This post is all about getting people you’ve never contacted before to open your outreach emails and then do what you ask of them.
This is called “cold” outreach (as opposed to a “warm” outreach, where there is already some relationship between the sender and recipient).
If you can master cold outreach – getting a complete stranger to open your email, read it, and then follow-up with you – you win the jackpot.
So, in this post let’s explore how we’re gonna do that.
I have done a lot of trial and error with sending cold outreach emails. I’ve also been on the receiving end of a ton of them over the years.
With outreach emails, there are basically three things you want to get from your recipient:
1) Email open;
2) Email read; and
3) A positive response action
Let’s state the obvious and get it out of the way:
When you cold email someone, you are at a big disadvantage.
The recipient doesn’t know you.
Doesn’t trust you.
You need to give them a reason to open your email and to take action.
And it’s hard enough to get someone to do something for you when they actually know who you are.
We’re going to break down each of these outreach goals – opening, reading, and responding – and show you how to win.
Next, we’re going to talk about getting the open.
After that: getting your email read.
And lastly: getting the positive response action.
Example Outreach Email
Before we dive in, let’s dissect an example outreach email. This one isn’t particular good or bad; it just helps illustrate some of the points we’ll go over.
Here’s the email (with company redacted):
Exploring Synergy With [Company]: Can we open a line of communication?
My name is [Name] I’m the Business Development and Affiliate Program Manager for [Company] – [URL]. [Company] is the [What They Do].
I came across your web page where you did a review of our top competitor – https://offsprout.com/blog/best-hosting-client-websites-why-host/ and I would like to know if you are interested in creating a similar article on [Company] and becoming a top-performing affiliate for us?
To open the conversation I’d like to know if you would be interested in joining our affiliate partner program? After looking at your website and niche I would like to offer you a very healthy starting commission of $150 USD for every conversion. Based on your performance over the next few months we can increase the commission if you are performing well.
For our best-performing partners, I also provide custom high converting landing pages, exclusive discounts, featured posts in our news articles & email campaigns, and guest blog post opportunities, etc..
We also run regular Bonus opportunities where our affiliate partners are able to earn additional money for writing articles, making additional sales above their average, sharing content, etc…
Ok Andy, I really look forward to hearing your thoughts and feedback! 🙂
Here are my quick impressions:
- It’s relevant and personalized.
- There’s a link to an article of mine that does review a competitor.
- There’s a clear goal.
- The subject is pretty bad: “Exploring Synergy” sounds like a whole process and I’m afraid that I’ll be dragged into a rabbit hole should I open up a line of communication.
- It’s long. I can’t read
- While the goal is clear, the next step isn’t. If I say I’m interested, then I’m assuming we have to open up that line of communication, and then who knows how long it takes to get to the part where I’m printing dat affiliate money.
Let’s see if we can figure out how to write better outreach emails!
- To increase your open rates, consider personalizing your subject lines (use “the 6 E’s”)
- Try either all-lowercase subject lines or a simple question like “Question?” to get your email opened
- Know who you are reaching out to, personalizing your email content to increase the likelihood your email gets read and a response.
- Keep your email brief and to-the-point.
- Frame your email pitch as “What’s in it for you.”
- Try not to ask for more than one thing from your recipient in your email, as it requires multiple Yes responses from them.
- Send emails at the right day and time (A/B test to find what works best for you).
- Every campaign should have a follow-up, increasing the likelihood of a response.
- If you want to streamline and automate your email outreach, try Postaga.
How to Increase Your Outreach Email Open Rate
If you have done any sort of email marketing, whether through newsletters or cold emails, you probably know how tough it can be to get people to open your emails.
Even when people know who you are, open rates can be less than 25%.
So, how can you get people to open your email?
There are three aspects to consider with getting that email opened by the recipient:
The From Name, the Subject Line, and the first sentence (which shows up in email previews).
Getting the “open” is all about the subject line.
Aside from the technical aspects of email open rates, such as time and day you send (which are important), the content of the subject line is an area that can require a bit of finesse and creativity to have a huge impact.
There isn’t just one perfect subject line, though.
This is going to require some ongoing testing and tweaking on your part. But, there are a few tricks to share to give you some inspiration.
The 6 “E’s” of Subject Lines
To come up with subject line ideas, I have a trick I use. I call it, “The 6 “E’s” of Subject Lines.”
Here they are:
I know, they’re not E’s but E-sounding.
Just… just bear with me for a second.
Don’t go anywhere. This stuff is really important.
What are you doing?
Don’t X out this browser tab.
Seriously, just keep reading. This is all good stuff, I swear.
The first three E’s are meant to give you some ideas for subject lines; the last three E’s should be consistent features of every subject line you compose.
So let’s talk subject line tips for outreach emails.
There’s no time!
Urgency is all about suggesting to the recipient that they need to act now, so they better open the email right away.
This could take the form of a subject line along the lines of, “A time-sensitive request.”
Urgency is very powerful. If there’s a looming deadline, it encourages the recipient to act now. It’s the fear of missing out.
But, urgency in subject lines should be used judiciously.
You don’t want to be the boy who cried wolf. Especially if what you believe is “urgent” is not really urgent.
If you betray the trust of your recipient by saying that this email is urgent, and it’s not urgent, they will never open an email from you ever again.
As the saying goes, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”
What’s in the box?
With curiosity, you are creating a sense of mystery (let’s call mystery a bonus “E”), making the recipient want to find out what’s inside the email.
did you miss this?
Here, we’re playing on a powerful emotion.
If your subject line is direct, “I am reaching out to you because I want you to link to my post”, the recipient may dismiss your content without even giving the text a look.
But, if you say something like, “For your next link roundup?” or anything with a ? at the end, you can pique the curiosity of the reader to get them to open your email and see if it intrigues them.
Authority Hacker did a study of 600,000 emails they sent to 150,000 websites in 78 campaigns, and found this interesting fact:
Subject lines like “Question?” and “Question for You” performed extremely well in not only getting opened, but also in getting a reply and converting the recipient.
Also, using “…” in your subject lines can also contribute to some mystery and curiosity for the recipient. The “…” says to the recipient, “This is just the beginning. Check out this email to see what else we have for you.”
Oh, and one more thing… like with playing on the sense of urgency, curiosity is one of those areas where, if you abuse it, your recipient will never trust you again.
I learned my lesson. I’m never opening up another one of those emails from a Nigerian prince who says he might have money for me. Last time, he promised me $10,000,000 USD but only sent me $5,000,000.
So, we have trust issues now.
Here’s a simple tip that goes a long way for cold emailing:
Use your recipient’s name.
Andy, I think I have something for you
If you don’t know it, find it out.
Regardless, personalization helps.
I know, because this crap has worked on me for way too long and I should know better by now.
Brief story time:
Years ago, a law firm practicing in the very specific niche area of construction law somehow added me to its email list.
Now, I have little interest in anything to do with construction or construction law…
But, every month, the law firm would send me an email with the subject line “Andrew’s Construction News” and I couldn’t help myself but open it every single time.
The content was completely irrelevant for me, but every email from them caught my eye and got a brief look because it said my name in the subject line.
How long should your email subject line be?
As you’ll see later… that’s up for debate.
But, overall, the research leans towards keeping your subject line short.
If your subject line is too long, it could get cut off in your recipient’s email client. If it gets cut off, your recipient won’t understand what you’re trying to communicate.
An undercurrent to all of this is you need to be trustworthy with your subject lines.
As I mentioned before, if you trick someone into opening your email once, they’ll never open one from you again.
Spend time on your subject lines.
Don’t just throw something together quickly and try it out.
Appreciate and respect the subject line, because this is the make or break whether your email gets opened.
A half-thought of a subject line means all your efforts – all that work you spent on the content, and the outreach email itself – is all for nothing if your email doesn’t get opened.
Save These Outreach Email Subjects
All that being said, let’s get some example subject headlines to try with outreach emails. Here are a few for inspiration, that follow the guidelines of the 6 E’s of subject lines:
Urgency/Curiosity: For your roundup this week…
Curiosity: Would this be a good fit for your post?
Curiosity / Brevity: Question?Curiosity / Brevity: Quick Question?
Personality: Hey [NAME] – I wanted to share this with you
Personality: Referred to you by [Mutual Friend]
Personality/Curiosity: Hey [NAME] – Can I ask a favor?
Personality / Brevity: Your article on [Topic]
What is the Right Subject Line Length?
From a Backlinko email outreach study – they recommend a subject line of between 36-50 characters to get the best response rate…
However, the Authority Hacker study disagrees with this above point. They found that using the subject line “Question” or “Quick question” performed best.
Moreover, another blog, Omnisend, did a study and found that 21-30 characters is the optimal length of a subject line.
Another study by Retention Science argues that your email subject line should be between 6-10 words total.
So, literally 4 different answers to the same question…
From this, it’s at the very least clear that your results may differ, and testing different subject lines is going to be important.
Other Tips for Subject Lines
While your mileage may vary with these techniques, here are some additional tips and resources on crafting subject lines:
One tip from the Quicksprout blog – use all-lowercase in your subject lines to seem more personal
Here’s another tip from a study conducted by Backlinko of 12 million emails – personalize your subject line. Having personalization in the subject line increased response rate by 30% in a study they conducted.
How to Get Your Email Read
So, for now let’s assume you got someone to open your email.
You hit your first goal!
You are ⅓ of the way there.
What about the email content itself?
Briefly, your email content needs to be:
- To the point
Let’s talk about each of these now:
Start off your email by mentioning your recipient by name.
“Hey [FNAME]” works just fine.
If you don’t know your recipient’s name, you’re at another disadvantage.
The Authority Hacker study found, though open or reply rates do not differ significantly between with / without the contact’s name, conversions were up 50% when using the recipient’s first name in correspondence.
People get cold emails all the time. And most of them are lazy. They start off, “Hello sir/ma’am” or “Hello [my website URL].”
Anything that is actually personalized signals that the sender has done some research and knows who they are intending to speak with.
If I get a cold email that starts off, “Hello postaga.com” or “Hey,” I am much more likely to delete it than read it, even if the rest of the email might be relevant.
Why am I so rude?
Because I’ve seen thousands of these emails before.
And anyone who runs a company or website that has any amount of traffic has seen these emails before.
And our experience dictates that, chances are, if we get an impersonal cold email, we will be disappointed by the contents.
The first impression means a lot.
So, for cold emails, where are you supposed to find contact people?
You can manually research people at different companies, which will take a lot of time (don’t do this unless you are only trying to reach a few selective, specific people).
Beyond knowing the name of the person you’re trying to reach, the more you can do to personalize, the better.
When I do outreach campaigns, I tend to build them narrowly, with a very specific audience in mind.
For example, I might do a cold outreach campaign to SEO companies in a particular city, and in the body of my email, I will mention how “I am trying to connect with SEO companies in [city] like yours..”
Even though it can take more time to send a specific tailored campaign, rather than building a single broad-focused campaign, it’s going to be better for the recipient.
When the recipient gets an email that says, “Hey [your-name], I am trying to connect with [your industry] companies in [your location],” at the very least it suggests that I’ve done my homework and I am not arbitrarily sending spam emails.
It suggests to the recipient that the contents of the email will be relevant to what they do.
One other thing to note is that showing appreciation for your recipient can get you far.
Flattery will get you everywhere (just as long as it’s not too fake or cheesy).
This is not just showing you know who you are emailing, but showing that you respect and appreciate them.
There’s a saying, to paraphrase, that people “won’t remember what you did for them, but they will remember how you made them feel.”
People want to help people who make them feel good.
A thrown in line like, “I love your blog, especially [insert relevant takeaway from a blog post, with a link],” is a big boost to the ego of your recipient.
This also further demonstrates personalization, that you know who you are reaching out to and why; and it shows your recipient that they should read the rest of the email.
To The Point
Next, let’s talk about being brief and to-the-point.
Someone has opened your email.
They’re going to then quickly scan your email text to see if it’s relevant to them.
Since they don’t know you or trust you, they’re leaning towards “this is not relevant for me,” but curiosity has gotten the better of them and they want to see what you have to say.
Brevity is important.
If someone manages to open your email and sees a wall of text and has no idea who the heck you are, they’re going to delete that message right away.
On the other hand, if you quickly establish what value you have to provide for them, you will be more likely to get action and a response.
Sujan Patel has a really great, thorough article on the subject I recommend checking out.
People tend to “scan” when reading web content rather than read paragraph by paragraph.
Don’t say in 5 sentences what you can say in 1 (unlike this blog post you’re reading). Someone who doesn’t know you, who gets a ton of emails every day, is not going to give you much of their time.
How to Pitch
So, we’ve already established that you’re going to have a personalized, flattering, and brief email.
But how are you going to make the actual “pitch” – asking for the action you want the recipient to take?
Sell the benefit.
For any pitch, whether it’s a cold lead or a sales call, you want to focus on benefits rather than features.
“This is an AI-assisted email app that sends emails quickly.”
“This software saves you 10 hours each month sending emails.”
People buy things because of the end result they get from it, not because of what it does.
Second, how you frame the pitch is important.
Frame your pitch as “What’s in this for you”
In the pitch, it should answer the question, “Why should I do this?”
This is what is going to get them to not only read, but take action.
In your case: Why should they backlink to your blog post?
It’s so much easier for them to not do that. Life will go on without having to backlink to you.
So, make sure you can frame your ask as beneficial to them.
We’ll talk more about this in our “Getting a Response” breakdown, but every email needs an “ask” – something you are asking the recipient to do.
To get your recipient to comply, the simpler and easier the ask is for them to do, the more likely they will help you out.
To keep it simple – you should only ask for one thing in your email.
Multiple asks, with questions like, “Can we set up a time to talk? And is there anyone else you think would be interested in this?” is asking a lot.
An effective outreach email will hit all the right notes:
- Personalized intro w/ flattery
- Brief pitch framing it as “what’s in it for you”
- A simple call-to-action ask
Here’s an outreach email I like that hits all the right notes for me (the details are all fictional, as you’ll probably guess):
I’ve been reading the Sam’s Sandwich Blog Link Roundup for months and love what you’ve curated. I used to run a sandwich empire, so I really appreciate the content you’ve have to share that I might not otherwise notice.
I’m reaching out because I have a piece of content I think would be perfect for your audience and your next roundup: How to Make a Good Turkey Sandwich.
It’s a detailed guide of how to make a good turkey sandwich that goes in-depth into aspects like bread-to-turkey ratio and the best type of mustard for a turkey sandwich.
Let me know what you think. I’d be happy to share your roundup on my social media platforms. Thanks for the consideration!
What does this post do?
- Shows I know who I’m reaching out to
- Flatters the recipient with my genuine appreciation for their website and content
- Directly states what I’m looking for from them, framing it as a benefit for their audience
- Is short and doesn’t waste time
And that’s all there is to it. Nothing too extraneous there.
But, there’s more to talk about.
Let’s keep going…
Here’s a unique tip that I’m currently trying out in some campaigns:
Start with why.
In this great post from Digital Olympus, the author recommends starting with the “ask” at the very beginning of the email. Skip the formal introductions entirely.
Stop sounding insincere and just be upfront about what you want.
Instead of starting with pleasantries, a different approach, where you say what you’re looking for right away, stands out.
How to Get Someone to Respond to Your Email
Your email needs a call to action to get a response.
What you ask for and how you ask for it can mean the difference though between getting the response or not.
For “what” you ask:
Ask for just one thing of your recipient.
The more things you ask of your recipient, the harder it’s going to be for you to get a Yes.
The more work required of your recipient, the less likely they will respond.
For example, “Can we jump on a call? Also, let me know what think about collaborating on a blog post. Here’s my blog to show you some examples of our work.”
That requires a lot from the recipient:
Not only do they have to think about whether they want to have a conversation with you, but you’re also giving them homework to look at their website, and then contemplate a collaboration, which is more work for them.
Next, let’s talk about how to ask.
For example, saying, “Hey, can we have a call sometime?” is a terrible ask.
It’s non-specific and puts the burden on your recipient.
It forces them to think, “Hm, can I have a call sometime?”
Compare that with:
“If you’re interested, would you be free for a call next week, say 10am on Tuesday? If not, would another time be better?”
Here, the response requested is a binary Yes or No.
It proposes a day and time and doesn’t ask for more.
So, be specific and definite with your ask.
Here are some other helpful tips for getting a reply from your email.
This first example is from Marketing Examples, and shows off an email that got a 70% response rate and 7% conversion rate, with the subject line “Freelancer Advice.”
Hope your week is going well.
Just wanted to follow up on my last email and see if you’re interested in [whatever it was I went into detail on in my first email].
All the best,
Outreach Email Templates
So, what are some examples of outreach emails?
Here are some of our favorite link building outreach email examples that we use (and many of these you can get for free inside Postaga):
Mention Outreach Email Template
Subject Line: We referenced your article on [topic]
[Your Name] from [Your Company] here. Hope you’re having a great day.
We’re big fans of your blog at [Their Company] and mentioned one of your articles in one of our recent posts about [Topic] for [Audience]. You can check it out here: [Link]
Feel free to give it a share, if you would be so kind.
Also since we’re complementary to each other’s audiences ([Quick Summary of What You Do]), I think it’d be great to have you guys do a guest blog post at some point (and vice-versa).
Let me know what you think.
Link Roundup Outreach Email Template
Subject Line: For Your Next Roundup?
Hey [insert name]!
I really enjoy your [topic] roundup posts. I just published this piece of content that I think would be perfect for your next roundup. [link to content]
It’s a detailed guide of questions web designers should ask new clients in onboarding and why. The article also has a downloadable PDF that readers can refer to.
Let me know what you think! I’d be happy to share your roundup on my social media platforms.
Thanks for the consideration!
Resources Outreach Email Template
Subject Line: Quick Question?
Hope all is well! I’m reaching out because I’m an avid reader of your work on the [Website-Name] blog — I loved your latest piece about [topic].
I just followed you on Twitter, and I saw you’ve been tweeting about [Something]. [Insert Personalized Follow-up Question]?
I work over at [Company], where we [Describe Work]. We recently produced [Content Type] detailing [Whatever the Content is About].
Would you be interested in checking it out? I’d love to see what you think.
Let me know if you’re interested, and I can send you the [Content Type] to take a look.
Skyscraper Outreach Email Template
Subject Line: your article on [subject]
Hey [insert name]!
I recently came across your article, [Link], while searching for pieces on [Topic].
I noticed that you linked to a great article on the topic – [Skyscrape Link].
I wanted to give you a heads up that I recently published a similar article.
It’s like the article you mentioned, but it is a bit more thorough and practical, [Selling Point].
I thought it might be worth a mention on your blog.
Either way, I like your article and appreciate what you do.
Broken Link Building Outreach Email Template
Subject Line: there’s something wrong with your site
I was looking through your suggested links on [URL] and noticed a few broken links. Let me know how to reach the webmaster and I can send a list their way!
Also, if you’re open to suggestions, I think [Your Website] would be a great fit. They have [Pitch].
All the Best,
Subject Line: there’s something wrong with your site
[First Name], I was browsing your website and noticed you have a broken link. You can find it on [URL With Broken Link], and it’s the [Anchor Text] link.
As an avid reader of [Site Name], I love reading anything you write about, such as [Random Article on Their Website], and anything you link out to. Sadly, I couldn’t find the article you were trying to link to, but I did happen to find another good webpage on the same topic: [Your URL]. You should check it out, and if you like it, you probably want to switch the links.
I know you are busy and probably get millions of emails a day, but I hope this one was helpful. I just wanted to help you out for once as [Site Name] has changed my life.
Next, here are some additional resources we recommend checking out:
Linkbuilding Email Templates – this post by Hubspot gives several email templates you can work from that hit the notes of personalization, mystery, and flattery.
Linkbuilder’s Guide to Email Outreach – this post from the Quicksprout blog has a bunch of helpful
Outreach Letters for Link Building – this post from Moz has some great examples with different types of outreach campaigns, including broken linkbuilding, guest posts, and paid ad outreach.
Linkbuilding cold email template – this post by Lemlist shares a simple email template you can use for cold outreach.
15 Cold Email Templates to Generate More Leads – this post by Mailshake shares a variety of cold email templates you can use for inspiration.
When to Send Outreach Emails
When is the best day / time to send outreach emails and follow-ups?
So, not gonna lie – we have some conflicting information here.
A study from Backlinko suggests that Wednesday is the best day to send outreach emails.
But, this Authority Hacker study suggests that Monday and Friday are the best days to send outreach emails.
And they also differ when it comes to follow-up emails (7 days vs. 5 days).
So, which is best?
I don’t know!
The best thing I can suggest is to A/B test this.
And this goes for everything…
A/B test your subject lines.
A/B test your body text.
A/B your send date and time.
What works for you may be different than other websites.
Automating Email Outreach?
So, this outreach process can seem real intimidating.
To do a complete outreach campaign, you have to:
- Find relevant websites and blogs to reach out to
- Find contact information for the right people at those blogs
- Craft the perfect personalized outreach email
- Email them
Aside from spending the time to craft the perfect outreach email (which we discussed above), the mechanics of the rest of the outreach process can be incredibly labor-intensive and time-consuming.
Researching relevant websites for promoting your content, and then finding the right people and their contact information is a big time investment.
Marketers who do effective outreach often spend double or triple (or more) the amount of time doing outreach for their post compared to the actual blog-writing part of this process.
Derek Halpern of Social Triggers recommended applying the 80/20 rule to writing and promotion: essentially – spend 4x the amount of time promoting the post that you spent writing it.
But does it have to be like that?
I’m happy to report that the answer is no.
There is a tool that can help you automate and streamline the outreach process, and that’s Postaga.
Postaga is all-in-one outreach tool to help you promote your content and get real, high-quality backlinks from other websites.
Postaga does your outreach research for you. It:
- Finds a variety of websites relevant to your blog post (through different outreach methods like Mention Outreach, Link Roundups, and more)
- Finds contacts at the relevant websites
- Uses AI to help build automated (yet personalized) outreach and follow-up emails
- Sends your email outreach sequences
And this is how you can build an effective email outreach campaign from scratch.
Use these tips for building your perfect outreach email and follow-ups.
And, absolutely make sure to A/B test your campaigns to see what works best.
We’re also curious what’s worked for you. Share in the comments below – what has worked well for your outreach campaigns?
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