Outreach is the future of SEO. As Google’s algorithm changes and the SEO goalposts move, it’s vital that brands embrace outreach to get themselves found online.
But SEO outreach is a hazy concept, and as a strategy, it’s still in its relative infancy. To shed some light on exactly what outreach is and how it works, let’s break it down for you.
What is outreach for SEO?
Link building is the ultimate goal of SEO outreach. How do you achieve this? By creating backlinks to your website that increase organic visibility on search engines like Google. As outreach efforts generate new links, your site attracts broad audiences, high-quality traffic, and more online revenue for the business.
To get a better grip on the idea, we asked our team what outreach means to them:
“In its most simple form, outreach is about building relationships through communication to get a link through value exchange. I often refer to outreach as ‘permission’ link-building.
In the old days of SEO, you could just submit a link to a directory. But this form of submission link-building doesn’t necessarily add value.
With permission link-building, you have to win someone over and persuade them to provide a link.
Every link needs a story behind it because, for me, the link is the reward but not the objective. The link is a validation of something else that’s going on: an event, a collaboration, a personal recommendation, and so on.
Google states that links intended to manipulate a site’s ranking violate its guidelines. But outreach creates links that do more than just improve rankings. It’s content marketing, creating value that benefits everyone.”
Gareth Simpson, Managing Director / Head of SEO
It’s not just about reaching out to every Tom, Dick and Harry, though. It’s about reaching out to the right people at the right time, and achieving what you need in-line with business KPIs.
Outreach is the perfect blend of the creative and the strategic, and it takes a specialist team to do it well.”
Laura Slingo, Senior Campaign Manager
“Outreach is an advanced form of link building that uses surgical link building tactics to enhance organic visibility on search engines. Outreach is really a collection of small step-by-step tasks that make up a full outreach campaign. These include: prospecting, pitching, writing, negotiation, and link-building strategy.”
Lewis Chaffey, SEO Specialist
“Outreach is, at its core, communication. It’s the very literal process of reaching out to someone and telling them something great and, ultimately, prompting them to do something with that information: share it, write about it, or link to it.
“Outreach is pinpointing a fact or piece of data and creating an interesting story out of it. Successful outreach happens when you create something creative, unique and newsworthy and get it out to the right people. Sounds simple – but you’ve got to get it right!”
Daisy Sawyer, Campaign Executive
“Outreach: value exchange, being open, community building, creativity.”
Kayleigh Töyrä, Former Creative Director
Pretty varied definitions, right? Which just goes to show how outreach can mean different things to different people. But at its heart, it’s about connecting with contacts, nurturing relationships, and building links.
Why is outreach so important?
The state of SEO has changed dramatically in recent years.
As Google’s algorithm improves, it becomes better at detecting link-building practices that violate the search engine’s guidelines. Private blog networks, link exchanges, advertorials — link-building practices such as these can be found and penalised as a result.
But backlinks remain the most important ranking factor for Google’s algorithm. Without a network of strong backlinks, a website’s rankings will suffer.
As a result, brands will lose traffic and, ultimately, sales.
To combat Google’s improved algorithm, more and more SEO agencies have expanded their strategy into outreach. A side effect being: supply of content outstrips demand.
Publishers receive hundreds of emails a day from agencies requesting they publish and promote their content. As a result, outreach becomes less automatic and more nuanced, requiring strong negotiation and interpersonal skills.
What does outreach involve?
In the simplest terms, outreach is about building links.
As an SEO strategy, outreach is used to build valuable backlinks from external publishers to a single client website.
A backlink network enhances a website’s rankings on search engine results pages (SERPs), driving qualified organic, referral traffic, and increased revenue.
But outreach is also about improving a business’s credibility and strengthening brand awareness. Getting your business seen on authoritative, respected websites imbues it with credibility, and boosts its branding.
An outreach strategy is a protracted process. But, as the old saying goes, if something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.
3 link building best practices
SEO outreach is a link building tactic that aims to improve organic rankings.
Link building covers a broad range of methods used to earn backlinks to websites and web pages. We’ll take you through three of the best link building practices to apply before you begin your SEO outreach.
Aim to earn followed links
There are two types of links you can earn – follow and no follow.
And they tell search engines to do with their link equity. A followed link tells search engines to pass on the equity, nofollowed tells them not to pass it on.
This means you should aim to earn followed links, so that the pages in question can earn maximum value in the eyes of search engines.
Use descriptive & relevant anchor text
Anchor text is the copy users click on to open your links, acting as a call to action (CTA).
But they’re also a way of telling search engines what the page is about.
To get the most from your anchor text, it should be relevant to the page it links to. So, if your page is about SEO outreach? Use anchors that relate to this.
Target authoritative, relevant & trusted websites
Not all websites and web pages are equal. Search engines use a huge range of factors to determine SERPs, but the three pillars of ranking are trust, authority, and relevance.
- Trust: content is one of the most important ways search engines evaluate trust.
- Authority: backlinks are vital to determining the authority of web pages and sites.
- Relevance: popularity and quality of links are two of the key factors in relevance.
The outreach process
The best SEO outreach campaigns are precisely targeted, personally relevant, and designed to be repeatable.
There are five stages you must follow to ensure your campaigns meet these requirements:
- Prospecting: finding a relevant and authoritative website to publish your content.
- Pitching: reaching out to the site(s) you’ve found in your client’s niche.
- Writing: creating E.A.T. informed copy with expert link placement and anchor text.
- Negotiation: building relationships to get your content published with the link(s) intact.
- Analysis: assessing how your link has performed against your SEO outreach campaign KPIs
Let’s look at the outreach process from start to finish.
First, we need to identify publisher websites to post our content on. This process is known as prospecting.
There are myriad ways to do this, but the most popular is through the use of dedicated prospecting tools. Seeker uses Pitchbox, but there are lots of other useful tools you can use.
Prospecting involves identifying websites that are 1) reliable, and 2) relevant. Not every website is worth your time.
Collating a prospect list requires the following information:
- Publisher name
- Contact name
- Email address
- Job title
- Social media profiles
But what makes a good prospect? It’s all about the metrics. Here are a few things to look out for:
- Relevance: a good prospect is one that is relevant to your client and the page you’re linking to.
- Popularity: your prospect should have high traffic, high social shares, and a number of good backlinks
- Trustworthiness: does Google trust your prospect? Look for a site with an aged domain, strong UX, and a fresh content strategy and you’ll get a trusty prospect.
- Link practice: is your prospect a link farm? Look out for excessive or irrelevant outbound links, as this indicates a poor prospect.
- Domain Authority (DA): DA is a search engine ranking score that indicates whether a domain has authority, based on a range of factors.
- Page Authority (PA): similar to DA but for specific pages, rather than an entire domain.
- Citation flow: this is the number of backlinks leading to a domain. The more you have, the better Google will rank the prospect.
- Trust flow: this relates to the quality of the prospect’s backlinks. Better quality links (as determined by Google) mean a better quality prospect.
- Citation flow/trust flow: this is the ratio of general links to quality links. If a prospect has lots of links but only a few quality links, it might be ranked lower by Google.
These are just a few factors that make for a good prospect. While it might seem like a mammoth task, the outreach tools mentioned above make it easy to find the prospect for you.
Now you’ve identified the website(s) you want to outreach to, it’s time to pitch. This is where your interpersonal skills come into play. It’s important to remember that you are outreaching to people, not businesses.
A strong outreach email has the following features:
- A strong subject line: getting your prospect to open your email is crucial, and your subject line is what gets this done.
- Personalisation: a personalised email is key to the outreach process. Generic automated emails lack a human feel, and will put prospects off your pitch.
- Brevity: publishers receive hundreds of emails a day, and are often time-poor. Keep it short and to the point.
Prospects get dozens, hundreds, and even thousands of outreach requests a day. Consequently, you need to create a tailored approach when you’re conducting your outreach. Beyond considering what you need, consider what your prospect needs too.
Here are a few tactics you can employ in your outreach:
- Update an old post: find an outdated but well-performing post (e.g. an essential guide from 2017) and contact the publisher with the offer of an updated piece.
- Fill a content gap: find a gap in a prospect’s content strategy and offer to fill it with your own content. Alternatively, find a topic that the prospect hasn’t covered in depth and offer the same.
- Offer an opposing viewpoint: good content sparks debate. Pitch the idea of an opinion piece that goes against the publisher’s viewpoint.
- Use current news and events in your pitch: identify a key recent event in your prospect/client’s industry and use it as a pitch for a news-style piece.
- Offer seasonal content: virtually every industry integrates seasonal content in their strategy. Pitch an idea based on a holiday or national event that relates to your prospect and your client.
You can try many tactics for a strong outreach pitch, far too many to list here. So, use the above as a jumping-off point, and craft your own outreach strategies.
Once you’ve won a pitch, you need to write the content. The brief is usually a balance between the prospect site’s and your client’s respective niches. You’ll be writing for your site, not your client, so adhere to their editorial guidelines throughout.
The type of content you write will ultimately be up to you, although your prospect and/or client should have their say in this too. The content has to suit the prospect’s site while fulfilling the client’s needs, so listen to their input to find the right content format that works for everyone.
Google’s E-A-T algorithm should be considered here. The overall theme of the piece has to be relevant to the client and anchor text. These are some of the things to take into account to ensure your content is written with E-A-T in mind:
- Topical relevance: your title, sub headings, and copy should be relevant to the page you’re linking to, the anchor text you use, and the supporting keywords.
- Useful external links: make your content more helpful to the reader by including links to non-competing sites/pages that match the search intent of your subject.
- Expert opinions: adding a unique and appropriate quote from your client can increase the value of your content.
Here’s an example of how this might work in practice. If you want to link to a product page for an eco-friendly toothbrush, a blog about the best environmentally-friendly personal hygiene products would be ideal.
You’ve won the pitch, you’ve created a piece of on-point content. Now you need to nurture that relationship and persuade your prospect to accept your content with the links intact.
The key to this is to make your communications personal. If you contact your prospect with an obviously generic email, you’ll detract from the value of your relationship.
And that relationship is critical. If your prospect is wary of you, they’ll be wary of your linking practices too. Check your prospect’s backlink guidelines before sending a piece of content over — if your link contravenes their requirements, they’ll strip it or simply refuse to publish your content.
If your prospect hasn’t gotten back to you, feel free to send them a chaser. With this in mind, it’s a good idea to have a process for chasing up prospects. For example:
- First chaser three days after submitting your content
- Second chaser one week after send your first
- Third chaser two weeks after your second one
The important thing is that you’re not rigid with your process. Keep personalisation in mind by being mindful of your prospect’s circumstances — if your contact says they’re going to be away for a period of time, don’t hold this against them.
And be warned: if you sound needy or pushy, you’ll lose them. The prospect relationship is a delicate one, so tread softly.
Once you’ve persuaded your prospect to accept your content with links intact, you’ll need to evaluate that link’s performance, both as an individual link and in the context of your wider outreach strategy.
There are several factors you should consider when you’re analysing your outreach campaigns:
- Volume of backlinks: how many links has your campaign created? The more the merrier — be sure to identify direct links (from the prospect) and indirect links (from third-party sites that reproduce your content).
- Social shares: the more social shares a piece of content gets, the more people it reaches (which in turn creates indirect backlinks).
- Pitch to placement ratio: this relates to the number of actual placements you receive compared to the number of pitches sent out. If you send out hundreds of pitches but only receive a dozen placements, your outreach strategy needs a rethink.
- Placement quality: if the only placements you get are with low-quality prospects, your outreach needs augmenting.
- Keyword performance: the pages your content links to are associated with specific keywords. When you create these links, these pages should rank higher organically for these keywords.
It’s vital that you assess the quality of your outreach campaign, and not just upon completion. Evaluate your campaign on a regular basis. This helps you identify any potential bottlenecks or flaws in your outreach strategy early on, so you can perfect it.
Outreach and SEO are becoming ever more inextricable. The goalposts are moving for SEO outreach, and brands and agencies will need to work hard to source valuable backlinks on authoritative sites. It’s not impossible — but it’s challenging.
We hope this definition of outreach and its relationship with SEO has shown you how it’s a valuable tactic for your business.
If you’re thinking about using outreach for your company then get in touch with our team of specialists. We’re always happy to talk and to discuss how we can help digital businesses get recognised online.
SEO Outreach FAQs
Can my business do SEO outreach?
SEO outreach is a scientific link-building tactic that requires research, valuable content, and skillful management.
Your business can do SEO outreach, so long as it has a robust process for highlighting the right links, placing them on external websites, and then reviewing their performance.
Are outbound links good for SEO outreach?
Outbound links are an important part of SEO outreach.
While it’s important you insert your target page in a way that maximises its value (high on the page and before other links) supporting it with relevant outbound links can increase its topical relevance.
The key is to use outbound links that point to pages that are trusted, relevant and authoritative.
How many outbound links is too many for my content?
Including outbound links in your content helps search engines to understand what the page is about. It also adds value to your page, by pointing users to useful resources that help satisfy their search intent.
However, overloading your content with outbound links weakens the value of your own link, diluting its strength in a way that’s similar to adding more water to a glass of orange squash.
There’s no set convention on how many links is too much, but a good approach is to review your competitors and check the number of links included in their content.