Because I hand-build links at relatively large scale, and always look for ways to go bigger, I must continually test my link building processes and beliefs. For example, when you have 80+ guest posts to place in a month you don't have the luxury to woo each and every prospect with commenting and tweeting (a common preciprocation warm up tactic). To be sure, set aside a small handful of targets for relationship-based link building and then come back to read this article on the principles of bulk outreach.
1. From Link Builder to Email Marketer
Link builder, it's time to think a bit differently. You are now an email marketer. Your task is not to build links, but rather to build lists. Lists of relevant prospects and their contact info.
Then you must create an offer that will get these prospects to respond to you. Next you must lead them, often through further inbox dialogue, to take an action that will ultimately lead to a link, social distribution and/or more content that can attract more links.
2. Lists of Prospects are Everywhere
Though I still scrape SERPs for link prospects, I've learned to supplement this method by searching for and scraping lists of websites. Sometimes I even look for lists first, and then brainstorm potential offers to make. Other times, I follow a hunch... "if I could find a list of hospitals what could we offer them that could result in links?"
3. Create Offers that Work at Scale
In bulk outreach, the ideal offer is one that's relatively unlimited. Guest posts - if you're pitching great content - are a bit limited. They can work but aren't ideal.
Free trials of web-based software? That's a bit less constrained. Widget installs? Ditto. Go to town!
Asking experts to take a survey? Unlimited - you make one survey and then conduct outreach. Remember - you must make certain that your offer genuinely appeals to the prospect list you've built, and that you'll get links in the process.
- Free Content (guest posting, infographics, widgets)
- Free Products/Services (for reviews and contests)
- Participation in Expert Survey (they answer questions, you publish answers, they link/share)
- Timely Analysis +/or Access to Expertise (pitching a hot, topical interview with your expert)
- Philanthropy and Fundraising Participation (ask to spread the word, ask to pitch in too)
- Help Fix Broken, Rotted and Now-Parked Links
- Money (not my bag, though some of my best friends are link buyers...)
4. Write Powerful Pitch Templates
An effective offer, tailored to your target prospects is 99 percent of a great pitch. That said, there are some key ingredients that your pitch should contain:
- Make your offer's benefits crystal clear
- Make sure the pitch highlights benefits to publisher and their audience
- Flaunt your brand (I like to lead with brand in my first sentence if it's recognizeable and OK with client...)
- Flaunt relevant success metrics (My previous guest post got 700+ RTs! our last fundraiser netted over $5,000! Our last group interview got linked from Time.com!)
- How you'll promote the page that contains your link (I like offering to pay for traffic from StumbleUpon for guest posts)
- A light dusting of your personality (this evolves for me over time, but can give the more relational-type prospects something to respond to!)
5. Simplify Your Prospect Qualifiers
If your lists are targeted and relevant to your offers, then you have far less qualification work to do. In fact, your biggest problem should be taking the cream off the top for high-touch engagement rather than cutting out "the junk."
Part of the whole bulk outreach play is coming up with an offer that works across a spectrum of sites. For this reason I propose that a principle qualifier for bulk outreach is whether you can scrape the contact info. With my contact finder tool I see anywhere from 25-80 percent availability of contact info for sites depending on the vertical and how contactable the site owners want to be.
6. Simplify Your Campaign Success Metrics
Besides links earned (which isn't always that simple anyways), email response rates (# of responses/# of emails) makes a strong indicator for bulk outreach campaigns. This tells you if you've pitched the benefits clearly, if your template is personable enough and can give you a sense if you're even using the right offer.
I also recommend splitting your list and/or only sending to only 5-10 percent of your list at first to allow for tune ups. Make sure you have someone who's "good in the inbox" for closing the emails that do come back - they need to be personable, chatty, and laser-focused on making those links happen. All of this comes out in the responses you get. Getting more responses helps you get more links.
7. Educate Yourself on CAN-SPAM
I know some old school marketing folks will find the thinking in this article pretty familiar. When the web was young bulk emailing your link begs would get 70 percent conversions. Anytime you're scrape-building an email list you need to tread carefully and keep your efforts "in bounds." I know of some outreach-intensive link builders (~10000s a month) who keep their emails to one at a time, which has always been my approach.
Meet Your Favorite Search Engine Watch Contributors
Many of SEW's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Thom Craver, Josh Braaten, Lisa Barone, Simon Heseltine, Josh McCoy, Lisa Raehsler, Greg Jarboe, Dan Cristo, Joseph Kerschbaum, John Gagnon, Eric Enge and more!