links, but genuinely useful content that’s backed by data or driven by the need to solve a problem. 

The content that performs well online and generates the most links and shares can sometimes be surprising. For example, the types of content that often do well include:

  • Data-driven pieces
  • Infographics (which show complex information in a simple visual format)
  • Maps (which are highly shareable and cheap to implement)
  • Calculators (such as salary calculators)
  • Glossaries (which define complex terms in simple language)
  • Interactive content (such as quizzes, polls, or interactive ebooks)
  • Mega-long and in-depth roundups (not the ‘fluffy’, thin kind)
  • ‘Hot’ takes on widely-covered subjects

For example, this seemingly unrevolutionary 1995 study from The University Of Florida started gaining significant traction many years later due to the popularity of “lavender lemonade for anxiety recipes”. Blogs which referenced the study began picking up a staggering amount of shares, with some generating plenty of links, too.

This represents a great example of how a simple study being brought back into public consciousness can spark a swell of interest in a specific idea or piece of content. There were literally dozens of these lavender lemonade posts doing the rounds more than two decades after the original study was done, as well as recipe videos, pins, and so on.

Tapping into the online zeitgeist with something like this doesn’t have to take a lot of time, money, or effort. You just have to know how to listen and react to online conversations, and then bring a concept to the forefront that serves a captive audience.

But wait. What are linkable assets?

A linkable asset is a piece of high-quality content which is created with the aim of generating backlinks, either organically or through targeted outreach. In short, they’re content assets which attract links primarily because other sites or publications think they’re worth linking to — in other words, they often constitute a compelling value proposition. 

Linkable assets can come in many forms — several of which we’ve already touched upon, like infographics or data studies — but they’re like gold dust for digital marketers because they have the potential to generate ample links and social shares. 

By outreaching a linkable asset, you’re offering something of tangible value to a link building prospect and significantly increasing your chances of securing a backlink. It’s also a great way of building a mutually-beneficial relationship, since they’re likely to be interested in more content from you in future if you’re sharing something genuinely relevant and compelling.

Search Engine Land’s ingenious SEO Periodic Table is a great example of a highly-effective linkable asset. It’s a simple concept — a spin on the periodic table of elements that combines SEO success factors and potential pitfalls — that’s ultra-linkable, becoming a globally recognised industry tool and generating over 18,500 backlinks to date.  

Hold up. Is my brand even outreach-friendly?

Before you get all defensive, outreach isn’t necessarily suited to all brands and websites. In truth, maintaining an effective outreach strategy is hard enough as it is, but outreach agencies may even turn away work when they feel that the brand, domain, content, landing page, concept, or value proposition are not a good fit for this approach.

Remember, the cornerstone of effective link building is the exchange of value. If you’re asking another site to link to yours, you need to provide something in return. Without high-quality content, insightful data, unique resources, or something else that adds value to their site and audience, your outreach attempts may come across as one-sided — and ultimately be unsuccessful.

To determine if outreach is a suitable link building tactic for your business, evaluate whether you fit any of the criteria below:

  • You’re among the best or biggest in your niche
  • You’re a smaller brand, but you have a killer USP no one else has
  • You have a great story or your brand has an embedded PR hook
  • Your team is made up of industry influencers
  • You have curated a noteworthy community
  • Your content is best-in-class
  • You’re a rapidly-growing brand that’s quickly gaining recognition
  • You’re in an outreach-friendly niche, such as marketing or SaaS

Be honest with yourself about whether you hit any of these criteria, because it will be essential to figuring out the outreach angle for your campaign. Without specific angles or hooks, outreach campaigns tend to fall flat on their face. And if you’re just trying to build backlinks to a sales page that adds no value and you have nothing to offer in exchange, forget it.

How to find your outreach value proposition

A good value proposition for outreach doesn’t have to be complex or over-engineered — in other words, you don’t need to spend top dollar and get an expensive branding agency involved. There’s really nothing holding you back from doing outreach DIY-style.

Free data, simple graphics, a well-written guest post — none of these things are rocket science, but all of them can add value and therefore work well for outreach. It’s not about big, in-your-face campaigns, but genuinely useful and compelling assets that pique interest and convince a prospect you have something to offer.

In addition to the linkable assets you can offer as part of your value proposition, think about how else you might be able to make your proposal more attractive — whether it’s a link exchange or a co-marketing opportunity. Your outreach value proposition represents the entire package. 

That said, one of the main things to consider when signing off your value proposition is alignment: does this concept align with my brand? Have I got the credibility and kudos to pull this off? Can I communicate it in a way that reflects my brand’s identity?

Again, it comes down to execution. A great concept can be ruined at the point of delivery.

Occasionally you’ll get away with this and the power of the value proposition will override any scruples about your brand, but you can’t bank on this. A poorly-executed outreach campaign will result in missed opportunities to build links and valuable relationships.

Campaign-specific value propositions

Outreach is a constant, but you should be mixing things up and running a variety of campaigns at once. Each of these outreach campaigns is likely to have its own value proposition. Mix it up and see what brings you the best results. You might want to mix in some influencer outreach into your latest PR campaign. The key is not to be static.

On an even more granular level, each conversation you have might throw up its own micro value propositions, too. Be constantly on the move and remain agile throughout the outreach process as conversations and campaigns develop. Here, the need for agility and reactivity will be highlighted, as too rigid a process will result in poor campaign results.

How to write outreach emails that communicate your value proposition

Now, we’re not going to tell you how to craft the perfect value-communicating email — the whole point of finding your own outreach value proposition is to find something unique to your brand. Anyone doing outreach with a “CTRL + C, CTRL + V” mentality should think very carefully about what they’re doing.

However, there are certainly some general dos and don’ts when it comes to communicating your value proposition via your email outreach. To make your outreach emails more enticing, it’s about getting the recipient to ‘be with you’ by referencing their reality in some way — can you bring up a previous collaboration, for example, or a piece of content that really resonated?

One thing to avoid is fake personalisation. If your attempts to personalise the conversation aren’t authentic, your prospect will likely see right through them, which will ultimately decrease your response rates. You’re better avoiding personalisation altogether than trying to manufacture it. In short? Be real, or don’t bother.

Seeker’s top email outreach tips:

  • Start with “you”, but don’t be fake. Focus on what’s in it for them
  • Have a reason — why now? Think seasonal, timely, relevant
  • Don’t get hung up on personalisation, particularly if it’s inauthentic
  • Be up-front — sell it in quick and don’t waffle
  • Include data — but only if it’s important and relevant 
  • Include a subject line or opening blurb that outlines the value you’re offering
  • Follow up, but don’t be pushy or aggressive

Remember, too, that emails are not the only way to go. Think about how you can use other formats and methods of getting people interested in your content, such as social media polls and competitions. Don’t be afraid to turn outreach on its head and become an inbound resource for content, commentary, and ideas. Approach things like a publisher, not just a marketer.

Now, over to you. Go find that awesome outreach value proposition and rock it.

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