To say that the majority of individuals these days heavily relies on the ability to send emails to other individuals would be both patronising and stating the obvious. However, what do you do when you can’t find an email of that one person who you simply have to get in touch with? You get somebody to post Top 10 tips for finding emails:
1. Use Email-Format
It’s a neat database of randomly collected email data, sorted by domain name. Email-Format provides a great way to find direct emails of professionals and decision makers (ahem, now that sounds cool).
You can also search within Email-Format’s database. If you use them, please provide feedback on-site – it helps them remove the dead or wrong emails and verify the good ones.
2. Find a Journalist Email Address
If you’re a bit like me and rely on PR a lot (like in Public Relations, not PageRank), you might find some direct email addresses of UK-based journalists here.
They just give you the format. You have to do all the legwork yourself and find the name of the best contact.
Sorry, haven’t been able to find a similar service for USA journalists, however, you can try your luck at your local library. With local I mean one that’s located close by and not one that is a “small library”. It has to be a big library and it might have a Cision subscription.
Ask at the reception desk and they might let you have a browse. The Cision database has information on just about any USA-based journalist (at least on those that matter). If you’re doing a lot of PR stuff, consider subscribing to Cision.
If this doesn’t work, you can try your luck with various freelance journalist directories. In many cases you’ll be surprised how much personal data they share publicly. There are more than one and I won’t recommend any particular one, so just use your favourite search engine and search for freelance journalist directories.
Also, there’s a Gig on 5err. It’s a good list, you might find it useful, although many of those emails are dead.
What the world has come to? Me promoting a spammy 5err Gig 🙁 Please try to understand that I’m not affiliated with this Gig in any way!
3. Advanced Google Search Queries
This is actually the easiest and most effective way to find email addresses. No idea why I put it in 3rd position. If you know the company your target is working for, try these:
"firstname.lastname@example.org" "email@example.com" "firstname.lastname@example.org" "name surname" email site:example.com
Obviously, replacing the name and example with what you’re looking for.
If you don’t know the company name, or if it’s a freelancer, this might help:
"name surname" email
Finally, if the name is too general and returns too many results, AND if the person has a Twitter account, this query:
"name surname" "@TheirTwitterHandle" email
might return data from “contact us” pages or various report pages of seminars and meetings. If you liked these, make sure you read my other post about the advanced search queries in Google.
4. Rapportive Add-on
This is a great little add-on that lets you utilise rich profiles in Gmail. What you need is Firefox and… yes, Gmail. I’m being told that this also works on Safari and Chrome. Once you’ve installed and activated the add-on, log into your Gmail account. You also have to be logged into Rapportive.
For Rapportive to work, you have to type in (guess) the whole email address of the person and hit Enter. Then it will provide you with a summary of the person’s social media activity and some other details that should tell you whether or not you’ve guessed the email correctly. Sometimes it is going to take a lot of guesswork, but believe you me, it’s worth the effort.
5. Find Email Adresses on WHOIS
Can’t find a website contact and hate using those web forms that webmasters always ignore anyway? Don’t forget to check WHOIS. Today many webmasters are getting savvy and hiding their names and contact details from WHOIS database. I blame spammers!
That’s why you have to try to outsmart them and use a more advanced WHOIS tool, something like WhoRush that lets you reverse-engineer a domain’s ownership based on reverse-lookup IP addresses and the Analytics id.
Then you can basically find other websites owned by the same person and who knows – maybe he hasn’t been so savvy with his other web properties. You may find some older websites that still have the email address displayed publicly.
WhoRush isn’t free, and if you find a free reverse-lookup tool that returns decent results, let me know – will save me 4 Hamiltons a month!
Be warned that an “in-your-face-out-of-the-blue” approach might freak them out. I recently used one of the aforementioned tricks to find a direct email of a particular (very popular) marketer because he had slated one of my favourite SEO tools and I wanted to clarify the stuff he hadn’t understood about the way the tool works. Some people!!!
There’s no way I’ll let some chap spout libel about my fav SEO tools!!! Although he wasn’t rude to me, and I even think he was sort of thankful for my input, he was definitely surprised beyond belief, like: “$#!+, how did he find my email?”
So, the best advice is to use what you’ve read in this post so far only as a last resort effort. One of the most legitimate and acceptable ways of reaching out to a stranger is Twitter.
Find him on Twitter and @tweet at him. Even if he’s one of those greedy types who don’t follow anyone back, if what you tweet is not spammy or stupid, he will normally come back. Then you can expand the conversation from there.
Some industries and individuals are not using Twitter as a rule (don’t ask me why or we may digress) but chances are that they’re using G+. The method is similar to the previous one only it usually takes longer and it is not as enjoyable.
Add your target to a relevant G+ Circle, re-Plus some of their stories, add comments to their posts and who knows. Once you’ve noticed, you can ask whether it would be ok to get in touch to discuss something-something.
8. LinkedIn Introductions
Another good way is to get introduced to your target via LinkedIn. You can try sending them an InMail but then InMail success rate fluctuates in the region of 10-20%. It does cost a lot of money if you’re reaching out to multiple people.
And how many times have you checked your LinkedIn messages during the last month? I don’t know, I maybe check them once a month if you’re lucky. If you want a quick answer, don’t use InMail.
Also, you can’t add strangers to your network just like that. Introduction is a great thing – not only you get put in touch with the person, it also stops being a “cold-call” because the introducer has already pre-warmed your conversation.
9. LinkedIn Groups
If you can’t figure out whom to approach for an introduction, find out which LinkedIn Groups your target is a member of. Then all you have to do is stalk him on the group boards and comment on the stories that he comments on. If you don’t sound too desperate and actually add value to the group, chances are you will start a meaningful chat sooner or later.
Zoominfo basic web search is actually free. Don’t ask me why. I’d personally be happy to pay for it. Their search functionality is also really good if you’re a journalist looking for quotes and references by a certain person.
You can also download their web app on a risk-free trial or check one of their professional data products. For the web app to work you need to get a PC 😛 and you need a copy of Outlook (the Outlook Express version won’t work). Great little tool!!
11. Another Way to Use LinkedIn
A bonus tip? This is useful when you need to find corporate contacts in companies that don’t want their employees to be contacted directly. So, you don’t know the name of the person you need to find but you do know the position (or department). Search for the company name in LinkedIn.
On the right-hand panel, you’ll see a number of employees associated with this company. Browse through the list and find the position you’re interested in. Now all you have to do is refer back to my Tip #3.
12. People Search
Yey! Another bonus tip!!! Not really… My least favourite and most expensive method. There are all sorts of White Pages out there promising you to find you data on just about any person on the planet. Erm, take it with a pinch of salt.
You can try Jigsaw Data, 123People, 192.com and other services but I’ve found that whenever I use them, I end up spending more money than I’m comfortable with and getting little value out of the whole experience. That’s why I haven’t used them extensively.
If you have a different perspective on White Pages, please chip in. I promise I won’t delete your comments even if you disagree with me 😉
Update 09/04/2014: If you don’t mind spending a fiver, you can try http://www.spokeo.com/email-search. Again, it searches for emails only on publicly available data, nevertheless it could help you summarise somebody’s social media activity. It might be useful, especially if you’re an employer and you want to make sure that your would-be employee doesn’t do drugs or nude selfies.
So, that’s it then. Did I miss something? What’s your favourite method of finding email addresses?