Tired of prospecting?
Tools like Image Prospector can automate some of your prospecting work, but email outreach still gets pretty tiring.
What if there was a way to build links without any prospecting or outreach?
Well, there is, and the solution is right in your inbox.
In today’s post, you’ll learn how to build links without ever leaving your inbox using a tactic I call “reverse outreach.”
What is reverse outreach?
Reverse outreach is when you receive an outreach email from a link builder and flip it into a link for your own website.
Most commonly, this involves turning a link request into a link swap.
The steps are fairly simple, but doing this well well takes some finesse. I’ll reveal some templates and techniques for getting links (and bonus links) in this guide.
Why it’s awesome
Why should you love reverse outreach?
Because this link building tactic is extremely efficient and works nearly 100% of the time. You can get high authority editorial links with 5 minutes of work.
In other words, it might be the highest ROI link building tactic of all time.
Better still, this tactic lets you build deep links to pages that are normally hard to get links to. For lower competition keywords, a small handful of these links can be the difference between a #3 ranking and a #1 ranking with 2x the traffic.
As marvelous as this tactic is, it does have a couple of drawbacks.
The first is a bit of a catch-22. If your site is new, you might not get many opportunities to use this tactic. It works best for sites that already have a decent link profile and numerous blog posts.
And second, this tactic is repeatable but not scalable. You’ll routinely get these opportunities, but you can’t create them on-demand or scale them at will.
Now that you know why this tactic is awesome, let’s get into the how-to.
How to do reverse outreach
The first step is prospecting.
Since you’re the outreach recipient, you don’t have to go out and find your prospects. They’re already in your inbox.
However, there is some work to be done filtering out the good opportunities from the bad ones.
How to segment your prospects
The first step is to separate reverse outreach prospects from the rest of your emails.
In the future, you can label them and reply as they come in, but right now, you need to dig through your existing emails.
The simplest way to organize your prospects is to apply a label.
If you’re using Gmail, you can create a new label at the bottom of the expanded sidebar.
Give it a name like “Reverse Outreach.”
Next, page through the last 30 days of emails and apply the label using the bulk actions.
The emails you’re looking for are:
- Link requests
- Guest post requests
- Open ended co-marketing initiatives
Consider every one of them a possible link swap at this point.
Once you have the emails tagged, you can sort through them and separate the good from the bad.
How to pick the right prospects
When evaluating a prospect, the only criteria that matter is the quality and relevancy of their website.
For example, if someone emailed me about adding a link to their recipe blog, I would ignore it since this website has nothing to do with food. Furthermore, if someone with an SEO blog wanted me to add a link to their site, I would first check if it had a decent authority score.
As long as they have a relevant, established website, they’re a solid prospect for reverse outreach. But this does raise a question…
What if they don’t include their website?
Guest bloggers, in particular, often don’t mention their site (or their client’s site) in the outreach email. If you’re short on time, you can ignore these emails. Otherwise, you can ask them for the site’s link first—more on that in the next section.
Once you’ve got your prospects ready to go, it’s time to get your links.
How to reply to prospects
The response is slightly different depending upon the request.
For a straightforward link inclusion request, you can send the following reply:
Hi NAME, Thanks for reaching out! Sure, I can have that link added for you. If we add the link, could you also include a link on your site to our blog post/guide?
99% of the time, they’ll agree to this since they get their coveted link. In fact, the only person to ever turn me down on this offer is Gael from Authority Hacker. So there ya go, Gael, there’s your link 😅.
If the prospect emailed you with an open invitation for co-marketing together, you can use the same intro with this reply:
Right now we're working on our search rankings. We're trying to promote our post on SUBJECT, in particular. Is there somewhere on your site where you could link to it for us? I'd be happy to return the favor and promote a post of yours on our site.
If the prospect is requesting a guest post placement on your site, the reply is only slightly different:
We're not publishing new guest posts right now, but if you're interested, I can add a link to your site from one of our existing articles. I just ask that you return the favor and add a link to our site from an article of yours.
If it’s an agency, there’s a chance they might not spring for it because their client specifically purchased a guest post, but any in-house link builder will welcome the chance to get a link without writing an entire blog post. Furthermore, agencies love finding link partners, so once they know you are open to this sort of thing, they’ll likely follow up with more opportunities in the future.
Lastly, if the guest blogger didn’t mention their URL, you can ask them for it like this:
Could you let me know the site the article is being published for? We like to know where we'll be linking and where the content is coming from first.
If the prospect agrees to a link swap, the next step is to request your link placement.
How to choose your link
While you can be lazy and ask them to pick a relevant page, it makes more sense to choose the page yourself.
By picking a page on their site where you want the link, you get to choose the most relevant possible place and save them the hassle of finding a page for you. And as I mentioned earlier, this is a fantastic opportunity to get links to inner pages, so I wouldn’t waste it on a homepage link.
While you could browse their site, the best way to find a good page is to use the
site: operator in Google.
For instance, if I were trying to rank a page on my site for “electric scooters,” I would search the following query:
site:theirwebsite.com electric scooters
The top result is the page that Google thinks is most relevant to your keyword, and I think that’s the best place for the link.
There’s just one restriction: you have to pick a blog post. Most folks aren’t able (or willing) to get you a link on any static page on the site, so keep it to posts only.
Once you know the page, here’s an example response you can use:
Can you add the following link for us? Page: https://theirsite.com/article-title Anchor: my anchor text Link target: https://mysite.com/article-title
This formatting is clear and readable, so there won’t be any confusion about where to place your link.
You should also use anchor text already present in the aticle. This way, they only have to add a link to the existing text and don’t have to write any new content to fit the link in.
While I’ve never gotten a nofollow link from this tactic – everyone knows what’s up – I am still paranoid and like to check. I would recommend you do a quick check once you get your link to make sure it doesn’t have a nofollow attribute applied, and of course, don’t apply it to theirs.
How to follow up for more links
There are two more things you should do after you get your link.
First, add this person to a database of link builders. You can use Google Sheets, but I recommend Ninox as an excellent alternative.
This database of other SEOs is convenient for building additional links and engaging in other cooperative marketing initiatives in the future.
Second, you should send them a follow-up email. In this email, ask them if they have any other sites they manage and let them know about other sites in your portfolio as well. This is a great opportunity to score more links for your site(s) with little additional effort.
After reading this guide, I hope you like this tactic as much as I do.
It’s a modern tactic and works incredibly well (for now), so use it while you’ve got it in your toolkit.
If you want to get more proactive with your link building, I’d recommend you read this guide next:
It includes more than a dozen outreach link building tactics, each with its own pre-written email and prospecting strategy built-in. It could be the thing that gets you to #1 this year.
Thanks for reading this guide on how to do reverse outreach, and please share it with the buttons below before you go.