Think of the top bloggers in your niche.
If they want to promote new content, or a new product, do you think they have to do the same cold outreach that someone who’s starting out has to?
Of course not.
He or she already knows most of the other top influencers, most of them are likely friends.
So they send out an email seeing what’s up, just like you would to a friend, and then either in that email or one later, mention what they’re up to.
If a friend asks you to share something they worked hard on, you typically will.
Link building is easy if you have actual relationships.
You can do this through Twitter, LinkedIn, Discord, Telegram, or any other top social network.
Overall, email outreach is usually the most effective and the place to start (or end up).
So how do you start building these relationships so that you can get links directly, or get them easier in the future?
Well, that’s what I’m going to show you in this post.
Let’s get started.
Why is Email Outreach the Best Channel?
It’s important to understand why experienced link builders and marketers rely so heavily on email to communicate with not only customers, but business relationships.
The biggest thing is that everyone has an email address.
Some people like Whatsapp, others like Discord, and others like Instagram, and so on…
There are so many social networks and chat platforms these days, and everyone has their own preferences.
But no matter which social platform they prefer, everyone has an email address.
Even my parents, who wouldn’t know what any of those are, have an email.
Secondly, emails get opened. If an email is from a friend, it’s almost impossible for them to miss it.
Whereas if they have hundreds of notifications on social media (I don’t know how that doesn’t bug some people), it’s possible that it slips through.
Finally, emails give you room to explain. Most social networks are used for short, quick messages (although there are exceptions). When someone gets an email, they expect to spend at least a few minutes on it.
Can You Build Links While Also Building Relationships?
I believe that getting to know people in your industry, with absolutely no ulterior motive is a great thing to do to build long-term success.
But, I also understand that sometimes you want to promote content and get links in the short-term.
It is possible if you do it the right way.
Many white hat link building tactics (guest posting, broken link building) begin with email outreach, but don’t result in long-term relationships.
Because they stop too soon!
Here’s what guest posting should look like, I’ll bold the steps that most people miss:
- Get a list of guest posting targets.
- Send them a pitch with post ideas.
- Write the post and make any requested edits.
- Respond to any comments on the post.
- Share and promote the post.
- Ask if there’s anything you can do to promote it further.
- Offer to write more posts in the future.
- Keep reading the site and send an email to the editor occasionally with your thoughts.
Not only do you get more links if you write more posts for them in the future, but you’re also building a relationship with the blog owner or editor.
The initial guest post begins a relationship, but it’s up to you to keep it growing.
The first link is a small benefit compared to the long-term potential of a good business relationship.
How Do You Actually Build a Relationship?
Building a relationship online isn’t much different than doing it in person.
If you’ve ever walked downtown in a big city, people often try to shove flyers in your face.
They want something of course.
At first it seems interesting, but it’s not long before you detest these types of interactions.
The same goes for email outreach. Many years ago, it was interesting to get emails asking about your site.
But now, every site owner gets these regularly and it’s clear that the sender is only interested in their own gain.
If you want to build a relationship, you need to do it around common interests. People bond over sports, hobbies, food, and business in real life.
But how do you expect some person you don’t know to have an interest in building links to help your site grow?
It makes no sense, but that’s how many link builders approach it.
Instead, take interest in the things they care about, which is primarily their website.
If you can do this with genuine interest, because you appreciate the site as a user, and love what they’re trying to do, relationships are easy to form.
If you’re making first contact, don’t do it with a “me-first” approach.
Decide Who You Want to Get to Know
Instead of doing outreach campaigns targeting hundreds of bloggers, pick a small group, no more than 20.
Start like you normally would, looking at sites with an established readership and domain authority.
Pick the ones that you genuinely like. If there are none, then I would question if you really like your niche at all, which is a bigger problem.
How Do You Make “First Contact” With People?
Email correspondence is usually the ultimate goal, but it may or may not start like that.
It depends on the opportunities available to you.
Sometimes they have a “submit a guest post” page on their website, which is an easy in. But what if they don’t accept guest posts regularly?
Here’s what you do instead…
Once you pick people you’d like to get to know:
- Find their personal website.
- See if there’s a contact email on their website.
- Find their social media profiles.
- Determine which channel they are most active on.
Focus on the channel they like the most.
Start by following them, sharing their content, and commenting on it. Ideally you want to start a conversation.
Here’s an example on Twitter. James Clear, a well-known author tweeted out an opinion, and he responded to a good question in the replies:
That’s a start.
Do that occasionally over time and he or she will recognize your name, maybe even follow you back. Maybe they even visit your website.
Any of those things are good signs. If they share your content, a simple “thanks, I appreciate it” is nice, just like you would in real life.
From there you can build upon your base by offering something or asking for a favor:
- Could you review a big post I’m about to publish?
- Could you supply a quote for a post I’m writing?
- I have a designer without enough work paid for, do you need a few blog images?
- Are you interested in partnering on [appropriate piece of content]?
Or many other things.
Then ask for an email and go from there. Treat them like you would a friend in real life.
Don’t Forget to Follow Up
If you were lucky enough to find a public email address, you might send an initial email and not get a response.
At that point, wait a little while and send a new one (don’t just send the same one).
Remember that people have different feelings behind the screen.
In-person, some days you might feel optimistic and talkative. Other days you’ll shut away anyone who tries to talk to you if you don’t know them well.
It’s possible to catch someone on the wrong day with your first email, so don’t be afraid of trying again.
If you still don’t get a response, move on, you don’t want to be annoying and burn potential bridges permanently.
You might find a better way to contact them in the future (through a mutual friend for example) and you don’t want to be remembered as a spammer.
Do These Relationships Lead to Links?
A lot of marketers shy away from relationship building not only because it takes time and effort, but because it seems “uncertain.”
It’s easy to send off 100 emails, knowing that you’ll get 20-30 responses, and 5-6 links.
It’s hard to spend months getting to know people, not knowing if it’ll actually help your site.
What I can point to is that almost every top influencer is at the top due to their relationships. Peers respect them, generally like them, and want to see them succeed.
It’s nice to have this dream of just sending a few hundred emails every time you publish content, but if that’s the extent of your relationship building, you’ll run out of places to build links.
And then what?
If you want continuous link building opportunities, or truly “natural” links, relationships are the only way to get them.