A Process For Efficient and Humane Link Building Outreach with Gisele Navarro

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Gisele Navarro is the Operations Director at NeoMam Studios. She’s also a link building expert with ten years of experience under her belt. She began as a freelancer-for-hire with a background in sales and customer service, who then later morphed into full-time SEO work for various agencies.

She discovered she’s a very technical person, but also learned how to put some of the prospecting skills she’d learned in her previous careers to good use. 

If link building and outreach is something you or your agency struggles with, you will want to catch today’s podcast. It’s full of practical advice you can start literally using today, even if you’ve never been very successful with link building and outreach in the past.

The highlights:

  • (0:44) What’s changed in link building, and what’s stayed the same.
  • (4:56) Prospecting your way to a productive link list.
  • (10:32) How to avoid spending too much time on prospecting.
  • (15:42) A good approach for writing link building email pitch subject lines.
  • (22:44) Pitching through social.
  • (27:54) Gisele’s causes.

The insights:

What's changed in link building, and what's stayed the same?

Gisele notes that the names keep changing. 

“We’re link builders, then we were inbound marketers, then we were content marketers – but we’re all link builders.”

She says that much really hasn’t changed though. 

“The process is the same. You’re using the same stuff. I guess the tactics are different and the mindset is different in what is valuable or what is seen as valuable.” 

She says many of the tactics that her clients didn’t like in the past are now commonplace though. 

“Back then I said ‘why don’t we just do a piece of content’ and they’d say, no just do social bookmarking, get me 100 links!” 

Prospecting your way to a productive link list

Gisele recently wrote a blog post called: How to Find Sites that Will Want to Link to Your Content.

Garrett asked her to expand on her prospecting and pitching efforts since it’s something many link builders find tedious and difficult to do.

Yet Gisele loves it!

“It’s the favorite part of the process for me. I enjoy the detective work.” 

She of course has heard many people tell her that prospecting is the worst. 

“It was the part of the process they wanted to get rid of.” 

There are certainly plenty of automation tools out there that can help with automation, but Gisele cautions against relying on them. 

“I disagree [with using them] because I think that if I were to send you an email about something that has to do with the tools that you guys create, and I pitch you, even if my pitch is not the best, if I’m actually talking to you about something that has to do with something you care about.

Then I’m going to be more likely to make a connection.”

She says that taking the time to make a connection means you can even get away with not having an amazing pitch or piece on the topic. 

“If I manage to find out the topic is going to be valuable to you and I spend the time finding the right person to address, the chance of getting a link is way higher than if I just shotgun outreach 100 people that work in your company in the hopes of one of them being the right person to pitch to.”

She does like using Hunter.io, to find email addresses. 

hunter.io tool

She doesn’t even like using expensive contact databases to find sources.

“They are incredibly expensive and hurt me too much in the pocket to even try! But once you get the format of one email address at the newspaper you basically have them all. There’s no reason for me to pay.”

She also uses a tool called Verify Email.

This tool verifies the email isn’t going to bounce so she can do outreach without wasting her time.

She even spends a lot of time trying to match the person to the content type. 

“If it’s a person that writes super lengthy opinion pieces with no visuals and I’m pitching an infographic, that’s maybe not right for them.”

How to avoid spending too much time on prospecting

Daunted because this sounds like a time-consuming process and you’ve already got a million things to do? Gisele had answers for that as well. 

“My list is alive for as long as that campaign is alive, so I don’t just go and spend a full week building a list, then launch it and forget about it.

Up to a point, all the information you have is your intuition as to whether that person would be interested, just based on what they’ve written about or who they are, but only when you start sending out those emails do you actually have any real information data as to what is actually working.”

She says she’ll spend a full day building the initial list or break it out into two mornings, and that she likes to build a list of 70 to 100 people at first. 

“Then I do my first launch, looking at open rates, reply rates, the replies she actually got, the links that went live, and starts figuring out what is and what isn’t working.”

She uses that information to add some more sites.

She also says she studies the sites themselves to see what other sites link to it or are involved with it. 

“Are there more sites about this topic? Would they like this content as well?”

Eventually, she ends up with a list of 300 or 400 contacts.

“And it didn’t feel like a trap. It didn’t feel like you put 3 weeks into it before knowing anything. You built a list with a purpose.”

She says she also has a rule for herself. 

“Try not to spend more than 5 minutes finding a specific contact.” 

She says without that rule it would be easy to spend 30 minutes hunting around for an email, which would feel unproductive and disheartening.

A good approach for writing link building outreach email pitch subject lines

Gisele warns against using formulaic email subject lines. 

“Formulas can work, but [it can cause] your email to get ignored. You need to stand out.”

She has one rule:

“I like my subject line to be transparent, to the point where if they open it, they’re kind of already telling me they’re interested. They’re a little bit committed to it so that when they start reading the pitch they’re looking forward to it being what they hoped it was going to be.”

She says to achieve this, she tries to include certain things. 

“If it’s new data we’ve gathered, or if it’s a study we’ve done, or a report, a map, a photo, I like to include that [in the subject line].”

She does hyper-target her subject lines. For example, she did a project featuring the female founders in every country who raised the most money for their businesses. A Chinese female founder was named the top in the world. 

“So I want to pitch that to journalists who cover Chinese business news for US sites. I want to make a big point of this person, this Chinese female founder named top in the world in this new study.” 

She also pays attention to how media sites and bloggers typically write headlines, or spend some time finding out how the sites talk about her topics.

“Some sites don’t talk about female founders. They call them women. They say women founders. So for this site, I’m going to use ‘woman founders’ in the subject line.”

She urges link builders to look for little details like that to incorporate into subject lines. 

“When [sites] are getting hundreds of emails and they’re all sort of the same, and then suddenly one of them is speaking their language, talking about things in the way they normally talk about it, it stands out.” 

She even uses the headlines from sites that do run her links in the follow-up subject lines to other sites. 

“An editor wrote it and approved it, obviously there’s something good there!” 

Pitching through social media channels

Can’t find an email address? Gisele says there’s absolutely nothing wrong with using social media to get the ball rolling.

“I personally use LinkedIn a lot because it’s a safe professional space. Particularly when I’m trying to find a contact who runs a business blog for a company. 

It’s going to be a content manager or it’s going to be a digital marketing manager, maybe the blog sits in a domain that’s not the main domain of the company, so finding that email address is a pain. So I pitch on LinkedIn.”

She pays for Premium so she can send messages. Sometimes reaching out to LinkedIn leads to following up on email.

She’s even reached out on Twitter. 

“Just message them and say: Hey, I tried my best, I just can’t find where to contact you, would it be possible for me to send you a DM? Sometimes they follow you so you can send them something, or they send their email through the DM.”

She advises against giving a full-on pitch on Twitter. “It’s kind of uncomfortable.” 

What’s your right now cause?

Gisele says she lives in a small community and has been doing a lot of mutual aid things with her neighbors. 

“There’s no charity, we just help each other, particularly with COVID.” 

They’ve got a WhatsApp group going and they use that to help each other meet their needs. 

“My dad says, you can’t change the world, but you can change that little slab where you’re standing. And if all of us just try with that little slab of concrete wherever we’re standing, suddenly when you look around the world has changed.”

She says you can do this with your neighborhood or with a building. 

“Try to connect. Try to get to know the people you live surrounded by. See how you can help them.”

Connect with Gisele Navarro

Want to get in touch with Gisele?

Garrett Sussman

Garrett Sussman

Garrett is the head of content at Traject , a suite of digital marketing tools, and host of the Agency Ahead podcast. When he's not crafting content, he's scouting the perfect ice coffee, devouring the newest graphic novels, and concocting a new recipe in the kitchen.

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