Written by Dale Cudmore on 05.06.2019
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Why Your Outreach Emails Are Getting No Responses: A Complete Guide ?

Almost all new white hat backlink builders go through this.

You’re all fired up to start your email outreach campaign, and send emails out to 50-100 people.

And then silence…

You get a couple responses here and there, but nowhere near the 20%+ that you imagined or read about in a case study.

While the concept of outreach is simple, it’s hard to execute correctly.

It’s a skill like any other that you develop over time.

A lot of things can go wrong, and figuring out what these are is how learn and do better next time.

Outreach will be a critical part of link building for years to come, so it’s worth investing a lot of time to learn. It will pay off in the long run.

This guide will look at why you’re getting next to no responses from your email outreach. I’ll go over many reasons, and hopefully you can identify the reason(s) you’re having problems.

Find Out If People Are Opening Your Emails

The most important part of this process is figuring out whether your emails aren’t being delivered, or if your message is not good enough.

To do that, you have to measure if people are opening your emails.

If they aren’t even opening them, there are some easy fixes.

If you’re using Gmail, install either Yesware or MailTag. These extensions alert you when people open emails that you’re tracking.

yesware email tracking

Note that they don’t apply to previously sent emails, so you’ll need to continue your outreach campaign, but this time with either tool enabled.

If you’re using a different email platform, search for “email tracking extensions” for that platform.

They both have a free version or free trial, which is more than enough at this point.

At this point, you’ll learn 1 of 2 things:

  1. No one is opening your emails.
  2. People are opening them, but not responding.

We’ll first deal with the 2 main possible reasons for the first scenario, where very few people are opening your emails.

If people are opening your emails, skip down to the next main section.

Reason #1 – Your Subject Line is Bad

You can often tell if an email is relevant to your needs just from the subject line and the sender.

The biggest issue is if your subject line seems spammy.

In the context of a link building campaign, a spammy subject line might be something like:

  • Awesome offer inside…
  • Interested?
  • Free content offer…
  • Re: Getting More Traffic

Avoid words like “free” and “contest”, which trigger alarm bells in most peoples’ heads.

You want to mention the purpose of the email.

Some better subject lines are:

  • Guest submission proposal on [blog]
  • Broken link on your [topic] blog post
  • Question about [blog post title]

You don’t need to spell everything out, but you should make the purpose of your email somewhat clear.

If you wouldn’t open the email yourself if you got an email with your subject line, make it better. Pretend you’re writing to a friend, not a site owner you just want a link from.

That leads into the second reason they don’t get opened: your subject line is too specific.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing for conversions always, but it’s clear to people right away whether or not they are interested.

For example, I got an email today from a Honda service provider that had a subject line about winter tire servicing.

I’ve already changed my tires, so without opening the email, I’m going to delete it.

So if you’re asking about guest posts in the subject line on a site that doesn’t accept guest posts at all, they won’t even open the email.

Reason #2 – Your Deliverability is Bad

People can’t open emails if they don’t see them.

This typically means they’ve ended up in “spam,” or in the “promotions” tab for Gmail users.

gmail promotion tab

Why does this happen?

The main causes are:

  • You used a lot of spammy words in your email (e.g. “free”, “won”, “contest”, etc.).
  • Your email address has been flagged as spammy by major email servers.

The second one happens when your emails are rarely opened and often reported as spam.

To fix it, start with a clean slate by creating a new email address.

If you’re sending emails through an email outreach tool, contact their support and they will fix it by changing their IP address or other issue. It’s possible you were just sharing an IP address with an actual email spammer that messed up your deliverability.

People Are Opening Your Email But Not Responding

So you’ve installed your email tracker and you see that a good portion (at least 40%) of people are opening your emails.

But you’re still getting few replies.

There are 3 main reasons for this…

Reason #1 – They Just Don’t Care (Why?)

The most common reason that people won’t respond is that your lead prospecting targeting is wrong.

In other words, you’re sending emails to people who don’t care about your offer.

An example of this is that I’m a writer. I regularly get emails from link builder asking me to add a link to an article I wrote for someone’s site.

Here’s one I got last week:

bad email template example

There are 2 problems with this:

  1. There’s no incentive.
  2. I don’t even have access to edit those sites.

That’s an extreme example, but I see other targeting issues all the time. For example, are you:

  • Contacting someone who doesn’t manage the blog/site?
  • Proposing to write about a topic like hiring a contractor on a DIY (do it yourself) blog?
  • Contact people about old articles (2+ years), when they don’t update the site or work in that field any more?

There are dozens of situations like this.

That’s why the biggest part of creating your initial list of outreach targets that no one tells you about is making sure you’re contacting people who are likely to want what you’re offering.

Choosing the right people to email can make the difference between a 1% response rate and a 30% response rate.

You’ll never get a 100% reply rate, maybe it’s just a bad time for whoever you’re emailing.

Regardless, this is the most common reason emails don’t get replied to.

Keep practicing and working on lead prospecting.

Reason #2 – Your Email Looks Like a Template (Spam)

If you’re doing email outreach in any popular niche (health, marketing, fitness, self improvement, etc.), owners of high traffic blogs get multiple emails a day asking for links.

If you’re using a template you found on another marketing blog, they’ve seen it dozens of times.

My sites don’t even get that much traffic, but the number of times I’ve seen an email start with the following is ridiculous:

Hi Dale,

I just stumbled across your post about [topic]: [url]

It was really great!

If you’re going to use a template, make it yourself. 

Be real, be authentic, and just write an email like you’re an actual human being. That’s the only key to seeming non-spammy.

Reason #3 – You’re Offering No Real Value

Finally, if you’re targeting the right people, have written a genuine email, and they’re still not responding, that can only mean one thing: your pitch is weak.

You used to not need a pitch, you could just ask for a link and many people would say yes. But that was many years ago.

If you want someone to take time to edit their site, or review your guest post, you need to provide a compelling reason.

I’ll be honest, this is not always easy, even for experienced link builders.

Ideally you come up with customized value proposals for each person, tailoring your skills and resources to their needs.

But that’s very time consuming, and you may not have many relevant skills or resources.

So let’s look at the most common possibly compelling incentives you can give:

  • Point out broken links and offer replacements (some value, but low).
  • Offer to write an amazing guest post, and you can show good samples (medium to high value if they accept guest posts).
  • You’ve improved on some other content that they’ve linked to in the past, and want them to link to yours instead (low value).
  • You’ll pay money (medium to high value).
  • Offer to create custom professional images for their site (medium to high value).
  • You point out a massive error that’s costing them a lot of money (high value, they’ll often add a link to say thank you).

Think of it from the perspective of your target. If your offer doesn’t get them to audibly respond “sweet, that’s awesome,” it’s going to get a mediocre response rate.


Don’t expect to get a 50% response rate right away.

Email outreach is a skill, and you learn more each campaign you run.

Keep at it to learn, or hire a professional link building service if you don’t have the time or desire to.

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