About this article
In the spirit of full disclosure, this article about writing link building pitches is based on, and is a bit of a rewrite of an article written by Surena Chande and published on Buzzstream.
Why, you might ask, would I rewrite an article I not only can link to, but did in this very article?
The answer is because I have in the past linked to very useful articles, only to have them later disappear from the Internet, leaving me with both a broken link, which is easily fixed, and the loss of the article, which is not.
For that reason, when I now find a really useful article whose content I want to ensure I never lose, I’ll rewrite it to publish on our website, of course giving credit and links to the original article and author.
The article Surena wrote is based on her experience both as a link builder pitching technology journalists, and as a technology journalist who received too many pitches to give them more than a second or two of consideration before deciding to delete them or not.
As a journalist, if a subject line got her attention, the opening paragraph had to next.
While her article is focused on pitching story ideas to journalists, these concepts apply to pitching people who publish on corporate websites as well. Whether you’re promoting content on your website, or pitching to write a guest post for theirs.
If you find this really challenging
It most likely means that what you’re pitching or promoting probably needs a revamp. If you’re sending them something they’ve seen a hundred times before, why would they be interested in your version?
If, as you go through this process, you’re having trouble figuring out how to stand out, you need to rethink the value of what you’re pitching, and maybe you need pitch something better.
Important: You’re contacting VERY busy people
Never forget this. Journalists receive up to 300 emails a day, too many of which are press releases or pitches of some type. People who manage corporate websites may not receive as many, but they still don’t have time to waste.
You either get their attention quickly, or not at all.
Your subject line will be scrutinized for a second or two, and if it gets your email opened, your opening paragraph will make or break your chances from there.
Don’t start with the subject line
While it might make sense to write a basic subject line, what you initially come up with won’t be your actual subject line, so don’t put much effort into this up front.
Why is this true? Because until you’ve figured out what you want to say, you can’t know how to summarize it into an attention grabbing subject line.
Priority #1: Get their name right
This may sound like a small thing, but it’s not. We respond to our names, and we tend NOT to respond to “Hello”, “How are you”, “Hi there”.
If it looks like a form letter, it will be seen as a form letter.
Think about how you respond when someone sends you a generic form letter looking email. That’s how others will respond to yours.
You can, and possibly should, use their name on the subject line as well.
Make sure you spell it correctly. To do so, find their profile on LinkedIn. It takes only a few seconds, and it makes a huge difference.
Demonstrate you know the sector, topic, and person
This can be as short as one sentence, and maybe as long as three. It helps to refer to something this is current and/or refer to an interesting statistic.
- “This new study shows 83% of [something of interest to them]”.
- “This updated list of tools now includes [something of interest to them]”.
Even a relatively dull sentence such as:
“I thought this might be interesting for your [Christmas, Easter, Black Friday, whatever] guide.
Get to the point right away
Flowering embellishing language is not your friend here. Remember, you are pitching to very busy people.
Do not “bury the lead” as they say. Once you’ve got their name right, and got their attention with reference to some current event or interesting statistic, do not make them figure out what you’re trying to say. Say it clearly.
The key stat or angle you wish to convey must be conveyed in the first sentence. Think in terms of “campaign keywords”. They must appear in the first sentence.
Then provide a BREIF summary of the article or study you’re pitching.
Abbreviations may not be commonly understood
So, except for industry standard abbreviations like SEO, if you use any, define them in full the first time you use them.
If you use an abbreviation a second time, there is no need to spell it out.
Give them what THEY need
This has two parts.
The first one is the idea of what’s in it for them? Why should they care about what you’re pitching?
The second is to give them a complete package. If you’re pitching a journalist, know that they need quotes, success stories, a picture or two or five.
In these situations, you need to provide all of the above, and in a way that is easy for them to access, which means no file attachments, which is discussed more further down.
Include expert comments and success stories
Expert commentary and success stories help make your case. This is true whether you’re pitching an article to a brand, or a story idea to a journalist.
Speak in their tone of voice
Which means you have to read the last few articles they’ve written or the past few blog posts on their website. Then as best you can, mimic their speech pattern in your pitch email.
This helps your pitch email feel familiar.
If you really want to turbo charge speaking to someone in their voice, check out a software product named Crystal Knows. A few years ago I and a few other people tested it, and it was a bit eeire how accurately it suggested how to talk to us. It was spot on.
The base level of the product used to cost $19 per month per user, but they seem to have changed their pricing strategy. After logging in I seem to now have access to a limited free version, and I’m being offered their Premium version at $29 a month.
Sending attached files they need to detach and organize is work for them. While it’s a small bit of work, they’re busy people, so do this work for them. Create a Google Drive or Dropbox folder which they have access to via a URL, and put the URL in your email.
Then they need merely click the URL to access the files.
This pertains to your email. While your email needs to be short, it can’t be one run on sentence.
Bold section headings make your email easier to scan and whitespace makes your email easier to read.
Solid subject line
Now that you’ve written the pitch email, you know what you’re trying to say, and you can NOW craft your solid subject line. This requires some creativity, as your subject line needs to say “pick me, pick me”.
I can not stress this enough. Statements you make must be true. Opinions must be clearly seen as opinions. Hyperbolic language and words like “always” and “never” are to be avoided.
Test: Monitor open rates
There is a free Gmail add-on that makes this easy to do. It’ s called Streak. It allows you to know if someone has opened your email and how many times they’ve looked at it.
If your emails aren’t getting opened, you need to tweak your subject lines
If your emails are getting opened, looked at briefly, and not responded to, you need to tweak your opening paragraph.
If your emails are being opened, looked at more than once, and not being responded to, you need to tweak your offer.
Your link building outreach philosphy needs to include:
Doing is better than not doing
Before you do anything well, you start off doing it badly. So get started. You’ll get better with pracdtice.
Test: Do, measure, adjust
Use the Streak Gmail plugin to see if your emails are being opened, looked at more than once, and responded to. If they’re not, you need to make changes as appropriate.
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