Unfortunately, blogger outreach or guest blogging outreach is not the easiest process. It is one that requires a lot of work, planning, and practice—and even when perfected, it will still fail on occasion. So, with that being said, we decided that we would put in our best effort to explain how to start a blogger outreach campaign to anyone who is interested in doing so or help those who are either beginning a blogger outreach campaign, currently engaged in one, have recently completed one, or just looking for some advice.
So, what is blogger outreach?
Though many have different answers for this question, the overall definition is the same: it is the process of developing relationships with bloggers to offer them something of value to their audience with the goal of improving your brand. And improving your brand is left vague for a reason – as with most marketing campaigns, each is unique, and each have their own end goals. That doesn’t mean that guest blogging campaigns can’t be organized into a set of steps and processes. In fact, save for a few processes, most blogger outreach campaigns are very similar. And it all begins with planning.
Planning and finding bloggers to reach out to:
Like most things, planning is of utmost importance and if skipped, many of your efforts will be for nothing. That is why it is extremely important to establish your overall goal in the beginning of planning to make sure, in the case of blogger outreach, that the appropriate blogs are selected. Once a goal is established, there are several ways to go about finding the right blogs to reach out to.
First, I would suggest starting a spreadsheet where you can drop in all of the prospects. This spreadsheet will be your “media list” where you keep track of what blogs you have contacted, their contact information and any responses you receive. This will be a good way to organize everything and will prove to be very useful down the line when you decide to start additional campaigns.
Your next stop is Google’s Blog Search Tool. This tool allows you to use search terms that align with your goal and provides you the order in which the blogs rank in Google (hello, SEO) on the keywords you are searching for. This tool often gives the most diverse selection of blogs and provides you with blogs that you wouldn’t normally come across using some of the more popular tools.
If you are searching for bloggers to review your consumer product or service, then conduct a search for those blogs who have reviewed competitor products or items within the same product category. Alternately, you can tailor your search to find those bloggers who cover topics or live a lifestyle that suits your product or service. For instance, if you have a new improved shampoo for long-haired dogs, plugging “my shih tzu” or “giving my dog a bath” into Google’s blog search will pull up posts written by a pet owner.
Something that is important to keep in mind when searching for blogs is that although you may want maximum reach from the most influential bloggers in your target niche, doing this is not always plausible or achievable. These bloggers receive dozens of pitches a day from other bloggers, businesses, and agencies so although it may be worth it to begin to establish a relationship for long-term goals, short-term blogger outreach goals are best completed by straying away from these types. Of course, if you have the time, energy, patience, and resources, it doesn’t hurt to try.
After using Google’s Blog Search Tool, there are several other tools and services that are useful for finding influencer bloggers in your target niche:
Things to keep in mind when looking for bloggers:
Now that your goals are established, and you have an arsenal of blog search tools at your disposal, you are going to need to know what to look for from the thousands of blogs that you may come across. Of course, you want to look for blogs that most closely align with your goal, but there are a few things to keep an eye out for:
1. Post Frequency
I would say the first thing to look out for is their post frequency. Not only does this show how dedicated they are to their blog, but it also hints at the likelihood of them responding to any kind of pitch. If they haven’t posted for months, keep them off your list.
2. Audience Engagement
The next thing to check out would be the audience engagement—this is especially true unless your only goal is link building. Look to see if the blog receives comments (and if the blogger responds to those comments) and if they have a strong social presence (don’t fall for fake twitter followers).
3. Potential Reach
After you’ve established that the blogger is both active and has an engaged audience, begin to look at the potential reach that a blog post from them may have. There are many tools for assessing a site’s traffic, but our favorite is Compete. Another number to look at is the number of subscribers that blog has (also a good indicator of audience engagement).
Finally, consider if the blog’s subject matter is relevant to your brand’s goals. Does the content fit what you are looking for? Does their brand align with yours? If the answer to either of these questions is no, move on.
Finish Your List of Bloggers to Contact:
Now that you have a list of bloggers (the number of blogs on this list is completely up to you, though 50 or so is a good amount to shoot for) in your media list, begin collecting data that will help give you your ideal list of prospects. How you do this is dependent on the goals of your blogger outreach campaign, but normally we use a blend of the following metrics:
- Traffic: Monthly traffic, % change over month, and % change over year.
- Social: Amount of Twitter followers and Facebook fans.
- Subscribers: Amount of RSS subscribers.
- Influence Klout Score.
- Other Ranking: SEOmoz Rank and/or Google PageRank.
- Relevance: Relevance to goal/business/brand as expressed by a percentage.
Of course, you don’t have to use all of these and most could get away with using a few of the more important. But it is nice to have a media list full of data on any blogs that you are considering developing a relationship with and can prove to be a valuable resource when pursuing other blogger outreach campaigns. Other qualitative factors like post frequency, niche/blog focus, etc. are welcome as well. If you are looking to do outreach for a consumer product, add in details like whether or not the blogger hosts reviews, giveaways or posts a holiday gift guide which can be their biggest, most heavily promoted posts of the year.
And that’s it! After gathering all of this data I like to sort it using a weighted (based on importance) point system that uses the standard deviation of each metric. From there use your best judgement and choose from the top performing candidates. Again, this are our suggestions—be creative, develop your own algorithm based on what you need, or simply choose from whichever blogs you like the most. Whatever you do, be happy, you are officially done the first step of blogger outreach!
Now that you know how to start a blogger outreach campaign, you are going to need to know how to develop relationships with the bloggers that you have selected.
How to Develop Relationships with Bloggers
If running a blogger outreach campaign is like building a house, then the planning that goes into starting a campaign would have to be the blueprint—making the development of a relationship with the blogger the foundation. Without a solid foundation, not only is it likely to crumble causing the house to fall apart, but when it does, it will leave a mess that will take even more time and resources to clean up.
That is why it is very important to make sure that you foster an appropriate relationship with the bloggers that you have selected before contacting them with any kind of pitch. If you reach out too early only to be rejected, you lose all of the time and energy invested, leaving a mess to either clean up and start over or abandon and move on. With that being said, developing a relationship with the blogger is very important—And the first step in doing that? Research.
Do your research.
There are a lot of things that you are going to want to know about the blogger so that when it comes to contacting them with your pitch (or whatever you may be contacting them with), not only will you be well prepared, but you will be able to communicate with them in an effective manner that will earn results.
First, begin with basic research that you should want to know about the blogger (emphasis stemming from the fact that these bloggers and the people who share their content are going to have an impact on your brand). Pinpoint their vertical and do the appropriate amount of research on their niche (if it is the same as yours, this part should be easy). Find out who their competitors are and if anything is trending on their blogs. Find out what trends are impacting the blog, their niche, their competitors, the cognoscenti and how they are all reacting to them – and if they are reacting differently, find out how and why. Find out as much as you can about anything that you feel me be of use down the line. After all, if you took our advice from part one, the blogger should be at least somewhat relevant to your niche so naturally, any research done will have a positive spillover.
After you have a good idea of the environment that the targeted blogger blogs in, try and get a better feel for the blog itself. Though you should already have a pretty good idea of what the blogger blogs about, try and figure out what their favorite topics are (frequency would be a good indicator here), and the favorite topic of the blog’s audience (quantity/quality of comments would be a good indicator here).
One thing to keep in mind is that if a blogger just did a blog post on something, say a review of the best productivity chrome extensions, they most likely are not going to want to do another post on productivity chrome extensions for a while. So, it is probably best to skip over them when sending your pitch – at least for now, of course it doesn’t hurt to begin nurturing the relationship now.
Start the stalking
Now that you know everything there is to know about the blogger and their blog, you’re going to want to begin to subscribe and interact. If you did the appropriate amount of research, you probably know all of the mediums that the blogger uses to promote their content—all you have to do is subscribe to those mediums. Follow them on Twitter, like them on Facebook and subscribe to their blog.
Depending on how many bloggers you are initially trying to develop a relationship with, it may be a good idea to create a Google Reader account (if you don’t already have one), create a folder specifically for the bloggers you intend to reach out to, subscribe to their blogs via Reader and then add them to that folder. This makes keeping up with all of the blogger’s content a lot easier by keeping everything in one place. Plus, Reader has a nice feature where it tells you which articles you have and have not read.
Once you are subscribed to all of their active channels, the next step is to interact with them. Did you just read a recently published article of theirs that you like? Share it on LinkedIn. See a tweet of theirs that you think your followers would interact with? Retweet it. Have something interesting to add to the conversation on their blog? Gather your thoughts and leave a comment (ideally one that will spark conversation). Put in some real effort to get their attention and begin a relationship with them.
One of the best things that you can do is to mention them in one of your blog posts and link to their content (bloggers really love when you link to their content) – this is especially the case if the reason you are mentioning them in a post is because you are writing something in reaction to something that you read on their blog. Remember that these bloggers are people too and the things that would make you feel good (like a blogger writing a reaction post to something you wrote AND linking back to your content) are most likely going to make them feel good as well and will earn their attention.
Keep track of what you do.
Depending on your ambition, and the amount of resources that you are allocating to blogger outreach, this can become a very intensive process. One that you are not going to be able to keep track of mentally. Luckily, you already have a media list with all of the bloggers that you are reaching out to. All you need to do now is add a column or two that keeps track of all of the touchpoints that you have with the blogger and update it every week or so. Not only will this be a great way for you to keep track of who you are interacting with and through what mediums, but it gives you a chance to review your progress week by week and improve on any areas you are lacking.
Well that concludes part two of Everything Blogger Outreach. Now you know how to find and select bloggers to reach out to and how to develop relationships with them so that when you finally decide to reach out them, they will accept your pitch enthusiastically.
How to find blogger contact information
Developing relationships is great, but it would be all for none if you didn’t know the appropriate way to contact the blogger. Luckily for you, if you have been with us from the beginning you should already be well on your way to creating solid relationships with several of your targeted bloggers. But now you must embark on a quest to get the bloggers contact information—a feat that may seem easy in concept, but in reality, it may be the most difficult – and the most frustrating.
The simple truth is that bloggers, especially those who have built a loyal fanbase and readership, are contacted a lot. And unfortunately for you, the person who has worked hard to make sure that the blogger is relevant and will find value in what you are pitching, the majority of the time these bloggers are contacted by spammers. So, to prevent the often-ridiculous messages / requests / pitches / other-various-spammy-content that spammers send, they make it difficult to be contacted in hopes that the challenge of finding the contact information will weed out the spammers from the those who are trying to send a serious proposal.
Fortunately for you, you have already done a considerable amount of research and might have a good idea of how the blogger likes to be contacted. Not only that, but you might also have a pretty good idea of where on their site you can find their contact information. If that is the case then you are off easy. Just grab their contact information, throw it into your media list and you’re all set!
Unfortunately for you, it rarely ever works that way. But I do recommend that you attempt to find their contact information on their site before you attempt to find it via any other way.
In today’s day and age, most bloggers prefer to be contacted one of two ways: email or social. The former often receives a better response rate and the latter is usually easier to discover (after all, most bloggers want you to follow/subscribe to them). So, considering how easy it is to figure out a blog’s social media contact information, the following five tools are a variety of the most effective at finding a bloggers email address.
- 1. Google Search: If you know the blogger’s name or other information about them like their username (many bloggers choose to blog under a pen name/username rather than their own), than a simple Google search – and a bit of time going through the results – may provide you with their contact information.
- 2. Whois: Anyone who has experience with hosting will know that this is an excellent tool to look up all of the basic information of a website. Fortunately, most blogs are owned and operated by one person making the information on Whois likely to be the author of the blog. You should be careful with this though, it is also likely that the email listed is their personal and many bloggers may be put off by first contact through their personal email.
- 3. Spokeo: Anyone that has ever heard of Spokeo knows that it is a very effective (albeit creepy and slightly disturbing) way of finding any and all information on the interwebs about a person. Note: You do need to upgrade to a membership if you wish to see email addresses.
- 4. TinEye: Finally, after you have exhausted all of your other options, and you happen to have a picture of the person (say a Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or author profile picture), you can try to use TinEye. TinEye is a tool that allows you to upload an image of someone that they will then try to match against other images on the internet. It is a bit temperamental in its effectiveness, but is definitely worth the try.
And there you have it, a variety of the most common tools used to find a blogger’s contact information. There are a few other tools like Jigsaw, Pipl, and PeekYou that are fairly effective, though all are pretty basic look up services (Data.com‘s Jigsaw is a little different where you can’t get a prospect’s contact information until you offer up contact information of another).
If you can’t find the blogger’s email address using any of the above tools, chances are he or she does not want to get contacted via email. So, keep on developing your relationship with them through social channels and contact them through one of those or, if there is one, the contact form on their blog. Of course, creativity is welcome here as well – maybe add a call to action to a specific blogger that you really want to pitch to and link to their content. That would certainly get their attention!
How to Pitch to Bloggers
If you have been with us the entire time, then you should be about a month into your blogger outreach campaign. You should have a well-organized media list with all of the bloggers that you have chosen to reach out to, along with the bloggers contact information. In this media list, you should also have the progress that you have made with each of these bloggers in terms of the relationship you are trying to build with them. And if think you are ready to finally reach out to the bloggers with your pitch (or whatever else you wish to collaborate with them on), you should have the confidence that the relationship you have been trying to build with them is a solid one and you feel like proceeding will lead to a success. If you believe that all of these things have been successfully completed, feel free to continue.
Considering that this is the make-it-or-break-it moment after weeks of hard work, we put a lot of thought into how to organize this blog post. And after careful planning and consideration, we have come to the conclusion that when pitching to bloggers there are some things that you should always try to do, and some things that you should never to do. With that being said, I felt that would be the best way to organize this blog post as well. And although I didn’t want this to be a typical best practices post, I have a feeling that is what it is going to become and frankly, that may be the best way to organize this information.
So, without further ado, what you should always do when pitching to bloggers:
- 1. Know how they want to be pitched. I have mentioned this a few times so you may already have this information in your media list. Otherwise, you may have to do a little digging on their site. If you can’t find any mention of this, go with email, that usually garners the best results.
- 2. Make it personal. Remember that you are pitching to another person, a person that wants to feel like a real person. So, greet them with their name, you don’t want them to think that they are just one more person in a thousand blogger email blast. In fact, that is one of the worst things to happen as the blogger will most likely shut down at that point. We suggest reading the pitch aloud after it is finished. If it doesn’t sound genuine to you after that, chances are the blogger will feel the same way.
- 3. Be honest & transparent. Don’t even try to lie to the blogger. Really, just don’t do it. It won’t work. If you are part of an agency, let them know. If you are a marketing/PR professional for a brand, let them know. Or if you are just another blogger or owner of a website, let them know. Even if the blogger doesn’t realize you aren’t who you say you are at first, they eventually will. Additionally, remember that ideally this will be the beginning of a relationship that lasts longer than a single blog post or feature.
- 4. Have a simple and to-the-point subject line. A simple subject line that doesn’t sound sales-y and gets to the point is best here. One article, The Anatomy of the Perfect Pitch, even goes as far as saying that the best subject line is as simple as “Pitch: _____.”
- 5. Begin (and end) politely. What would turn the blogger off quicker than a pitch that sounds templated and impersonal? A pitch that is polite, aggressive and arrogant. It doesn’t matter if you are pitching to TechCrunch or a small blog with less than a thousand unique a month, treat them all with equal respect and it will pay in dividends.
- 6. Try to Micromarket as much as possible. Yes, we have already mentioned this a few times, but it is one of (if not the most) the most important things. Try and make the pitches as personal and customized for that specific blogger as possible. This is very important and anything that sounds remotely templated will be put in the trash quicker than I-don’t-even-know-what.
- 7. Remember to deliver value. Keep in mind that when pitching the blogger, it is not about you, it is about them. They are trying to be successful as well and chances are that they care deeply about their blog. That means that they aren’t going to want to engage in anything that is not mutually beneficial. You must be able to explain why what you are pitching is going to help their blog, deliver value to their readers, and make it a more awesome place to be on the web. If your content does especially well on social networks, providing the blogger with some social proof be a great thing to do here.
- 8. Exhibit readership. If you have been reading the previous posts (and following the points made in them) then you have been actively reading the blogger’s work. You know what they have written recently, you know what they like to write about, and you probably have some kind of opinion on their work. This is awesome. Let them know about it. Bloggers love to hear that what they are writing isn’t just published and then lost in the noise of the vast interwebs.
- 9. Make it easy for the blogger. The last thing a blogger wants to do is a lot of work for no reason. Remember that you are asking them to do something for you in your pitch. So, make it easy for them! Provide them with any relevant links or articles or information that you mention and they might need. You might also want to consider providing them with something to share. Not only is this making it easier for the blogger, but you are also taking further steps to ensure that what you providing will create and deliver value.
- 10. Be real. Though this is the last point I am making, it is certainly not the least important. As I mentioned before, it is very important to remain polite and it is also important to act professional. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t show a little personality. Not only will this help with sounding genuine, but it will help to differentiate you from the crowd, make a lasting impression, and prove that you aren’t some boring robot cranking out outreach emails. And yes, I realize that may be redundant but I feel that point should be reiterated.
And those are all of things that you should always try to do when pitching to the blogger. Yes, I realize that the list is lengthy and that it may be difficult to do all of those things without coming off as overly loquacious, but the ability to be concise is an art and may take a bit of practice before you begin to feel comfortable and see real results. And if that wasn’t enough, there is still one more part to this blog post, the things that you should try to never do when pitching to a blogger.
So, without even further ado, what you should try to never do when pitching to bloggers:
- 1. Begin with yourself. This is converse of point number seven above. You should never begin the pitch with yourself. Don’t begin listing the goals that you have and how what you are asking of them will help your brand. Chances are the blogger doesn’t care or has heard the same ol’ song and dance from a dozen other PRs earlier in the week.
- 2. Be arrogant. Sounding arrogant and acting entitled is a huge turn off for bloggers receiving the pitch. They are in the position of power and it is their blog that you want coverage on. If you sound entitled and assume that they will want to share your content, chances are they won’t.
- 3. Sound desperate. You want to try to refrain from listing all of the possible ways that you could collaborate with them and how any publicity would help exponentially. Though you may be able collaborate with them in several different ways and it may be an incredible boost to your business, try and remain focused and under control.
- 4. Have attachments. Okay so before you jump to conclusions about how this slightly contradicts point number nine realize that one, this is speaking more towards first contact with the blogger and two, there are other ways of giving the blogger something to share without using attachments. If you really must do it, use some links – but do so sparingly, overzealousness will not work in your favor.
- 5. Be overexuberant. Though this should go without saying, the point still must be made. Any pitches that could be described as overexuberant most likely sound to sales-y, which is something that you don’t want to do if you wish to sound genuine. That means that you should leave out the exclamation marks!!!, WORDS IN ALL CAPS, and the ~ overly cre8ive ~ subject lines.
I realize many of the points that are in the never category is common sense, but you would be surprised how many people forget them. With the advent of new SEO practices, there is a lot of talk that focuses on writing for your readers rather than only focusing on optimizing for search engines. Well the same applies here. Put yourself in the blogger’s shoes. What would it take for you to actually take the pitch seriously and respond to it? Of course, there are always going to be bloggers who shut down even the most trenchant inquiries, but for the most part, most welcome new opportunities.
Many of these best practices focus on putting the blogger first and delivering value. And that is the way it should be. If there is nothing in it for them, then why would they respond? Also remember that ideally, this is the beginning of a relationship that will be mutually beneficial for (hopefully) an extended period of time. So, treat it that way. If you approach this digital relationship the same way that you would and in-person relationship, I’m positive that you will receive better results than you would otherwise.
Concluding Your Blogger Outreach Campaign
There are still several things that should be done to properly assess the effectiveness of your campaign and to ensure that you keep the new relationships with the bloggers going.
First off, if the blogger has already published the article then it is important to stay engaged with the post. Respond to any appropriate comments, track the post’s performance, and engage with it on all channels that it was promoted. Not only does this ensure that the post gets the maximum amount of reach, but it shows the readers and the bloggers that you truly care about its success—something that shouldn’t be too far from the truth considering the amount of work that you have put in thus far. This also allows you to have some control over the conversation and gives you a chance to further promote yourself.
After the dust has settled, you must do something very important. You must follow up with the blogger and thank them. Though this may go without saying for many of you, it is a vital part of blogger outreach that some do forget. It doesn’t matter if they angrily rejected your post or happily accepted it, you should thank them either way—especially if it’s the latter. Of course, if they did accept it, it would also be beneficial to lay down the groundwork for a continued relationship so that the next time you have something that would be perfect on their blog, they are only an email (or phone call or tweet) away. And depending on how well you develop the relationship, there is the potential to create a brand ambassador, one that will be excited to share any news about your awesome brand at the drop of a hat.
Assessing Your Campaign’s Success
Now that the post has been published, you have engaged with it throughout the peak of its digital life, and you have properly followed up with the blogger, it is time to see how successful your campaign was. Though this is completely dependent on the goals that you set in the beginning of your campaign, there are some key metrics that are worth identifying for every post and the campaign as a whole that can act as a benchmark for all future campaigns.
For this, I would suggest beginning another spreadsheet that you will use to track the success metrics of this and all future blogger outreach campaigns.
For the campaign as a whole:
- The percentage of bloggers that responded to your pitch.
- The percentage of bloggers that actually published something for you.
- The number of bloggers that you didn’t pitch to that reacted to the story.
- The total potential reach.
- The amount of links that you received to your site.
- Other relevant qualitative factors like whether or not the bloggers you thought were most likely to publish your pitch actually did.
For the individual blog posts:
- The amount of comments the post received and the general sentiment.
- The number of shares that the post received on all utilized social channels.
- The amount of traffic you received due to the post.
- Other on-site engagement metrics of the referred traffic.
These are just a few of the basic things that you can track to judge the effectiveness of your campaign. Also, don’t forget to factor in the amount of traffic or social shares that the individual blogs normally get individual blog posts. You don’t want to write off a particular blog because they didn’t do as well as one that gets ten times the traffic.
You also want to be sure to analyze all your data and see if you can identify trends. Did a pitch fail miserably with some types of bloggers where it passed with flying colors for others? See if you can figure out why. Did your story resonate particularly well within a certain niche where there was practically no engagement in another? Find out the reason for it. If you are really perplexed, try asking the blogger why they rejected it, chances are they will happy to provide you with some constructive criticism. As with most things, it takes practice and with time hopefully you can understand what works well with certain bloggers, niches and audiences—ultimately allowing you to deliver the most value to each type of blogger.
And that is it! You are officially done your blogger outreach campaign (or at least you have all of the information to begin a successful one). As a final note, it is important to remember that the success of your campaign depends a lot on how much value you can provide to the blogger and their audience because in the end, that’s really what the blogger cares about. If you can tell a good story that is creative, original and valuable to the target audience, then what blogger wouldn’t accept that kind of pitch? Also, if you decided to begin an outreach campaign because of this ebook, I would love to hear about how it turned out and if any of the advice provided worked particularly well.