Link building can not only be a very time consuming task but also one fraught with peril. Do it wrong and you can waste a considerable amount of work or worse, be penalised by Google. Do it right and it can have a very positive effect on your website’s SEO.
Blogger outreach has for a long time been a staple in the diet of a link builder. In short, it is the practice of proactively contacting bloggers in the hope of persuading them to either let you contribute an article or mention your business (or your client’s business should you be an SEO).
However, with the rise of social media, blogger outreach has also taken on another meaning: influencer marketing. Bloggers have fast become ‘social influencers’ which has meant that the term Blogger Outreach has morphed into a dual purpose process. To keep it clean we will concentrate on blogger outreach for link building – although do not underestimate the knock on effect of said blogger’s social influence.
Now, after all hell broke loose in 2014 when Matt Cutts waged war on spammy guest blogging, there is some trepidation surrounding blogger outreach so let’s start off with what NOT to do:
– Don’t contact irrelevant blogs
– Don’t solicit the same material to multiple blogs (duplicate content)
– Don’t solicit spun material to blogs (article spinning)
– Don’t go for quantity over quality. With SEO it is far better to go for quality over quantity.
– Don’t be fooled by spammy guest blogs (a.k.a splogs)
– Don’t submit low quality writing
If you do any of the above you may well land yourself in trouble with the Big G which is something you really want to avoid.
Now that we have established the ground rules, let’s look at how you can create and execute a successful blogger outreach campaign. Please note that we also have a useful article on link building – whilst there may be some overlap, we will focus primarily on bloggers.
Creating a list of Blogs to target
Research, research, research. Trust us, you will make far more effective use of your time if you work in segments rather than in tiny bits. Take the time compile a list of blogs to target rather than finding one, contacting them and then moving on to find another one.
There are a number of ways in which you can actually find these blogs. We are of course presuming that you are only targeting highly relevant blogs with real readerships. Bear in mind that you may find that not all of these are applicable to your industry or website:
Pretty simple. Utilise the power of search engines to deliver those blogs right to your doorstep. You may find that some of your searches such as ‘Lifestyle blog’ will return lists of the top blogs for that particular search term – great news because you now have a list to select from!
Blogger Meet Ups
A slightly risky one. For the uninitiated, infiltrating the bloggersphere can be hard, especially if you don’t blog yourself. So be warned, simply turning up to Blogger meet ups trying to persuade them to publish your content or get a link is probably not going to work. However, finding a list of bloggers at a meet up can be just as valuable as a Google search.
Agencies that represent bloggers
Blogging can be big business. Like any industry, there are agencies that make their money from representing bloggers. If you have something of value to offer a blogger, such as a unique experience then it may be worth getting in touch with these agencies and striking up a relationship.
Medium is a publishing platform for writers. It has 5 main categories: tech, culture, politics, business and life so if you sit within any of these (which will be a lot of you) then it is worth exploring this platform.
Much like search engines, social media platforms offer search functionality that you can use to find bloggers. Keyword searches will help but also explore the use of blogger specific hashtags on the likes of Instagram and Twitter – favourites of the bloggersphere.
Don't obsess about links
Wait? Aren’t we about to read through some ideas on how to get yourself a link? I thought we were reaching out to bloggers for link building purposes?
Well, yes, but SEO and digital marketing in general has moved on from such isolated practices. They do still work but do not throw your toys out of the pram if you do not get a link. Focus instead on the social reach that you will get from collaborating with said blogger and potentially the natural links that will occur from this project. Not to mention co-citation and co-occurrence.
If you are an agency it is worth educating your clients on the fact that not all links will be ‘followed’ (i.e without a no follow) and that some of your outreach may not even result in a link. It is your role to educate them about the additional benefits that can occur from this outreach which will have an impact on their search rankings and conversions.
The first outreach
The general consensus is that you want to try and strike up a rapport with the blogger prior to suggesting some content. Bloggers are savvy to the world of SEO so just diving in straight way can give a very mixed bag of results.
As with all things SEO, it is about providing value. Definitely do not send out mass generic emails. A tactic might be to find an article on their blog which you particularly like or offer items for a follow up article.
This is where it gets tricky. Are you open and upfront about the fact that you are link building or do you keep that under wraps? Well, we would advise the former. You can still offer value even if you have an end goal – a sort of ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’ arrangement.
You don’t have to email them. Following them on social media and engaging with their posts can be a softer method of getting in touch, a pseudo warm up to that direct contact!
If at first you don't succeed
Try, try and try again. Professional bloggers are busy people. Part-time bloggers usually have day jobs…and even less time. So it might take a little but of persistence.
Remember though that bloggers do happen normal people so try not to annoy them. Use your common sense and don’t bombard them – if they don’t want to respond then look elsewhere!
If you’re talking to a blogger, at some point you are going to have to cut to the chase and ask for what you want: a link. However, you don’t have to be so clear cut about it. Think of ways in which you can make their life easier, whether that be guest posting or providing key information/images/video for a post. We always find that having this ready for when you pop the question has a higher success rate than simply asking without any evidence to back it up! Write the post, attach the images, send a link through to video content to give yourself the best chance of success.
Bloggers labelling 'Sponsored Posts'
The shady world of paid for posts. Google hate paid links. Everyone knows that paid links are bad, but if we’re honest, it still goes on. In an ideal world you would collaborate with a blogger where no money or goods exchange hands. The problem is that a lot of bloggers expect payment.
If you were so inclined you could figure out ways to make sure that said payment for the post was invisible to Google. The problem is that in the UK at least, it is illegal not to label something as paid for (or ‘sponsored’) if it has indeed been paid for. The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is pretty hot on it.
So you have the conundrum of making it clear to Google that you have paid for the post and subsequent link, or committing a crime. We obviously cannot condone either one and hopefully you can simply collaborate so that both parties win.