Online marketers, and SEOs especially, like to talk/write/read about linkbuilding. SEOmoz has a category of linkbuilding articles that has the most, and most well linked-to, blog posts on the site. Heck, Distilled even has our Linklove conferences in the spring, which are one day conferences all about linkbuilding.
But many SEOs, especially those who do not linkbuild full time and are hopefully decent at it, miss one main consideration when doing outreach for links.
What’s in it for them?
Darren Rowse, also known as ProBlogger, recently posted a Google+ update/rant where he talks about the quality of guest post pitches received by him and his team over at ProBlogger and his other websites.
Because of this site, and because I used to accept a lot more guest posts (I mostly only accept them from trusted friends now), I receive a decent number of guest blog pitches. Most are terrible, just like Darren’s. In Rowse’s words, they often follow this format:
- I am a big fan of your blog
- I represent XXX company
- I would like to provide unique, relevant and useful content for your blog
- The topics I can write about are XXXX (usually something completely relevant and on the topics of credit cards, holidays, a movie, pharmaceuticals etc)
- All I require is a link back to our company site with unchanged anchor text etc
What’s missing here? Besides the obvious templated format which misses out on connection with the website owner, notice the focus of the pitch.
It’s on the writer and their site, not the site owner and the desired linking site!
How would you feel if you walked into a Ferrari dealership and the salesperson launched into this pitch:
Hi there! I sold the most Ferraris last year for the whole East Coast, so I’m a really good salesman. I have an uncanny way of selling cars to people even when they can’t afford it. I don’t care what your needs are; instead, I just want to make that big fat commission so that I can buy a bigger house. Shall we sign that purchase contract?
That’s what I thought. You would most likely turn around and walk straight out of that dealership. Even if you can afford a Ferrari (in which case, hit me up because I’d like one too), would you really want to buy from that dealer? I think not, because he made absolutely no attempt to connect with you in a real way. A good Ferrari dealer would ask you if you want something to drink, ask about your family, ask about your past Ferrari experiences, your dreams for what the Ferrari will bring you, discuss colors and interiors with you, and see that you get exactly the right car, the car of your dreams that you have most likely been working a long time to be able to afford.
This is how linkbuilders, especially those pitching guest posts (and if you’re not a good writer, please do the pitching and have someone else write the post), should think. Here are some questions to ask yourself –
- Have they accepted guest posts before? What were the topics? (Do a site:domain.com intitle:”guest post” or site:domain.com “guest post” search to find them. If you’re lucky, they have a “guest posts” category that you can scrape or peruse.)
- Where are the content gaps on the site which they might be interested in filling and which you can write about authoritatively?
- How often do they publish, and what style are the posts in?
- Do they have guest blogging guidelines on their site to which you should be sure to adhere?
Notice that these questions are all focused on the site and site owner, not you.
Good Guest Pitch Examples
Instead of showing bad guest pitches (if you want to read a hilarious one, check out this one on iPullRank), I want to show you a few pitches that I have either received or sent myself that worked very well. I’ll also outline the elements that were particularly effective.
I should also note that I no longer use templates when doing outreach. When I worked in-house I used templates all the time, but honestly had a low response rate. I even gave away some guest post templates from trusted linkbuilders in this post on SEOmoz, but now am rethinking the wisdom in that. Have I perpetuated the cycle of bad guest pitches? I hope not.
Linkbuilders should shift thinking from guest post pitch templates to having a guest post pitch outline that can be completely customized to the recipient. Sure, this may cut down a bit on the quantity of emails/pitches that you send (so you’ll need to set your boss’s expectations), but the goal is to increase the quality so that you can then increase the rate of response from your pitches. Ultimately, I think you’ll see that your success rate, on more quality sites, goes up.
A few months ago, I actually pitched ProBlogger on a guest post idea that I had. I read ProBlogger frequently and know that it’s a very well-read, well-respected site that attracts my target audience. So I sent the following email to my contact there –
Notice I build rapport with the contact, but then I show that I have read ProBlogger and seen a need, and I offer to fulfill it. This puts the focus back on the blogger, not on myself.
Also, notice what I did not talk about – links. The purpose of this post is not for links. It’s to build value.
Pitch from James
My friend James recently sent me a pitch (for a forthcoming guest post) that is one of the best that I have seen. He doesn’t even mention a guest post.
Instead, he does the following:
* Mentions a recent post of mine and adds value to it;
* Asks for feedback on the topic;
* Doesn’t say what he wants from it. It’s a given that he’ll link to himself.
Funny enough, because I know James in real life, I even wondered if he had asked me in person if he could write a guest post. I don’t think he has, but this email made it seem like it. Well done sir.
I hope these pitches do the job of celebrating pitches done well. I think we should all strive to add value in these ways, which will also help our industry not be hated on by well-known bloggers.