The 3 Ps of Great Outreach Emails: Personalized, Positioned, and Persuasive

Today we return to the topic of better outreach emails.

Anatomy of a Terrible, Terrible Email

At BuzzStream, we periodically receive link outreach emails.  Some are good – like high quality guest post pitches, where the author has built a relationship and made something excellent – and some are not so good. 

Let’s look at one of the not-so-good:

I don’t want to out anyone, so I’ve removed the email and referenced sites.

Why didn’t this email get a link?

–          It wasn’t personalized.  Our blog is written by a person – not customer-service.

–          It’s not positioned – the resources she suggests have nothing to do with our site, and frankly don’t belong there.

–          And it’s not persuasive. I have no idea why these area code or zip code are better than any other resources.

I would place this email in the category of ‘Automation Gone Wrong’ – where someone attempts to automate their entire email outreach process, and often ends up sending regrettable emails.

This is in contrast to the approach we here at BuzzStream believe in – let humans do the creative, strategic part that generates most of the value, and send the boring, repetitive part off to a server in the cloud.

Ross Hudgens puts it like this:

Knowing that auto-sending e-mails is not the same as automating 90% of the process, and then leaving the 10% to humans who will create 99% of the value.

So let’s discuss that 10% that has all the value – the part that computers can’t do. Computers (at the moment) can’t write emails that have the three Ps of effective outreach.

The Three Ps of a Good Outreach Email


Good outreach emails are personalized.  And I don’t just mean ‘successfully got the name and website right’ – those are table stakes to get taken seriously.

When I say pitches should be personalized, I mean they should be read by the recipient, and the words ‘form letter’ should never cross their mind. 

If their blog has a nickname, refer to it.  If they’ve talked about how much they hate something common (for example, Michael Arrington dislikes handshakes), you can mention it. 

And if they’ve talked about topics related to your topic or product before, read up about it.  A quick site search can help. 


Positioning is a concept from other areas of marketing.  It involves understanding who your product is for, what value it provides, and how it’s differentiated from competitors.

When I talk about positioned in the link building sense, I mean referring to the logical fit between the site (or page) and your site.

Everyone runs a site for one reason or another, and every page has an intention – how does your link advance the intention of the page?

For example, tech bloggers are trying to build an audience, delight their readers, and create a blog they want to read.  They may want traffic for ad revenue. 

In this case, instead of simply offering a free piece of content, focus on the audience-development (“A typical piece gets 400 tweets”) or an intriguing topic (“New piece based on my experience implementing startup marketing tactics that have never been talked about before.”)

By contrast, if you’ve found a page on a library website you want a link on, the approach is very different.  Librarians run websites for very different reasons – so you’d appeal to the trustworthiness of your resource and its value to the libraries’ community.


Now that you’re addressing the right person, with an offer and appeal that makes sense to their site, you now must persuade them that your page or content offering or site is better than all of the others out there in your category.

Great emails are persuasive.  In this section, you’re trying to add urgency – we’ve all had the experience where it took months for a link to get added to a site.

As Robert Cialdini has written, there are 6 principles of persuasion:

–          Social Proof

–          Authority

–          Liking

–          Reciprocity

–          Consistency

–          Scarcity

Try to include at least one of these ‘hooks’ in each of your emails – ideally more than one. (I’ve written about Cialdini’s principles in link building before.)

Remember the three Ps – personalized, positioned, and persuasive, and your outreach will be thought of as helpful suggestions – not spam.

How do you make your link building emails great?


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