Cold Emailing

What I learned from landing 80k backlinks with cold emails

Julian Goldie
LAST UPDATED
August 10, 2023
READING TIME
7 min.

Link building outreach with cold email isn’t easy. But if you get it right, the results can be amazing.

This website, for example, landed over 80,000 backlinks with cold email outreach.

generate backlinks

And it’s traffic flew up around the same time too:

backlinks and traffic

But is it possible to get backlinks from cold email outreach in 2020? And isn’t everyone just paying for backlinks these days?

The truth is, yes it’s possible! So in this article, you’ll learn:

  • How to quickly automate and scale your link building outreach
  • The BIGGEST mistake most link builders make
  • The exact email I used to land thousands of backlinks
  • 5 quick ways to improve your email copy
  • The tweaks you NEED to make to boost your results with link building outreach

How does it work?

The link building outreach technique that I use works in 3 simple steps that you can rinse and repeat. Apart from content creation, of course, as you need to make sure the content you're pitching is valuable and authentic.

  • Research: Analyze your competitors and build up a bank of topics that are landing links/are ideal for outreach
  • Prospect: Create a list of the websites that have linked to your competitors
  • Cold email outreach: Reach out to everyone from step 2, promoting your content and building links as a result

Here’s my step-by-step blueprint for landing 000s of free backlinks to your website with cold email.

Step 1: Topic research

When it comes to outreach, some topics convert far better than others. And that’s why the first step is research. This is crucial because if you get this wrong, your outreach campaign is destined to fail.

But the good news is that it’s very easy.

In fact, most of the trial and error has been done for you by your competitors. So all you need to do is find topics in your industry that are landing a lot of backlinks already.

Wondering how to get started? Here’s how...

First, I’d recommend plugging in your keywords into Ahref’s content explorer.

Let’s say you’re looking for SEO ideas. Go to Ahrefs > Content Explorer & type your keyword.

generating backlinks

Change the dropdown from ‘Everything’ to ‘Title’ and hit search.

generating backlinks

You’ll get a bunch of topic ideas. Now sort by referring domains.

generating backlinks

Cherry pick the topics that appeal to you. Aim for topics/pages that already have over 200 links or more:

generating backlinks

Want to see this process in action? Check out the video below...

Then just build up a list of topics that you know are going to land backlinks.

NOTE: Your content is the linkable asset. If it sucks, no-one will link to it.

So you have to get this right. Overall, better content = more links.

A few more tips:

  • When you’re picking the topic, don’t write anything commercial. Webmasters hate commercial content e.g. “Everything You Need To Know About SEO” is miles better than “The Top 10 SEO Tools Reviewed” for outreach
  • If you can’t beat the content, move onto something else. It’s important to make your content better than everyone else’s
  • Try to take a unique angle on the topic you’re writing about - to make your content stand out

Step 2: Prospecting

Next up, it’s time to look at everyone who linked to the articles in step 1 and build up a list of websites you can contact for a link.

But tread carefully!

Because not all backlinks were made equal. You need to have a filtering process to prevent low quality websites linking to you.

Plus, if you prospect the wrong websites, and they’re not interested in your content, your reply rates will be lower and the chances of you being marked as spam rise.

So ultimately, that means your deliverability will get burned.

There’s a few different ways you can prospect. Here’s what I’d say:

As your website grows in authority, the stricter you need to be in terms of which websites you approach.

Why? Because as you grow in authority, most links won’t move the needle.

So how can you filter out the best websites to land a link from?

Here’s a few metrics to check:

  • Ahrefs Domain Rating: This is a way of measuring a website’s authority
  • Organic Traffic: If the website doesn’t get any organic traffic, chances are Google doesn’t like it. So I’d avoid low traffic websites.
  • Penalty History: Check the website’s organic search traffic. If the website took a HUGE penalty - losing 90% or more of it’s traffic overnight - that’s a red flag
  • Relevance: How relevant is the website to your content? Does their blog page fit with the content you’re promoting?

A little word of warning:

Link building outreach is challenging. Sadly, not everyone wants to link to your website!

So there has to be a compromise between the websites you filter VS how many links you can realistically get.

Finally, when you’re building up a prospect list for cold email outreach, here’s 3 useful tips:

  • Find email addresses in bulk or just do a manual search
  • It’s important to clean your emails before you send them. Why?

A lot of emails on the web aren’t deliverable. They might be spam traps, outdated or fake, so they’re going to bounce. Email validators like Clearout or Neverbounce are useful for this.

If you can reduce your bounce rates, you’ll improve your deliverability.

  • Create a blacklist: If you rinse and repeat this process, you don’t want to be emailing the same websites every time. So build up a blacklist of websites that you shouldn’t contact again

Step 3: Cold email outreach

When it comes to outreach, avoid using templates that have already been rinsed. Usually they look something like this:

cold email backlinks

Templates like these are shockingly bad and they’re easy to spot. Link building outreach is competitive, so you need to do something to stand out.

Here’s an example of an outreach email that worked very well for me.

cold email backlinks

In fact, it actually landed thousands of backlinks for my website. As you can see in the email copywriting tutorial below.

So what techniques did I use? Here’s 5 tips to improve your email copywriting:

1: Use humor: Puns, jokes, memes - they all work. Even throw in a poem if you need to!

Basically, if you can make the website owner laugh, that’s half of the battle! Make the jokes topical to the content you’re promoting.

cold email backlinks

2: Keep it short: If website owners see a wall of text, they’re not going to read your email. So make it concise and straight to the point.

For example, if your email has blocks of text like this:

cold email backlinks

Then most webmasters are going to switch off halfway through.

3: Minimize the number of links you include:

Too many links = lower deliverability.

So avoid spamming your email with loads of links. Minimize the amount you include.

4: Personalize: Include the person’s name/fallback text throughout your email

If you’re willing to spend a bit more time prospecting, you could mention something they’ve posted on social media lately or a line from one of their articles like this:

cold email backlinks

5: Subject line: Keep it vague, and general. Include the website owner’s name if you can too.

Subject lines the below work nicely,

  • Question for you
  • Quick one for INSERT NAME
  • Have you got 2 mins?

Plus, make sure you chase up the website owner.

The majority of links I build come as a result of the second or third chase up email, so it’s important to follow up every 7 days.

cold email backlinks

Don’t overdo it though!

Sending more than 2 chase up emails feels a bit overkill, and you don’t want to harass anyone!

In the follow-ups, keep up the humor and get creative.

“Sorry to bother you again but just wondered if you saw my last message?”

...isn’t as good as:

“Howdy Jim, just checking you weren’t abducted by aliens on a high-speed intergalactic chase through Mars? If not, I’d love to hear back from you.”

Now, if you’ve ever read Robert Cialdini’s Influence you know that reciprocity is a powerful way to persuade people. So it’s important to make your offer win-win.

How?

Offer a social media share, an email newsletter promotion or even an occasional link back.

A better offer = more links back.

Not only that, but optimize your email for deliverability. The tiny 1% tweaks add up here, so here’s a few things I recommend:

  • Setup DKIM
  • Setup DMARC
  • Use a custom tracker on lemlist
  • Add SPF
  • Make sure you’re using a GSuite, not a Gmail, account for outreach (if you’re sending outreach emails with Gmail, you’ll eventually get banned)
  • Warm up your account before you start sending emails (see lemwarm)

Another little tweak is to set-up a separate URL to your main domain.

...Like a ‘burner’ domain.

Why?

Because if you’re sending mass emails from that address, chances are eventually your sending reputation will drop. And that’s not something you want to do to your main email!

So instead, use a burner domain e.g. if your website is example.com - use example.info.

Results

This is a tried and tested link building outreach formula that works for almost ANY niche!

...And it’s very scalable too.

Finally, I’d say keep optimizing.

Every time you run an outreach campaign, you’re going to discover more and more ways to improve your results.

So it’s a process you can continually optimize.

Now it’s your turn to try it out!

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