Earning coverage and links from authoritative, relevant websites, is obviously a huge part of SEO, but what’s not always clear, is the time, effort and strategy that goes into it. This is partly because of the prevalence of tools that many SEOs use to target websites en masse on behalf of their clients, but done properly, it requires you to think about what you’re pitching, to whom, why, and when.
In my opinion it’s worth it, but of course this approach is more labour intensive. You’re contacting each person individually on the good faith of your idea, knowing that more will ignore you than not. However, there are tactical ways, besides the strength of your idea itself, to increase your chances of getting a response to your outreach emails.
- Avoid the words ‘guest post’ – even if technically you are suggesting a post, as a guest, on someone else’s site, it’s not 2012, and (hopefully), you’re not churning out a 400-word low quality generic post just for a link. But the minute you use the word ‘guest post’, a decent publication may well see it like this. They can spot SEOs a mile off, and while they may appreciate the motives behind many of their pitches, their priority is content that works for their audience. Mentioning guest posts is also, in my opinion, a quick way to get charged for what could have been earned News and blog owners see pound signs when they hear phrases like ‘guest post’ or ‘link placement’ (shudder), so don’t make life more difficult for yourself.
- Be conversational not salesy – it’s personal preference, but where I feel most outreach pitches fall down is that they go for the hard sell or are too polished. Yes, you’re trying to sell your idea, and it can be concise and punchy, but you also want to avoid it seeming like you’ve copied and pasted the same pitch to numerous recipients – even if that is in fact what you’ve done. Talking in a more conversational tone can help it seem like more of a collaborative venture; you’re discussing ideas and suggestions with the editor, rather than using a blanket template that they can take or leave.
- Tailor it – again, it’s about making it seem like you’ve put the idea together specifically for that publication. You don’t actually have to come up with a brand new idea for every outlet, but showing you’re familiar with the publication goes a long way. Picking out one or two existing articles on the site yours could work well with, and link back to, shows that you understand what works for their readers, and that you’ve done your research as far as topics already covered are concerned.
- Consider timing – less important than a press release admittedly, but even if you’re suggesting non-time sensitive article ideas to an industry magazine, it’s still worth thinking about what day and what time you’re hitting the send button. For example, where possible, I’d avoid a Friday, or at least a Friday afternoon. If the editor doesn’t get a chance to act upon your request that day, then by the time Monday rolls around there’s a good chance it could end up overlooked permanently.
- A strong subject line – a bit obvious yes, but the point is, you’d put time and effort into considering your subject line in an email marketing campaign, but the same logic applies to outreach. You need to increase your open rate, and the only factor at this stage that can influence that is your subject line. Firstly, check the editorial guidelines, in case they’ve already specified the format you should be using. If not, then the heading of your article idea can work, if it’s particularly punchy. But you can also be more creative. If the article is going to be authored by someone particularly well-respected or influential in your industry, I’m not against including that in your subject line. Or if you’re sharing research, including one of your leading stats can help get clicks.
- Provide a few options – guessing the content someone wants to see, at the time they’re looking for it, for someone you don’t even know is difficult enough as it is, so I always feel that where possible, pitching two or three ideas is worth a go. You can also use this as guidance for what’s most popular among particular publications or editors going forward.
- Target the right people – if an online magazine or news site asks you to send content suggestions to a particular person or email address, you should probably do this. However, sometimes it pays to be a bit more cunning too. If you’re pitching an article that complements something an individual author has already contributed, then sometimes a personalised approach (and a bit of flattery) directly to this individual can work wonders. They likely don’t receive anywhere like the number of pitches as the editorial desk, and even if they don’t have more say on what gets selected, they work with the people who do.
While it may take a little longer to approach outreach in this way, the relationships you build each time make your job quicker the next. Or if you really don’t have the time to dedicate to it yourself, you know where to come!