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We 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.
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').
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.