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The 11 Email Outreach Mistakes To Avoid Like The Plague

I’ve seen a few “ultimate guide to guest posting” articles floating around the interwebs that tell you to do everything short of licking your prospects' boots before asking for a guest post.

While I admire the effort and digital gymnastics they want to go through, sometimes it’s easier to, y'know, just ask?

That’s not to say I’m discrediting the effectiveness of this kind of outreach. In fact, if done properly, this can secure you ultra-high value links.

So I compiled the 10 email outreach mistakes you should avoid like the plague.

Pre-Outreach Problems

The pre-outreach stage (or prospecting as I call it) is crucial in guest posting. The accuracy of the information you gather will help you get successful guest post opportunities.

You have to organize and do substantial research on the website before sending them an email.

These are the common blunders people do that ultimately impact the success of their pitch:

1. Not thoroughly vetting websites

Before sending your pitches to desired websites, you first have to make sure that these websites can help you improve your traffic instead of harm it. One of the most common mistakes that people do is not vetting websites thoroughly.

And if you’re considering a paid opportunity, you should doubly make sure that you’re sending your money to a reputable website and not just another money trap.

This crucial mistake could lead to more common issues like the following:

  • Possible niche mismatch or irrelevant niche
  • Falling prey to poor quality websites.
  • Posting in sites with little to no engagement (no traffic or social media engagement)
  • Potentially penalized or devalued websites.

To make sure you're not making this mistake use a tool like Ahrefs to thoroughly vet your prospects.

we vet our partner sites thoroughlyWe vet our partner sites thoroughly, often going to 2 rounds of checking. Sites that are OK but have not quite passed our standards go under observation for a month.

As a rough guide, here are some things you need to check:

Domain Ranking

Domain ranking is one of the best metrics to use when gauging a domain's authority. Anything with DR 30 and above is a good catch, but that doesn't mean domains with less DR are worth nothing. Use DR as a supplement to your prospecting process.

domain ratingDomain Rating (DR) is one of the most preferred metric to gauge the authority of a website among SEOs. It does not tell you the complete story, but is a good place to start.

Number of Referring Domains

A website with more referring domains has a higher chance of improving your rankings. This doesn't mean that you should only look at the quantity of links - quality of links play a big factor in this too.

number of referring domainsOutreach Authority makes sure that each link you get comes from sites with at least 50 referring domains. This ensures that your links can really boost your rankings.

100 low quality links is nowhere near the value of one high-quality link. Go back to Domain Ranking to check for referring domain quality. 

Organic Traffic and Organic Traffic Trend

While organic traffic is a nice-to-have rather than a must-have, having links from websites with traffic is still a good signal to send to search engines.

For Outreach Authority, we use sites with a minimum of 1,000 organic traffic, but recently, we've been getting links with more than that.

best link we got to dateOne of the best links we got to date.

Trend is a big thing too. Make sure that there are no big dips in traffic from the past 6 months.

website with obvious organic traffic dipWebsite with obvious organic traffic dip (approximately 93% decrease from May to June). This could mean the site has been devalued or outright penalized. This tech site is frequently found in guest post databases.

Slight dips in traffic is nothing to be worried about because this is a common occurrence (partly due to seasonality) especially for big magazine sites, but huge downtrends could be a sign of penalty or devaluation. Get your links only from sites with stable or increasing traffic trends.

Number of ranking pages or number of pages receiving traffic

You think you've vetted a site well enough - the Domain Rating is good, the number of referring domains are substantial, and the organic traffic trend is stable or growing. 

Then you check the number of pages receiving traffic and you see that 90% of the traffic the site receives comes from an obscure informational page.


I've seen this a few times, and it happens mostly to poorly-made link farms.

Before moving forward with the site, take a couple of minutes to look at the Top Pages first. On Ahrefs, just click "Top Pages" on the menu on the left:

multiple pages receiving organic trafficThe top page is only receiving 8% of the sites total organic, while the others range from 5% to less than %1. This signifies a good distribution of organic traffic between pages.

2. Emailing without topics in mind

Email as a communication device already takes more time than a messaging app, so you must not waste time going back and forth.

You want to make an excellent impression on email #1, so you should already have titles or topics in hand before they even give you the signal to write. You can write a list of potential topics in your spreadsheet so that you’ll be faster in sending and responding to emails.

Tip: This works best for sites that you just cold emailed. For sites you’ve already worked with in the past, you can probably send them a draft immediately.

Here are some ways to develop topics before sending the pitch:

  • Check out Google's top results for keywords you are targeting.
  • Assess the website's target audience and look for unique opportunities. For example, if the site targets single dads, but you see a good percentage of the comments section to be women, maybe you can pitch a topic targeting those women instead.
  • Check their previous guest post write ups (tip: website.com/guest-post), and see the type of content that they are interested in publishing.
  • Use Ahrefs' Content Explorer to see popular topics.
  • Take advantage of current events and infuse it to your pitch. Don't get too political though - it's a surefire way of gaining enemies!
content explorer helps you find relevant and interesting topicsAhref's Content Explorer helps you brainstorm for relevant AND interesting topics.

Tip: make your titles as creative as possible. Don’t pitch with overused titles like “Top 5 Tips To Improving Your Home”. Pimp the shit out of that title!

Make a good impression with your pitch. You have to remember that most highly-rated authority websites receive dozens, if not hundreds of pitches a day. If your email makes things easier for them, then they are more likely to work with you.

Most of these metrics are automatically tracked by email marketing software like Mailshake, but the others can be easily tracked with a good spreadsheet.

3. Suggesting a topic that’s either already written or irrelevant to their site

After developing the titles to pitch to the website, you need to sift through them and find the perfect one before you even email the webmaster or blogger. One of the worst things you can do is pitch a topic that has already been covered because that means you haven't even checked their website.

That being said, don’t make the blunder of pitching a topic that have no business being published on their site.

Originality and relevance are essential things to consider in guest posting. If you’re going to write about something that at least a dozen other people have already written about, you won’t make the impact that you initially set out to make.

4. Sending an outreach without a plan

Guest posts are data-driven, so it’s dangerous to do outreach without a proper plan. You could end up with missed leads or, worse, get rejected 50% of the time. If you play your cards right, you could gain webmaster friends and eventually have an easier time sending your guest posting requests.

Here are some of the data-driven things you should be tracking for your campaigns:

  • Number of emails sent daily
  • Open rate
  • Reply rate
  • Bounce rate
ongoing mailshake data

An ongoing round-up post campaign. We are pretty happy with our open and reply rate (although it could still be improved), but we need to touch up on prospecting because our bounce rate is quite high.

Developing key relationships with authority websites is one of the most important things that you need to do in a guest posting.

You need to be prompt in the responses, article submissions, and follow ups, and you can only do this if you have a solid plan. If you don’t keep track of your pitches, you risk failing your guest post from the get-go.

Email Etiquette Errors

You only have email as a mode of communication, so it’s essential to know the culture and unwritten rules surrounding this particular medium.

You need to be courteous, respectful, and someone they want to associate with. Sometimes, the webmaster could reject your guest posting request based solely on the fact that you don't addressed them by their preferred name!

These are the common email etiquette errors that often impact the result your pitch:

5. Not knowing the name of the contact person

Perhaps one of the least appreciated techniques of getting approved pitches is knowing the first name of who you’re dealing with. Simply saying Hello Friend, To Whom It May Concern, Dear Sir or Dear Ma’am won’t cut it. You have to address the webmaster or editor by name.

Where you can find the recipient’s name:

  • Contact Us page or form
  • About Us page
  • Author Box (check the start or end of individual posts)

If you really want to go all out, use a paid tool like Snov.io or Hunter.io

snov.io logo

Make sure that you address the person appropriately so that the editor knows that he or she is the intended recipient.

first name alternative

Note: sometimes it’s better to just say “Hi there!” or “Hello there!” if you don't know their first name.

6. Beating around the bush

You can assume that the high authority sites webmaster tends to hundreds of emails a day.

nobody has time to read long emails

According to most webmasters, they prefer shorter emails that are concise and straight to the point. As long as the information is complete, editors don’t care about the length of the email.

7. Inappropriate tone

There is a right time to be informal or casual, and there’s also a good time to act professional.

I’ve used puns to secure free links from high-value sites, but I’ve also been ignored for trying to be (too) casual. Your tone should be fit to the target.

8. Creating a one-size-fits-all email

While you need to use email templates when running a blogger outreach campaign at scale, there also needs to be some degree of personalization to your templates. Otherwise, your emails will look scripted, unnatural, and insincere.

Email marketing software like NinjaOutreach and Mailshake offer a ton of customization options for your email templates so I highly recommend these two.

Credibility Corrigendum

To be honest, I have to fire up thesaurus for this alliteration.

Anyway, in a space where every transaction is done online, credibility is one of the most critical assets of a website. You should put yourself in a credible light, even if your website is just a couple of months old.

These are the common mistakes concerning your credibility, that often discourages a webmaster from working with you:

9. You have a poorly-written or non-existent blog

One of the errors that bloggers make is not checking the quality of their blogs before pitching. Your website tells the webmaster or blogger how well you write which would make an impact on your approval or rejection.

If they are serious about working with you, your homepage and blog would be one of the first places they would check.

Make sure that your blog is updated and fit for viewing.

If English is not your native language (or maybe you're just bad at writing), you can hire an editor to edit some of your most recent and most relevant articles because those would be the first ones they would check.

If you’re a non-native English speaker, simple tools like Grammarly does wonders in polishing articles.

10. Not proofreading your email

Another common mistake is just sending the email without checking for errors. 

If you want to prove that your guest post will be worth their while, the easiest way to show your writing prowess is through proper grammar and spelling in your email.

Here are ways to make sure that your email is error-free before sending:

  • Read the email out loud. If something "sounds" or "reads" wrong, it probably is.
  • Have someone else read your email. A fresh pair of eyes could catch something that you missed.
  • Use grammar and spelling checkers. Again, Grammarly helps out a ton here, but MS Word's and even Google Docs' checkers will do just fine.

If all else fails, you can hire someone to write or edit your emails for you. It would mean additional costs, but it would be better than creating a wrong first impression with your prospects.

11. Being spammy

You know what triggers spam filters?

Spammy emails.

The spam filter is an email’s worst enemy. Using templates and automation can get the job done fast, but this method risks getting an unsubscribe, or worse, getting automatically flagged for spam. 

Here are ways to make sure that your email really goes through.

  • Make sure the email address you are using is warmed up
  • Pace your email sending to a reasonable rate. If your email is new don't even think about sending 100 emails in a day.
  • Avoid using words that might trigger a spam filter (i.e., "this won't last", "buy direct" etc.)
high probability of spam notification

We get these emails from time to time. This is pretty much unavoidable when you're emailing at scale. The goal is to minimize the bounce rate.

Final Thoughts

Email outreach is a task that requires skill, creativity, and attention to detail. As a process that has a lot of moving parts, it is an error-prone activity, but these 10 tips will guarantee that you will start with solid footing. 

If you need help reaching out to bloggers, you can always rely on Outreach Authority. Contact us here for more details.

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