Revealed: Outreach Campaigns from some of the Biggest SEO Firms

The following blog post is about me a) venting some steam from the guest post requests I receive from SEO agencies and b) providing an interesting insight into how some of the biggest SEO agencies handle their outreach campaigns.

Introduction:

Since the Google Penguin update, most SEO agencies have shifted their workforce from just buying links towards engaging in content marketing, guest posting and spotting organic link building opportunities.

5 Examples of Outreach Campaigns by SEO Agencies

The following article shows 5 examples how some SEO agencies have tailored their emails to achieve post success.

Case Study 1: “Enquiry on Behalf of Vista Print”

Vistaprint

To be 100% honest, I was pretty annoyed by this email.

Although in the first paragraph he praised one of my articles, the 2nd paragraph was way too salesly and generic: “Would you be interested in a guest post from us.  It will be interesting to your readers.”

The email was signed off with a massive footer that made it clear that this was an email from an SEO company.  It also annoyed me that he tricked me into thinking he was working for Vista Print, rather than Search Laboratory.   I mean he couldn’t have made it more abundantly clear in the footer. 

Case Study 2: “Guest Post Enquiry”

Tombola

The title of this email, “Guest Post Enquiry”, immediately turned me off – I’d normally delete an email with this title without even opening it.  

That being said, I thought the email was extremely well written.  He a) introduced himself as working for a credible, international and relevant brand, b) wrote me an engaging, personable email and c) didn’t mention to words “guest post” anywhere in the body.

I also really liked how he phrased this part: I think the article would work really well on your site and make a useful resource for jobseekers – I’d like to offer it for publication on Graduates’ blog.”

Like the above case study however, the email had a massive footer for SearchLaboratory.com and was signed off as Off-Page SEO Executive.

Case Study 3: “Natwest Content Proposal”

natwest

As soon as I saw the title of this email “Natwest Content Proposal” it was extremely obvious that this was another guest post request.  Frankly if it wasn’t a big brand like Natwest then I would have thrown this straight into the trash, however I usually have patience for those representing bigger, legitimate brands.

The downside to this email was that the person used a 3rd party email address (@ZenithOptimedia.co.uk) and immediately stated that she worked for a London based media agency. 

The content body was OK – I’d still normally throw this in the trash at this point – however what caught my eye was when the person said they would throw in a free pair of festival tickets either for myself or to give away to my readers as a thank you for posting the article.

I’ve genuinely never received the offer of a “gift” before, so this was quite enticing.  Furthermore it seemed a legitimate way to give something back to my readers (e.g. by promoting the tickets it in a social media competition).

After hesitating, I eventually passed on the offer, however I was very close to accepting it and appreciated the unique incentive.

Case Study 4: “Enquiry Partnership with Just-Eat.co.uk”

justeat

Just-Eat.co.uk is one of the UK’s biggest online takeaway providers, so I was quite happy when they emailed on of my sites looking to engage in a partnership.

I though the good thing about this email is that they tricked me into thinking they actually wanted to partner with me…I mean who wouldn’t want to partner with an industry-leading brand right?

The other thing that added credibility to this email (rather then me throwing it in directly into the trashcan) is that the person signed off on an official Just-Eat.co.uk email address. 

Although it’s very easy to create a custom @Just-Eat.co.uk email, it made me feel like I was talking to a real person from the company and not just another copywriter from a third-party SEO agency.

Case Study 5: “Fashion Graduate | Graduate ASOS Marketplace”

ASOS

This was an excellent email.  I hold my hands up in the air and say this was a brilliant content marketing strategy!

Everything it mentioned was so organic and it didn’t even look like an SEO email.  It had good branding with the ASOS logo and it offered something that was genuinely valuable to my readers.  It would have actually benefited my site including a link in the news article to the promotion.

Overall, this was a really clever PR opportunity and not your typical “guest post solicitation attempt”.

Again however, this email was ruined by the big fat SearchLaboratory.com footer.  It if didn’t include this footer, I probably would’ve posted it on my site.

Conclusion – What Have we learned from these outreach campaigns?

I think one of the most important lessons is to not come across as someone who’s just looking to guest post for a link.  The emails I receive where the person is offering something of genuine value to my readers or looking to engage in a partnership are much more successful then just a content proposal.  Furthermore, anything with “Guest Post” in the title I just throw away.

If you’re fortunate enough to work for a well known, reputable brand, I’d stick that in the introduction alongside a corporate logo to add more credibility and trust.  Using a brand email address as opposed to a third-party one (especially from a media agency) is really important.

I think the last case study example provided the best lesson for a successful SEO campaign.  It was more of a PR campaign then SEO, but I guess you can see how the two are intertwined.  By providing a unique opportunity to graduates, the article was not only newsworthy (PR) but the link was organic and would be beneficial to my readers.

The most important lesson however is to not sign your emails off as an SEO specialist in addition to a big fat SEO footer.

Adam Grunwerg

Mr grunwerg has written 22 post in this blog.

Adam Grunwerg is the founder of Searchable.co.uk and has numerous years of experience in SEO, inbound marketing developing brands online. He has also previously written for the Guardian, SearchEngineJournal and AffiliateFYI.com.

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  • http://www.martinwoods.me.uk/ Martin Woods

    This is a great blog post Adam! I was planning on covering this subject myself in a blog, but never got round to it.

    I have examples of another 10+ agencies in the UK which are also awful at outreach emails and use their agency email addresses.I think one of my personal favourites in the last week has been a guest post pitch which included links back to the Raven Tools content manager platform!

  • Gareth Mailer

    Pretty judgemental. What’s so dreadful? These sites aren’t spamming you and while some of the e-mails may seem a bit generic, at least they are going to the trouble to personalise.

    Keep in mind these are hard working employees who have livings to make and targets to hit – the ideal of the perfect e-mail, every time, in every situation, is unrealistic. The world isn’t rainbows and sunshine – results matter and if the above works, so be it.

    • addz123

      Hi Gareth, I agree it’s very judgement. As I mentioned at the beginning, it was mostly just about letting off some steam. However, it also depends on your classification of spam. For example, I receive 2-3 emails per day from people asking to guest post on my sites, usually with an irrelevant link. I also think it’s wrong to say that you represent a client when you have very little association with them. At the end of the day, if I turned around and asked if I could guest post on their site that they were promoting I wonder how many would say yes, let alone have the authority to do so.

      However, I completely understand how agencies operate and go about their business.

      • Gareth Mailer

        Is tweeting or commenting the definition of a “relationship”? I doubt it. Lots of people tweet our content, it doesn’t mean we have any relationship with them.

        I think it’s also important not to devalue content – the fact they’ve given/offered you a page of content which has probably taken about an hour to create (at the very least) is surely a stronger signal they want to develop a relationship than a meaningless tweet/share/+1 which takes a matter of seconds? Why do content providers – legitimate content providers – need to go above and beyond these days to appease demanding webmasters? Content is valuable in itself, inferring otherwise (i.e. that they need to routinely tweet or +1 something, or jump through some hoop) is doing the industry a disservice.

        With regards to representation, they probably do represent the brand – they’ve probably even been given permission by the client to assert that they represent the brand. I would find it more deceptive if the person behind the e-mail sent me the initial communication via an on-domain e-mail address (not that I would find this deceptive enough to be bothered, just more deceptive than the honest approach i.e. admitting they are an Agency).

        To be fair, I think the post is fine (the idea is pretty sound) but it’s just the tone that made me want to comment – it’s a tough job and the practical, results aspect of it need to be commended. There’s a heck of a lot of industry talk about best practices, shifts in ethos etc, but very little of the “new-age” material (most of which I believe in and have for a long time) talks about results or return (which is the ONLY thing that matters to the clients of the Agencies above).

        It’s also, most interestingly, emanating from a few key sources who have little to no practical experience implementing these strategies on a scalable basis (because they are “thought leaders”, not providers), nor do they have experience implementing these practices on a scalable basis with little to no budget behind them.

        • addz123

          If people are tweeting your content then yes I’d say that’s the start of a relationship. It’s not the content I have a problem with, it’s giving them a link to an irrelevant site with presumably unnatural anchor text. Not only is that against Google’s guidelines it also provides no value to my visitors.

          The point is that someone who just wants a single guest post with a link for their client is not interested in building a relationship – like you said they’re paid by the agency to build links and not relationships (although for many agencies that may be changing). If they were looking to build a relationship then they shouldn’t be asking for a guest post straight away, especially not in the subject title.

          I actually receive many enquiries from PR agencies for my sites and the approach couldn’t be more different. Most of these PR agencies get in touch on a personal basis, provide well-researched content, include their phone number, keep in touch on a regular basis, add me on Linkedin, tweet my content and don’t ask for a link. It’s all about building relationships with important people and for link builders who are paid by the numbers this is missed out.

  • Guest

    One issue is that many companies don’t give their agency permission to use an email address from their domain, as they might be protective over their company ‘voice’ or they don’t want to be deceptive, so in that situation there would be no choice but to use an agency signature.

  • Matthew Newton

    I loved this post, thanks for bringing it to us.

    The one thing I’d like to mention though is this: the main criteria for assessing these emails should be “could this person add value to my readers?” not “is this person obviously from an SEO agency?”.

    A few of the emails mentioned above probably should not have gone to the trash. Not to mention that taking content from established, popular brands actually helps your own brand perception.

    Mat.

  • Jamie Knop

    Nice post Adam. Last one certainly the winner here. The problem with some clients is they don’t want to give SEO’s an email address. I see where they are coming from as things could get messy if it is a well known brand and the email address is abused.

    Need a follow up post with more :)

  • http://www.webdesignreview.co.uk haris awais

    that’s truly a wrong way to build links, requesting for guest post is just like a kid requesting for something , this does’nt works , every one cares about it’s rank, no one wants to harm it’s website
    allowing an unnatural and low value link

  • jack hill

    that’s totally nonsense way of building backlinks , obviously no one would ever sacrifice their authority in front of google for the sake of irrelevant and unnatural link, if link is to be made for a website one must build by adding quality content with a relevant quality links that may help the public

  • http://www.webdesignreview.co.uk haris awais

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