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4 min read

Search Leeds: Kirsty Hulse on building links and influencing people

This article was updated on: 07.02.2022

Kirsty Hulse is a freelance SEO and digital marketing expert and founder of Manyminds. Her talk at this year’s Search Leeds on How to make friends and get links covered some of the best things that SEOs can be doing to get better results from their outreach. Here are the essential points from her talk:

Take aways

  • Good SEO is all about building relationships
  • Bin the jargon – talk straight
  • Pitch to clients with questions
  • Get good (affordable) data and authoritative quotes
  • Aim big when outreaching; go for the biggest fish first
  • Ditch the generic, rubbish outreach
  • Pick up the phone!
  • Clients say no to our ideas
  • We cant get good data
  • Experts wont collaborate
  • Our emails don’t get replies
  • We get coverage but not links

All of these are not about what our output is, it’s all about how persuasive we are. Remember that we’re all similar, underneath it all. We all rely on people, and people can be predicted and trained.

What we need

“Clients that say yes to ideas – but not just them, we need bosses and internal teams to say yes too.”

How can we do it better?

Quit the jargon

We need to stop thinking outside the box and just use simple, plain language. Try pitching something insane. Go bonkers, and go so zany that they’ll then definitely say yes to the real idea you want them to. Her ‘high tea’ pitch for a British airline client was obviously going to be rejected, but it made everything else they then pitched afterwards seem far better in response.

Pitch ideas using questions

Posing questions during the pitching process helps to get your clients thinking that they had the best ideas themselves. It also helps them to follow your own thought process and see the problem that your idea solves. It’s a far more fun way of pitching than just selling in an idea straight up and then spending 20 minutes having to explain how you got there.

Get good, affordable data

This is hard. Unless you have huge budgets this is so hard, and especially. Try Pollfish; $100 for 100 responses and it gives you tons of data really easily and affordably. And there’s a 50% off sale running for a short period of time after Search Leeds.

Give your surveys to people who care

There’s no excuse for giving your surveys to people who don’t really care about what you’re talking about. Whatever you or your clients are selling, there are going to be people out there who care about it and want to tell you what they thing. Don’t be afraid to put a bit of budget behind it to get people who care about your content to read it.

Get quotes from authoritative bodies

Adding extra legitimacy to your releases from third party sources makes it so much more appealing. This can be a trade organisation, an academic, a related expert in your field or any other relevant person. This is especially important if you’re trying to get your clients covered by the big nationals (which we all are really, right?).

Amazon new releases is a goldmine

Top tip: By going through the list of authors who have just published or are just about to publish something on Amazon, you’ll find a pool of people looking to promote themselves or their work who will be far more likely to respond to you and agree to help you out.

Don’t do crappy outreach

It sounds obvious, but please don’t send rubbish emails! Example:


How are you?

I’ve just been reading your blog… yada yada. No, no, no.

  • Get to the point
  • No generic lies
  • Don’t be apologetic
  • Don’t offer to show them your cool thing, SHOW THEM YOUR COOL THING.

Often, SEOs email from the starting assumption that journalists aren’t going to be interested in whatever they’re trying to sell. Conversely, PR’s email with the assumption that what they have is really valuable, confident in the fact that journalists want to use their content. SEO needs to copy what PR does.

Use sexy language

Words like embargo or exclusive will grab the attention of journalists or bloggers straight away. Here’s a great resource that’s full of good PR terms to use – don’t misuse them though!

Citing the source isn’t enough

Big mistake; we create something valuable then assume that the journalist or blogger will cite back to our client’s site just because we made it. That isn’t enough. There needs to be a legitimate reason for them to link back to your site. That’s why ecommerce SEO works really well, because there’s an actual product being talked about to link back to. Learn from this.

Play to the ego

Go to the big guys first. Go to national press first and try to negotiate an exclusive. Call the biggest one you can think of right at the start, and try to get that exclusive. The moment you send out those outreach emails, that opportunity has gone. Pick up the phone too. If you’re too shy, get someone else to do it because that’s how journalists expect to be pitched. As the SEO industry matures, we need to get better at doing this.


Read more from Kirsty


Founder, Many Minds