To rank on Google, you need one thing:
But link building is hard!
People are immune to the old methods. Every reputable blogger knows all the tricks in the book.
However, there’s one method that still works…
Good, old fashioned email outreach.
How do I know? Because I do it for my clients, every single day.
And I’ve used the method I’m about to teach you to get dozens of backlinks and thousands of shares.
(Even to sites with a measly 10 domain authority, zero followers and no email list.)
As an added bonus, this method gives you a ton of initial traffic, shares, and comments, too! (Which, as you’ll learn, is important for building links.)
Grab a coffee and settle in. It’s learnin’ time!
3 Steps to Influencer Outreach for Link Building
I want to give you the big picture before we dive into the details. It’s not complicated, but it does help to see things from a bird’s eye view.
Note: This is a completely white hat method. While grey and black hat stuff works, it can get you slapped, as we learned in Google’s Penguin update.
So, here are the steps:
Curate a list of influencers in your niche
Reach out to them via email and/or social media
Send your follow ups
Simple as one, two, three.
But there is one caveat…
This is a lot more effective as a pre-publish strategy. Meaning, it’s more effective to reach out to these people before you put anything in writing on your blog.
That’s because, as you’ll likely discover once you go through this process, people much prefer to link to and share things they’ve been a part of.
That’s so important it bears repeating:
People prefer to link to and share things they’ve been a part of.
I know that you probably have tons of content already created that you want to promote, and that’s fine. Just be aware that the climb is steeper for you than for someone creating something new. But don’t let that stop you!
Anyway, let’s get started.
Step #1: Curate a list of influencers
This is the most important step. You need to find the right people.
I’ve developed a few methods that make this process pretty straightforward. And it’s free - all you need is Google.
(For you overachievers, I also show you a method using Ahrefs.)
First things first - you need to know the niche you’re in. I’ll run you through an example using content marketing, since it’s a topic I frequently write about.
(Note: Create a Google sheet to keep track of the URL, first name, and email of every potential site. This makes mass outreach much easier.)
Now, there are three simple methods to find influencers:
1. Start with Google’s first four pages
This is the easiest method. You literally just Google your topic or keyword. Do some quick keyword research if you don’t already have one in mind.
I’ll start with “content marketing”.
From here, just do a quick eyeball test on all the sites in the top 40 results. When determining whether they’d be a good fit, I ask myself three questions:
Does the site look good?
Are they frequently updating their blog?
Do they have a lot of engaged followers?
If you answered “yes” to all three (or at least the first two) add them to your spreadsheet.
Again, be sure to get at least their first name, URL, and email address. If you need help finding their email, check out this guide.
Pro Tip: The best influencers to build a relationship with are solo bloggers. Big publications - like Inc., Forbes, or Entrepreneur - aren’t a good fit because they’ll just ignore your email.
For example, while looking through the results for content marketing, I noticed Heidi Cohen’s personal blog:
Heidi is a great example of a solo blogger. While it certainly won’t be easy to get in touch with her, there’s a much greater chance of building a relationship with her than trying to find and reach out to an editor of a larger blog.
Plus, having a big name solo blogger will help you in the outreach phase. But more on that later.
2. Still using Google, search for “best of” blog posts
“Best of” blog posts are an amazing way to quickly find a ton of influencers at once.
To find great posts like this, use one of these search strings:
(keyword) blogs to follow
best (keyword) posts (year)
best (keyword) blogs
top (keyword) blogs to follow + (year)
For example, I’ll search “content marketing blogs to follow”:
Check out the results and add any blogs that look promising.
By now, you should have a solid list of at least 50 people.
Personally, I like to shoot for 150 to 200 at a minimum, but it depends on your niche as well. There might not be as many full-time travel blogs as there are marketing blogs, for example.
If you don’t have that many, there’s a super easy hack you can do with Ahrefs.
3. Use Ahrefs to find more influencers
Ahrefs has a two week free trial (for now), so you can do this for free.
Once you sign up, grab your list of influencers and pop one of their websites into the search bar, then follow these steps:
When you type your site into Ahrefs, you'll see a ton of information. Ignore it all and click the "backlinks" tab in the sidebar on the left.
Before you go through the results, sort them to "one link per domain".
Then, click "Link type".
Finally, click "Dofollow".
Just like that, you have a list of pages who link to your influencers with dofollow backlinks. Go through them just like you did in the top 40 of Google, eyeball testing them for the right fit.
Add anything promising to your sheet.
Step #2: Reach out to the influencers for shares and backlinks
This is where the magic happens. It’s time to send some emails!
I personally use Ninja Outreach because it also acts as a sort of CRM, but it’s more expensive and has a much higher learning curve. For simple, inexpensive and effective, go with MailShake.
If you need help getting setup with MailShake or want to know how it works, check out this two-minute video.
Now then, on to the emails…
If you’re writing an entirely new piece, send the list something like this:
For your copy-pasting convenience, here’s the template:
Subject: Quick question about [topic]
I’m putting together [post about topic] and (naturally) wanted to reach out to you.
[The question is: [Simple question that can be answered in 100 words or less]
I know you’re busy so a lengthy response isn’t necessary (100 words is totally fine).
Feel free to add [stats, examples, etc. - whatever else you’d like to have], but only if you want to.]
[I’d love to get your feedback on it when it goes live. Mind if I send you the link?]
I’ll obviously include a link to your site and Twitter profile in the post.
P.S. I’ve already received responses from [big-name influencers]. I’d love for you to be involved.”
Basically, you either want their input in the post (a quote or answer to a question), or you want them to give you feedback on the post via a comment, or at least a reply. This is to get them involved, so they’re more likely to share and/or link to the post when you make the ask.
Also, notice the PS line - “I’ve already received responses from [big-name influencers]”. Remember when I mentioned Heidi Cohen? She’s a big name that we could put here. People think “Oh, if they were in it I better get in on this!” Psychology. 🙂
Once the post goes live, you can send them something like this:
And a copy-paste version:
Subject: We’re live, [name]!
Just a quick heads up that out [topic] post is LIVE! 🙂
Thanks again for our contribution. If you think your audience might find value in the post, we’d really appreciate you sharing it!
By the way, in order to help more people, I’d love if you could mention this on your blog. Let me know if you’d like me to write something up for you.
Either way, thanks again!
But what if you’re promoting something that’s already been published?
Don’t worry - I’ve got something for you, too.
Here’s a template for that:
And a copy-paste:
Subject: New content on [topic]
I was looking for some information on [topic] today when I came across your excellent article: URL
I just put together an [infographic, post, guide] about [topic]. As someone who likes to write about [topic], I thought you might get a kick out of it. 😀
Let me know if you want to check it out.
I actually got this template right off of Brian Dean’s guestographic guide. It’s meant for getting backlinks to your blog articles via infographics, but it’s useful for general promotion and link building as well.
When they respond “yes”, you can send them this:
Here’s the link: URL
Also, let me know if you ever want to share the [infographic/post] on your site.
[FOR INFOGRAPHIC - I’ll be happy to write a “mini guest post” to go along with it.]
[FOR POST - I’ll be happy to write an addition/update for your post: URL]
Basically, you’re trying to add as much value for them as possible so they’ll include a link. If they say yes, you write them a unique 200 to 300 word intro to go along with the infographic OR you write a 200 to 300 word addition to an article they already have that’s around your post topic.
Read Brian’s article for more information on the whole infographic thing.
Step #3: Follow up with any stragglers
I usually wait at least three days before I send a follow up, but that’s because I’ve noticed many people take up to three days to respond. If they don’t reply in that time, then I assume the email was buried or they were busy when they opened it. Thus, the follow up.
That’s another cool thing about MailShake - it tells you who’s opened your emails and who’s replied. Plus you can respond right in their platform and set automatic followups.
Generally, I handle follow-ups one of two ways: