It’s worth quickly covering off why I think SEOs should be building relationships through outreach – a responsive network of bloggers with whom you have an ongoing conversation can help make your promotion efforts much easier. Contacting bloggers cold and only when you want something is bound to be less successful than if you put the groundwork in first.
So here’s a collection of tips for better and more efficient outreach that have come out of some of the work I’ve been doing recently.
Link request emails typically contain some sort of compliment about the website’s design or content. The trouble is that it often comes across as forced, and sometimes there’s not even a great deal to be complimentary about. When a compliment is obviously a thinly veiled attempt to get in the website owner’s good books, it can have the opposite effect.
Twitter is a much more natural place for this sort of activity – people are always bigging each other up. They RT, #FF, list people, post each other’s blog content, interact, ask questions, and share. It’s totally natural and can be much more subtle, so don’t forget to use all of these tools to get yourself noticed by your link targets.
For example, a month of gentle, regular retweeting and interaction could be the perfect way to build up to a link request email.
Website owners often go out of their way to hide their email addresses. They replace them with images, they use contact forms, and often use generic inboxes like firstname.lastname@example.org.
At the same time, website owners go out of their way to promote their social media accounts pretty much everywhere they can. They add themselves to directories, put badges all over their sites, link to their profiles at the end of blog posts and more.
It’s pretty easy to work out how some website owners would prefer to be contacted, and finding social media profiles can often take a fraction of the time.
If you know the person’s name then you can often find them with a search like site:twitter.com rob millard. If you don’t know their name, how about searching LinkedIn for their job title and company name? site:linkedin.com inurl:/in/ distilled SEO consultant - easy!
You can also use tools like FollowerWonk, WeFollow, and Twitter’s internal search to find Twitter accounts that are relevant to your niche. Facebook’s internal search can help you do the same.
If you’re familiar with Google Docs and importxml() it’s relatively simple to scrape directories like FollowerWonk and WeFollow, and pull in each user’s web address from their Twitter bio. Once you’ve done that, you could use the SEOmoz API to find out which influential Twitter users actually have blogs worth getting links from.
There are a whole host of ways to find link building opportunities using Twitter search. Firstly, check out some of the hashtags used by journalists and bloggers such as #journorequest, #journalistrequest, and #HARO. Combine them which a keyword relevant to your niche and you often get some great opportunities. Speed is crucial though, so make sure you’re quick to respond.
Advanced search queries for guest posting opportunities are fairly well documented, but you can use a similar approach with Twitter. Check out “guest post” + keyword or “guest blog” + keyword. These aren’t typically blogs asking for guest posts, but they’re promoting guest content which shows that they are likely to accept something similar by yours truly.
If you find that searches and hashtags like the ones mentioned above are yielding opportunities, why not set them up as an extra pane in a Twitter client such as TweetDeck so that you can scan them regularly.
When contacting a blogger about guest posting opportunities, I’ve found that I have a much higher success rate if I include a few ideas for headlines straight off. You can make this technique even more effective if you do some quick research to find out what sort of content has worked well for them in the past. Who’s likely to turn down a free post on a subject that earned them loads of links last time round?
So the Top Pages report in OSE is a great place to start – are there any recurring themes that you can pick up on? For example, as a technology blog smartphone content might be way more popular than anything else, so pitch some ideas in that area.
Possibly a better approach would be to look at their site using PostRank as this includes other signals such as social media and number of comments.
Or, again, you could build a tool in Google Docs similar to the one Tom Critchlow outlined here and run the exported list of top pages through it to get social metrics.
My favourite use for lists is to create a private list for users that I’ve identified as outreach targets. This way, you can set up a pane in TweetDeck to monitor what those users are up to and look for opportunities to retweet, interact etc. Obviously a private list is preferred because you’ll blow your chances if somebody realises they’re on a list called “Bloggers to get links from lol”.
On the other hand, you could use public lists as a form of flattery. Create a list called “The world’s best travel bloggers” and then tweet about it. There’s no guarantee that they’ll see it, but you’d hope at least a few of the people on it would check it out.
This is one of my favourite uses for LinkedIn. Typically I tend to avoid actually contacting people through LinkedIn as it can come across just as forced as a cold email. But if you know who you’re targeting, find their profile and check out this box on the right hand side:
It could be that one of your colleagues already knows them, in which case you can leverage that existing relationship. Or it might be that another business contact knows them, in which case you could ask for an introduction which gives you an easy in.
Apart from the domain name, there’s very little in an email address that demonstrates the credibility of the user. This is another area in which social media’s strengths lie as outreach targets can easily check your profile and work out if you’re the sort of person they want to collaborate with.
As a result, it’s really worth putting in the time to make sure your profile looks authentic and credible. Even the simple things like your profile picture can make a difference – use a photo of your actual face rather than a logo so that people can see who they’re talking to. You can also build credibility by participating in relevant conversations and communities so that you demonstrate that you’re genuinely interested in your niche.
This is really at the end of the outreach process, but I often find that I’m contacting bloggers that operate in a niche within my niche. For example, a food blogger might build a relationship with a cupcake blog. If they like to consume content using RSS, it would be much better to give them a feed of posts which are strictly relevant to cupcakes.
Fortunately this is super-easy in WordPress. Find the relevant tag page or category page such as:
and add /feed/ to the end of the URL:
Score! Obviously this won’t work exactly on every wordpress install as it depends how you’ve got your permalinks set up, but it should be possible if you have a play around.
That’s all for now! Hopefully this post gives you some ideas that might freshen up your outreach strategies. If you’ve got any further ideas or questions, I’d love to hear them in the comments.
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