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How to find blogs and bloggers for your businessWe are on the verge of a blog outreach campaign, to support our PR, affiliate marketing, linkbuilding and brand goals. We want to share the love where possible, and to hopefully receive a bit back.

Cultivating relationships with bloggers is vital for any serious brand marketer. They can be a real asset to help you spread word about content, products and services. They are more likely to link to you than mainstream media sites and they often link in the right way. 

I’ll try to shine some light on the tools you can use to unearth the most relevant blogs to your business. You’ll find that there are many bloggers out there that will be receptive to working with you, you just need to know how to seek them out.

Wrong-headed outreach

The sad fact is that most PRs get it wrong when trying to engage bloggers. I receive 200-300 press releases every day for one of my blogs (not this one, thankfully) and maybe 70% of that is directed by PRs. Most PRs seem to limit their killer tactics to emailing impersonal messages, typically based around an uninspiring press release. I almost never pay any attention to this kind of thing. And 'Dear blogger' doesn't cut it either.

The other 30%? A combination of viral marketing agencies (who tend to ‘get’ blogging, and are the most receptive when bloggers ask: “Do you have a budget to help us support your campaign?”), publishers (an increasingly stupid trend – they email constantly to tell us about their ‘exclusives’) and linkbuilders of various flavours (one mention of ‘nofollow’ and they run to the hills).

Five quick tips on outreach, from a blogger’s perspective

Some ways of getting noticed are better than others. Mutually beneficial relationships are the best kind to chase, for long-term success. Money is at the very top of the list that the average blogger might best respond to, and you shouldn't be reticent to consider ways of cutting the blogger in on a slice of the action. A brand that spends £25m a year on marcomms should not be asking bloggers for favours all of the time.

All of these points work on the assumption that you have a good understanding of what the blogger is all about. Do your research!

1. Avoid an automated approach. It’s not a numbers game. Really.
You have the email addresses for 500 bloggers? Can’t be bothered to write to them all individually? Fair enough, but make sure that you identify the top 10% most powerful bloggers and give them the personal treatment. Think of it as picking up the phone: each conversation needs to be tailored to their particular sphere of interests. It’s quality, not quantity. And if you do automation remember to use BCC, on pain of death. 

2. Do not attempt a home run immediately. You may proceed to first base.
If you haven’t worked with somebody before then you need to introduce yourself. If you are in an agency then explain who your clients are, and what you typically do for them. Help the blogger to understand your goals, and how your clients evaluate and measure success (views, links, referred traffic, mentions, new Twitter followers, sales, etc). Allow them to put their thinking caps on and...

3. Don’t expect the blogger to help you out for nothing.
Do you work for free? It’s a question that stumps many a PR. They cannot understand why a blogger might be reticent to write up a competition post in exchange for some free DVD boxset, or some kind of tickets giveaway. The simple truth is that a competition is to raise awareness for a campaign, and campaigns have budgets, hence the reason why the PR is making contact. That’s always the way, and the PR pushing the competition is not doing the blogger any favours by refusing them a piece of the action. Prizes do not help you pay the bills. Many bloggers would be delighted to receive a tiny sliver of the campaign budget. It's insulting to expect bloggers to do favours for free.

4. So is there the possibility of a commercial relationship?
Frankly speaking, you and your clients will be a bigger dot on the radar if money exchanges hands. When you first make contact you should explain what you want to achieve, and what you can do for bloggers. Viral placements, display ad buys, reskins, paid-for competitions and affiliate schemes can really put you on the map. You should be looking to support those bloggers that you deem them to be valuable to your brand / campaigns. Inviting bloggers to events for free drinks is one thing, but helping them to cover server costs is a much better idea. Most PRs don't coordinate media buying or viral seeding for clients, but they should be able to make the appropriate introductions. This kind of thing really needs joining up, and to be better managed.

5. Meet up offline.
A beer in the sunshine is always a good idea, right?

The tools / techniques

Spend a few hours in these happy hunting grounds for guaranteed success!

Quantcast.com is good for measurement / demographic data. As a blogger you can choose to become ‘Quantified’ by placing its tracking code on your pages. This helps it measure direct traffic, to provide more accurate data compared with the panels and toolbar-based measurement companies (comScore, Neilsen, Alexa, etc). Quantcast relies on panel data for blogger demographics.

Delicious is useful as a discovery engine. It allows you to search blogs by tags, in order to narrow the selection. Look out for the number of bookmarks to gauge popularity, and the date of the first submission. It is also worth checking out the background chatter in the Notes section, to get an idea of what people are saying about a blog. Delicious helps you to quickly place blogs in categories, and can help you figure out the editorial scope. 

Digg, Reddit and StumbleUpon should be cross-referenced to identify (niche) blogs that have the viral factor, and know how to create the kind of content that people like to share. They can also help show you the kind of content that does well on user-powered, voting-based sites.

Facebook. It is perhaps most useful to dig around to find blogs with the most active or passionate communities. 

Wefollow.com hooks into Twitter and allows you to find 'blogs' and 'bloggers', or to search by topic, e.g. 'marketing'. You can sort them by the number of followers or influence. Follower-to-following ratios on Twitter are important when trying to calculate influence. Blogger tweetstreams with lots of @replies and retweets are better than headline-only Twitter action. Another good tool is Followerwonk, which allows you to search Twitter bios for keywords (e.g. 'blogger').

Google Reader is a great way of subscribing to blogs (and filtering them for relevant content). This Econsultancy post by Matt Owen provides a bit more background.

Blogcatalog and other blog directories can be useful ways of quickly finding relevant blogs. 

Blogger sidebars / blogrolls. Hunt for treasure in the ‘Friends’ section of blogger sidebars, where they link to related bloggers.

Google Analytics. How many bloggers linked to your pages last month? Check your inbound links to see which bloggers are already warmed up and friendly. A ‘thank you’ email is a very good way of introducing yourself. Bloggers simply love polite people. When looking consider volume of referred traffic and also the author's approach to anchor text. 

Blog comments / @replies. If you run a blog then keep a close eye on the comments to spot bloggers. Again, these folks are warm and more huggable (unless they’re violently disagreeing with you!). Look at the blog comments on other blogs too. And any bloggers who @reply you on Twitter are ripe for engagement.

There are plenty of other tools and techniques out there so by all means let me know what I missed by leaving a comment below.

Chris Lake

Published 6 October, 2010 by Chris Lake

Chris Lake is CEO at EmpiricalProof, and former Director of Content at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter, Google+ or connect via Linkedin.

582 more posts from this author

Comments (18)

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Dave Mutton

Thanks Chris, this is a really useful insight and checklist for anybody working on leveraging bloggers for their marketing campaign

about 6 years ago

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Jim Symcox

Totally agree with what you're saying here.

I'm currently running a competition on one of my blogs (www.manchester-blog.com) and I could have run a few more.

The reason I'm running this one is that it's going to be a bit of fun for my readers.

However, I've had plenty of other approaches where the link builder or PR agency expect a link for 6 months for a little competition which is uninspiring and is only intended to build links to their site. Not going to happen is it!?

Companies pay to advertise on my blog so I'm of the opinion that if they want a link they pay for it. Similarly if agencies make comments purely with the intention of creating a link they get short shrift and are simply deleted.

Jim

about 6 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

@Dave - Thanks. Glad it is useful.

@Jim - My point is just that the bigger blogs, operated by pro bloggers with writers and hefty server costs, require revenue streams in order to keep going. So it figures that personalised introductory emails that clearly explain what's on offer, and what's needed, are going to be better than non-personal press releases. That's one step away from being spam, if it isn't already. And when we do our outreach we'll explain ways of helping the bloggers to earn via a relationship with Econsultancy. 

On the competitions, there's something in it for the brand / client (awareness / exposure / editorial), for the PR (client brownie points) and for the reader (competition winner). But what does the blogger get out of that? Given that he or she is spending the time to put a post together, to communicate with the PR, to deal with competition entrants and factoring in the media value associated with that post (reach etc), it feels like a raw deal if there's no fee involved. 

Note that this isn't about selling out or being bought, so long as the blogger's editorial instincts are pure. It is simply about getting a little piece of the cake.

about 6 years ago

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Sylvanus Bent

You mentioned a number of tools and techniques, and one that is better than Delicious, StumbleUpon, Digg is YourVersion http://YourVersion.com YourVersion is a personalized, real-time discovery engine that provides the best way to discover new and relevant information related to one’s interests on an ongoing basis and makes it easy to bookmark and share that content from the website or free iPad, iPhone or Android apps. They also have free browser tools for Firefox, Safari and Chrome. StumbleUpon, Digg, and Delicious offer limited personalization and are closed systems relying on users submitting content instead of being an open system that can find recommended content on its own. Google Reader is used by a subset of tech-savvy people, is source-centric, subscription-based, puts the management burden on the user, and isn't true open-ended discovery. Open-system RSS aggregators (such as Alltop, PopURLs) also lack the ability to personalize interests and have a suboptimal user interface. YourVersion is the best discovery engine because it: -offers the highest degree of content personalization -combines relevance with recency to deliver the best results -has an innovative, easy-to-use user interface for users to browse recommended content -provides a complete discovery solution that integrates sharing and bookmarking -provides increasingly better results as more people use it by harnessing collective intelligence

about 6 years ago

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Janaki Pendyala

Chris,

Great post with very useful information as always :). But I have a small question for you, is it possible for small companies with SME clients and small budgets to use professional bloggers?

Any thoughts would be helpful.

Thanks in advance

Janaki

about 6 years ago

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Ged Carroll

Thanks Chris, good stuff, I'd recommend ipagerank.org as an alternative to Quantcast if its playing up

about 6 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

@Janaki - Of course. Don't get me wrong, this is not all about budgets, it's largely about what stands out in my email inbox (and what I respond to). Bloggers can react to polite emails, funny subject lines, compelling content, and anything that is truly exclusive and meaningful. The threat is that I miss these kinds of emails among all of the junk I receive. I was really making the point that I rarely miss the word 'advertising'! 

All I'm really saying is that if a business pays a £1,000-a-day PR firm to conduct blogger outreach, and if that outreach is limited to impersonal messaging and shitty press releases, then it's pretty much a waste of time and money. Many PRs just bombard you with press releases... a small business that takes more care will do a better job than this.

The first step is about how you reach out. It's less about what you can commercially offer, and more about making an impact / being noticed. Small businesses with much lighter (or no) budgets can still engage bloggers in the right way. Like I mentioned, an introductory email is a very good place to start. 

@Ged - Thanks for the pointers. Will check it out ;  )

about 6 years ago

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Lee - Lifestylish.com

Hi Chris.

Great article and a lot of excellent tips, especially as we've just launched Lifestylish.com and we're in the process of reaching out to a number of bloggers for product reviews, competitions etc.

As bloggers ourselves too, we appreciate the value and would hope to never take advantage of their time, effort and their audience.

Making contact is time consuming but is certainly worth the extra effort and can make all the difference and forge long relationships.

Cheers,

Lee

Lifestylish.com

about 6 years ago

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Lloyd Trufelman

Er, besides the ethical considerations to grapple with when considering paying bloggers for coverage by breaching the advertising/editorial wall, in the USA it is against Federal Trade Commission regulations to pay bloggers without full disclosure, see: http://blog.prfirms.org/2010/09/reverberations-the-ftc-means-business-and-what-pr-firms-should-do/

about 6 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

@Lloyd - I didn't suggest that bloggers shouldn't disclose commercial relationships?

Sponsored posts are totally acceptable, if the blogger deems it appropriate. Paying bloggers to write about you is something entirely different.

Note too that having a display ad deal with BMW and writing about BMW should be separated. Church and state. It's up to bloggers / editors to maintain standards in this respect. A display ad deal might make you more likely to take notice of BMW, front of mind and all that, but it shouldn't influence what you say about the brand.

about 6 years ago

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Michelle

Nice article with some solid advice. I was horrified when I heard people say they wanted to send press releases to bloggers "because naturally they'll just want to write what we send them, right?" 

Bloggers are people with "real" jobs - or at least many of them are - and they should be compensated if it's for PR reasons. Sometimes bloggers will write up pieces because they've really taken to your company or brand, and I think that's the best reason ; it's a win-win because they get to write about something they actually do like, and you get "press".

I think that it doesn't always have to be monetary, though, it depends on the company looking to do PR and the profile of the blogger. 

And you got my favorite tool, followerwonk. It's also great for checking to see if you know someone in common already ;)

about 6 years ago

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Stephanie Schwab

Chris, this is very insightful. So refreshing to see the compensation question front-and-center. We've all been dancing around it for a couple of years now, but I think it's finally generally accepted practice that yes, bloggers need to be compensated for work they do for brands (and not just product). At least accepted by most brands/agencies - some are still a bit clueless on this score. Oh well.

about 6 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

@Michelle - It's that kind of slack thinking that I am rallying against :  ). Definitely doesn't need to be monetary, but the bigger bloggers are publishers in their own right and are on the lookout for commercial relationships as well as content-based ones.

@Stephanie - I do get the sense that it is changing out there a bit. I'm fairly proactive with agencies: if a polite agency representing interesting / relevant brands gets in touch then I'll often explain how we can help brands. But the discussion should really be the other way around.

Bloggers can be formidable at helping to generate awareness around marketing campaigns by creating shareworthy / viral / contextual content, that works for the client and the blog audience (no selling out!). We have built up a strong network and have a history of getting results, and relative to a £10m TV campaign the kind of money we're talking about is peanuts. I'm obviously a little bit biased but more brands should give it a whirl. 

about 6 years ago

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dominique

Great article. It's all about relevance, building the relation and having a value proposition for the blogger. Talking relevance, we have a software that does things in less than 5 minutes like: - can you find me the top bloggers in Fashion, that are "tech savy" and have talked about iPhone more than 5 times in the last month ? - can you expand that list to the fashion blogs with direct connections to these first. - or can you find me the fashion blogs that we have commented on during the last 3 months and that have not yet mentioned our brand. When blogger received as you said 200 PR a day, people have to target at this level. Stop by and I'll be very happy to 15 mn demo.

Here is as an example our top 150 Social Media Bloggers: http://blog.ecairn.com/2010/09/29/top-150-social-media-marketing-blogs-sept-10/

Best

about 6 years ago

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Chris

Good read. I think there is a point where offering such a small amount of 'silver' becomes insulting. Chris do you agree, if so where would you see that amount around?

about 6 years ago

Simon Newsam

Simon Newsam, Account Director, New Media at Effective Communication

Good advice this. I'd add one more tip to anyone looking to hug a blogger: Engage your brain first.

When PR people get put under pressure and rush things they find it all too easy to take a scatter gun approach and bombard people (bloggers are people too!) with irrelevant material.

For all the hugs, friendly comments and "beers in the sunshine" (good idea Chris) you've bought them, it's so easy to undo the lot because you forgot to think.

about 6 years ago

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Fannin

My guess: the dropping from the version number signifies the iPad is close to
maturity. That does not suggest Apple won't boost it, but they've tricked out the factors that are apparent: The two was lighter than the one along with the "New" iPad's display seems noticeably better than the two. Remove the "4s" disappointment and just say "this is the iPad we supply this year". iPhone will surely be next. Nokia blew it calling all their gadgets "Lumia" and after that add model numbers like 610, 800 and 900. The 610 looks nothing such as the a lot more pricey Lumia diminishing the brand.

over 4 years ago

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Slade

This place absolutely keeps on looking better all the time.
You should certainly be proud.

over 4 years ago

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