How To Do Email Outreach Without Making It Look Like Spam

How To Do Email Outreach Without Making It Look Like Spam
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Last Friday morning I received an email from Andrew.

This email was very much like any other many of us receive on what seems like an almost hourly basis.

A shameless attempt at getting a link shared because “your readers would really enjoy it” without any real benefit to you.

The funny part is that these emails are always formatted almost exactly the same. Why? Because of the slew of templates put out by high profile bloggers in an attempt to help you with email outreach.

What some people fail to understand, however, is that these templates are meant purely as an example. And by copying them, Andrew is only demonstrating to his clued up recipients that he knows how to copy and paste a script and add some links.

Today I’m going to share with you the email I received from Andrew, I’ll dissect the email and tell you what’s wrong, and in the end I’ll show you a better example that would work much better for Andrew.

How To Do Email Outreach Without Making It Look Like Spam

The Email

Here is Andrew’s outreach word-for-word (with a few edits for anonymity) and the numbers I’ve added will become relevant in the next section:

“Hi ,

(1)I’m Andrew from Andrews Co.

(2)I came across your article on Copywriting: , and I thought it was great.

(3)I’m emailing you because we have content you might find interesting. We create really cool cheatsheets about email marketing and this one in particular is about copywriting, and getting thousands of hits since it was published. I think your readers would really enjoy it.

(4)Here it is:

(5)Would you be interested in sharing our cheatsheet with your audience? We’d really appreciate it.

(6)If not, just let me know and I won’t follow up. Thanks!


(The real links have also been removed, as I’m not planning on doing Andrew any favours by sending him traffic)

The Problems

These kind of emails always follow a similar structure;

  1. Introduce yourself.
  2. Flatter the recipient.
  3. Offer proposition.
  4. Present link.
  5. Call to action.
  6. Leave on a high note.

This email was no different, and on the surface it seems like the perfect outreach email. So where did Andrew go wrong?

Let’s break it down;

1. The Email Introduction

“Hi ,
I’m Andrew from Andrews Co.”

Firstly, Andrew’s introduction is great.

He introduces himself right away and I know exactly who this email is from (even if I’ve never heard of him before).

But at least now I know who he is and who I would be responding to, before we’ve gotten to any of the important stuff.

Think about a real life introduction; you don’t meet a person for the first time and say “I’m a blogger at and also my name is Tom”, do you?

The only real issue here is he doesn’t address the email to anyone, so clearly he hasn’t looked at my blog enough to know the my name and my big red spam flag is now flying at half mast.

This is common for people using tools like Ninja Outreach, that haven’t taken the crucial few extra minutes to set it up properly.

2. The Flattery

“I came across your article on Copywriting: , and I thought it was great.”

This is where it starts to go downhill for Andrew.

I’m used to seeing these emails so I know that most of the time, they didn’t really look that far into one of my articles before emailing.

Everyone loves to be flattered, and call me cynical, but it’s gotten to the point now where I just don’t believe it.

Most of the time people target resources pages because they know they’re more likely to get a link there, because resources pages are typically choc full of links.

However, in this case, Andrew had cited my blogging resources page as “great” but had referenced it as an “article on Copywriting”.

Aside from the fact that “Copywriting” is actually two words (Copy writers hate when you get that one wrong) the page he’s referring to has nothing to do with copy writing.

In fact, if the URL and title wasn’t enough, this only further confirms that Andrew hadn’t even bothered to visit the article in the first place.

It’s just too obvious.

3. The Proposition

“I’m emailing you because we have content you might find interesting. We create really cool cheatsheets about email marketing and this one in particular is about copywriting, and getting thousands of hits since it was published. I think your readers would really enjoy it.”

Andrew says he has content that I might find interesting. Andrew might be right – but unfortunately, we’ll never know because I’m never going to click his link.

At this point, Andrew also let’s me know more about what he does, and that he creates “really cool” cheatsheets.

He then proceeds to mention that YOU the reader may also enjoy his content.

Gee, I had never thought of that, thanks for bringing it too my attention, Andrew!

The proposition isn’t actually that bad, it mentions that the cheatsheet is already popular and that’s usually a precursor to other’s sharing it.

Everyone wants to share great content and Andrew might just be doing us a favour by sending it directly to us.

4. The Link

There’s not much to say here, maybe Andrew could improve it by shortening the link or including some tracking to know if his shallow emails are converting though.

5. The Call To Action

“Would you be interested in sharing our cheatsheet with your audience? We’d really appreciate it.”

By now, Andrew’s given me pretty much all the information I need to make an action – all that needs to be done is seal the deal.

Andrew steps up by asking me to share his link – he’d really appreciate it!

I keep reading to see what Andrew’s going to offer me in exchange; maybe it’s a reciprocal share, maybe it’s a link, maybe it’s even a feature on their blog!


Andrew’s only counteroffer is my peace of mind that he’ll go to sleep tonight feeling appreciative.

Now, as I mentioned before, everyone likes finding great content to share with their followers – and I’m no exception (believe it or not, I do try!).

But if you’re going to randomly email me, and ask me to do something for you, try to offer some kind of value other than “my readers may enjoy it”.

Offer me a link, a reciprocal share, cash, a Christmas card, a used coupon for half a gallon of milk – whatever. As long as there’s some kind of benefit for me (or someone like me) and not just you.

Right now I think this email is getting poorer by the character.

6. The End

“If not, just let me know and I won’t follow up. Thanks!”

Up until this point, my expectations of Andrew’s success have been steadily dropping.

However, Andrew seems to be clawing it back with his finishing statement.

At least Andrew has the humility to acknowledge that I might not be interested in his spam email and instead of helping him out, I could email back and tell him to get lost.

Lastly, But Probably Most Importantly

I know sending these emails can be tough to get right, and although I don’t do it that often, I have done it before with a very high success rate (we’re talking a 33% positive response rate).

Even if you can’t put together a decent outreach email, there’s one VERY important factor that you must remember, and that is to make sure you’re being CAN-SPAM compliant.

The fines for not doing so are up to $16,000 per email sent.

I’d imagine Andrew has sent this same email to hundreds or thousands of people, and so those fines would add up to a life-ruining amount pretty quickly.

Using a service like Ninja Outreach can help you with making sure your outreach is done compliantly.

Making your emails CAN-SPAM compliant is really quite simple (most email providers, including MailChimp do this automatically), you just have to include these 7 factors;

  1. You must allow people to opt-out/unsubscribe.
  2. When they do unsubscribe, you must honor it.
  3. You must make it clear who you are (at least Andrew has this one nailed).
  4. You mustn’t have a misleading subject line.
  5. If you send an ad, you must make it obvious that it’s an ad.
  6. You must include your physical location (this is where Andrew falls over).
  7. Be wary of third parties and monitor them if they send emails on your behalf as you’re still responsible for what they send.

See, it’s not that difficult, even Andrew has most of these covered, but the BIGGEST and most obvious one is the physical location.

The main concern is that Andrew just mentions that he’s “from” the company and so may be at risk of getting the company in trouble – oops!

I’m not the kind of person to report someone like Andrew for something like this, but you can bet your ass there are people out there that would.

So how should Andrew’s outreach email look?

Here’s my redraft of Andrew’s email given all of the points I’ve made above – but again, emails like this are purely templates and should be used as such.

Authenticity in email outreach truly comes from writing your outreach email in your own style with your own words using a template strictly as a guideline.

“Hi Tom,

I’m Andrew from Andrews Co.

I came across your blogging resources page: , and I thought it was great.

At Andrew’s co, we’ve created some really cool cheatsheets about online marketing. This one in particular is about blog traffic, and has already received thousands of hits since it was published. 

Here it is:

I was wondering if you would be interested in sharing this cheatsheet with your audience? We’d really appreciate it, and I’ve already taken the time to tweet your blogging resources page to our followers.

If not, no hard feelings, just let me know and I won’t message you again. Thanks!


Andrews Co, #1 Andrews RD, Andrews City, Andrews State, ZIPCODE, USA”

See how I added at the end that Andrew had ALREADY done something for me, and so I’m now exponentially more likely to do something for him?

That’s what turns a solid fail campaign like Andrew’s into a 33% conversion success like some of my previous campaigns.

If you follow the points in this article, I’m 100% certain you’ll see more success from your email outreach campaigns.

Don’t spam. Don’t be an Andrew.

Tom Watts
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Tom Watts

Blogger from England, living in Canada. I blog about blogging, SEO, Social Media, Web Design etc. Monday lover, coffee consumer. The glass is always half full. Read my full story here: Read More
Tom Watts
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  1. Such an important post. I receive a LOT of these emails and very few are done well.
    I love that you’ve broken down a terrible pitch and then shared how to do it correctly!
    I’ve shared to Twitter too!!

    • Tom Watts says:

      I think we all receive a few too many of these, Kellie! I normally take the time to read them just in case their proposition is good, but the email just sucks; unfortunately Andrew disappointed on both fronts. Thanks for commenting and sharing 🙂

  2. you hit it on the nail!

  3. Great post Tom. I get some of these emails as well, yet, I have never talked about it, but that was a great idea.

    I have been on your list for a while, I guess so since we started following each other on twitter and I subscribed. But I guess what I’m trying to point out is what I have endured, much like you.

    I am glad you took this with both your hands and clutched the opportunity and ran with the idea to share it for others out there…

    Great Work!

    Yes, i will share this on twitter!

    • Tom Watts says:

      Hey Carlos,

      Thanks for the props! As soon as your get some kind of online presence you’re going to start getting these emails – it’s just a fact you have to live with.

      Unfortunately, there’s lots of guides and templates out there, and people think it’s sufficient to just copy them without really thinking “am I offering any value here?” or are they just hoping the recipient will be nice enough to check the link then be blown away by the content? Most of us don’t have time for that.

      I wanted to point this out, because a few simple tweaks and a tiny bit more effort make the difference between flopping and flying with email outreach.

      Checking out your site now. Hope to see you here again soon buddy!


  4. Yep, he lost me at ‘hi’ without a name!

    But the regulation is interesting. Here in Australia the Spam Act only applies to electronic messages with ‘commercial intent’. Not sure if an outreach email requesting a link counts as ‘commercial intent’ since there is no intention to sell to you the recipient. (I’d rather not be the test case where they find out, though!)
    Also we have no requirement for a physical address. That one threw me!

    …and if I were writing the pitch I’d include a more specific comment on your page than ‘it was great’. Which bit was most useful / news to me. Something which proves I at least skimmed your content.

    • Tom Watts says:

      Hey Bridget,

      The regulation thing is an interesting one – and let’s be honest, I’m no lawyer.

      I’m not sure whether the rules pertain to the location of the sender, or if they pertain to the location of the recipients – but I’d imagine it’s the sender.

      MailChimp forces me to be compliant (although that may be due to my settings and country of residence) whereas Ninja Outreach simply recommends it.

      Given the amount of the fines though, I’d say it’s better safe than sorry!

      You’re also right on the specific comment point – it was clear in this example that Andrew had either scanned a google search, or used some kind of bot to find the article and either hadn’t looked at it at all, or had looked at it but didn’t make the effort to tweak his stock email.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, glad to see you back here 🙂


  5. Thank you for sharing this is a good way to attract clients without their hesitation.

  6. Thanks so much for dissecting this email by Andrew. I’m receiving quite a bit of emails like that, and they all make these exact same mistakes, and seriously just look spammy…

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