Blogger outreach can be defined as working in partnership with bloggers to reach new audience and promote a brand. Since bloggers aka influencers already have a significant following, they can become brand ambassadors and boost P2P marketing efforts. Pushing out same marketing messages to the masses is becoming ineffective over time and marketers are shifting towards making a personal connection with their target audience. Blogger outreach has proven to be an effective strategy in this regard and can be an effective weapon in the marketing arsenal.
Why Start a Blogger Outreach Campaign?
Influencers have direct access to their followers and can directly spread your message to them, which can influence their purchasing decision. Research suggests that around 80% online users trust information provided by influencers and as much as 60% of them make a buying decision based on their recommendations. This makes blogger outreach a more effective marketing strategy than spending loads of money on conventional social media advertising campaigns.
What makes blogger outreach even more effective is the fact that most bloggers are active on different digital channels so your brand can also get promoted via those channels. Blogger outreach involves contacting bloggers or social media influencers and convincing them to promote your product in exchange for something of value such as freebies or money.
However, blogger outreach is not easy due to the fact that influencers are very picky about what to promote and it takes some effort and out-of-the-box thinking to get your message across. This post covers the basics of how to start a blogger outreach campaign and scale it to reach a wider audience.
The Shotgun Vs. Sniper Approach
It’s important to understand the two main approaches marketers take for their blogger outreach campaigns. The shotgun approach means businesses send (usually generic) email requests to as many influencers as possible, hoping to convince a certain percentage of them. On the other hand, sniper approach involves targeting very specific influencers with highly personalized messages, which takes more time but worth the extra effort.
Businesses choose the shotgun approach for different reasons including it saves them time, requires less effort and gives a perception that marketers are making tracks and outreaching at a scale. The shotgun approach might work in the short run, but isn’t very effective in making long term relationships with influencers. More emails do not necessarily mean more links, especially when they are not personalized and fail to hit the target right at the spot. The shotgun approach also has other disadvantages associated with it including:
Influencers can mark you emails as spam and if enough of them do so, your emails might end up landing in the spam folder in the future
Low quality links
Shooting emails without really knowing the kind of links you will be getting in return is another drawback that can have some serious consequences on your site credibility
More backlinks also do not mean more web traffic as the amount of sites that can move the needle is fairly limited. That’s why you need to pick the influencers carefully otherwise your marketing efforts can go in vain
Because of these reasons, taking the sniper approach is recommended in which marketers pick very specific influencers related to their niche and send highly personalized messages.
Starting and Scaling a Blogger Outreach Campaign
Step 1: Finding the Right Prospects
Finding the right influencers is one of the most important steps in creating a successful blogger outreach campaign. There are different methods of finding prospects and which one is the best depends on your niche and past experience. The most commonly used prospecting methods include:
Find mentions of influencers and let them know
If you have linked to or mentioned influencers in your content, let them know that they have been mentioned because of the usefulness of their content. Skimming through the mentions of bloggers is easy and there are plenty of URL exacter tools available for free that make the process easier and allow you to export the information to a CSV file. Just make sure to check for external links only as you don’t need internal links in this case.
Find Influencers Who Have Worked on the Same Topic as Yours
Chances are good that someone else has also written content about the same topic as yours and interested in talking about it. This provides a common ground, but the task here is to find such bloggers who have worked on the same topic. Search engines like Google is a good starting point where you can search some important keywords related to your topic and collect links that offer similar content.
It’s recommended to focus on prospects with fresh content (filter by time) as they are more likely to care about the topic and might still be interested in it. You can also use advanced filters to find even more relevant results such as content that DOES NOT mention something so you can ask them why something was not included (gives you an excuse to start a conversation).
Exporting all the results and links can be a tedious task, but there are tools such as urlextractor that make the process easier such SEO toolbars, which extract all the results and saves it to a CSV file in just a few clicks. Paid SEO tools are also available if you are looking for something more advanced. These tools allow you to work with results at a granular level and make it easier to search and filter web pages, narrow down the results and export the information to a CSV file.
Find Out Influencers Who Linked to Similar Content
The same advanced SEO tools also allow you to find bloggers who have liked to content on the same topic as yours. You can search important keywords and view posts that have at least ten sites linking to them, and sort the results from high to low. Examine the backlinks one by one to identify outreach opportunities.
Find Bloggers Who Have Tweeted Posts on the Same Topic
Twitter is another great place for finding influencers as they tend to tweet more than the amount of content they publish. However, this group of prospects is not as useful as the other three mentioned earlier. That’s mainly because influencers are less likely to tweet your content and usually don’t read what they re-tweet. But we still cannot totally ignore this group and miss out on outreach opportunities. Moreover, finding influencers who have tweeted on a particular topic is fairly easy and does not take a lot of time and effort.
All you need to do is to search the URL in twitter and by default, it’ll show you top tweets related to it. Scraping through this data can be a tedious task, but you can use SEO tools to filter results by entering a URL and checking ‘Who tweeted’. From there you can filter content by time and extract the most recent tweets (last 7 days at the most) as people usually don’t remember old tweets.
Putting Prospecting on Autopilot
Once you have developed a list of prospects, there are many ways you can continually add more people to the list including using tools such as Googler Alerts. These tools automatically notify you when new content is available containing the keywords you have specified. You can then decide if you should reach out the authors and discuss your content for links.
Among millions of new tweets that go live every day, there must be many related to the type of content you are dealing with. You can take advantage of IFTTT’s twitter function that allows searching and monitoring new tweets containing relevant keywords.
Step 2: Prospect Segmentation
You cannot treat every influencer in the same way and have to divide your list into different groups based on their level of influence. Filtering by Domain Rating is the easiest way to segment prospects, but it’s still not a very scientific approach and isn’t foolproof.
Sharks (Domain Rating higher than 80)
These are influencers with notable achievements and a significant following. These people are hardest to reach and some creative thinking is needed to grab their attention. Most small and medium businesses and individual bloggers don’t try to pursue this group. It’s really hard to get them to notice you and don’t have time to go through all the requests. Pursuing them mostly results in an activity that fails to materialize.
Big Fish (Domain Rating around 50)
Although not as famous as ‘Sharks’, big fish do have a huge audience and convincing them to write about your brand can make a big impact. However, these people can easily spot generic emails and should only be reached with a highly personalized and to-the-point message. Asking them to validate your own ideas or providing critique is a better strategy than asking for links and tweets. They’ll likely link/tweet anyway if they like your idea so asking them to do so with mediocre content isn’t going to make any difference.
Small Fish (Domain Rating between 30-50)
These budding bloggers don’t have a significant following and are easier to reach. Most of them are trying to get traction and are much more likely to respond to your requests. A personalized and respectful message that offers value to them might not bring a lot of traffic to your site, but it helps a lot in building long-term relationships.
Spawn (Domain Rating lower than 20)
These bloggers are most likely to respond to your emails, but spending a lot of time on them does not usually produce meaningful impact as they are just starting out and trying to build an audience.
It’s better to focus your efforts on Big Fish and Small Fish to produce better results instead of spending a significant amount of time on Sharks and Spawns.
Step 3: Find Contact Details that Really Matter
Finding the right emails or contact details is often the bottleneck of blogger outreach campaigns and is a time-consuming task. This step is also difficult to automate because you don’t want to end up with dead email addresses. You need to invest some time and effort to generate a list of the right email addresses instead of totally relying on automation tools. Different methods to generate email addresses include:
- Email lookup services like hunter.io
- Try and validate different formulas and make educated guesses like firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.first letter of the last firstname.lastname@example.org, first letter of email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Tools like Email Premutator+ can help a lot in this regard and provide the possible combinations by entering first name, last name and domain
- You can use twitter’s advanced search to search different words people usually use to hide their email addresses from bots such as ‘at’ and ‘dot’, while you can also search for words like ‘contact’, ‘email’ and ‘reach’
- Subscribe to the mailing lists of influencers as chances are good that automated emails from will contain their email address. You can also reply to these emails and start building relationships the easy way
- Drop influencers a line on twitter and ask them for their email address
- Ask for personal email address through the contact form or a generic email address
- You can also find email addresses at scale using various tools and combining author names with the domain URL
Step 4: Create a Winning Pitch
Creating email templates might be a neccessity for blogger outreach at scale, but a template is a template and influencers can easily spot one. That’s why it’s recommended to focus your energy on creating a winning pitch for one influencer at a time. Some tips to do so include:
- Evoke curiosity by getting the subject line right while keeping it to-the-point. The subject line should contain highly relevant keywords that the reader might be interested in
- Spend some time learning about the recipient and include your key findings in the email (even if they are not directly related to the topic in hand like some common interest). This shows that you spent some time exploring their interests and are genuinely interested in what they do
- Avoid empty, generic and vague compliments like ‘great stuff, very impressed’ and come up with something meaningful and specific
- Make it absolutely clear why you are emailing them and end your message with a call-to-action. In most cases, it’s not appropriate to ask for a link in the very first email, which is not meant to close the deal but rather to start a meaningful conversation
- Talk about only your best work, preferably the latest. The definition of the best content can be subjective, but its recommended to rank it on the basis of social power or in other words social shares
Scaling Blogger Outreach
Personalization of outreach emails and success rate are interrelated. Simply loading your pitch in an automation tool and replacing the first name isn’t personalization. But personalizing thousands of messages can take a lot of time and effort and might not be a feasible strategy for large scale outreach.
Create and Fill Custom Merge Fields
You can still ‘templatize’ emails without sounding too robotic by creating custom merge fields. Chunks of messages (‘personalizable’ parts) can be adjusted according to each recipient e.g. first name, unique selling proposition and links. The custom merge fields can be filled using Excel spreadsheet through column headers such as first name, email, unique point and so on.
It’s important to take email context into account so the email makes sense and feels personalized. This step is easier if you have already segmented your prospects and plan on sending appropriate emails to small and big fish. If you are not good with spreadsheets, you can also fill the custom fields on-the-fly when shooting out emails.
Upload, Review and Send
It’s time to upload the spreadsheet and the template to an outreach software (if you are doing it at scale) or review each email carefully if you are doing it individually. You still need to carefully check email templates before sending them to avoid any mistake.
If you don’t get any response for your emails in a few days, a follow up email should be next. However, constant follow up emails can be annoying so it’s recommended to follow up just once by asking them politely if they missed the email sent earlier.
Blogger outreach is neither rocket science nor use of clever psychology to get what you want. It’s about treating other people with respect and engaging them with something that interest both parties and helps establish a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship. Influencers who are interested in the same content as yours are more likely to respond and find value in it.
No outreach ‘trick’ can save you if your email looks like spam. Timing is of great importance when developing an outreach campaign because no one remembers their 2-year-old tweets. Marketers need to react to new opportunities and focus more on topics that are still fresh in influencer’s minds.
Despite not being a rocket science, blogger outreach isn’t always easy. It takes some organization, problem solving and communication skills to run a successful campaign and if you are not good at some skills, it’s better to outsource some parts to people who excel at it.