You Can get Links from Cold Outreach

There are a lot of great articles out there on how to write great outreach emails that will help to get you the attention of your link prospects but I want to cover a quick and easy way to get the attention of journalists and thought leaders in your space by creating a “need based desire” in your outreach emails.

This is a technique I have personally used to secure links for clients in the Guardian, the New York Times and Mashable to name but a few.

As a link builder it’s important to be able to communicate effectively with your link prospects. A great way to do this is to stop thinking about you/your client’s objectives and think more about the needs of your link prospect.

These types of people need to be creating content on a regular basis and not just any old content; but content that will get extra traffic to their websites or increase publication sales in order for their employers to justify paying their wage every month.

Can’t get people to link to you?

I know link building is a really hard old game and believe me when I say this, it’s only going to get tougher as the goal posts continue to move and the bar for entry onto the first page of Google becomes even higher.  It’s probably even more annoying when you see successful link builders seemingly build super high quality links with ease.

Most great link builders are very good communicators and whether they know it or not are employing NLP techniques.

What the heck is NLP?

Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) in simple terms is the study of how our minds use, interpret and process language and thought. NLP is the process of talking someone into seeing their environment in a different way and was discovered by watching therapeutic experts and modeling their behaviours so that it could be taught to others in their fields.

The basic principles of NLP are:

  • Rapport – the practise of building a relationship with an individual and earning their trust
  • Anchoring – is a technique where an association is created between two separate entities where none existed before. Anchors are subtle and powerful, especially when they are attached to a strong emotion. The stronger the emotion, the stronger the anchor!
  • Swish – is used to replace a negative state of mind with a more positive outlook
  • Reframing – works by giving us a new way to look at and old idea (inbound marketing anyone?)

Using NLP in your link building efforts is quite easy if you approach it in an organised and linear fashion. First, you need to determine what it is you want the link prospect to do. That’s what it all comes down to; your link target taking a positive action and linking back to you. Now that you have defined your goal, the next step is to determine the elements of your outreach communication and the anchors that you want to attach to them.

Use representational systems in your link building efforts

Great communicators take advantage of all 4 representational systems to create the maximum impact. When you begin to understand how your link prospects process information, communicate and make decisions you can relate to them much better. When talking with a link prospect, of a different style to your own, it is important to speak their language.

Auditory: people with an auditory preference are great story tellers and love to talk. Ultimately they want to have fun and attend “fun” events. They are big picture orientated so don’t require the details so consider picking up the phone and having a chat.

Auditory Digital: individuals with an auditory digital preference are very detail orientated perfectionists, preferring order over chaos and their personal space. When you write an email to them be specific, prepared and precise &offer them plenty of links and references for further research such as charts and data.

Visual: people with a visual style are driven and very businesslike. They don’t want the detail and need the big picture so make sure your communications with these types of people are brief and to the point. These types of people prefer visualisations (infographics and photos) and very much love to win; so think about blogging competitions and ego bait to get this particular groups attention.

Kinaesthetic: (try saying that after a few sambucas) individuals who have a kinaesthetic preference are doers and want to take action. These types of people enjoy getting out and interacting so why not arrange a meet-up with other webmasters in their location, pick up the phone, invite them for a coffee or host a webinar.

Every one of us has a mixture of all four representational but we have one that we prefer and operate in most of the time. When we take the time to learn to recognise other people’s preferred representational styles we can relate better to them by adapting our style to theirs. In other words, if you love facts and figures you need to realise that not everyone you have dealings with will appreciate your passion for in depth detail and therefore only want a “big picture” view.

The key influencers we want to target with our outreach efforts are likely to be keen social media users, bloggers or published authors. This makes it very easy for us to pick up on the words and language they use without having to meet them in real life and make these decisions on the spot.

We stalk can follow them on social media sites e.g. Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, subscribe to their blog’s RSS Feed or you could use Google and a few advanced search operators to find any comments they may have left on blogs, forums or Q&A sites.

As someone who likes to visualise things I will add a person’s Twitter profile, Google+ or RSS feed into this free HTML5 Word Cloud or Tagxedo to see which words they are commonly using and then analyse them to gauge their preferences.

Visual Style

People with a visual preference are often direct, business and career focused, driven, leaders and action takers. They dislike small talk, too much detail and time wasters.

Phrases they are more likely to use:

  • I see what you mean
  • I can see the big picture
  • It appears to me
  • Picture this
  • Mental Picture
  • 30,000ft view

If you are following them on Twitter or Google+ they are more likely to be sharing articles and talking about business, productivity or boasting about their latest achievements.

Kinaesthetic Style

People with a kinaesthetic preferential system are laid back, casual and are very people focused. They are risk averse, avoid confrontation and really don’t appreciate being pushed in to make quick decisions. It’s quite common to find these people in roles that involve a lot of physical activity.

Key phrases that they use:

  • That feels right to me.
  • Come to grips with
  • Let’s touch base.
  • Let’s connect.
  • Take care.
  • Get a handle on it.
  • I feel strongly about this.
  • Let’s do this together.

Auditory Style

This group are very talkative, animated, day dreamers, like the big picture, prefer to deal with people and want to have fun. They are easily distracted and can get bored quickly.

Key words they use:

  • Hear
  • Ask
  • Talk
  • Tell
  • Fun
  • Sound

Auditory Digital

People with an auditory digital preference will often be in careers that involve data, analysis and considered planning. They love details, facts, order and being prepared, they therefore do not appreciate people who are late, don’t deliver on time or are unprepared.

Key words that they use:

  • Process
  • Think
  • Know
  • Details
  • Research

Below is a word cloud from some interviews people have conducted with Wil Reynolds over the past couple of years.

Even though the ultimate point of an outreach campaign is to get something you want, the prospect needs to feel like their own best interests are at the heart of the request. Be very clear about what the reader should do and why s/he should to it in light of how s/he will benefit. Also never underestimate the power of reciprocity. It’s an influential social norm that you can use to your advantage to develop rapport and create an anchor when carrying out link building campaigns and is the true secret behind the nature of many successful link building tactics.

How do you get responses to cold emails?

I’ve read lots of outreach posts over the past couple of years but very few have touched on creating a psychological need for someone to actually want to respond to your cold emails. This is quite a an easy tactic to employ in your outreach methods and can be implemented in your next link building campaign almost immediately.

In emails to people you don’t know you want to create an information gap.

Dr. George Lowenstien wrote a paper about Information Gap Theory in 1994 and it works like this:

When we come across something new that is not explained by our previous knowledge or experiences, an information gap is formed, and we have a desire to find the answer. 

If you’ve ever read “Driven”, “Make it Stick” or Derek Halpren’s blog you will have inevitably come across this theory before, but how many of you are implementing this right now in your outreach methods?

This is marketing 101 and yet very few people utilise this in their outreach efforts and instead spend their time “creating relationships”. So, when you email a person you don’t know for the first time you  generate an information gap and hence create a need based desire for them to have to reply to you.

You have created an anxiety, and only you can resolve it.

You do not, I repeat do not, include the link in the first email as this will look like any other spammy link request your prospect will receive day after day.

For example, if I was promoting some research my client had recently carried out on Pinterest traffic and conversions I might send the following email:


Hi (blogger name)

I came across some data that shows Pinterest traffic is worthless for eCommerce stores. The research was carried out by a major online retailer and shows that Pinterest traffic has a 40% higher bounce rate than Facebook and a conversion rate which is 25% lower than Twitter. 
If you would like me to send across more information about the research let me know, and I’ll happily email it across.


Did you see how quick and easy my email was, honestly now how many times do you blindly send out press releases or “please link to my post type” stuff?

I created an information gap by showing them the results of the research and they now have a “need based desire” to close that gap; the quickest and easiest way for them to do that is by replying to my email for me to send them the link to the research. I’m giving them what they want… I’m not soliciting a link, I’m just getting my content in front of someone who wants to read it, it just so happens they are thought leader in my niche.

But Chris I don’t have the budget to do all this research – well you don’t need to use your client’s own research, you could cite other people’s research in a blog post or infographic.

A lot of universities and government agencies aren’t great at making their data or research into news-worthy pieces. So you could cite them and by publishing the data in a new way or creating an exciting conclusion on your website you have some credible research that can be used as part of your outreach methods.

The next time you are carrying out an outreach campaign create a need based desire in your link prospect in order for them to reply to your emails.

Related Posts:

  • No Related Posts
Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to You Can get Links from Cold Outreach

  1. Really good technique here Chris. In the long run, you are still building a relationship with the person you are writing to. You provide them value from your ability to bring them new, useful information. In fact, I’d argue that it’s a more authentic relationship than the calculated ‘plant the seed, comment on their post, tweet at them, and then do outreach’ approach. You aren’t BSing them in any way.

    The gap theory applies to many of my broken link building outreach emails. Often, I just say, ‘I encountered a broken link on your site. Is this the right place to report it?’ Their curiosity is piqued and to get the answer they need to reply.

    • RootsWebSol says:

      That’s exactly it – I know something you don’t , it puts the ball in your court and you now have a dominant position in the conversation. All to often broken link builders will say

      “Hi there’s a broken link on page X please consider replacing it with URL Y… Ugh!”

  2. Henley Wing says:

    I think while creating a need-based desire in your outreach emails is better than simply begging people, I’m not sure if it will be highly successful. Most people these days just ignore anyone that they don’t know, especially influencers. They won’t even spend more than 2 seconds reading your email.

  3. Hi Chris – interesting technique. Have you quantified this in any way? Specifically, I would be interested in conversion rates. How many of these emails do you generally need to send to land a link?

    • RootsWebSol says:

      I don’t have lots of numbers but as always it comes down to the quality of the content you are promoting I’ve had very low success rates less than 1/20 & good responses >1/3.

  4. Great skill and tactic, very informative thanks for sharing.

    Chris Hills SEO

  5. Really interesting post Chris. Do you have any stats on reply rates based on the different approaches (say including a link upfront and not?)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *