The Se7en Deadly Sins of Outreach



October 5, 2012 (Updated: May 4, 2023)

frustrated man at desk with hand in his hair

Inbound marketing is a vital component of SEO, but it is also a tedious and time-consuming process. When constantly contacting sites for guest blogging opportunities, you may be tempted to form time saving habits in the initial outreach process to make your job easier. But what starts out as a time-saving and consistent way to outreach actually turns out as a way to undermine the overall relationship-building strategy.

For anyone looking for a steady response rate, here are some common pitfalls to avoid with your initial outreach email.

1.  Asking for Too Much in the Subject Line

Your subject line is the first chance to get the recipient’s attention. In some cases it’s requested by the blogger to put a particular title to your email, like “Guest Post Submission.” But many times if the blog doesn’t openly state that he or she accepts submissions, then subject lines that say “Guest Post Inquiry” will probably be labeled as spam or a marketing ploy—or just plain greedy. You’re asking for too much before you have introduced yourself.

Charity Tip: Try showing fan emotion in the subject line. Things like “Thanks for [specific post’s title]” or “Loved [specific post’s title]” will come across more as an admiring fan’s comment than as a marketer asking for something. Chances are that blogger or site owner will likely open your email quickly just to see why you liked his or her specific post. Wouldn’t you?

2. Causing Resentment with a Generic Greeting

Hello. A one word greeting that will leave your recipient hitting “delete” as fast as you hit “send.” How you address the recipient of your email is important. If you just say “Hello,” “Hi,” or any other generic greeting without the recipient’s name, then that person will perceive the email as spam, or at the very least, he or she will resent you for your lack of personalization. If you want a better response rate, then you should start paying more attention to the “About” page and to specific names.

Kindness Tip: If you’re emailing a site that gives general contact information, like, instead of a specific person’s email address, then you can still personalize the greeting by including the site’s name. Or, if you see that there are multiple writers for the site, you can even go a step further and address the blog’s editorial team.

3. Reusing an Email Template

If you’re looking for quantity over quality, then by all means send out the standard, “Hi, My name is___” email, but don’t expect your response rate to skyrocket. The body of an email is just as important as the subject line with the same goal that you want the recipient to not only open the email, but also to read the entire email. So taking the time to craft the body of the email—without lazily sending out a template—will help in reaching that goal.

Diligence Tip: If you’re thanking a blogger for a specific post in the subject line, then be sure to flesh out the reasons why you liked that post within the opening of your email. Be creative in expanding on a particular post and be genuine in your explanation of your reaction. If you loved the post because it made you think of a previous incidence, then say so. Not only will the blogger be hooked into reading your email because of the personal connection, but also this aspect of connecting to posts makes outreaching more enjoyable.

4. Overindulging in Flattery

Bloggers can sniff out false flattery. If you’re not connecting to any of the blogger’s posts, then don’t try to force a connection. Being interpreted as fake in outreach is just as deadly as being interpreted as a marketer. Instead of just focusing on that person’s blog, you can broaden your approach by checking out the blog’s or specific owner’s social media network.

Temperance Tip: If all else fails where you can’t seem to relate to the posts or to the blogger, then try to examine the site more closely in terms of how you can help make it better with a guest post. Maybe the blogger only has posted once this month or the blogger didn’t go into detail about a certain issue in a recent post. Bring these points up in the initial outreach in order to spark a connection and to convey the fact that you’ve spent time checking the site out.

5. Annoying the Blogger with Your Format

When you’re striking a connection with a blogger it’s sometimes easy to get long-winded, which can annoy the blogger. Just like with blog posts, emails need to have high scannability because it might not be read in its entirety. At the very least, make sure the call to action, or the part of the email where you ask for the blogger to reply back, is easy to locate in the email.

Patience Tip: After connecting with the blogger in your introduction, try short 2-3 sentence paragraphs that quickly summarize your background and request. If you want to pitch a guest post idea to the blogger, then do so in a short paragraph or even a short sentence that then leads to bullet points of the post’s main ideas. Make it easy for the blogger to know exactly what to expect from you and what you want from him or her.

6. Leaving the Blogger Wanting More

If you’re asking to guest post on a site, you should include at least one example of a previously published guest post. A blogger desires examples because they alleviate doubt for the blogger about the quality of your writing and if you’re a good fit for the blog. Ideally, you should show a post that is on a high ranking site or that closely relates to the main themes of the site that you’re emailing in order to convince the blogger that you’re a worthy guest author.

Chastity Tip: If you think your email is getting too long and is losing its scanability factor, then try mentioning in a short sentence that you are happy to provide examples of recent guest posts if the blogger would like. You don’t necessarily have to provide a few links to get the point across that you are well-established in what you’re asking and that other people have accepted your request before. At the very least, if the blogger responds with a request to see those examples, then you’ve succeeded in getting a response and starting a conversation.

7. Not Giving Enough Background Information

Sure, the recipient of your email can see your send-from email address, but is that enough background information to convince him or her that you’re a real person and not a spam robot? Your signature should include not only your name and email, but also any relevant links to your social media network (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Linkedin,etc.). You might feel confident that you’ve personalized the email well enough to not have to go the extra mile and include a trace about yourself, but let the blogger know that you’re a real person. Include your profiles.

Humility Tip: Try connecting with the site’s social media network before you send out an initial outreach email. Get the blogger’s attention by retweeting a post or by commenting on a post through Facebook. The blogger is more likely to remember your name—increasing your chances of your email being read.

While there are many other bad habits to be weary of, these seven are a guideline for how to humanize your initial approach – ultimately raising your chances for your email being opened, read, and answered.

What else should marketers avoid when outreaching?

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