The Practical Guide to Finding Anyone's Email Address
In link building, few things are more frustrating than finding the perfect link opportunity but being completely unable to find a contact email address.
It’s probably happened to you — if you’re trying to build links or do any sort of outreach, it almost always entails sending out a fairly significant amount of emails. There are plenty of good articles out there about building relationships within the context of link building, but it’s hard to build relationships when you can’t even find a contact email address.
So, for today, I want to focus on how you can become better at finding those important email addresses.
Link builders spend a lot of time just trying to find contact info, and it’s often a frustrating process, just because sussing out email addresses can indeed be quite difficult. The site you’re targeting might not even have a contact page in the first place. Or, if the site does have a contact page, it might only display a generic email address. And, sometimes, the site may list too many email addresses. There are eight different people with similar-sounding job titles — should you reach out to the PR person, the marketing director, or the webmaster? It’s not clear.
Whatever the case may be, finding the right email address is absolutely imperative to any successful outreach campaign. In our industry, the numbers around outreach and replies aren’t great. Frankly, it’s shocking to hear the industry standard — only 8.5% of outreach emails receive a response.
I can’t help but wonder how many mistakes are made along the way to such a low response rate.
While there are certainly instances where there is simply no clear and obvious contact method, that should be the exception — not the rule! An experienced link builder understands that finding relevant contact information is essential to their success.
That’s why I’ve put together a quick list of tips and tools that will help you to find the email addresses and contact information you need when you’re building links.
And, if you follow my advice, here is a glimpse of the results you could expect:
We don’t track clicks, in case you were wondering ;)
ALWAYS start by looking around!
First, let’s start with my golden rule: Before you fire up any tool, you should always manually look for the correct contact email yourself.
Based on my experience, tools and automation are a last resort. If you rely solely upon tools and automated solutions, you’ll end up with many more misfired emails than if you were to go the manual route. There’s a simple reason for this: the email address listed on your target website may, surprisingly, belong to the right person you should contact!
Now, if you are using a tool, they may generate dozens of email addresses, and you’ll never end up actually emailing the correct individual. Another reason I advocate manually looking for emails is because many email finding tools are limited and can only find email addresses that are associated with a domain name. So, if there is a webmaster that happens to have a @gmail.com email address, the email finding tool will not find it.
It’s also important to only reach out to people you strongly believe will have an interest in your email in order to stay GDPR compliant.
So, always start your manual search by looking around the site. Usually, there will be a link to the contact page in the header, footer, or sidebar. If there’s not a page explicitly named “contact,” or if the contact page only has generic email addresses, that’s when I would recommend jumping to an “About Us” page, should there be one.
You always want to find a personal email, not a generic one or a contact form. Outreach is more effective when you can address a specific individual, not whoever who is checking firstname.lastname@example.org that day.
If you encounter too many emails and aren’t sure who the best person to contact is, I suggest sending an email to your best hunch that goes something like this:
And who knows, you may even get a reply like this:
If you weren’t able to locate an email address at this point, I’d move on to the next section.
Ask search engines for help
Perhaps the contact page you were looking for was well-hidden; maybe they don’t want to be contacted that much or they're in desperate need of a new UX person.
You can turn to search engines for help.
My go-to search engine lately is Startpage. Dubbed as the world's most private search engine, they display Google SERPs in a way that doesn’t make you feel like you just stepped into Times Square. They also have a cool option to browse the search results anonymously with "Anonymous View."
For our purposes, I would use the site: search operator just like this:
If there is in fact a contact page or email somewhere on their website that you were not able to find, any competent search engine will find it for you. If the above site query doesn't return any results, then I’d start expanding my search to other corners of the web.
Use the search bar and type:
If you’re looking for the email of a specific person, type their name before or after the quotation marks.
With this query you can find non-domain email addresses:
If that person’s email address is publicly available somewhere, you will likely be able to find it within the search results.
There are many, many excellent email finding tools to choose from. The first one I want to talk about is Hunter.
Hunter has a Chrome extension that’s really easy to use. After you’ve downloaded the extension, there’s not much more that needs to be done.
Go to the site which you are thinking about sending an email to, click on the extension in the top right corner of your screen, and Hunter, well, hunts.
It returns every email address it can find associated with that domain. And also allows you to filter the results based on categories.
Did I say “email address?” I meant to say email address, name, job title, etc. Essentially, it’s a one-click fix to get everything you need to send outreach.
Because I use Hunter regularly (and for good reason, as you can see), it’s the one I’m most familiar with. You can also use Hunter’s online app to look up emails in bulk.
The major downside of working in bulk is coming up with an effective formula to sift through all the emails. Hunter may generate dozens of emails for one site, leaving you to essentially guess which email address is best for outreach. And if you’re relying on guess-work, chances are pretty high you’re leaving perfectly good prospects on the table.
There are several other email finding tools to pick from and I would be remiss to not mention them. Here are 5 alternative email-finding tools:
Even though I personally try not to be too dependent on tools, the fact of the matter is that they provide the easiest, most convenient route in many cases.
The guessing game
I know there's no word in the digital marketing world that produces more shudders than “guessing.” However, there are times when guessing is easier.
Let’s be real: there aren’t too many different ways that companies both large and small format their email addresses. It’s usually going to be something like:
If you’ve ever worked for a living, you know most of the variations. But, in case you need some help, there’s a tool for that.
Now, I’m not suggesting that you just pick any one of these random addresses, send your email, cross your fingers, and hope for the best. Far from it. There are actually tools that you can use that will indicate when you’ve selected the right one.
Sales Navigator is such a tool. Sales Navigator is a Gmail extension that is easy to use. Simply enter the name of the person you’re looking for, and it will return all of the possible standard variations that they may use for their email address. Then, you can actually test the address from your Gmail account. When you type in the address into the proper line, a sidebar will appear on your screen. If there no is no information in that sidebar, you have the wrong address. If, however, you get a return that looks like this:
Congratulations! You’ve found the right email address.
Obviously, this method only works if you know the name of the person you want to email, but just don’t have their email address. Still, in those scenarios, Sales Navigator works like a charm.
Trust, but verify
There’s nothing more annoying than when you think you’ve finally struck gold, but the gold turned out to be pyrite. Getting an email that bounces back because it wasn’t the correct address is frustrating. And even worse, if it happens too often, your email can end up on email blacklists and destroy your email deliverability.
There are ways to verify, however. At my company, we use Neverbounce. It’s effective and incredibly easy to use. With Neverbounce, you can enter in either individual email addresses or bulk lists, and voila!
It will let you know if that email address is currently Valid, Invalid, or Unknown. It’s that easy. Here are some other email verifiers:
Subscribe to their newsletter
Here’s one final out-of-the-box approach. This approach works more often with sites where one person clearly does most, if not all, of the work. A site where someone’s name is the domain name, for example.
If you come across a site like davidfarkas.com and you see a newsletter that can be subscribed to, hit that subscribe button. Once that’s done, you can simply reply to one iteration of the newsletter.
This method has an added benefit. An effective way of building links is building relationships, just like I said in the opening. When you can demonstrate that you're already subscribing to a webmaster’s newsletter, you'll be currying favor with that webmaster.
When you send a link building outreach email, you want to make sure it’s going to a real person and, even more importantly, ending up in the right hands. Sending an email to an incorrect contact periodically may seem like a negligible waste of time, but when you send emails at the volume a link builder should, the waste adds up very quickly. In fact, enough waste can kill everything else that you’re trying to accomplish.
It’s well worth your time to make sure you’re getting it right by putting in the effort to finding the right email address. Be a picky link builder. Don’t just choose the first email that comes your way and never rely solely on tools. If you email the wrong person, it will look to them like that you didn’t care enough to spend time on their site, and in return, they will ignore you and your pitch.
With the tips outlined above, you'll avoid these issues and be on your way to more successful outreach.
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