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Outreach: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

out-reach [out-reech; out-reech]
verb (used with object)
1.     to reach beyond; exceed: Most people don’t know what outreach means.

This is what you would find if you were to look up the word “outreach” in the dictionary (minus the contextual example). After reading that definition, doesn’t it feel like the word outreach is being thrown around a little too much in the SEO community? I know what you are thinking...Yeah, that is so true. I know. I agree with you.

Before I go any further, I want to throw out a great resource on this subject. Kelsey Libert wrote a compelling article on SEOmoz called The Blogger Outreach Equation. In it, she gives her own definition of outreach:

Establishing mutually beneficial relationships around content publishers care about: timely, engaging, and new information that speaks to their audience. (good)

Does it sound like the kind of outreach that is widely practiced today? I say “widely practiced” because there are some people who are doing outreach the way it is meant to be done. But, there are still way too many people doing it the wrong way.

Here is an example of someone on twitter doing “outreach”:

bad outreach(bad)

Have you seen this before? I am going to guess that you have. It is exactly what outreach should look like...if you want people to hate you. Remember Kelsey’s definition? Outreach should help you develop a relationship that is “mutually beneficial.” What benefit are you providing when you annoy people on Twitter? Please don’t say you are providing free content. Would you still write that guest post if you didn’t get a link out of it? I would say not.

Outreach shouldn’t be viewed as a way to build links, it should be viewed as a way to build relationships. Think about the real world, we don’t build relationships with people because we can get free stuff, we build relationships because it is mutually beneficial to all involved (hopefully). I guess there are the schmucks who “make friends” for the season tickets, or the cool toys, but you know what, they are probably the same people who are bugging you on twitter. (ugly)

Twitter isn’t the only way we can build relationships, in fact, it isn’t even the best way to build relationships. Emails are still the #1 way of building relationships.

Gregory Ciotti gave a very accurate description of what goes through our minds when we receive an email:

-Who is emailing me (and is this spam)?
-What do they want?
-How long will this take?

The answer to these three questions is also the key to a great outreach email. He goes on to list the 3 B’s of outreach:

-Be Brief
-Be Blunt
-Be Basic

I would add a fourth:

-Be Beneficial

You know what it would look like if we reached beyond, and exceeded the world’s definition of what outreach looks like? It would look like “mutually beneficial relationships around content publishers care about.” If we are building mutually beneficial relationships, the links will naturally come. A promise from me to you: If you build it, they will come (A relationship, not a baseball diamond)

Now get out there and shake some cyber hands.

(Cue corny hand shaking picture):


*** Extra ***

Rand Fishkin, of SEOmoz, recently released a White Board Friday explaining the difference between a “good” outreach email and a “great” one. Check it out.

Jacob Parry

Jacob is a Senior Account Manager at 97th Floor.

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