I Asked 235 People to Tweet My Article and All I Got Is This Cheerless Case Study

I'm an "SEO" with 7+ years experience; founder of The SEO Project; "link building" enthusiast; regular Ahrefs contributor; avid drinker of red wine; self-proclaimed steak expert; and all-round cool guy. I'm also shorter than you (probably).

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    If there’s one “tactic” that’s being hyped-up to oblivion right now, it’s this:

    • Publish something cool.
    • Find “influencers” who’ve tweeted/shared something similar.
    • Reach out and pester them to tweet/share your post too.

    I’m sure you’ve all been on the receiving end of this. Someone emails you out of the blue asking if you can “tweet their article”.

    It happens a lot, but we at Ahrefs struggle to believe it works.

    So, with the aim of debunking (or possibly not debunking) this “tactic” once and for all, we decided to run an experiment and document our numbers.

    Here’s what we did:

    • We used this list of link building strategies as the target for the experiment.
    • We collected a list of 235 people who had tweeted similar posts before (49 of whom had done so in the last 24 hours).
    • We reached out (via email) to everyone on the list and kindly asked for a tweet.

    This resulted in a total of 23 tweets (that’s a 9.8% conversion rate), which brought 109 visitors in total.

    I’ll be sharing detailed insights and takeaways later in the post (keep reading!) but first, let’s talk a bit about the study.

    Why Did We Decide to Run This Study?

    Most existing “begging for tweets” case studies look at these two metrics to determine success/failure:

    • The number of people they persuade to tweet their post.
    • The percentage of people that reply to their “outreach” emails.

    For example, this case study by Matthew Woodward states that “a 30–40% response rate” means success.

    We believe this is a terrible way to judge success, as “tweets” and “replies” are vanity metrics.

    It really doesn’t matter how many tweets/replies you get, they’re completely worthless unless they actually drive traffic and bring leads.

    We, therefore, wanted to conduct a study that focussed on traffic + leads.

    Sidenote.
    If you’re wondering how we found exact traffic + subscriber stats from individual tweets, keep reading. I’ll be showing exactly how to do this later in the post.

    Why we were skeptical about “asking for tweets”

    Let’s be brutally honest here: 99% of people you’re outreaching to know you’re reaching out because you want something from them.

    So, when they read your “outreach” email, they’re really just assessing three things:

    • Have you made a reasonable amount of effort (i.e. enough for them to waste any of their time on you)? Or are you blasting out non-personalised templated nonsense?
    • Are you interested in them at all, or is it just “me, me, me!”?
    • Is whatever you’re offering of any real value/benefit to them?

    Maybe I’m just paranoid/cynical/whatever, but I’m pretty sure this is the exact assessment process for most people (even if they’re not consciously aware of it).

    And here’s the right way to do it:

    1. Offer value up-front;
    2. Have faith that the norm of reciprocity plays out in your favour when you ask for something in return (e.g. a tweet or a link).

    But, when you’re reaching out and blatantly asking people to “please tweet this link” in your first email, it’s clear that you have no real interest in that person.

    This is why — in my opinion — “begging for shares” is a terrible strategy.

    QUICK TIP
    Tim wrote a great article on how to do outreach the right way. Make sure to check it out: “I Just Deleted Your Outreach Email Without Reading. And NO, I Don’t Feel Sorry (2017 Revisited)”

    It’s Experiment Time!

    I’m not the first “marketer” to talk about this strategy.

    Matthew Woodward talked about it here.

    Social Media Examiner mentioned it here.


    And these are only a few of the mentions.

    So, I’m not going to try to reinvent the wheel — I’m simply going to follow the same overall process laid out by other bloggers, which is:

    1. Find people who’ve tweeted something similar to the post I’m promoting.
    2. Reach out and share my similar post (from my blog).

    Simple.

    And the content I’ll be “promoting” for both parts of the experiment will be this list of link building strategies (from my personal blog).

    It contains 180+ strategies, spans 60K+ words, and took me 5+ months to put together. It should, therefore, be enough to impress almost everyone I reach out to.

    It will also ensure that content quality (an important variable that can often lead even the best strategies to “flop”) won’t be the reason this experiment fails.

    So, that’s the experiment in a nutshell…

    Let’s get started!

    How I Conducted the Experiment

    I’m going to walk through this process from start-to-finish.

    I’m leaving nothing out, so if you want to replicate this experiment, you should have everything you need.

    #1 — Finding the Prospects

    First, I Googled the phrase “link building” and sifted through the results looking for good link-building-related posts.

    I plucked out a few high-quality articles and added the URLs to a spreadsheet.

    Next, I pasted each of these URLs one-by-one into Twitter’s search. I selected “latest” to see people who had recently tweeted that post.

    I added any good prospects to a spreadsheet.

    I did this for each of the URLs on my list to build up an initial prospects list.

    This only found a handful of prospects, so I then turned to Ahrefs Content Explorer.

    I began by typing “link building” into the search and sorted the results by “Twitter shares”.

    This found posts related to link building that had been shared heavily.

    I sifted through the results looking for posts that were super-related to link building (and were actually good).

    I ticked the checkbox next to any appropriate articles and — when I had a decent-sized list — I clicked the “who tweeted selected articles” button.

    Content Explorer then showed me who tweeted any of these posts on a single page.

    It also showed the “tweet date”, # of followers, and a couple of other pieces of information.

    I filtered this initial list for tweets older than 24 hours initially using the inbuilt calendar.

    I then repeated the process filtering for tweets within the last 24 hours.

    Sidenote.
    This was done in order to study if timing will have a big influence on the results of the experiment.

    Lastly, I exported the results to a spreadsheet and merged with my list of prospects from Twitter.

    #2 — Cleaning, Refining, and Finding Contact Information

    Because I wanted to reach out to actual people (rather than companies), I manually removed any company profiles from the spreadsheet.

    I also removed:

    • Anyone without a website on their Twitter profile (note: Ahrefs shows you this in the export).
    • Anyone with their Facebook/LinkedIn/About.me/etc. profile listed instead of an actual website on their Twitter profile.
    • Duplicates.

    I then split first and last names using a bit of Google Sheets magic. This made it easier to import the contacts into Buzzstream (a tool heavily relied upon by the “outreach team” at Ahrefs, and one we thoroughly recommend).

    Finally, I used the process from this post to find email addresses for the remaining prospects.

    I ended up with 235 emails.

    #3 — Adding and Sending Emails (Via BuzzStream)

    I added all the contacts to Buzzstream under a two new projects (i.e. one for those who tweeted in the past 24 hours, and one for everyone else).

    I also added a custom field, which held the information for the link they shared.

    I then sent everyone an email using this basic template:

    Subject: “[FIRST NAME], just a quick one…”
    “Hi [FIRST NAME],
    I noticed that you recently shared Brian Deans link building guide (this one) on Twitter.
    I’ve actually just published a huge list of 180+ link building strategies and, well, I thought you might be interested in checking it out.
    Here’s the link: http://www.theseoproject.org/link-building-strategies/
    Let me know what you think 🙂
    — Josh
    P.S. If you love it, please could you share it on Twitter? :)”

    A few other things to note:

    • I customised the intro so it referenced the actual link they shared. I didn’t just blast “Brian Dean” out to everyone!
    • Buzzstream automatically filled in the first name in each email using a mail merge (so all emails were “personalised”).
    • I included a “clicktotweet” link — I wasn’t too pushy about this, but wanted to make it as simple as possible for people to actually share the link.

    For those who tweeted in the last 24 hours, I changed the first part of the template to this:

    Hi [NAME],
    I noticed you shared Andrew Dennis’ post (via SEJ) about link building essentially equating to good marketing on Twitter earlier today.
    […]”

    I sent 235 emails in total (thanks to Sergey from the Ahrefs outreach team for hunting down the right email addresses for the bounces!)

    It’s results time!

    Here’s a detailed breakdown of both parts of the experiment combined:

    • Emails sent: 235
    • Emails opened: 206 (87.7%)
    • Link clicks: 34 (14.5%)
    • Tweets: 23 (9.8%)
    • Replies: 19 (8.1%)
    • Out of office” replies: 2 (0.9%)
    • Unique visitors (from tweets): 109
    • Tweets that drove traffic: 5 (21.7%)
    • Tweets that drove zero traffic: 18 (78.2%)
    • Email subscribers: 15

    But, which part of the experiment performed better? The “old tweeters” or the ones from last 2h hours?

    Well, surprisingly, the results were almost identical.

    Sidenote.
    Here’s a spreadsheet with stats for each part of the experiment in isolation (if you’re interested).

    Here are three possible reasons why timing didn’t play a big difference in our case study:

    1. Small sample size - 235 people is a relatively small number when it comes to outreach. If we were to reach out to 1000+ people, the results for the two parts would likely differ a lot more.
    2. Tweeted in last 24 hours” may be somewhat arbitrary - It’s highly likely that those who tweeted in the last 24 hours and those who tweeted in, say, the last week are much the same. Peoples’ memory of what they’ve read/tweeted doesn’t instantly expire after 24 hours; Most people will retain that memory for at least a few days. It may, therefore, make sense to repeat the experiment and change the line between the two parts to “tweeted within the last week”/“tweeted more than a week ago”.
    3. Marketers are sick of emails “begging for tweets” - Marketers receive these kinds of emails every day. This makes many super-reluctant to reply to or act upon them, regardless of timing. Results between the two parts may vary a lot more in other industries.

    But, excuses aside, it’s clear that the results from this particular experiment were poor.

    Almost 80% (that’s 4 out of 5) of the tweets brought no traffic whatsoever (i.e. they were completely pointless).

    It’s also worth noting that of the total 109 visitors, this one tweet was responsible for 105 of them:

    Sidenote.
    I’m still in the dark as to why that brought so many visitors. He only has around 2300 followers.

    However, I believe the most telling stat is our “email to tweet” conversion rate at around 10%.

    Now, I’ve seen numerous posts over the years saying that 10% is a “good conversion rate” when doing outreach, but I disagree.

    Remember, if 10% are converting/replying, 90% ignored us altogether (that’s 9/10 people!).

    Here are a few reasons why I believe this happened:

    • It was a poor excuse to contact them — I think it’s pretty obvious that “hey, saw you tweeted something similar earlier, can you tweet this too?” is a terrible excuse for reaching out. It has a hint of desperation about it.
    • There was no value for them — My email was focused solely on my win, not theirs. It may work better to reframe the email to something like “I know it’s hard to keep your twitter followers engaged and entertained, so here’s a great article that you might want to tweet to out to them”. However, this psychological trick may come across as patronising to many.
    • People don’t remember their tweets — Although I did remind people of the link they tweeted in my email, generally don’t remember what they shared yesterday (never mind earlier that year). Because of this, many of the prospects were likely thinking “did I really tweet that?” whilst simultaneously wondering how I knew that information.

    I also believe that it was super-obvious the email was sent from a template.

    I asked a few of those who replied about this and they agreed.

    SEO folks are generally pretty aware that this is how things are done. I can imagine this converting slightly better in a different industry where people are less aware of automation tactics.

    Should You Ever Beg for Shares Like This? (Or is There a Better Way?)

    I wouldn’t advise anyone follow this “mass outreach for tweets” strategy.

    Here’s why:

    Tweets != Traffic

    Even if you manage to convince some people to tweet your post, this doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to get any traffic.

    In fact, 99% of Twitter users are incapable of sending you traffic. If you’re emailing 100+ people asking for tweets, it’s likely that only 1–2 will send you traffic.

    This is because most industries only contain a few people (usually <100) with enough klout to send any worthwhile traffic via Twitter.

    It would, therefore, make more sense to follow the Pareto principle and spend 80% of your efforts reaching out to the top 20% (i.e. those with the power to actually send traffic).

    It took me countless hours to run this experiment and all I got was 109 visits from 23 tweets. Almost all of these visits came from one single tweet too (I got lucky, basically).

    That time would have been much better spent elsewhere, rather than “begging for tweets”.

    It’s a terrible first impression

    Nobody wants to receive one of these templated outreach emails and — if we’re being honest — nobody respects it.

    That might not be a problem if you’re working on a throwaway site. But if you actually want to build genuine relationships in your industry, this isn’t the way forward.

    Nobody wants to be asked to tweet

    Doing this just reiterates the fact that you don’t care about them. You care about you.

    Also, people aren’t stupid. They know how to tweet, and — provided your content is good — they’ll usually do it off their own back (without you having to ask!).

    If you ask for the tweet and they don’t want to do it, they probably just won’t reply.

    This is why we had a high open-rate (almost 90%) but a low reply rate. Most people didn’t want to tweet but chose to ignore the email rather than replying with “no”.

    If you really have to ask for something, ask for feedback instead. It comes off as much less needy and also gives the prospect a bit of an ego boost.

    What’s the solution? Should I Shun Outreach Altogether?

    Absolutely not.

    Outreach is essential and you should be sending emails to let people know about your content.

    Hint: Just don’t try to scale it too much (here’s why).

    If you actually want results, try this:

    1. Collect a list of outreach targets
    2. Research them and identify the people with the best reach
    3. Send them the most personalised email you can

    Also, make sure to use a better excuse than simply “you tweeted similar stuff before”, and NEVER ask for tweets/shares.

    Just ask for their opinion. If they genuinely like it, they will inevitably share it.

    You should also make the effort to read their blog (and possibly past tweets) to figure out what may grab their attention.

    If you can show in your email that you did your homework, chances are they won’t see you as ‘just another spammy outreach email”.

    This is the exact approach that resulted in this tweet a few months back:

    It’s worth noting that this single tweet brought me more traffic and subscribers than this entire study!

    Why aim for tweets? Aim for backlinks instead!

    We’ve just proved that most tweets are completely worthless.

    Therefore, we recommend going one step further and focussing on something that actually matters: backlinks.

    Backlinks have the power to bring traffic consistently and indefinitely.

    This is our focus at Ahrefs, and it works well.

    I reached out to Nick Churick (our resident “outreach guy”) and asked him to share some examples of his success in this department:

    Notice anything?

    That’s right, Nick didn’t ask for a backlink (or even a tweet) directly, nor did he focus his email around a link request.

    He simply asked for their opinion.

    This gave everyone an easy way to ignore this semi-disguised link request (if they didn’t like the post) without feeling guilty.

    However, many people added his link to the page regardless.

    Remember, anyone worth reaching out to already gets a tonne of these emails every day. They know what your intentions are.

    Be human, treat them with respect, and they’ll be much more likely to give you a link.

    Sidenote.
    We plan to replicate this experiment again soon, but instead of following the ineffective “spray and pray” approach, we’ll do it the right way and share all our results with you.

    How I Found the Exact Traffic Stats for these Tweets

    OK, before we wrap this up, let’s talk about those traffic stats and how I found them.

    You may recall that I included a “clicktotweet” link in every single email I sent.

    This wasn’t only to make things easier, but also to track actual clicks on links shared.

    But, only a handful of people actually shared using these links. Most people chose to Buffer them or share via another link-shortening service.

    With these links, I couldn’t access direct traffic stats.

    So, here’s what I did:

    I setup a custom report in Google Analytics filtered to show the “full referrer” (i.e. the full referring URL). But, I chose only to include traffic from t.co domains.

    Why? Because Twitter actually routes every single link shared on the site through their own t.co service.

    Even if people share already-shortened (e.g. bit.ly) links, Twitter still sends them through their custom t.co service.

    By cross-referencing this data from Google Analytics with the actual t.co links people shared (which you can find by right-clicking on shared links and hitting “Copy link address”), I was able to see the exact traffic stats for each tweet.

    It also showed whether they converted to email subscribers.

    Let’s Wrap This Up!

    I’d like to finish this post with an important point.

    Everything I’ve mentioned here is based solely on my own experience in the “marketing” niche. If you’re in another “niche”, you may very well experience different — perhaps even more positive — results.

    If you’ve done similar outreach to this in any other niche, please, post your comments below.

    And if you fancy doing another case study in any other niche, give us a shout. We’ll gladly publish it on the blog!

    I'm an "SEO" with 7+ years experience; founder of The SEO Project; "link building" enthusiast; regular Ahrefs contributor; avid drinker of red wine; self-proclaimed steak expert; and all-round cool guy. I'm also shorter than you (probably).

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    • Luis Ernesto Cordero

      Well, yes, links are better. But the page is around position #55, running against some very competitive sites. So it is not totally bad. // But once again, links are way better. 🙂

      • Joshua Hardwick

        Which page are you referring to, Luis?

    • Give me links over tweets any day! I have a massive twitter following but a single comment on an influencer blog often drives more traffic that a tweet with great information. Tweets are transitory, a link is forever.. (well most of the time!)

      • Joshua Hardwick

        Tweets are transitory, a link is forever.. (well most of the time!)” = great quote! 🙂

        And I agree about blog comments; so many people discount them these days, but they can drive a ton of traffic when used correctly.

    • The Mugged Liberal

      Teach by failure is a great way to share info. Do more.

      • Joshua Hardwick

        Agreed 🙂

    • I’ve had better success outreaching to people or businesses actually mentioned or featured in an article. Since they were already mentioned by our post, reciprocity is already in play as a factor.

      Glad you took the time to put your numbers together and shared with all.

      • Joshua Hardwick

        Yeah, I’d guess that would work better 🙂

        I guess the only issue with that approach is that you can only include a limited number of people in your post (unless it’s some huge “roundup”), so your pool of prospects will be somewhat limited.

        • Agree. The scale is not going to be anywhere near as large.

    • I cant tell you how many hours I have wasted doing this sort of outreach! thanks for proving for once and for all that this tactic does not work

      • Joshua Hardwick

        Haha, no problem Shaurya!

    • Elizabeth Ching

      Thanks so much for this Joshua. I’d always thought maybe it was just me that didn’t seen a very significant return in Twitter outreach stuff haha.

      • Joshua Hardwick

        No problem, Elizabeth. I personally think Twitter is a dying platform (but then again, I’ve never liked it!). I mean, I know I predominantly follow “marketers” on there, but every single tweet I see is just blatant self-promotion. I don’t have time to click everyones links and read everyones articles.

        • Who are you following? Most of us share useful content for the top sites as well as content (rather than promotions) from our own blogs and major sites we contribute on.

          • Joshua Hardwick

            That’s kind of what I’m talking about. Twitter has become a platform where people share nothing but content/links. My Twitter feed is just a sea of content shares.

            I know this is one of the uses of social media, but people forget it’s also a place for direct interaction. I’m not talking about automated DM’s or crappy “Hey @[NAME], thought you might like this: [LINK]” nonsense either; I’m talking about genuine interaction.

            I think it’s ironic that Twitter is a platform limited (purposely) to 140 characters, yet people use it predominantly to share blog posts, often running thousands of words in length.

            • Lasse Lumiaho

              I agree that Twitter is missing conversation. That’s why @pmarca leaving Twitter made it a lot worse for me. No conversation to follow or comment.

            • We do have conversations on Twitter, too, and participate in Twitter chats which are almost all conversation with fewer links by percentage. Personally, I use Twitter to find content. That’s why we do that. If we just want to chat, we use Skype. Others use Facebook chat or Slack.

              The most important use for Twitter is the ability to contact people you don’t already know, especially those who have gatekeepers on their phones and emails. It is a fast way to leave that person a message and connect, then move to Skype or LinkedIn. That is one reason I doubt Twitter is dying.

              The other reason is that they are supported by deep pockets who have their own agenda. Unless they decide something else works better for their purposes, Twitter isn’t going anywhere.

        • @joshuahardwick:disqus me too :). Everyday I ask myself why I’m still on the platform. I sometimes feel like Twitter doesn’t allow you to be a HUMAN BEING. I mean.. people have multiple interests. Sure, they may work in in SEO or marketing, but they probably also like waffles or platformer games. Maybe they read something super interesting about the great barrier reef or Nasa’s latest discovery. Can they tweet about it? Probably not (i’ve even read Twitter guides recommending that you never tweet something outside your niche). I avoid tweeting about things I like or random stuff that crossed my mind because 80% of the people who follow me are interested in digital marketing, SEO, or similar topics, and they’ll probably unfollow me if I share something else (I got 5 unfollows for tweeting a bin that looks like DonaldTrump :D) .

          • Joshua Hardwick

            YES. 100% agree!!

            I mean, I’m not against people sharing industry-related stuff (that obviously makes sense), but 99% of the Twitter accounts I follow are, quite frankly, pointless.

            Until around a month ago, my Twitter had some auto-tweeting thing going on, where it would tweet out popular/interesting stuff from within the industry. It was something I set up a few months back by accident (when messing around on some site) and ended up leaving it, mainly because I didn’t really care about Twitter.

            But, recently, I decided that was 100% stupid. I now just tweet whatever I want, even if I know it won’t interest anyone.

            I think there are enough areas where we, as marketers, have to cater to peoples tastes; Twitter shouldn’t be one of them, in my opinion.

            I still think Twitter is garbage, though. I mean, what’s the point of it?

            • I still think Twitter is garbage, though. I mean, what’s the point of it?”

              Well, I heard you can get around 109 unique visits from 23 tweets. #worth

    • I do get similar outreach emails asking for a guest blog on my website. It’s too obvious that they only offer it for backlinks, so that’s a definite no. 😉

      I think outreach works best when people actually know you. I received an email today about a new rank tracking tool from someone I know. And though I’m pretty sure the mail was a template or even an automated email, it felt more personal and it worked. It caught my interest because of the (kind of) personal intro, but the fact that I knew who it was from worked best.

      If someone I had never heard of had sent me a similar email, I would’ve definitely deleted the email almost immediately.

      Moral of the story: it’s all about relationships.

      • Joshua Hardwick

        Definitely agree, Nathan.

        The problem is that — at some point — you have to build that initial relationship, and that entails some form of outreach (usually). I personally have nothing against outreach, I just wish people would make more effort instead of the typical “Hey [NAME], love your blog. Can I have a link?” nonsense.

        I’d also say that any initial outreach email should offer a lot of value upfront without asking for anything in return. I think that’s the only way to stand out and build genuine relationships.

        • The fast, efficient way to become someone they know is on social media. It is far better than sending an email they may never see or open. Share something they wrote. Comment in their content. Have a conversation on Twitter or in a group on LinkedIn, Facebook or G+.

          As Gary Vaynerchuk wrote in his book, the concept is give, give, give and only then ask.

          • Yes Gail, social media definitely helps. And honestly, I love reaching out to help on Twitter. The Dutch hashtag #dtv (or #durftevragen) is a great way of finding questions and helping people regardless.

            • By reason of?

            • #dtv means “dare to ask”, meaning “I’ve got a question, can someone help me please?”. So I regularly search for “seo dtv”, “website dtv” and “google dtv” to see if people have any questions. With the only aim to help them. “Give, give, give” as you mentioned, and not even asking.

              I sometimes provide them with a link to one of my articles, if that’s appropriate. All just to help them, not promoting my services.

              It helps me gain followers, people comment on my blogs and though I’m not actively monitoring this, I am certain it somehow helps me get leads, helps to build my brand awareness and will most likely earn me some retweets, likes and maybe even the odd backlink.

              🙂

            • Thank you for the more accurate translation. What Google translate gave didn’t make much sense. I have no doubt that helping people attracts followers and generates business. That is all I do and how I ended up with 106k followers on Twitter.

        • Well that was exactly the case this week Joshua. Someone wanted to write a guest post on my website. No real introduction, just plain: I want to do a guest post, it should include a link to my website and I can give you a link on one of these directories in return.

          Meh, I don’t think so.

          See it’s obvious that this is the exact reason why guestblogging has gotten a bad reputation. Blogging just for that link just doesn’t add real value.

          • Joshua Hardwick

            Oh, that sounds like a great deal. I hear directory links are going to be big this year!

            But seriously, it’s those kind of people that ruin things for the rest of us. Sure, it’s still important that we’re creative and don’t blast out the same outreach emails as everyone else but these days, people are already expecting the worst when they see an email from some unknown person in their inbox.

            I always liken it to cold-calling. Someone could cold call me offering the most perfect product that would improve my life 100x. But, I probably wouldn’t buy it (or even answer the phone) because I’ve been cold called so many times that I’m already expecting the worst.

            • Exactly.

              I discussed the recently received email on my Facebook page this week by the way. And guess what? A few of my followers there had received (almost) exact the same email. One of them had received one a few months ago, received a blog post and was utterly disappointed. Pretty much everything you could expect actually happened:

              - the blog post was poorly written
              — the blog post had a keyword rich anchor text in the first alinea
              — it wasn’t finished off well, ended abruptly even
              — it linked to an article on the writer’s website that was more extensive on the same subject

              It all adds up to the image I already had of the “company” (most likely just a freelancer) that had sent the email. Too bad how these people ruin it, as you say.

              PS: some directories are a little different in the Netherlands. We have a (sort of) concept called Startpagina (starting page), which was set up so everyone could create their own personalised start page, where they could add links to their favourite websites. They have become subject related, there are Startpagina directories on pretty much eveyr subject you can imagine. These have more value than “just a directory”. I wouldn’t say it’s really awesome to have your link on there though.

              And there are many clones out there as well, which are even less interesting. But it won’t hurt, might even be quite interesting to SEO, more than most directories. But still: there are tens to even hundreds of links on each page, so it’s easy to calculate what that does with the link juice 😉

    • Hey Josh — Good case study — thank you! It helps a lot of people save time and effort not focusing on wasteful stuff like this. I do think asking for a tweet is pointless however — its not like a link that influences any organic rankings — I suppose you were hoping influences tweet it and then it gets linked to by other people as they notice it? (from the influencers huge followings) — did this happen?

      I would be more keen to know how you go about building links to a great piece of content than tweets — If you happen to get time for a case study on that I would defo be interested!

      • Joshua Hardwick

        I agree, asking for someone to tweet a post is completely pointless 99% of the time. I say 99% because a very small percentage of people do actually drive a lot of traffic. But, that’s very rare in my experience.

        It’s very difficult to judge whether there was any indirect impact (e.g. links) from this outreach campaign. I doubt it really had much impact, though.

        That may be a good topic for a future study (will keep it in mind!), but I do think there’s a lot of information out there already on building links (“skyscraper technique” etc.).

    • Everyone and their mama are using Brian Dean’s outreach template. It MAY work in other industries, I guess. I’m playing the devil’s advocate here, Josh.… But I’m pretty sure other people wouldn’t nearly get the same results as you did because:

      1. People have heard of you (your link building guide went bananas on Inbound + you’ve been writing for Ahrefs for a while)
      2. Your content is actually REALLY good. Outreaching without a great content is like dressing up a blobfish

      In any case, yet another great content, Josh!

      • Joshua Hardwick

        Oh, tell me about it, the number of emails I get where people have copied Brians script word for word is astounding. I mean, I’ve got nothing against templates (to an extent), but at least write the initial template yourself!

        Also, a couple of thoughts on your points:

        1. I didn’t mention it in the post, but I tried to counteract this by using a throwaway email, which I believe used the name “Joshua H” rather than my full name. Sure, those that opened and clicked the link may have noticed it was me (although I definitely don’t consider myself well-known at this stage), but hopefully this prevented the results from being skewed too much.

        2. If you’re outreaching with crap content, you’re dead in the water before you’ve even begun. I know most people advocate spending more time on outreach than content creation (which is fine), but that doesn’t mean anyone should be pitching crap content.

        I’d also add that — in my opinion — the results from this case study were relatively poor (as we expected). As you’re suggesting others may not even get the results I did, I’d say that makes this tactic even less worthwhile for everyone else 🙂

        • used a throw-away” oi! Why?!

          Okay, actually from a case study perspective, I get the idea of not making it ALL about you being from Brand…But consider how large an impact on response and results! Sending from an ahrefs email, using your full name, maybe even “priming the pump” by proactively liking, retweeting and listing the “big fish” Influencers on Twitter from your or your company profile? Imho, if I have access to brand clout, then by gods I am gonna use it in my outreach!

    • Amazing post! I rarely take the time to read something this long word for word, but I made an exception for this. Also, gave me a ton of ideas to test out myself. Thank you for putting this together and looking forward to the 2nd test (done right) in the future!

      • Joshua Hardwick

        Thanks Aaron, it was a ton of work so I’m glad you enjoyed it! 🙂

    • Clare Hoang

      nice post. thanks. however, the “Who tweeted selected articles” seems not working today. i’ve got this message “We are currently updating our service
      and adding some cool new features!”

      Cheers

    • I greatly agree with the brave technique you followed. But still i doubt that it will work for all stream of industries. Anyway, found lot of stuffs, thanks for sharing, Hardwick.

      • Joshua Hardwick

        Nothing works for all industries, unfortunately.

    • Joshua Hardwick

      Gail, those are good tips, but the main point in this post is that asking for tweets (and even managing to get them) is usually quite pointless because they don’t drive much traffic.

      I know this isn’t always true — especially when it comes to getting tweeted by big names in your industry — but I’ve found it is for the most part.

      I did mention this in one of the other comments on here, but I actually used a throwaway email address for this case study. This was done on purpose to ensure that the study wasn’t biased because some people may know who I was.

      • Hi Joshua,

        Early adopters of Twitter saw far greater clicks than we do today. Now, you’re right. Only a small percentage of people who see a tweet will click on the link in it. That is why every tweet needs to have a compelling image and it takes a lot more tweets by a lot more people who have large followings to drive traffic.

        If you want traffic, try FlipBoard. Because clicking on something there takes you directly to the content shared instead of an additional page on the social network as many do, a single share by someone with 100k followers there has generated 100+ visits where a single tweet will only generate maybe 10.

    • Joshua Hardwick

      Haha, yeah, I wouldn’t bother asking for a tweet (at least not in your first email); it comes across as pretty desperate in my opinion!

    • Thanks for taking the time to run this experiment. Some great insights, and the tips on tracking Tweets are great.

      I’ve been trying this approach for some time using slightly different variations on the theme.

      I’ve found that actually Tweeting people the article, not specifically asking for a Tweet can produce decent results. Something like:

      Hey, [Name], thought you might be interested in this post on XXX [link]’

      Sometimes, I’ll add hashtags.

      I’ve found this approach to work quite well. Though, I should do a detailed experiment based on this article to know for sure.

      Sometimes, the idea behind the outreach for Tweets/Shares is not to drive traffic or sales. The goal may be to garner initial social proof for a forthcoming outreach campaign to acquire links.

      I tend to only email specific people about my posts now, rather than in bulk.

      • Joshua Hardwick

        I’d love to see the experiment/case study if you ever get round to doing it 🙂

        I have seen people taking that approach before, but it can get quite spammy at times (same with anything, really). However, I can see it working quite well if you go about it the right way, and especially if you already have some existing relationship with the people you’re mentioning.

        Good point on the reasoning behind asking for tweets, too! I’ve actually used the whole “…Brian Dean tweeted it” in a couple of outreach emails in the past, just to instil a sense of “oh, well, I guess this must be decent and not spam then”.

        • Yes, definitely. Will let you know when I write something up. 🙂

          I agree, it can look spammy. I’ve started a new approach to this method whereby a schedule the direct Tweets to people, around other content.

          So, I’ll schedule a Tweet letting someone know about the article, then I’ll schedule 3 or 4 other Tweets that are not directly related, then schedule a Tweet to someone else, and repeat the process.

          It’s a little more work, but, it reduces the spammy look of the Tweets and also has the benefit of filling up your schedule.

          • Joshua Hardwick

            I’d be curious to know how that goes. I personally ignore every DM unless it’s someone I know.

            • Ah! Yes, these are not DMs, but @replies. I’ll run an experiment and see what results I get and come back to you on it.

              I should add, that I don’t just contact influencers with this method, but also ‘normal folks’, bloggers, journalists, the average joe. As long as their interests match the content.

    • Awesome article. I’m working with a client who does not blog and would love to get some more organic links built. Any recommendations for ecommerce sites?

      • Joshua Hardwick

        Work with him to start a blog? 🙂

        I know that sounds like I’m being awkward, but that really is the best way forward IMHO.

    • Tylor Hermanson

      Hey Joshua,

      Really great post and I appreciate the level of transparency you provided. I had a couple questions/thoughts:

      1. The email template you shared contains a grammatical error. There should be an apostrophe in Dean’s (“I noticed that you recently shared Brian Deans…”). Can you confirm if that error was actually in the emails you sent out? If so, I wonder if that in any way hurt your results.

      2. You said you spent “countless hours” on this. I’d love to know a bit more here on how long it took running the experiment (not writing this article). I’m sure you have an approximate dollar figure next to visits and/or subscribers. You probably can’t divulge too much in this department, but I was curious if you had some sort of $$/time estimate for your efforts.

      3. Playing devil’s advocate (I agree with you almost 100%, btw), while 99% of Twitter users “are incapable of sending you traffic”, how do you always know which 1% to focus on? I think it’s fair to say the one tweet that drove traffic was not one you would have originally chosen if you weren’t implementing the spray-and-pray method, right?

      Again, great post. Definitely tweeting this article out, for what it’s (not) worth 🙂

      • Joshua Hardwick

        I’m glad you found the post useful, Tylor.

        Here are my answers:

        1. It may have been. I edited that part for each email (for example, some people tweeted different articles written by other people), so I may have missed an apostrophe here and there. I doubt it would have had much effect on the results. Many people I know are much worse when it comes to grammar; I’m sure many respondents never even noticed.

        2. It would be difficult to give an accurate time estimate for this, as I did the outreach across multiple days and didn’t keep track. I’d say at least 5 hours. It may have been more. I do think I could do it much faster if I did it again, though.

        3. There’s no exact formula for this (at least not that I know of). Of course, you can look at things like # of followers, whether or not their tweets get a lot of comments/retweets/etc. If they share bit.ly links, you can paste the link into bit.ly and it’ll tell you how many clicks it had (roughly). But, it’s never going to be totally accurate. I’d suggest tracking the results of an initial campaign and then exclude the people who didn’t bring much value from future outreach campaigns.

        I hope that answers your questions 🙂

      • Joshua Hardwick

        Hi Tylor,

        I replied to this last night, but it keeps my comment has disappeared for some strange reason (I think someone may have inadvertently classed it as spam…)

        I’ll answer the questions again, anyway:

        1. It may have been in some of the emails. I changed that first line based on the article the person shared, so the name and link changed on a per-email basis. I doubt this small grammatical error would really have made much different, though. I know many people who wouldn’t even realise the mistake.

        2. It would be very difficult to give an exact number here, as I conducted the study over a number of days. I’d guess at least 5 hours for the experiment, probably quite a bit longer. I think it would be much quicker if I did it again. I don’t sell anything via my website right now, so can’t really put a dollar figure on the outcome.

        3. It’s almost impossible to tell. Sure, you can look at things like “follower” counts, etc. but it’ll never be 100% accurate. It would likely be a case of making an educated guess in your first campaign, but you could easily look at the stats afterwards and then exclude the poor performers from any future outreach campaigns.

        I hope that answers your questions (again!) 🙂

        • Tylor Hermanson

          Thanks for the detailed answers, Joshua! I appreciate it.

          • Joshua Hardwick

            Oh, I’ve answered twice now, haha!

    • At some point, I came to the same conclusion (also because Buzzsumo and Ahrefs are costly), so I used my BFF Commenter tactic. The results were much better. It was them who later became my friends and who still help me. Blogger Outreach is the best tactic for promoting new blogs like mine.

      A few months ago I also got in touch with the people who shared on Twitter articles relevant to mine but with one exception.

      First I shared posts of the person I’m about to get in touch with. This simple action increased my CTR to 20% (those who shared my post). The more influential the person was, the more actions I would do for the first contact. (I’d find some mistakes, I’d comment, send simple thank-you emails, or create free covers for their eBooks, etc.)

      Twitter Outreach still works, it’s just you need to do more prework and build lasting relationships.

      So I came to a conclusion that commenters are much better, as very often people don’t even read the articles they share. By the way, I also noticed that it’s not really important when a comment was left. The same goes for tweets too. The main thing is to understand that this person is interested in your topic and first help them the way they need and the way your help will be noticed and appreciated. (And it’s always a link, traffic, and social shares.)

      P.S. BTW, you haven’t yet linked to my article, but you promised to 🙁

      • Joshua Hardwick

        Yeah, I completely agree, Michael. I’m not really saying Twitter outreach doesn’t work, but rather that, a) this lazy “spray and pray” approach doesn’t really work, b) 99% of people won’t drive any traffic to your site, even if you convince them to share your post.

        It definitely makes more sense to help them out and make friends first, but that’s the case for any outreach really. It’ll always work better if you’re not just “me! me! me!”

        And I’ll link to your post whenever a) I remember, b) it makes sense. I don’t like shoehorning things into places. Don’t worry, though, I’m not planning to stop blogging anytime soon and your post is always in the back of my mind as one of the greats 🙂

    • Hi Joshua,

      Interesting 😉

      I feel the biggest issue for this approach is that it comes from fear and attachment. Fear that you will not get enough traffic. Attachment to human beings who may have had some awesome success online.

      I intend to do things from a place of love and fun. So I may feature a few successful bloggers on my blog to give them some shine. Not to get them to promote me. TOTALLY different energy — love, versus fear — so naturally my love reflects back to me, when they share my posts, or, when other people share my posts.

      Help, then, you can ask if you want, but I prefer to not ask anything. I only tag folks when I featured them to improve their visibility. All about them, nothing to do with me. Serving them, not self-serving. At least most of my energy is not LOL.

      Cool share bro. Thanks much for spreading the word.

      Ryan

      PS…with this being said, I virtually always share stuff when folks ask me because I LOVE helping people expand their presence 😉

      • Joshua Hardwick

        I agree with everything you said there, Ryan.

        One of the points I wanted to make in the post is that people should actually be less selfish and start giving a damn about others. Not sure if that came across or not?

        For example, I think emailing people out of the blue and asking for a tweet (remember, these are people I didn’t have any existing relationship with) is pretty selfish.

        Admittedly, I have done it before (in real life, not just for this case study) but it usually makes me feel a bit like a jerk. I try to at least write a custom/funny/helpful email to people whenever I can, but it’s not always possible.

        Outreach like this (i.e. the template I used in this study) is always just “me! me! me!”. I’m not really offering any value or incentive to share. What’s in it for the other person.

        I’m not saying I’m against outreach (I’m definitely not!); I just think a lot of people are lazy with it. If someone is cold emailing you, they should at least be making the effort to offer something of value.

    • Very great test you ran here and spot on with your conclusions. Totally using this as an example in the future.

      • Joshua Hardwick

        Cheers Derric!

    • Nice article Joshua. Thank you.

      One important point I think you missed though was that a lot of social media is automated — especially tweets, sent from RSS feeds set up in social media automation tools. People have no idea what they actually tweet. Why? Because they didn’t physically send it.

      Also, according to Buzzsumo, and I guess others, over 50% of people who engage with content on social media (likes, shares etc.) don’t actually read the article. If it’s not automated they simply share because they like the headline and image(s) … very important.

      What I’ve found works are chat boxes. Very helpful, quick, and the team on chat are more than happy to retweet you. If you’ve referenced a person/business, go to their website. They often (not always) have a chat box that pops up with customer services on the other end. Tell them you’ve linked to or referenced them, send them the link, and they’re happy to retweet. I’ve even had them ask me to give a reference in the past … and link back to me. Happy days 🙂

      • Joshua Hardwick

        Wow, that’s a really smart idea, Robin; do you have any stats on your success rate with that tactic? I’d love to hear/see them if you do.

        I also think you’re right about many social media accounts. I was saying in one of the other comments that nobody seems to actually tweet anymore on Twitter; it’s all just sharing blog posts (which, in my opinion, defeats the point of Twitter entirely, which is purposely limited to 140 characters). I guess a lot of this is automated.

        I guess that also explains why engagement on Twitter is so poor. If the people tweeting the posts can’t even be bothered to read them, I highly doubt their followers will bother.

        • Hi Joshua. Thanks 🙂 The data is very much in my favour (or anyone who uses this method). I’ve had a 100% success rate. However, the numbers have been small — very small. Three to be precise, LOL, but that’s down to my snail-like pace at blogging 🙁 However it even went as far as Matthew at Buzzsumo adding his own comments to the Tweet which was great.

          However, my feeling is this works better with some companies than others. An energy supplier or bank for example will have a team of staff answering calls and online, and will unlikely have access to Twitter/ FB. They will also likely have several social media accounts, some of which are used for customer service cf. company PR etc and blogging. So I don’t reckon this approach will work every time.

          It’s a great approach though … oh, and if you reference it in your blog, you know who to link to :-))))))

          • Joshua Hardwick

            Yeah, I agree; would love to see the numbers when you’ve got a bit more data. Not doubting the technique, but I’d say a sample size of 3 isn’t really enough to make a concrete evaluation. Keep going, though 🙂

    • Andrew M. Warner

      Hey Joshua,

      This is a great write up and something I agree with. I’ve started a new site within the
      last few months and have only 3 posts and I’ve used the same type of “template” to connect with people who’ve shared a similar post.

      The thing I’ve noticed was that out of the hundreds of outreach emails I’ve
      sent to those who’ve shared similar, there’s only a small percentage of people that share.

      Going to test various new methods to find something that works better.

      • Joshua Hardwick

        Andrew, I just saw your comment over at Inbound; definitely sums up what I was trying to get across in this post 🙂

    • Thank you for writing this Joshua. I’m asked to tweet links on a daily basis by people I don’t know and haven’t met, due to someone’s misguided belief I have “influence”, probably based on their examination of my followers or of what I’ve tweeted in the past. It’s not flattering, it’s rude. If I didn’t have those followers I’d never hear from these people. I’m nothing but a number to them. I tweet what resonates with me, not what I’m asked to tweet.

      • Joshua Hardwick

        Yeah, it’s not only rude, but also selfish in my opinion.

        I find it’s always best to be honest and genuine in “outreach” emails, too. For example, instead of “…please could you tweet this?”, I’d say, “…I know you probably get a ton of emails like this (sorry!) but I’m honestly not asking for anything. I’ve been following you for a while and just thought you’d enjoy this…”

        I know, it’s not not perfect, and this idea could easily be ruined by non-genuine people posing as genuine people, but it’s definitely an improvement.

    • Robin Ray

      omg yaaaasss!!! I cannot express how happy this blog made me! I have said over and over that asking for tweets is like cold calling — it’s outdated and seen as being rude and the only guarantee is that you will receive little to no response.

      However, I do get a bit annoyed with my fellow digital marketers, can’t we all help each other and just share? I mean, of course, the content has to fit in our different industry nichés, but surely we can all appreciate and follow the ‘scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours’ rule.

      Thanks so much for the post!! I will definitely be sharing! 🙂

      • Joshua Hardwick

        100% agree. I likened it to cold-calling in one of the other comments on here (I think!)

        I know what you’re saying about other marketers but, in my experience, even though most don’t reply, almost all of them actually open the emails. I guess they don’t reply because they’re just sick of those kind of emails.

        Also, I guess in order for the “scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” approach to you, you first need to scratch their back (not literally, obviously).

        Oh, btw, please can you tweet this post? 🙂

    • benjarriola

      🙂

    • Fascinating stuff. I’m thinking back to a couple of times where people have emailed me with a link that I ended up tweeting – and I have to admit that they were posts in which my content was cited and/or linked to.

      I personally never click on “click to share” links – if I decide to share something, I use the URL and write the tweet myself. Just a quirk of mine, I guess; not sure how representative that is of everybody else.

      • Joshua Hardwick

        Yeah, I don’t think people generally like strangers telling them what to do. If they want to share, it should be their choice.

    • So, I reached out to several industry experts I cited in a recent blog post of mine.

      I didn’t ask them to tweet it.

      In fact, I specifically said “I don’t need you to share it or anything. I just wanted to get it on your radar.”

      My reasoning —

      If I’m providing value by citing them and massaging their e-peen by letting them know they are featured, I’m building social capital.

      Why would I blow that capital on a measly retweet?

      • Joshua Hardwick

        Exactly; that’s kind of what I was hoping to say in this post. Nobody wants to be asked to tweet/retweet. It comes across as needy, selfish, and generally annoying (in my opinion, at least).

        I’d personally work on building those relationships and consider asking for something further down the line.

    • I really hope that you emailed all those people later to tell them that it was just an experiment and that you usually don’t do things like that 😀

      On a serious note, interesting article! Thumbs up for going through all this trouble to get us some insights on this 🙂

    • Great to read this. I’m relatively new to outreach and the world around it so its good to read articles like this backed up by some real statistics. Plus the suggestions on better routes.

    • For the past year I’ve been blogging again on my website. I refused for so long to do this because as a creative person I didn’t care to write. So I did all the crap links in directories way back 2008 with a few posts.
      Point is since I started blogging December 2016 1 article a week to now with only using social media tool Onlywire, and retweeting with Buffer after updating article dates I get some traffic back and my keywords are up to 1000 from 16 last year since blogging. I know this is a slow method but slow and steady is best. If I would of done this is 2008 I would probably have tens of thousands of keywords for my site but I will get there once again.

      Just showing another way besides outreach.

      Really liked your outreach article, Joshua.

    • Mike Griffith (SIMPLENETBIZ)

      Great Article!