9 ways to personalize cold emails for link-building outreach

If you have a site of any scale, you probably get a handful of spam link-building emails in a given week. The amount of spam link-building emails sent to editors every day makes it difficult for any legitimate site to even have their emails read, let alone get a backlink. To combat this, you need very personalized cold emails to stand out in the sea of legitimate and spam pitches editors get routinely. In this post, we’ll cover 9 effective strategies to personalize your link building outreach and get more links. I’ve personally used these strategies to get great links from top sites like G2.com, Teachable.com and a handful of others.

Link to their target pages

One of the best ways to add immediate value and personalize your outreach is to link to your target site. More specifically, you should link to their target pages. Although you may not know which pages a site is prioritizing, you can check their top pages on SEMrush or Ahrefs along with pages by link growth. Both of these will indicate either pages they are actively linking to or their most valuable pages.

You can find this on SEMrush or Ahrefs by:

  1. Navigating to backlink analysis tools
  2. Entering a site URL
  3. Scrolling down to “Best by links” and “Best by links’ growth” pages
SEMrush’s backlink analysis tools, you can use this to find top pages by links

These two pages will give you a good idea which pages a site is linking to and you can link to them either from your site or via another guest post. Once you do this you can reach out to your target site and let them know you’ve linked to one of their pages. This is an excellent way to start a conversation and get your foot in the door with any site.

Include specific benefits that are tailored to the recipient

In addition to linking to content, you can also personalize cold emails by bringing specific value that’s relevant to your desired contact. With this strategy, you’ll have to do some research on your target recipients and see exactly what they might need.

Some creative ways you can bring value to an editor include:

  • Promote their content to your audience(s)
  • Introduce them to someone in your network
  • Offer a complete and relevant blog post to add to their catalog

Although this strategy isn’t scalable, it’s a great way to develop 1 on 1 relationship that can result in many links built in the future. You can use this strategy only for your dream sites that you’d like to get a link from.

Use their first name in the subject line or opening

The fundamentals of good email etiquette also apply when doing link-building outreach. A common culprit of a spam link-building email is a generic message that doesn’t mention the recipient by name. This is a surefire way to get your email marked as spam and quickly deleted. Here’s an example of one I recently received:

Sample spam link building outreach

If you receive many emails, you likely trash or spam any email that starts with a generic “Hi” or “Hey there”. It takes less than a second to add your recipient’s name, so make sure to do that in either the subject or opening line so they can know this email is directed at them. Additionally, be sure to reach out to the right person to guarantee the delivery of your email. You can use an email finder extension to dig your lead’s contact information, or find the right decision makers in your target company and their correct email addresses.

Use a personalized hook

Even with the best personalization, your email can still go unread if you cannot hook your recipient immediately. Personalizing it from your side will mean adding your branding to the email, and creating an email signature with a brand logo design and specific colors. Some ways you can personalize the hook of your email include:

  • Use FOMO: A great way to hook your recipient immediately is to use FOMO. You can do this by mentioning how much traffic they might be missing out on for a keyword, mentioning how they haven’t covered an emerging trend, etc. This will help capture their attention and continue to read on further in your email.
  • Use relevance: You can also personalize your hook by mentioning something relevant to the editor or to the business.  This could be something like a recent event they hosted, an upcoming holiday, etc. By mentioning something relevant in your hook, you are more likely to have your offer seen and replied to.

Reference a recent accomplishment or event from social media

A quick and easy way to personalize your link-building outreach is to reference something recent by either the editor or the company. Referencing something recent helps create authority before sending the outreach email. If you don’t have the email copywriting skills, you can use the help of an email assistant to craft a good email. You can brainstorm specific points to mention by reading the company blog for announcements, following content managers on LinkedIn or subscribing to Google Alerts for the company name.

Some specific accomplishments that are good to mention include:

  • Money raised or a specific amount of revenue reached (ex. Congrats on your series A round)
  • Traffic milestones (ex. Congrats on reaching 100k/mo monthly visitors)
  • Job changes within content teams (ex. Congrats on being promoted to the chief editor)
  • Features in notable publications (ex. I saw (company name) featured on Forbes)

Forward a valuable linkable asset

A common tactic used by link builders is reaching out to sites to let them know that a link is broken. This tactic can definitely work but it may require some back and forth with the editor to add the link. A quick way to bypass this and reduce the friction on your recipient’s end is to create a linkable asset and forward it to them in the outreach email. This allows the person receiving your message to read your email, view your linkable asset and update the content in one go. You can create one relevant asset and reuse that over and over again in your outreach emails if you select an evergreen topic.

Sample link building email for an infographic; source: HubSpot

Some of the best linkable assets you can forward include:

  • A well-designed infographic
  • A helpful blog post or resource page
  • A new study or piece of creative content

Offer updated data to a high-traffic post on their site

In addition to linkable assets, another common outreach method for links is to tell sites that they have outdated data on their blog posts. This method can work, but there’s one issue: oftentimes, the site will either ignore your message. It doesn’t make sense for someone on the content or editorial team to take time out of their day and update a statistic on a post that doesn’t get traffic or isn’t indexed.

A better and more effective strategy is to only look at high-traffic pages on the site and look for areas where you can add updated data. Content teams often allocate most of their time and effort to updating posts that are ranking and bringing them traffic. If you do find outdated data on a high-traffic post, they are far more likely to update it with your link in comparison to adding a link to a page they don’t care about. Updating content is a routine part of maintaining your ranking position, so if you can help improve the content on a high-traffic post, it’s a win-win for both the site and you.

Offer lucrative content they have yet to cover

A great way to get your content approved on a site is to cover valuable content that the site has yet to cover. You can find specific keywords that the site is missing by using the content gap analysis tool on Ahrefs. With this feature, you can enter your target site and a competitor and see all of the keywords that the competitor’s site ranks for, but your target site doesn’t.

Using this will allow you to personalize your pitch and make a good offer for site editors. Additionally, you can go after other types of keywords that are valuable. They include:

  • Keywords with high CPCs: Keyword with high cost per click (CPC) are keywords that advertisers are willing to pay a lot of money for. This is an indication that there is high commercial intent behind these keywords, which means people searching for these keywords are more likely to convert into paying customers. If you write on these keywords and rank well, you can bring in transactional traffic that has a higher chance of conversion. You can find these keywords by filtering by CPC in any search on Ahrefs or SEMrush.
  • Keywords with low competition and high search volume: Another example of valuable content is writing on keywords with low competition and high search volume. These keywords will be easier for sites to rank for and you can get a lot of traffic from them. You can find these keywords using the Keyword Explorer on Ahrefs or SEMrush by searching for a parent keyword and filtering the results by keyword difficulty and search volume. An example of this would be filtering for keywords under a keyword difficulty of 20 and traffic over 500 searches per month.

Follow-up with even more value

If you don’t hear back from your recipient after sending them a personalized email, it’s ok to follow up. Most people spend a lot of time personalizing the first email but overlook the follow-up email. With your follow-up email,  you can provide even more value by getting them another link,  giving them additional data that they can use or another relevant benefit to the editor or the site. The more creative and personalized you can be with this, the better you’ll be able to convert on your follow-up attempts.

Link building follow-ups are not like sales follow-ups. You don’t need to follow up with a prospect 5-7 times before you decide to move on to another site. 2-3 good attempts are more than enough to see if a site is interested in working with you. If you send 2-3 follow-up emails and you don’t hear back, it’s best to move on to the next site.

These are just some of the tactics you can use to improve the personalization for your link-building outreach emails. You don’t need to do all of them to see success. Stick to 1-3 of them and continue to refine them as you get more feedback from sites. The more you can iterate on your offer, your email copywriting, etc., the closer you’ll get to see what works best for your niche. Here are some other helpful resources from HubSpot and SEMrush to help you improve your cold outreach for link building.