Link building outreach is one of the most challenging marketing processes for companies. It takes a lot of time, energy, and patience to get through.

Moreover, you need to have a good understanding of the linking process to make sure your website is getting the links it deserves. Otherwise, you’ll be spending time and money on something that doesn’t benefit your business.

Today, we’ll show you how to streamline your link building outreach process for top performance. We’ll also provide additional resources that will help you get the most out of your link building efforts.

Let’s start with a basic, yet fundamental, question.

What is a Link Building Outreach Process, Exactly?

A link building process is the series of steps you take to earn backlinks, typically including:

  • Research: Identifying potential opportunities and the best way to reach out. This will help you understand how you can best approach each site and what value they’re looking for in return. 
  • Outreach: The process of actually reaching out to site owners, editors and bloggers, usually via email, to request a link.
  • Link acquisition: Once you’ve established contact, you’ll need to work on acquiring the link. This could involve writing guest blog posts, negotiating link placement, or providing some other form of value.

Link building outreach can be a time-consuming process, but it’s essential for earning high-quality backlinks.

There are a few things you can do to improve your current outreach process.

We’ll cover some of them throughout this guide.

Where Are You Now?

Before you start streamlining your link building process, you first need to understand where you are now. This means taking a close look at your current process and identifying any areas that need improvement.

To do this, you need to answer the following questions:

  • How much time are you currently spending on link building?
  • How many links have you earned in the past month?
  • How many links do you want to earn in the next month?
  • What is your budget for link building?
  • What tools are you currently using for link building?
  • Are you happy with the results you’re getting?
  • What can you do to improve your results?

Once you’ve answered these questions, you’ll have a much better understanding of where you currently stand and what needs to be improved.

You can also analyze some of your critical metrics to get a better understanding of your link building progress.

For instance, imagine that you’ve been working on link building for the past month, and you’ve earned 10 links. However, when you look at your metrics, you see that only 2 of those links are from high-quality websites.

This means that you need to go back to your prospecting process to understand why you don’t have more links that meet your quality criteria – and also take a look at any failures in your outreach process, if you want to see improved results.

Or, if you’re spending a lot of time on link building but not earning many links, you need to find ways to be more efficient in your process, or understand why you aren’t getting higher reply rates. 

Ultimately, the goal is to find ways to improve your process so that you can get better results.

How to Streamline Your Link Building Outreach?

There are a few things you can do to streamline your link building process and save time and energy for other important tasks.

Let’s explore a few of them:

Start with the basics

Before exploring complex strategies, make sure you have the basics down. This means having a clear understanding of your goals and target audience, as well as having a solid content strategy.

If you don’t have these things in place, your link building efforts will be less effective.

Some essential things to look for include:

  • Use link building tools: Leverage the right platforms: You can use email hunting tools, like Hunter or Snov, to identify opportunities; Pitchbox to streamline your outreach process; and BuzzSumo to see what content is resonating with your audience.
  • Focus on quality over quantity: Needless to say, it’s better to have a smaller number of high-quality links than a large number of low-quality links. While link building metrics have their place, it can’t be the only measure of quality.
  • Prioritize your efforts: Don’t try to launch outreach campaigns without any clear idea of value proposition, or without assessing relevancy of the campaigns. Focus on a few strategies, or pages at a time, and build from there.
  • Keep track of your progress: Use a link building tracker to keep an eye on progress and ensure that you’re on track to reach your goals.
  • Be patient: Link building takes time, so be patient and don’t get discouraged if you don’t see results immediately.

Create a spreadsheet to track your current performance

You can also create spreadsheets (such as with Google Sheets, SharePoint or Airtable) to keep hold of your prospecting, keep track of your outreach and the stage each conversation is at.

By keeping track of everything, this will be instrumental in a few areas:

  • It helps you prioritize your link building efforts and ensure that you’re working towards the most important goals, in terms of getting links to the right pages.
  • You will have a birds eye view of any leads you have in the pipeline which could turn into live links, and also ensure you don’t forget about chasing them up.
  • When you track things in terms of campaigns/niches, you’ll start to understand which ones have been successful, and which ones haven’t. This helps inform your future outreach campaigns and where you need to focus next. 

As you complete each link building task, you should ideally track how long it took you so that you can identify any areas where you need to improve your efficiency, or activities which haven’t really been productive. For example, if you spent a lot of time doing HARO/Connectively outreach and it didn’t yield anything – then it might mean it’s not suitable for your niche, or there’s something in your pitches to course correct. 

At TLG, we use Google Sheet trackers, with built-in pivot tables and automations, which pull in data from different tabs, and from tools like Pitchbox. 

Here’s an example of a report we use to track our outreach, and keep on top of leads.

Example report used at TLG to track link building outreach

When you’re doing things at scale, its important to automate and streamline as many of these areas as possible.

Of course, you shouldn’t try to fully automate something like the prospecting process, as it may yield irrelevant targets. However, automating repetitive tasks (like this data gathering or tallying up link opportunities) can save you time and allow you to focus on more important things.

Streamlining your link building process isn’t about getting your hands off the keyboard. It’s about making your process more efficient so that you can focus on the things that matter most.

Narrow down your list of potential contacts

You don’t need to contact everyone in one day. Take your time and choose only the most relevant and appropriate websites to contact and the appropriate people at each of those sites.

There are a few factors you should consider when narrowing down your list:

  • Relevancy: The website should be relevant to your niche or industry. This should primarily be taken care of at the strategy and prospecting level.
  • Authority: Make sure the site has real authority, not just based on the Domain Rating or Domain Authority. Your target site should be respected by humans, not just search engines.
  • Traffic: The website should have decent traffic levels, but of course keeping in mind traffic quality.
  • Link placement: The website should have links in places that are easily accessible to users.

You can use a tool like Moz’s Open Site Explorer, or Ahrefs to check a website’s domain authority, traffic and links.

Note: It’s tempting to focus only on metrics like domain authority and traffic levels when choosing websites to contact. 

However, relevance is actually more important. A site with a high authority but no relevance to your niche won’t be as impactful.

Relevant links will pass more “link equity,”  or link juice, which can help improve your search engine rankings.

That said, relevance isn’t as simple as it sounds.

There are different degrees of relevance.

For instance, an article talking about a relevant topic, but on a shoulder niche website can still be great. Maybe not as strong as a highly relevant link in the same industry, but is still good enough to be worth your time.

Use your best judgment here.

Sometimes, you’ll have to make a judgment call about whether a website, or strategy idea is relevant enough.

Create templates for your link building outreach emails

Once you’ve narrowed down your list of potential contacts, it’s time to start reaching out.

You can save a lot of time by creating templates for your link building outreach emails. This way, you won’t have to start from scratch each time you want to send an email.

Of course, you’ll have to introduce some level of personalization in each email template before you send it. Mention something specific about the website or the content they’ve published.

You can also mention how you found their website and why you think it would be a good fit for your link.

Even a simple icebreaker can go a long way.

A bit of humor, a shared interest, or a personal story can make your email stand out from the hundreds of other emails they receive every day.

Adding elements of humor and personal story to an email to make it stand out

Personalization, and having a value-first approach shows that you’re not just sending out generic, blasted-out templates and that you’re actually interested in working with the website.

Some ideas for personalization at scale might include:

  • Recent events in the industry: You can use Google News to find recent news articles in your industry. You can then mention these events in your outreach emails. Mentioning specific events shows that you’re keeping up with the latest industry news.
  • Company news: You can use Google Alerts to get notified whenever your target companies are mentioned online. You can then mention this news in your outreach emails.
  • Recent items you enjoyed reading/watching: Find recent articles (or maybe even a podcast episode) from the website you’re targeting. This is a great way to start a conversation and show that you’re interested in the content they’re publishing.

Just remember to keep your template emails short and to the point. No one wants to read a long, rambling email, so make sure you get to the point quickly.

Above all, remember these are just ideas for inspiration.

At the end of the day, there’s more than one way to get someone’s attention via cold email. What works for some companies might not work for you, and there will be nuances according to the industry, and type of contact you’re reaching out to.

Use your strengths, be yourself and don’t be afraid to experiment a little bit until you find what works best for your business.

Some people have a good sense of humor and you can use a humorous subject line. 

Others prefer to be challenged and stimulated intellectually. 

Some others simply want their ego stroked. 

Don’t let anybody tell you there’s only one way to do link building outreach or any type of cold emailing.

We’ve found that humor may work with bloggers or contacts in creative industries. While the SaaS sector really responds well when you reach out with a SEO-focused content idea. But, when we’re reaching out to secretaries at government level, or university librarians – we have to be very straightforward, use simple language, and be to the point about the resource we’re showing them.

Find what works best for you and your company and go with it!

Use a link building tool to power through your link outreach

There are a few different link building tools on the market that can help streamline your outreach process.

One of my personal favorites is Pitchbox, because it makes it easy to find relevant websites, track your progress, and personalize your outreach emails.

Here’s a small snapshot of part of their reporting feature:

snapshot of part of PitchBox's reporting feature

Pitchbox also offers a number of features that can save you time, including automatic follow-ups, reminders via its Chasebox feature, and templates.

If you’re looking for a more affordable option, you can try something like Mailshake or Linkody. These outreach softwares still have many of the essential features you need to get started with link building.

Instantly offers a free trial, while Mailshake allows you to start with a single user and inbox, so you can try them out and see which one you prefer.

Analyze and Optimize Your Link Building Results

The key to improving the results of your link building, is to continuously analyze and optimize your output. 

Aside from at the micro level – you want to also look at the macro level, and look at what links you’re getting and the impact they’re having on your SEO results. After all, there’s no point building links that have no effect. 

For instance:

  • Diversity: Where are you getting links from? Not only should they be relevant, but you should be using multiple techniques, so you can have some diversity in your link profile. Instead of just getting links via PR, HARO outreach or earning links via statistics pages – you may also want to get links via guest posts, so you can get links from very specific industries. So you want to assess how many links you got over a time period, and how much of a % those types contributed.
  • Quality: There are many ways to define quality, but it is highly important. Low quality links from sites that are simply link farms, will at the very least, not create any results. So you need to ensure you run random spot checks, to ensure the links you’re getting (be it in-house or from providers) is not from link farms. Too many of these will run the risk of eroding results over time. Good quality links though, will compound results. Even though it takes time to see the link equity benefits, it’ll pay off later.
  • Impact on rankings: you won’t reach top for every keyword overnight (or even after your first set of links go live). But you need to experience some sort of movement within the first few months. For instance, here’s a client where we built just over 10 links in the space of a month. 
Impact on rankings for one of TLG's client where we built just over 10 links in the space of a month

We hadn’t quite reached the top for every term, but we were definitely moving upwards. Each improvement (while small) does add up. 

  • Movements in traffic / enquiries: As you experience movements in rankings, this should then start to reflect on your organic search traffic. The timeline for this may take longer, as you will likely experience fluctuations in rankings – so it’s important to track everything on Google Analytics. Make sure to have the right attribution on your Analytics as well, so you know which channels are responsible for sales. 

When traffic is not going up fast enough, it could be that you aren’t driving link to the right pages. So ensure your link strategy is such, that links are also being concentrated on “low hanging fruit”, and it is not just a scattergun approach, or links aren’t completely being built to pages which won’t actually rank.

On top of this, link building may even lead to some referral traffic. Now, referral traffic should not be a primary focus at the start as generally speaking, you won’t get  a lot of referral traffic. But, if you are getting links in the right places, it should build up over time. So again, ensure you are tracking this.

Automating the Link Outreach Process the Right Way

One of the easiest ways to streamline your link building process is to automate your link outreach. It’s important to note, though, that you can never truly automate your relationship building. 

You want your outreach to be genuine and helpful. However, you can use software to speed up the process of finding website contacts, generate email templates (with room for customization) and streamline some of the processes involved in sending them a message or chase ups.

Think of automation as a way to save time on tedious and administrative tasks, like allowing you to edit templates at scale or following up with people who haven’t responded to your initial email. 

Here are a few ways you can automate your link building outreach process:

1. Follow a strategy

You should always follow a specific link building process. Doing it in the wrong order or without any strategy or focus can lead to bad results.

Having a standardized process will help you be more efficient and avoid repeating tasks. Automation can be a great way to save time on repetitive tasks, but only if you’re following a tried-and-true strategy.

For instance, you might want to start by conducting keyword research to find the right target keywords. Once you have your target keywords, you can use a tool like Moz’s Open Site Explorer, or Ahrefs to find link targets.

But, it’s crucial that you understand the angle behind that batch and what you’re trying to achieve at outreach.

If you’re collecting targets in bulk which are around topics like “How to Get High Quality Backlinks” then make sure the resource you’re pitching is related to those targets. 

At the same time, it’s unlikely that every single article will cover the same thing. So you have to ensure your email template will account for those differences. 

Some may talk about “how to get high quality links” but some may talk about “how to measure backlink quality” (which tends to happen when you collect data in bulk.) In those cases, it would be prudent to sort the bulk list into batches and pitch them with a different angle. Or you may just want to pitch a different resource entirely so it makes sense. 

Once you have a list of potential link targets, you can start outreach by sending them a personalized email. Tools like ContactOut or Snov, combined with some manual research, will help you find the email address of the right person at each website.

2. Consolidate Tasks Before Contacting Bloggers/Editors

When you reach out to potential link partners, it’s important to be as organized as possible. This means having all the information you need in one place before you start contacting the relevant person.

You should have a list of all the potential link targets, their contact information, and a template of the email you’ll be sending, and any other personalization fields, if you’re pulling multiple datapoints into the email.

Platforms like Pitchbox and Buzzstream download the data as a CSV file. You just need to upload it to the platform and the system will automatically populate the fields.

This will help you save a lot of time, as you won’t have to manually copy and paste information from one place to another.

Just make sure you leave room for a personalized touch as well. We tend to find that a 1-2 line section at the start of the email, allows you room to write an ice-breaker. In Pitchbox, you don’t have to write it into the CSV, and you can do that while you’re inside the system (as shown below).

Adding personalization within PitchBox

Also, by doing your outreach through one central point, it’s much easier to track your progress. Most outreach platforms allow you to keep track of your link building progress and who you’ve contacted.

Much easier than juggling between multiple Gmail accounts!

3. Streamline Your Approval Process

If you’re working with a team, it’s important to have a streamlined approval process for your link building strategies and activities. This way, you can avoid delays in your outreach due to miscommunication or a lack of clear guidelines.

You should have a specific process for approving things like link building strategy ideas, content ideas or campaign angles. This might include having a central repository for link building ideas, like a Google Sheet or Trello board. Then, you can have someone in charge of approving or rejecting each idea.

It’s also important to have a clear understanding of what kinds of links you want to build. This way, you can quickly approve or reject link building opportunities as early in the process as possible. For instance, you might want to build links only from highly-relevant sites in your industry or specific sectors, and discard any opportunities that don’t meet this criteria.

Without a strict approval process, your team might spend time on link building ideas that will never see the light of day due to irrelevance, or yield links which don’t align with your goals.

This will lead to confusion (and frustration), and it will ultimately slow down your link building efforts.

For instance, your team might reach out to someone your sales team is already talking to about something else, which can lead to a conflict of interest. 

The good news?

You can avoid this type of problem by tapping into some automations.

For instance, Google Sheets helps you get alerts whenever you add something in the tracker which is on your “avoid list.” This way, you can quickly catch and fix any potential problems.

You can also use an automation tool like Zapier to get alerts whenever a new link building opportunity is added to your tracker. This way, you can quickly approve or reject the opportunity.

At TLG, we go a step further, and also conduct meetings, at least once per week, per project. This allows the team to be on the same page, and ensure there’s no room for confusion, or miscommunication. If anything needs to be ironed out, or anyone has any ideas they had in mind, calls are a good place to bring it up.

Having all these things in place, and a clear and concise approval process will help you build links more efficiently and avoid any potential problems down the road.

4. Determining the Best Days and Times to Reach Out

Your link building process will be much more effective if you choose the best days and times to reach out to your potential link contacts. You want to make sure you’re reaching out when your contacts are most likely to respond.

You can make assumptions based on your contact’s business hours and the type of business they have. 

For example, if you’re reaching out to a large corporation and they work on a 9-5 schedule, it would be best to send your outreach during the morning or mid-afternoon.

On the other hand, if you’re reaching out to a small business or entrepreneur, they may have more flexible hours. In this case, reaching out in the evening or on weekends won’t do any harm.

You should also account for national holidays. For instance, when Thanksgiving is coming up, you tend to find people take the days before and/or after that day off as well, so make sure your outreach fits in around that. While if you’re reaching out to local government or universities, you may find the summer months are harder to get responses, because most of them will take annual leave around that time.

You can also use data to determine the best days and times to reach out. You can use a tool like Buzzstream to see when your contacts are most likely to respond to your outreach.

Studies suggest to schedule your outreach efforts at the start of the week, between 6:00 am and 1:00 pm, as it has shown to have the highest response rates.

That said, you want to test different times and days to see what works best for your contacts.

Common Challenges While Automating Link Outreach

As much as you want to streamline your outreach efforts for efficiency, and introduce some elements of automation to speed up the process, you also have to be careful not to affect the quality of the output either. 

Here are some of the challenges you might find when you “over- automate” link building.

Maintaining Link Quality

When doing things at scale, it can be easy to let quality slip, and to make this a complete numbers game. This is tied to some of the other challenges we’ll talk about in this section – but when you only think about outreach as numbers, that’s what the output will be. You’ll end up hitting your monthly quota with links, but not considering what you have – is the best quality you could have built. 

Even if you have taken care of niche-relevance at the strategy and prospecting level, not doing your due diligence at the outreach level may mean compromising on standards be it:

  • Taking any link regardless of quality and paying for links because there’s nothing else in the pipeline.
  • Agreeing on content ideas which aren’t in line with your brand and are too loosely connected to the link you wanted.
  • If it’s a guest post, getting a link which isn’t aligned with link strategy goals. 

To name a few. 

So streamline in order to speed up the quality work you’re already doing – not to turn it into a “links at all cost” game.

Lack of Resources

Following on from the first point, high volume outreach, will deteriorate when you just don’t have the resources to back it up. 

Simply put – if your content isn’t up to par and isn’t valued enough at outreach, it’ll reflect in the success rate. 

This will become a vicious cycle – the lower the response rate, the more outreach you have to send – which creates a higher workload, and will drain resources. 

So, make sure you still allocate resources to your content, and make it as valuable as possible.

The better your content – the better the success at outreach. 

As well as that, if you are doing a lot of guest blogging outreach, make sure you have the resources required to write all that content. And it needs to be top-notch. 

Don’t be tempted to churn out guest post articles with AI, because editors at top quality sites that accept guest posts – will notice. 

Lack of Personalization

As we explained before – personalizing outreach emails will be crucial, to help you stand apart in someone’s inbox. 

When an email is a generic template with a generic subject line it’ll reflect in the numbers.

At best – it’s a person who doesn’t reply (or doesn’t even notice the email), and that impacts your response rate, and subsequently, win rate. 

At worst – someone just sees your email as complete rubbish, and will mark you as spam – which impacts your email deliverability. The more this happens, this will be devastating for your email health score and will affect your other campaigns as well.

So, investing time into personalizing is highly recommended, and when you automate and streamline outreach, it can be tempting to see personalization as something which is slowing down the process. But… it’s a necessary part of outreach.

After all, we’re in the business of building relationships with humans, and we should end emails to people like there is a human at the other end. 

Write your personalization with intent, and ensure it goes a level deeper

Don’t spend too long on it (as you may overcomplicate it), but don’t be so surface-level that it looks generic. 

Now, there could be room to use AI within your outreach process, and some do use it to help with their templates. But, in our testing, we found that AI probably gets it right about 70% of the time. If you automate personalization and try to rely on AI, this can also erode results. 

I talked about this a bit, in this panel on Majestic, about the risk of AI personalization being disingenuous.

Don’t get me wrong, AI has its use for streamlining some parts of the link building process, like at prospecting, or for data analysis – but be careful on how you use it at outreach.

Conclusion

Streamlining your link building process is essential if you want to be successful. Setting up a system that is efficient and effective will save you a lot of time and effort in the long run.

Hopefully, this article has given you some ideas on how to streamline your link building process and make it more efficient.

And, if you’re looking for even more help with your link building outreach, contact us today and schedule a free consultation. We’ll be happy to help you take your link building to the next level!