What we can learn from unsolicited emails

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It is a truth universally acknowledged, that if you have an email address or contact form on your website, you will receive spam and unsolicited emails…

Even Google gets those emails promising to improve your search engine rankings:

From: “Do you need an SEO?”

There are a few methods you can employ to reduce email spam:

  • Do not display your email address on your website
  • Disguise your email address by replacing symbols, e.g. someone (AT) somewhere (DOT) com
  • Post your email address as an image
  • Shroud your email address using Javascript code
  • Use CAPTCHA on your forms e.g. Google’s reCAPTCHA
  • Use the honeypot technique on your forms l

However regardless of how effective some of these techniques are against spam bots and automated spam attacks, unfortunately spammers are always trying to keep one step ahead, and not all unsolicited emails are from bots.

unsolicited
ʌnsəˈlɪsɪtɪd/
adjective
not asked for; given or done voluntarily.
“unsolicited junk mail”

Many unsolicited emails – such as the common SEO services ones – are from individuals who are searching the internet looking for website with email addresses and forms, and personally sending emails just as your or I would for legitimate business enquiries.

Having both a blog and a resources page on my website means I receive a large quantity of unsolicited emails from people offering guest posts for my blog, and asking for me to add their resources to my resources page. Both of these are intended to generate backlinks and drive more traffic to their website by way of my website.

I am easily found for these types of enquiries as I have other guest posts on my blog (that I have sourced directly from people I know and trust) and the resources page, all of which rank well in search engines and are easily found for people searching for websites with these types of pages.

So we can take unsolicited emails as compliments, as it means people are finding our websites. 😃

While unsolicited emails can be annoying, they’re not all bad, and I tend to read most of them providing they’re not obviously spammy.

There is also a lot we can learn from them as well, as we may occasionally want to contact someone we don’t already know directly through their website about a business or collaboration opportunity.

There’s a right way and a wrong way to approach this, and I have two such examples based on recent emails I have received.

Unsolicited emails done the wrong way

unsolicited emails - bad example

Lack of research and personalisation

Firstly, I am based in Australia. And a quick read of my About page will confirm that, if the .com.au on the end of my domain wasn’t a clue already.

This is lazy outreach.

Take a little time to do your research and find out whether or not people are part of your target audience, and adapt your message accordingly, rather than obviously copying and pasting it.

(They also didn’t react to my “Greetings from South Australia!” reply, which I found quite amusing).

Lack of relevance

They are offering articles about tax and business planning.

I have a blog and resources page that is predominantly about digital marketing.

Why would I include articles that aren’t in line with my content strategy?

All about them

I know what the benefits of this exchange would be to them: back link to their website.

I would get an irrelevant article, possibly badly written (as I’m dubious about the formatting in the email and their lack of attention to detail).

There needs to be more in it for me to possibly consider this opportunity.

Unsolicited emails done the right way

unsolicited emails - good example

This other email I received a couple of weeks later is practically the exact opposite of the first, and was a breath of fresh air that caught my attention. There’s a lot to learn from this approach to cold outreach.

Personal

They’ve done their research. And despite submitting this through my contact form, they know my name.

Complimentary

As well as showing that they’ve done their research, they open up with a compliment. Now what’s not to love about that?

Courtesy, context and consideration

They acknowledge that there’s a “slim chance” I’ll be interested, but also go on to explain the benefits of the resource they are offering, share a link so I can see it, and provide a “worst case scenario”.

Pleasant, not pushy

This is a pleasant email to read, and not pushy. The final line “Look forward to your feedback either way” is a good way of inviting a response, whether it’s a yes or no, which keeps the option for building the relationship open.

 

I’m certainly not advocating you embark upon an unsolicited email campaign, however there is a lot to be learned from the above examples about how to best approach someone when you are contacting them “cold” through an email address or contact form on their website.

Over to you, have you had any experiences with good or bad unsolicited emails? Share them in the comments!

 

Learn more about how to handle spam and your rights from the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

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