If you’ve been reading how-to blog and content marketing blogs for very long, then you’ve no doubt come across this buzzword: outreach.
Nowadays, all the big guns are talking about outreach and how it’s gonna revolutionize content marketing and take your latest blog posts from 0-100 real quick.
But what exactly is outreach?
Well, in short, outreach is the art of getting others to share or link to your posts. You’re basically leveraging other people’s blogs or social media followings to increase the popularity of your own.
And get this: the people who say that outreach is an effective content promotion strategy are 100% right. Outreach is a very powerful way to quickly get traction to your latest blog posts, an ideal traffic strategy for new bloggers.
That is, when you do it right.
In this post, I’ll discuss seven of the most crucial parts of a successful outreach strategy, and how you can leverage outreach to boost traffic to your blog posts.
1. Begin with the End in Mind
Before you begin your outreach process, you need to plan. You need to begin with the end in mind.
Ask yourself the following questions:
What are my goals?
Outreach is a great strategy to accomplish several things: increased traffic, more connections with influential people, better backlinks from quality sites, etc..
You need to know your goals (always try to write them down as well) before you start the actual process of outreach.
How much time do I have to dedicate to outreach?
Here’s the one pitfall of outreach. The impact from one successful outreach email (e.g. getting one blogger to share or link to your blog post) isn’t particularly high, especially in the short run. So in order to see significant results, you typically have to send out a lot of emails.
Case in point: Brian Dean from Backlinko emailed 160 websites to promote his post on Google ranking factors. Because of the backlinks and visibility he’s gotten as a result, Brian now ranks #1 in the SERPs for “google ranking factors”, which is by no means a low-competition keyword.
Now don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that you need to email 100+ people for every post you write. Due to time restrictions, that’s an unrealistic goal for many of us, particularly me.
But my point is that a successful email outreach strategy will take up a significant amount of time. So when creating a plan for your outreach strategy, you need to budget time appropriately.
2. Pick the Right Bloggers for Outreach
Here’s what doesn’t work in email outreach: randomly sending out emails to 100+ blogs that “seem” to fit your niche.
Picking the blogs you plan to do outreach to is a very delicate (and time-consuming) process. To be successful at outreach, you will need to spend time creating a list of blogs you’ll reach out to before each post is published (ideally before the post is even written).
Here are a couple ways to find the right blogs to reach out to.
Find Blogs that Have Linked to Similar Content
This method calls for Ahrefs Site Explorer, one of my favorite blogging tools. Site Explorer basically crawls the web to discover all the inbound links for a particular website or webpage.
So let’s say that you run a food blog, and your next post topic is on the dangers of excess soft drink consumption. A quick Google search will reveal several popular blogs that have written on a similar topic.
Pick one high-ranking post (I chose this one from Wellness Mama) and run it through Site Explorer to find the sites that have linked to the post.
You know that these sites have linked to a post on the dangers of soft drinks already in the past. Consequently, they are much more likely to link to your post on the same topic, provided that you ask nicely (more on how to do that later).
Find Influencers Who Have Shared Similar Content
This method works best with Buzzsumo, an incredibly popular content research tool. Buzzsumo allows you to see the exact people who have shared specific posts on your topic.
Let’s say that this time around, you’re on a digital marketing blog, currently writing a post on generating content ideas. You can use Buzzsumo to identify popular posts on this topic.
Buzzsumo then allows you to drill down and see exactly who has shared this post on Twitter.
Apply the same concept from the previous method here: since these people have already shared blog posts on content ideation before, they could be quite willing to do it again.
3. Do a Favor for the Influencer Beforehand
Email outreach is all about asking favors. When you send an email to an influencer asking for a tweet, a link, or a Google plus, you’re basically asking them for a favor.
Now, I want you to think back to the last time you did a significant favor for a stranger who’d come to you out of the blue.
No, seriously. Think about it.
Don’t worry, I’ll wait…
If you’re like me, then you probably can’t remember the last time you did so.
And guess what: the influencers you’re reaching out to probably can’t remember the last time they did such a favor, either. So when you ask them for a favor as a total stranger, how likely do you think you are to get the share/link?
The key here is to make sure that by the time you send your email, you’ve already performed a favor or two for the blogger beforehand.
For instance, you could comment on 1-2 of the blogger’s latest posts. All bloggers love getting relevant comments on their posts, because comments prove two things to them:
- People are reading their content.
- People find their content engaging enough for them to take time out of their day to leave their thoughts.
However, DON’T just leave a generic “Great post, thanks for sharing” comment like a hundred others before you have already.
It’s easy for bloggers to see through this sort of comment; they know that it hasn’t taken any sort of real effort on your part.
Instead, leave a thoughtful, detailed remark about what you thought of their post — one that will set you apart from the other commentators to the post author.
Questions in particular make great comments because they coax a response from the post author. Besides that, all bloggers (you and I included) get an ego boost when people ask their advice.
A couple other things you could do is to share their post on social media or even link to it from the post that you are writing.
4. Write the Email
Here comes the difficult part: actually writing the email. You can find several email templates on the web for this step, but I recommend testing a few ones of your own to see which works best for you personally. What’s more, the email you send will also typically depend on what you’re asking for in your email: a link, a share, etc..
For instance, asking for a link from a well-known blog requires a very different email than a share request from an influencer with a mid-sized following.
But regardless of the type email you’re sending over, there are a few rules to keep in mind.
Keep it Short
Nobody wants to wade through a 50-sentence email when a five-sentence email would have done just as well. Least of all the busy bloggers who have a hundred-and-one other tasks demanding their attention.
I personally try to keep all my emails no more than five sentences long, although I’m often guilty of forgetting to cut down and instead sending in 6-7+ sentences. I’ve found that shorter = better 99% of the time.
Talk about What You’ve Done for Them
In my email, I typically reserve at one sentence close to the beginning to talk about what I’ve done for them (i.e. I linked to their post, shared it on social media, commented on it, etc.).
Always talk about what you’ve done for them before you discuss what you want them to do for you. Once the blogger realizes that you’ve taken the time to do something for him/her, they’ll be much more receptive to the request that’s about to come.
Be Informal, but Professional
You always want to be professional — especially if you’ve never emailed this person before.
There’s no need to be overly formal (ten dollar words won’t score you any points), but at the same time don’t let your inner-goofiness get too much out of reign.
Also, be sure to use their first name in your opening line (that way they know right off that your email is addressed specifically to them).
5. Contact via Multiple Channels
The biggest mistake I made in my early days of outreach was limiting my contact to one channel only: email.
While email is still the best way to get a response from share/link requests, it’s most effective when used in combination with other contact channels like social media.
Nowadays, whenever I send out an outreach email, I also tweet the blogger beforehand to let him/her know that I’m sending in an email.
This helps to create awareness of your coming email. Most influencers will be getting hundreds of emails per day, so it’s very possible that your email could slip through the cracks. When you reach out to them via social media before sending the email, though, they’ll be keeping an eye out for your email.
So instead of ignoring or overlooking your email when it comes in, they’ll instead think:
Oh yeah, this is the guy/gal who tweeted me about their coming email. I think he/she also commented on XYZ post I published a couple days ago. Hmm. I wonder what he/she is emailing about.
This contact strategy just plain works — I highly recommend that you try your best to get in touch via multiple channels (Google Plus, LinkedIn, or even Facebook can be good options depending on your industry). It’s helped me to nearly double my response rates, and I’m sure it will do the same for yours.
6. Time Your Contact Appropriately
I live in India — but since most of the bloggers I contact live in the US, UK, or Australia, I have to be sure that I’m keeping track of time zones. Otherwise, my email is likely to get lost in the pile of email that accumulates overnight.
I try to get my email in around 8-9 AM in the morning their time. That way, by the time they start their work day, my email is close to the top of their inbox.
I personally use Boomerang to schedule all my emails because I love its simplicity, but SideKick, RightInbox, and Streak are popular alternatives.
For tweet-scheduling, I’m a huge fan of Buffer, but HootSuite is another excellent option.
7. Follow Up
The last step in the outreach process is to follow up. If your email doesn’t get a response within a week, I recommend sending either one email or one tweet as a reminder (not both).
I don’t recommend sending any more than one follow up, though; if a blogger hasn’t responded by then, it typically means that he/she isn’t interested in sharing or linking.
And if that happens (which it most certianly will), don’t worry about it. Just shake it off, and move on to the next blogger.
Outreach is a powerful content promotion strategy. It has the potential to take your latest blog post from 0-100 in no time.
However, outreach certainly isn’t an easy strategy to implement, and if you don’t do it correctly then you’ll end up spending a lot of time for little result. So the next time you’re promoting a post, remember these 7 crucial steps, and I guarantee your success rate will the better for it.