If you’re reading this you already know that accumulating quality links to your site is super important for building topical authority. But there are good ways and pretty risky ways of doing this.

Email outreach for backlink building is certainly one of the safest ways to do it. Since you’re essentially making a cold call (via email) you have to go into it knowing that it’s a bit of a numbers game. If you send 10 emails and only 1 or 2 people even respond, that’s pretty normal.

This is partially because people are busy and unwanted emails fly into their inboxes all the time. It’s also because people employ this method of backlink building in really lazy and spammy ways, and it makes it harder to stand out as a legit person asking.

Nevertheless, in this post we’ll go over the 4 core things a good outreach email needs to have to stand a chance of getting you the result you’re after. I’ll cover the basics of what this email even is first, so if you’re already familiar skip ahead.

How does a backlink email work?

The purpose of this email is essentially to present a piece of your own content that you’d like the recipient to link to. Choose carefully, both in terms of which site owners you’re emailing and in which piece of your own content you pitch.

You need to create a strong enough reason that it makes sense for the recipient to link to your material. More on that further in.

Part 1: Open With Something Genuine

You’ve got less than five seconds to prove you’re not a bot and the email isn’t yet another piece of spam in the recipient’s inbox. Open with something friendly, and immediately reference something real and tangible on their site.

Note of course that this isn’t simply to seem legit. You need to have actually reviewed their site — after all, presumably this is why you’re reaching out to them in the first place. If you’ve followed them for awhile, say so.

And if there was one piece of content in particular that introduced you to the site and got you reading more, definitely reference that.

Part 2: Explain Why You Think Their Content Is Useful

Now you have to begin framing the rest of your email. Since you’ll ultimately be pitching a piece of your own content, this section is the opportunity to appeal to the recipient in terms of how their content impressed you and why you’re even reaching out to them specifically in the first place.

This part will also further drive home that you’re not mass emailing in an impersonal way.

Suppose in part one you’d mentioned that you’ve read several of their posts and called out one in particular. Now you’d say something like:

What really struck me about [article name] is that you went into such detail about [topic], making it clear how people can pick it up and make some changes straight away. Your personal tone and candor about your own learning really set your content apart from the average [topic] blog.

You’ve now made it very clear you actually have read their content, and why you’re drawn to that material in particular. Being specific and thoughtful here shows that you’re a worthy peer in that topic, which also answers the question of why they should listen to you.

It’s also a solid setup for step 3.

Part 3: Show Why Your Content Makes Sense With Theirs

Giving a thoughtful summary of how strong their material is was a good build up. Now it’s time for you to illustrate why the piece you’re pitching would be a good addition to what they’ve created.

This pitch needs to demonstrate:

  • That your own material fits contextually with their style and is a logical reference for them
  • Why what your piece says provides additional value to what they covered

Here’s an example of what that might look like:

One thing I think a great piece like yours would benefit from is additional studies and metrics to reinforce the points you’re making. I believe I can save you some leg work there. I’ve recently published a related piece on a series of current studies that demonstrate pressing trends in action. [Insert link.] As you’ll see, many of these studies support your assertions that the best way to [topical action] is indeed [answer].

When put this way, it comes off more like you’re attempting to enhance what they’ve created more than simply looking for ways to promote yourself.

Part 4: Sell The Value For Both Parties

This is essentially the closing, bringing what you’ve set up in steps 2 and 3 full circle.

Be transparent about how you benefit from this proposition (beyond getting a backlink, which is obvious). When you’re forthright with someone about your motivations, it establishes rapport and makes you more trustworthy.

Then, appeal to them about how linking to or referencing your content benefits them in some way. Note: it needs to be stronger than, “Your readers will find this useful.” Everybody says that, and the path to success with this email is to be unique and meaningful wherever possible.

There are many angles you can use here. But here are two ideas that are logical:

Approach 1: Because of how meaningfully related our articles are, you’ll see that I’ve linked to yours near [location in your post]. I think both our audiences will benefit from that, and all I’d ask in return is that you have a look at my piece and, if you find it worthy, consider linking to it as well.

You’re being direct that you are looking for a backlink, but only primarily asking for them to read your material. That’s a smaller ask, and makes it clear that you’re confident that the quality of your material will speak for itself once they read it. You’re leaving it up to them whether to link to it, and people like feeling like they’re in control.

You’ve also made it clear that you’ve already put your money where your mouth is by linking to them. Flattering someone is cheap, but actually referencing them publicly shows that you’re really invested in this proposition. (Also, they’ve already benefited from this email by getting a backlink from you, which makes them far more willing to reciprocate.)

Approach 2: I’ve scanned the web for a few weeks about this topic, and noticed that nobody is really talking about [the way you handled your own article]. That was a driving force for my writing the piece. Given that your readers follow your blog as a source of latest information about [topic], I thought this would be a good opportunity to build upon that thought leadership by being one of the first blogs to reference this information.

In this approach you aren’t proposing trading links, but are selling the concept of exclusivity. You’ve made it clear that no one else is talking about the topic in this way, and that their linking to it makes their content more valuable because it would be one of the few places aware of it.

You’ve also called out that you see them as a thought leader and you believe their readers do, too, and that someone in their position ought to always be aware of the most bleeding edge information.

In Summary…

The point of this outreach email is to meaningfully promote a piece of your content to a like-minded professional. You’re tapping into their audience and their site’s authority to benefit your own efforts, but also demonstrating how linking to you also benefits them in a tangible way.

By bearing these four tips in mind you’ll increase the odds of your email hitting home and building backlinks from other relevant industry websites.