Brian Dean is the founder of Backlinko, a traffic generation business that specializes in link building, SEO, content marketing, and conversions. He helps business owners who've been beat down by Google so they can get their rankings and search traffic up using specialized strategies you can't really find anywhere else.
We analyzed 12 million outreach emails to answer the question:
What’s working in the world of email outreach right now?
We looked at subject lines. We looked at personalization. We even looked at follow-up sequences.
Along with our data partner for this study, Pitchbox, we uncovered a number of interesting findings.
Here is a Summary of Our Key Findings:
1. The vast majority of outreach messages are ignored. Only 8.5% of outreach emails receive a response.
2. Outreach emails with long subject lines have a 24.6% higher average response rate compared to those with short subject lines.
3. Follow-ups appear to significantly improve response rates. Emailing the same contact multiple times leads to 2x more responses.
4. Reaching out to multiple contacts can also lead to more success. The response rate of messages sent to several contacts is 93% higher than messages sent to a single person.
5. Personalized subject lines boost response rate by 30.5%. Therefore, personalizing subject lines appears to have a large impact on outreach campaign results.
6. Personalizing outreach email body content also seems to be an effective way to increase response rates. Emails with personalized message bodies have a 32.7% better response rate than those that don’t personalize their messages.
7. Wednesday is the “best” day to send outreach emails. Saturday is the worst. However, we didn’t find an especially large difference in response rates between different days that messages were sent.
8. Linking to social profiles in email signatures may result in better response rates. Twitter was correlated with an 8.2% increase, LinkedIn an 11.5% increase, and Instagram a 23.4% increase.
9. The most successful outreach campaigns reach out to multiple contacts multiple times. Email sequences with multiple attempts and multiple contacts boost response rates by 160%.
10. Certain types of outreach get higher response rates than others. Outreach messages related to guest posting, roundups and links have an especially high response rate.
We have details and additional data from our study below.
Most Outreach Emails Are Ignored or Deleted
You may have heard that it’s challenging to get people to reply to cold outreach emails. According to our data, poor response rates do appear to be the norm.
In fact, we found that only 8.5% of all outreach emails receive a response.
With 100+ emails to sift through per day, the chances of your single outreach email getting seen, opened and replied to is pretty slim.
But when you send more than one message, you have yet another chance to stand out and push through the noise in someone’s inbox.
Of course, there’s a right and wrong way to send follow-up messages.
Annoying follow-ups like these can damage relationships, lead to spam complaints, and overall, do more harm than good.
However, gentle follow-ups that provide additional context can improve conversions without burning bridges.
Key Takeaway: Follow-ups can significantly improve outreach conversion rates. In fact, a single additional follow-up message can lead to 65.8% more replies.
Reaching Out to Several Contacts Increases the Odds of a Response
We looked at the effect that reaching out to several contacts at the same organization had on outreach conversions.
And we found that, compared to a single contact, sending emails to more than one contact improves response rates by 93%.
We also looked at how outreach success rate correlated with number of contacts. We found a clear pattern that more contacts leads to more responses.
However, we did find a point of diminishing returns at 5+ contacts.
If you’re reaching out to a single-author blog, you probably don’t need to worry about sending messages to several different contacts.
However, multiple contacts becomes important when reaching out to large websites with dozens of employees. That’s because it can be hard to tell who exactly is responsible for which task (even with the help of an org chart and “About Us” page).
For example, let’s say that you’re sending an outreach message to a large publisher as part of a link building campaign. Should you email the author of the article? Or the editor of the blog? Or maybe the best person is the head of content.
It’s almost impossible to know without an intimate understanding of the organization’s inner workings. That’s why it usually makes sense to reach out to a single person. Then, if you don’t hear back, try again with another contact. That way, over time, your message should get in front of the person that is most likely to add your link to the post.
Key Takeaway: Having multiple contacts to reach out to increases your chances of getting through. In fact, outreach emails sent to multiple contacts can boost response rates by 93%.
Personalized Subject Lines Lead to More Replies
Personalizing emails is considered an outreach best practice. However, to our knowledge, there hasn’t been any research done to support this strategy.
That’s why we decided to investigate the effect of personalization on outreach email replies. Specifically, we compared the response rates between messages that did and didn’t use personalized subject lines.
Our data showed that personalized subject lines got nearly 1/3rd more replies than those without personalization.
Why do personalized subject lines lead to more responses?
Although it’s difficult to fully answer this question from our data alone, my theory is that personalized subject lines help you stand out in someone’s crowded inbox.
For example, take a non-personalized subject line like: “More Leads”. For someone that’s hurriedly scanning incoming emails from their iPhone, “More Leads” doesn’t compel them to see or open the message.
We analyzed 912 million blog posts to better understand the world of content marketing right now.
Specifically, we looked at how factors like content format, word count and headlines correlate with social media shares and backlinks.
With the help of our data partner BuzzSumo, we uncovered some very interesting findings.
And now it’s time to share what we discovered.
Here is a Summary of Our Key Findings:
1. We found that long-form content gets an average of 77.2% more links than short articles. Therefore, long-form content appears to be ideal for backlink acquisition.
2. When it comes to social shares, longer content outperforms short blog posts. However, we found diminishing returns for articles that exceed 2,000 words.
3. The vast majority of online content gets few social shares and backlinks. In fact, 94% of all blog posts have zero external links.
4. A small percentage of “Power Posts” get a disproportionate amount of social shares. Specifically, 1.3% of articles generate 75% of all social shares.
5. We found virtually no correlation between backlinks and social shares. This suggests that there’s little crossover between highly-shareable content and content that people link to.
6. Longer headlines are correlated with more social shares. Headlines that are 14-17 words in length generate 76.7% more social shares than short headlines.
7. Question headlines (titles that end with a “?”) get 23.3% more social shares than headlines that don’t end with a question mark.
8. There’s no “best day” to publish a new piece of content. Social shares are distributed evenly among posts published on different days of the week.
9. Lists posts are heavily shared on social media. In fact, list posts get an average of 218% more shares than “how to” posts and 203% more shares than infographics.
10. Certain content formats appear to work best for acquiring backlinks. We found that “Why Posts”, “What Posts” and infographics received 25.8% more links compared to videos and “How-to” posts.
11. The average blog post gets 9.7x more shares than a post published on a B2B site. However, the distribution of shares and links for B2B and B2C publishers appears to be similar.
We have detailed data and information of our findings below.
Long-Form Content Generates More Backlinks Than Short Blog Posts
When it comes to acquiring backlinks, long-form content significantly outperforms short blog posts and articles.
You may have seen other industry studies, like this one, that found a correlation between long-form content and first page Google rankings.
However, to our knowledge no one has investigated why longer content tends to perform so well. Does the Google algorithm inherently prefer long content? Or perhaps longer content is best at satisfying searcher intent.
While it’s impossible to draw any firm conclusions from our study, our data suggests that backlinks are at least part of the reason that long-form content tends to rank in Google’s search results.
Key Takeaway: Content that’s >3000 words gets an average of 77.2% more referring domain links compared to content that’s <1000 words.
The Ideal Content Length For Maximizing Social Shares Is 1,000-2,000 Words
According to our data, long-form content (>1000 words) generates significantly more social shares than short content (<1000 words).
However, our research indicates that there’s diminishing returns once you reach the 2,000-word mark.
In other words, 1,000-2,000 words appears to be the “sweet spot” for maximizing shares on social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and Pinterest.
In fact, articles between 1k-2k words get an average of 56.1% more social shares than content that’s <1000 words.
Key Takeaway: Content between 1k-2k words is ideal for generating social shares.
The Vast Majority of Content Gets Zero Links
It’s no secret that backlinks remain an extremely important Google ranking signal.
We found that actually getting these links is extremely difficult.
In fact, our data showed that 94% of the world’s content gets zero external links.
It’s fair to say that getting someone to link to your content is difficult. And we found that getting links from multiple websites is even more challenging.
In fact, only 2.2% of content generates links from multiple websites.
Why is it so hard to get backlinks?
While it’s impossible to answer this question from our data alone, it’s likely due to a sharp increase in the amount of content that’s published every day.
For example, WordPress reports that 87 million posts were published on their platform in May 2018, which is a 47.1% increase compared to May 2016.
That’s an increase of 27 million monthly blog posts in a 2 year span.
It appears that, due to the sharp rise in content produced, that building links from content is harder than ever.
A 2015 study published on the Moz blog concluded that, of the content in their sample, “75% had zero external links”. Again: our research from this study found that 94% of all content has zero external links. This suggests that getting links to your content is significantly harder compared to just a few years ago.
Key Takeaway: Building links through content marketing is more challenging than ever. Only 6% of the content in our sample had at least one external link.
A Small Number of “Power Posts” Get a Large Proportion of Shares
Our data shows that social shares aren’t evenly distributed. Not even close.
We found that a small number of outliers (“Power Posts”) receive the majority of the world’s social shares.
Specifically, 1.3% of articles get 75% of the social shares.
And a small subset of those Power Posts tend to get an even more disproportionate amount of shares.
In fact, 0.1% of articles in our sample got 50% of the total amount of social shares.
In other words, approximately half of all social shares go to an extremely small number (0.1%) of viral posts.
For example, this story about shoppers buying and returning clothes from ecommerce sites received 77.3 thousand Facebook shares.
This single article got more Facebook shares than the rest of the top 20 posts about ecommerce combined.
Key Takeaway: The majority of social shares are generated from a small number of posts. 75% of all social shares come from only 1.3% of published content.
There’s Virtually No Correlation Between Social Shares and Backlinks
We found no correlation between social shares and backlinks (Pearson correlation coefficient of 0.078).
In other words, content that receives a lot of links doesn’t usually get shared on social media.
(And vice versa)
And when content does get shared on social media, those shares don’t usually result in more backlinks.
This may surprise a lot of publishers as “Sharing your content on social media” is considered an SEO best practice. The idea being that social media helps your content get in front of more people, which increases the likelihood that someone will link to you.
While this makes sense in theory, our data shows that this doesn’t play out in the real world.
The SEO Marketing Hub is broken down into 7 core topics:
SEO Fundamentals – Here’s where you catch up on the basics of search engine optimization. You’ll learn what SEO is, how it works, strategies for finding keywords, tips for SEO-friendly web development, and more.
Content Optimization Strategies – Learn exactly how to optimize your site’s content in 2019. You’ll also see how to take advantage of “SERP Features”, like Rich Snippets.
Technical SEO – Sitemaps. Crawl Budget. Website Architecture. They’re all important for making sure that Google can crawl and index your entire site. And in this section you’ll learn how to improve your site’s technical SEO.
Link Building Techniques – Here’s where you’ll learn how to build links to your site using white hat link building techniques like Broken Link Building, evergreen content, original research, and more.
User Experience Signals – Learn how to optimize your content for “UX Signals”, like bounce rate, dwell time, searcher intent and organic CTR.
SEO Tools and Software – Here’s where you’ll learn how to make your SEO campaigns more effective using popular SEO software platforms like Ahrefs, Moz Pro and SEMrush.
Advanced SEO Strategies – Learn how to take your SEO skills to the next level. You’ll see how to build an SEO team, do a content audit, and measure results like a pro.