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.

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.

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  • Anthony D. Nelson

    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

      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!”

  • Henley Wing

    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.

    • RootsWebSol

      They will if you have something they don’t, try it Henley.

  • Measurable SEO

    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

      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.

  • Chris-Hills Seo

    Great skill and tactic, very informative thanks for sharing.

    Chris Hills SEO