How cold outreach has changed—and what works today

by | Apr 15, 2021 | Analysis, Public Relations

Typically, cold outreach involved emailing a journalist or site owner who you’d never connected with before. These days, it’s not so different in that people are still emailing new prospects they have never met. But, it’s easier than ever before to slowly build relationships before you officially reach out. This will increase the chances of your emails being opened and receiving a positive response.

Link-building is an incredibly important aspect of SEO as, when other high-authority sites link back to yours, search engines will take this as a sign that your website is a trustworthy source of information. As a result, they’ll rank your site higher for relevant queries.

Traditionally, most link-building strategies would require a lot of cold outreach. This involves contacting other website owners and bloggers you’ve never spoken to with the intent of securing a link on their websites. And, while this approach can still work, there are some other techniques you can try and that you’ll likely to get better results from.

Here, I’m going to take a look at how cold outreach has changed over the last few years, and what link-building often looks like today.

How cold outreach has changed—and what works today

You need to start building your relationships early

There are a number of ways you can start building relationships with the people you’d love to work with:

  • By supporting your contact’s work: You could do this by sharing or linking to their content long before you contact them.
  • By engaging with them on social media: Social media is a great place to engage with the work of the people you’ll eventually reach out to. LinkedIn, in particular, is suitable for establishing a professional connection by liking and commenting on the posts of your contacts, and there are LinkedIn tools that have been created to make sure you are making the most of the platform.
  • By contacting them without asking for anything: Sometimes, one of the best ways to establish good media relationships is by contacting your prospects ahead of time without backing it up with the need for a favor. You could just let them know you love their work or are a fan of their site.

You should create content people will want to link to

If you’re trying to build links and earn exposure, don’t just reach out to sites with a press release or proposal. Other websites want to provide their readers with as much value as possible, so you need to be publishing content they’ll be happy to link back to.

Creating high-quality content that is relevant to your niche can also help to position you as an authority in your field, which increases the chance of site owners hearing about you before you even get in touch via your outreach emails.

There are certain types of content that are particularly shareable. Here are some formats that tend to attract a lot of links.

  • Infographics

With infographics, you can share a lot of information or data in a concise and simple manner that provides value for your readers. If you can create graphics that illustrate a particular point those in your industry might make in their own website content, they’ll be easy to share with a link back to your site. It’s a good idea to customize your infographics so it’s clear where they came from, but don’t make them promotional, as you want to ensure as many sites as possible will share them.

  • Original research

People will often link to research pieces that help corroborate their theories on certain topics. You can take advantage of this by publishing studies, reports, or surveys that position you as an expert in your niche with well-researched and detailed information that others can link to in their blog posts.

  • Interactive content

Quizzes, polls, calculators, and surveys are examples of interactive and creative content that you can publish on your website to make your brand stand out. It will also help you to attract the attention of other bloggers or website owners who are looking for fun and educational content they can share with their readerships.

It’s a good idea to position your business as an expert in your field

Becoming known for your niche and expertise can help to reduce the need for cold outreach, as people will start to reach out to you instead.

There are a wide range of tactics you can use to position your business as an authority. Let’s take a look at some of the most effective techniques.

  • Offer to speak at industry events

If there are often events or conferences in your industry, consider reaching out to ask if you could speak at them. It’s likely that a lot of the people who see you talk will have their own websites that are relevant to your niche, and they might hear about you for the first time at these events. Then, they might reach out to work with you or collaborate on some content for their site, which could lead to plenty of high-quality links.

  • Guest blog for other sites

Guest blogging is a very common way to build backlinks. It involves asking a website owner whether you can put together a helpful post for their blog, sharing your knowledge. This can really benefit the site, as it will provide them with a free piece of content that their readers or customers will love. And, it will benefit you, as you should be compensated with a link back to your site and you’ll be able to raise more awareness of your expertise.

  • Create webinars

Creating webinars on topics in your industry can help to position you as an authority in your niche. There are lots of businesses already doing this successfully. For example, Million Dollar Agency is a digital marketing company that offers both webinars and coaching sessions to help business owners optimize their online presences. This shows that the company is an authority in its field, and will also help to build trust with the business’ target audience.

  • Create in-depth guides

If you publish high-quality content that shows your expertise on your website, this will show people that you really know your industry and are an authority on certain topics. Consider what subjects your target customers and prospects are going to be most interested in reading about, and focus your attention there.

For instance, Lawsuit Legal is a law firm that helps its customers to deal with disputes in the workplace. They’ve made it very clear they’re experts in this field with their guide to employment laws. This answers all of the questions people might have about this subject and shows that the business is truly an authority in the field. If someone is writing a blog post and wants to include a quote from an employment law expert, this guide could be enough to convince them to get in touch with the company and provide them with a backlink.

Zendesk is another company that publishes a lot of specialist guides relating to its niche. The company has a whole library of information about customer service, which shows that the business is an authority in this sector. The content on their website makes it very clear that this company is a knowledgeable source of information about giving customers the best possible experience, so people might get in touch if they ever need more information about the topic.

Finally, Neil Patel has been able to position himself as an SEO and digital marketing expert by publishing high-quality content on his website. He frequently posts guides, news pieces, and case studies that people in the industry will find helpful. He’s also spoken at a lot of industry events, frequently guest posts for other sites, and is a big name in the marketing space—he’s a great example of someone who’s really gotten his name out there, and is reaping the rewards in brand exposure and backlinks.

Digital PR campaigns are essential

Digital PR campaigns are designed to increase the awareness and online visibility of a business. They tend to get a lot of attention because they’re designed to — marketing teams come up with concepts that they know will garner a lot of interest from journalists, customers, and social media users. This can then lead to a lot of backlinks.

Digital PR campaigns might involve some cold outreach, as you’ll usually send information or press releases out to journalists and bloggers, but the buzz around them can also generate a lot of attention and links organically.

An example of an effective digital PR campaign comes from Vibrant Vegan, a company that provides plant-based meals to its customers.

How cold outreach has changed—and what works today

They launched a digital campaign called #Veganuary2021, which was aimed at meat lovers who were curious about what going vegan would be like. The campaign was designed to offer people the chance to become a vegan-curious coordinator for the company, which basically meant that they would eat only vegan food for a  three-month period and get paid £50,000 for doing so.

The campaign caused a flurry of activity online, especially with the company offering a life-time supply of vegan food (worth £100,000) to the successful applicant. It created a lot of awareness for the brand and also increased the level of engagement they had with their audience.

What we can learn from this campaign is the importance of being creative when planning out digital campaigns. And creativity does not have to be defined by your budget. Work with what you have, but make sure you are thinking outside the box and being as creative as you possibly can be.


The outreach space is always evolving, and it’s important that you switch up your tactics instead of just depending on cold pitching.

There are many ways to attract the attention of other website owners, with techniques such as positioning yourself as an industry expert, creating shareable content people will want to link to, and devising effective digital PR campaigns. Take these tips on board and you’ll be able to supercharge your link-building efforts and improve your SEO.

Alex Ratynski
Alex Ratynski is the founder of Ratynski Digital, an online marketing consultancy that focuses on helping small and medium-sized businesses achieve their goals. He set up his company after working as a local SEO director for a dental marketing agency, where he helped to turn clients’ ventures into thriving multi-million dollar businesses. He spends most hours strategizing SEO for his clients.


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