It’s no question that link building is hard work.
In fact, the average cold email response rate is a measly 1%.
Many are considering cold email outreach a dying art with the increase in social media usage, but it’s actually the opposite. According to these email usage statistics, people are sending and receiving more emails than ever and are checking their email multiple times a day – even outside of work hours.
This not only shows that email outreach can still be an effective way to get backlinks, but it also shows that, if you write an effective email, you still have a solid chance of getting a response.
However, the use of automation software and email templates are becoming more commonplace these days. Combine this with the fact that the human attention span is now less than that of a goldfish, and it’s easy to see that it’s becoming harder to stand out.
To combat the use of automation and decreased attention spans, we need to pay more attention to the quality of the emails we’re sending out. In this article, I’ll show you how to write effective link building emails in 5 easy steps.
1. Nail the subject line
If you want any chance at a response, you need to get your email opened by your prospects first.
Since the subject line contributes significantly to your open rate, you need to get this right if you want any chance of your email being opened and responded to.
A good subject line will:
- Capture interest
- Build curiosity
- Promise useful (but not misleading) information
Here are some examples of link building subject lines I’ve had lots of success with:
- For guest post outreach – Article Idea for [NAME/SITE] – 50% open rate
- For unlinked mentions – [NAME] – A Big Thank You from [BRAND] – 60% open rate
- For broken link building – Website Issue – 60% open rate
- For Infographic promotion – [TOPIC] Infographic for [NAME/SITE] – 48% open rate
The key to writing a subject line is to clearly communicate the contents of the email in a way that communicates value to the recipient.
2. Personalize your email
When most people think of email personalization, they think of adding the first name.
While this technically is personalization, it’s not enough to stand out.
True personalization involves writing something inside your email that is very specific to your prospect.
In my experience, there are 2 effective ways you can personalize your email.
- Bucket your prospects.
- Write custom intros.
Let’s go over each of these.
The prospect bucketing approach involves writing your email first, then finding prospects that fit the email.
This works perfectly for unlinked mention and infographic campaigns, but can work well for others as well.
For example, when I was running an unlinked mention campaign at Webex to build links to their screen sharing page, I framed the email as a “thank you” message to my prospects by using this template:
Subject: [NAME] – A Big Thank You from Webex!
I just wanted to reach out and say “thanks” for mentioning Webex in this article: [URL]
We really, really appreciate it!
I’m reaching out today to ask if you could add a link back to our site (https://www.webex.com/screen-sharing.html). That way, it’s easier for people to find us when reading your article.
Either way, thanks for the shout out and keep up the great work!
See how the email is inherently personalized? Thanking someone is extremely personal!
By thanking them for the mention and suggesting that they add our link as a way to better help their readers, we’re tapping into the psychology of reciprocity – the social norm of responding to a positive action with another positive action – to earn our backlink.
This email template was sent out to anyone who mentioned Webex on their website. It got a 62% open rate and a 22% response rate. Pretty impressive for a cold email!
Another example is something I frequently do with Infographics, but it can also work for guest posting campaigns.
The idea here is to add an element of personalization to your email, then find prospects that fit into that bucket.
For example, when I worked with Infinera to pitch their subsea cables infographic, I looked for any site that previously wrote about this topic.
Then at the end of the email, I added a sentence that says “Since you’ve written about this topic before, I thought you’d be interested in checking it out.”
Here’s the exact template:
Subject: Infographic for [SITE]
Nick here, content guy from Infinera. Hope you’re having a great week so far! I know time is precious so I’ll cut to the chase.
At Infinera, we put together an infographic that outlines the details of how submarine cables work along with all of the interesting statistics about them in a beautiful, easy-to-read format.
As someone who has previously published content on the topic of subsea cables, I thought you might be interested in republishing this on [SITE].
Mind if I send it over for you to take a look at?
By writing the ending sentence pointing to them having previously written about the topic and then finding prospects that fit into this variable, the email becomes personalized in nature.
This campaign resulted in a 46% open rate and a 15% response rate.
Writing custom intros
This is by far the most effective form of personalization I’ve come across. My theory about why this works is because the opening sentence of your email is visible from the inbox and can influence the open rate from people who intend on responding to your email.
The process here is pretty simple. In your email template, insert a variable for a customized first sentence in your email.
Here’s an example I used to promote this sales follow up infographic.
I’m emailing you today because we just created an infographic about the importance of following up with leads, and I thought you might be interested in republishing it on [SITE].
The infographic starts by going over some powerful follow up statistics to illustrate the importance of following up with prospects, then dives into exactly how to implement a follow up strategy into your company’s sales process.
Mind if I send it over for you to take a look at to consider publishing on [SITE]?
Thanks, [NAME]! Have a great week!
I sent this email in two ways to test my theory. One was with a generic opening line (“Nick here – content guy from IRC Sales Solutions. Hope you’re having an awesome week so far! 🙌”), while the other had the opening sentence written by hand commenting on a recent blog post they published.
The email with the customized opening sentence got 300% more responses than the one with the generic intro.
I also noticed an increase in the responses from my follow-up emails – even if they’re generic. Prospects seem to remember your personalization efforts in the first email if you follow-up in the same thread.
The best part of this is that it’s super easy to systemize. You can easily hire a freelancer to go through your spreadsheet and write custom intros for you based on very specific instructions.
Have them go to the prospects site, find the blog, read the most recent article, and insert a sentence about why it’s awesome.
Just make sure you have your freelancers use a grammar checker for this. It’s super easy to make spelling and grammar mistakes when doing this at a large scale.
Lastly, it might make sense to segment your efforts. I usually only write custom intros for prospects with a DA at or over 30, then use automation software to insert a generic intro for those with a DA under 30.
3. Close with a question
Too many link builders make the mistake of ending their emails on vague statements rather than questions that elicit a response.
Don’t end your email with something like “let me know what you think!” Instead, be extremely specific about what you’re looking for.
This makes your email extremely easy to respond to, meaning you’re more likely to receive a response from your prospects.
You can do this by ending your email with specific questions, such as…
- If you like the tool, would you be willing to reference it in your article?
- Would you be interested in seeing a draft to consider publishing on your site?
- Mind if I send the infographic over for you to take a look at?
Every email should close with a question. This includes follow-up emails and any responses you send to your prospects.
For example, if you send an email pitching an infographic and end on “Mind if I send it over for you to take a look at?” it’s likely that you’ll get lots of responses with a simple “Yes!” or “Sure, send it over!”
In response to these requests, you want to provide extremely clear next steps that address what they need to do if they like the infographic.
An email like this one gives prospects an easy way to publish the infographic while ending on a question that makes it very easy to respond to.
Thanks for the response, [NAME]!
Please see the infographic attached.
If you like it and want to publish it on [SITE], I’d be more than happy to write up a mini guest post to go along with it!
What do you think?
This email tells the prospect the exact steps that need to be taken in order to publish the infographic. It provides clarity, direction, and ends on a question. This is how you should close all of your emails.
There you have it – 3 easy steps to write better link building emails.
Hopefully this helps ease some of the anxieties involved in link building outreach and will help you improve your overall campaign success.
What are your tips for writing link building emails? Let us know in the comments!
Nicholas Rubright is a digital marketing specialist for Webex – a platform designed to make team collaboration simple. Prior to working at Webex, Nicholas has run successful link building campaigns for large brands like Writer, Havenly, and Infinera.
Ashley Kemper is an Assistant Editor at Commerce Mentors. She has 5+ years of experience in writing about Marketing, SEO, and Technology. She also helps with the end-to-end execution of content strategy. When not writing, Ashley spends most of her time reading and cooking. As a sports enthusiast, she spends her weekends running and watching badminton tournaments.