When most people think about “email outreach” and SEO they think about one thing: asking for links in an email. Today rather than another guide showing you how send outgoing emails, I’m going to talk about replying to all those emails you get and how to capitalize on them.

Remember, most people send outreach emails to anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand prospects at a time. Many people doing outreach are expecting for you to ask for something in return, and are prepared to give it. Personally, I’d never give away a link unless it is something really good authored by someone I know of or with decent klout so unless you are emailing me with those type of posts I probably won’t reply.

Also let’s quickly redefine the word exploit – “make full use of and derive benefit from (a resource).” The word has a negative connotation for some folks, so just wanted to verify that.

And that is what we are doing here today. We are making full use of these outreach emails that hit our inbox every single day.

So how does link outreach work?

In general, link outreach works something like this: you email someone, and ask them to link from their website, to your website. There are many different ways to go about this, some types of outreach are very abrupt and outright, while others are more subtle.

Types of link outreach:

  • broken link – finding a broken link on someones website, letting them know about it and offering them a “solution”
  • skyscraper – sort of like broken link outreach but based on making content better then asking ppl to change their links
  • making a joke – e.g. the famous “the bear” email
  • grooming aka “the long game” – develop a relationship with people and in 1, 2 xx months ask them for a link
  • hyper personalization – crafting custom messages to each recipient on a hyper personal level
  • are you interested in checking out my content? – following up with an offer to place a link
  • straight cash – offering money in exchange for links
  • extortion – link to me or I’ll dox you
  • mass email – self explanatory
  • social outreach – use FB messenger, Twitter chat, etc to ask for links
  • many more examples

Below are a few examples. Here is a very “vanilla” example using the broken link method:

Here is an outreach example that uses some humor, it is one of the only outreach examples that made me crack a smile. I don’t know if the gentleman below was the originator of this joke, but many people re-used it in the months after I first saw it:

Why is outreach beneficial for SEO

Some folks swear by doing link outreach and it accounts for a huge percentage of their overall work. For us I’d say it is more like 10-20% of our overall work, if not less.

There are 2 sides to SEO: on-page and off-page. Outreach falls into the off-page side of SEO. Link outreach for SEO is beneficial because it helps brings in backlinks. It can also yield some traffic, which can help with the SEO process as well. It has a psychological benefit as it puts you in the mindset of going after something you want.

Outreach is not easy. If you don’t craft a clever email and don’t send it to the right people, you’ll wind up in the SPAM box. So outreach also helps you by learning how to write copy as well!

If you wanna know more about SEO and outreach there are tons of posts available on the open web.

I’m not going to go too much more into link outreach for SEO today, check out these resources:

  • link building outreach in a skeptical world (video) by Rand Fishkin
  • 8 Outreach Emails that Still Work at Naturally Acquiring Backlinks
  • BuzzStream – great tool for link outreach

Exploiting Outreach Emails for Personal Gain

Ok now to our main point!

One of my motto’s in business is: always walk away from a deal / email / interaction with something. This could be an elevator pitch, a Skype chat, or an outreach email. You don’t always have to walk away with something tangible either, it could be a return phone call in 2 months to talk about a new website or an email address for a reference of someone that can give me a link.

I personally receive about 1-2 outreach emails per day for Elite Strategies. If you add in our clients in sum total we probably get around 10 per day, or 300 per month. More than half of those I’d classify as “pure spam” as in something I’d never consider.

Example of pure spam, no thanks. Not even if it was free.

But some of the outreach emails I get are from some really great people with some amazing sites!

So rather than just giving them a link to our hard earned website, let’s think of something we can get in return. A few examples of what you can ask for are:

  • other sites they might own that might be a candidate for a link
  • guest posts
  • contribution to your website – e.g. you don’t have to ask for a full guest post, ask them to writer 1-2 paragraphs on an existing piece of content
  • social media interactions
  • an email blast

Just be careful you aren’t blatantly violating Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, or if you accept the consequences.

It is fine to ask for something in return, just don’t make it a habit of exchanging links with people or it could catch up with you.

Reply to their pitch, with your pitch

I’m really not a fan of giving things away for free. I’ll really only link to something if I truly think it adds value. Generally if someone asks to link to something I’d say 60%+ of the time it wouldn’t normally be something that I’d link to.

So why not ask for something in return?


Hi Patrick, can you link to my travel blog from your travel blog? I feel that it would add value to your readers, our post references some important statistics to back up your post.


Sure, I’d be happy to. Do you have any other sites in this niche or in the “legal, home services, or lifestyle” niche?


Great idea! As a matter of fact my website about mens hairstyles is in need of a reference for a recent post on hair spray vs gel vs mousse.


Excellent, while we don’t have that post we do have an expert on hair products that writes for our blog. We will look into publishing that post and use it as a reference for that post. Thanks!

In this scenario we walk away from this interaction with potential to obtain a link of one of the other webmasters properties that happens to have a website in another niche you work in. That link is not only niche relevant but has oodles of authority and is on a fresh page.

Remember the whole goal here is to treat your incoming outreach requests as opportunities. Don’t be afraid to “mark as spam” the really awful ones. Those don’t deserve to see the light of day and you are probably helping them by ignoring. Even if you don’t end up with a link, quote, or a mention you never know what might manifest weeks down the road.

Final words

Treat every email outreach you receive as a lead. You might not get a client out of it, but you never know. In the past I’ve received a full year of popular SEO software just for replying to these emails. No links exchanged at all.

Link building is all about relationships. If you build relationships with people, the links will build themselves.

That’s all folks!