Creating outreach emails that get the link and build a relationship

Written by
Phil Forbes
Apr 30, 2021
13 min read

Hey there!

I hope that you are doing well. 

I recently came across your blog and was really impressed with your latest article. 

I’d like to propose a guest post. We have a professional approach and create well-written content that would suit your audience really well. 

Waiting for your reply!

Chances are that if you work in digital marketing and have an inbox, you’ve read an email like that. 

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be friends with that person. In fact, I want to avoid that person so much, that I’m not going to reply to that email. There’s just nothing that makes me want to do so. 

Even if they were asking for a reciprocal backlink (whether you believe they’re harmful or not), there’s just nothing in it that makes me say ‘yes’.

The writer of this email is clearly trying to get a backlink—but, it’s not really working for them for a multitude of reasons. 

By the way, to find all the backlinks of any domain and analyze each one against over 15 parameters, you can use SE Ranking’s tool for backlinks check.

Check which domains link out to any website and get ideas for enhancing your backlink profile.

In this article, we’ll touch on:

  • How you can write a cold outreach email that doesn’t suck like that one
  • Why you should focus on relationship building, rather than link building
  • The power of wit, humour & charm in doing all of the above


Marketing is boring

I know because I do it all day. 

I do outreach & SEO for the custom packaging startup, Packhelp. We make custom packaging for a wide range of companies. 

Long story short, I market boxes for my 9-5, so I know a thing or two about being boring. 

But it’s the humour that makes my boxes sexy and interesting. 

*record scratch*

Chances are that you got a child-like smirk when you read that last sentence. And you’re going to keep reading this article because so far, it’s not like all the other marketing content you read. 

You’re now agreeing with me, and starting to trust me more. You’re probably even smiling now (or at least smiling on the inside).

This is charm, and not unlike the charm that we use elsewhere in life to get our way. (Looking at you, James Bond). It’s the key to building an honest yet professional relationship, from which you can build high-quality, well-placed, and super juicy backlinks

As well as slightly charming, this last section has been somewhat humorous and honest, which go a long way in breaking down the ‘unknown’ between you, the reader, and me, the writer. 

Charm, wit & humor

Markers often use charm, wit and humour in what they do.

But they do that to push a product, service or idea to drum up traffic, leads, revenue, or whatever. As marketers, that’s what we do, it makes sense because it has a business impact. 

But why don’t we take that same witty approach in talking to each other?

No one’s going to pay attention to a generic cold outreach email for the same reason they won’t pay attention to a generic billboard advertising ham. 

It’s boring. 

So when we do use wit and humor, it works—whether your target audience is consumers or other marketers.

Most individuals, marketers or not, don’t expect charm, wit and humour in their daily lives. 

That’s why you’re still reading this article. 

Taking the charming approach to cold emails is a potent way to get your email read, break down that ‘unknown’, and ultimately get more than you’re initially asking for. But you need to email the right person. 

Finding the right person

First of all, create a spreadsheet of outlets you want to contact. Title one column ‘Name’ and the other ‘Email. No surprises there.  

I use tools like Clearbit or to find people that work at the company. There are plenty of alternative tools you could use. Once you’ve got a list of people that work there, you’ll need to find the right person. 

If you’re asking for a link insertion, email the author of the article. If you can’t find the author, look at the naming structure of the emails of other employees. Is it [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]? Substitute the name of the author into this email address structure. 

If you can’t find who the author is, or you don’t know who to reach, this is my personal preference order:

  1. Outreach specialist
  2. Someone with ‘SEO’ or ‘Organic’ or ‘Search’ in their title
  3. Marketing specialist
  4. Social media specialist
  5. Sales/Customer Service.

While sales and customer service are on the bottom of that list, I’ve also found that, as these people rarely get cold outreach emails, they’re the best to reach out to. 

Feeling brave? Go for the throat—I mean, the CEO. If there’s anyone at a company to impress with your wit and charm, it’s the person at the top calling the shots. 

But what happens if you can only find [email protected]?

That’s a bit of a frustration, but then it’s best just to make their name as ‘[company name] team’. It shows, at the very least, you’ve tried to personalise something – and that looks a lot better than starting your email with ‘Hello sirs or madams’. 


There’s a reason every single piece of content about cold emails/outreach mentions the word ‘personalisation’—because it’s important. 

But putting someone’s name in an email isn’t personalisation. 

In this day and age with a new social media channel popping up every 45 minutes, it’s not hard to find out more information about people higher up in specific companies – or, at the very least, some press about the company in question. 

Crawl their Twitter or LinkedIn. There’s every chance you’ll be able to find out their favourite sports team, one of their last guest posts or something they enjoy in their spare time. 

That’s the personalisation that a good outreach email requires. 

Can’t find anything about the person? Call them out on that. 

I must admit that I pulled out all my internet sleuthing skills and couldn’t find a single thing about you. So while I’m doing my best to make this email as personal as possible—well, I’m doing what I can with what I’ve got!’ 

But before you focus too much on the body copy, what’s your subject line going to be?

Subject line

Of course, it’s important—it’s the first thing people read in their inbox. And there’s every chance that you’re looking here for subject lines to copy/paste in your own campaigns. I’m not going to give my favorite ones away that easily, but here’s some that I base a lot of mine off: 

(No subject) – When was the last time you got an email without a subject line? We spend so much time creating a perfect subject line that gets a click. So no one ever gets the default fallback text. That’s what makes it effective. 

The cleverest email you’ll get all week. Or at least today. It’s cute because ‘cleverest’ isn’t a word, and because you’re speaking to the recipient directly. Plus, if you write your email well, it’d probably be an honest subject line, too. 

Mutually beneficial link building/content creation opportunities. It’s honest and you’re putting the benefit for the recipient right in their lap. They know what’s in it for them, making them more likely to click. 


That’s the main thing. The only thing that affects your open rate is your name, the subject and the preview text. Two of those are modified easier than the other, so modify and experiment until you get the results you need. 

Be nice and say hello

Hey, Hi, Hello – no. 

You’ve worked so hard to get the click, and the first impression you leave will be the most generic greeting possible. Not a good start. 

Greeting and salutations, aloha, top of the morning to you. – These all mean exactly the same thing as those H-words, but they’ve got personality, they’ve got character, they’ve got pizzazz (whatever that is). They’ve got the charm and wit that you want to put into your email, and it’s vital that you put that in at the very start. 

Eliminate the unknown

The problem with cold emails is that they’re cold—you’re emailing someone who does know you or your company. There’s a lot of ‘unknown’ about it all, and people don’t like the unknown. 

So tell them what they don’t know. 

I’m Steve, part of the marketing team from [your company]. Long story short, we do [this]. 

I got your email from the hack-o-tron 5000. By that, I mean I got it on a tool called ClearBit.

Anyway, I’ll get straight to the point’’. 

Not only have you answered a question that the recipient didn’t know they had, but you’ve made another joke. 

Talking about the negatives and the unknown as early in the piece is called the Warren Buffet technique. The famed investor regularly starts meetings by talking about the negatives. That means that the fear is negated straight away, and more time can be spent talking about what’s important. 

Bill Gates and Warren Buffet meme

It’s important that you don’t pitch your company when you explain what your company does. I usually say ‘and we do custom packaging’. 

They don’t care that Packhelp has an intuitive online designer, or that Deloitte named us the fastest growing startup in the CEE region

So don’t tell them. 

Note: It’s at this point that you should add another level of personalisation – something you found on their Twitter or LinkedIn, something about their last round of funding or similar.

What do you want?

Backlink? Guest post? Complement them on their webcam positioning? Link insertion? Co-marketing collab? Their favourite toilet paper?


Go straight to the point—you’ll waste less of their time, and increase your chances of getting what you want. 

I’d like you to have a quick read of this article’.

‘Would you mind including a link to some of our content on your article?’

‘I’d like to put the idea of a co-marketing venture into your head’. 

To me, there’s not much point explaining how much you loved their most recent post that you didn’t actually read. 

I cringe a lot when I read a vague and generic attempt to convince me that this company/individual is work responding to.

‘I think that we’d work well together’

Firstly, we won’t be working together. Secondly, I don’t care what you think, tell me why you think that. 

“Your customers are ecommerce brands. We’re a marketplace that sells Shopify themes. It’s a match made in online-retail heaven. “

If someone has read this far, you’ve got them hooked. So call them out on that, the same way I’ve called you out in this article twice already for still reading it. 

If you’ve read this far, it’s pretty evident that I don’t create average content – which is another reason you should let me write a guest post for you’. 

You’re in, so get out

Wrap it up nice and quick. Sign off with a witty remark, something a little better than “Looking forward to your response’. 

  • Have a more than tolerable day!
  • I await your expletive-laden response
  • I’ll let you get back to things duller than this email

Fun fact, when we see ‘PS’ in a letter, we tend to jump straight to that and read it. Use this little known fact accordingly. 

Honestly—that’s it. 

Wit and charm isn’t rocket surgery or brain science. 

Send your email at any time of day, to be honest. If you’re emailing journalists for PR coverage, that’s a different story, but for in-house marketers, any time of day, and just about any day will be ok (except the weekend, obviously).

Send a few follow-ups with the same humour, but no more than two. There will be some people who consider your emails unprofessional. Sending them several more isn’t going to change their mind so find another person. 

Here, you can find examples of the best follow-up emails after no response.

Still notice that your emails are being opened but you’re not getting a response? Again, find a new person. Try 4 or 5 emails at the same company before throwing in the towel. 


Writing a clever email isn’t something you have to study. It’s a simple process of being a little childish while testing the limits of someone’s professional alter-ego. At the end of the day, we’re all just glorified monkeys (some more glorified than others). We all like to laugh, and we unconsciously pay attention to something that goes against the grain. 

Create an email that goes against that grain, and reap the benefits. 

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