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Google's eponymous Panda update and recent Search + Your World integration has changed the landscape as far as reward for quality content is concerned.  

Out of it is growing a new industry based around intelligent content marketing and authority outreach.

In my first post for Econsultancy I want to explore this area in more detail and give some insight into how best to approach the task of discovering, and then reaching out to, the right people to maximise return on your time invested.

Ever since reading Mike Kings’ five principles to better outreach link building early on in 2011 I’ve been experimenting with how data led outreach can help the process of reaching out to website owners and bloggers to increase the conversion, and therefore the effectiveness of my time spent on outreach.

With a lot of testing and experimenting we’ve managed to hugely improve our hit rate, which is good for us but, most importantly, for those that benefit from our services and the right kind of links or visibility that this kind of approach attracts (now more important than ever before in a Post Panda world).

In a nutshell here’s an overview of the process we now put into to action to create a killer authority outreach map and then actually ensure we win friends, links and influence people…

Create a killer authority outreach map

Content marketing is the new black. Undoubtedly, after years of tech and platform focus it is the content that we read and share that is back at the epicenter of what we do as digital marketing agencies.

If you are reading this then you most probably already have some killer content written but the key question is: How do I get it published in the right places to fulfill both my brand visibility and link building goals?

It all starts with what we like to call our Authority Outreach Map. And here’s how it works: 

The ideas

Before even beginning to think about content curation it is absolutely critical to have some killer ideas ready to go. Thanks to @danshure we now user Uber Suggest a lot to produce lists of niche keyword searches based on what it is we want to promote.

This, combined with a good old brainstorm and hunt around the blogoshpere, gives us a starting point from where we can begin to manufacture our lists for outreach.

As with all forms of marketing it is key to understand the need states and mindset of your audience in the first place so, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What type of person are you reaching out to?
  • Where do you want links from?
  • How can you find them?
  • Why will they link to you?
  • Who are you? - Personas.

The last one is perhaps the most perplexing. After all, if you’re a decent SEO chances are you’ve figured out who you are, right? 

You may well be right in the real world but when it comes to outreach you can MASSIVELY improve your conversion of outreach email to successful guest blog placement by playing the Personas game.

It’s not to everyone’s taste but in tests we have run there is absolutely no arguing that molding who you are and fitting it to who you speak to creates better relationships.

If you’re trying to place a guest post on a top parenting site and you’re a 40 year old beer swigging male then chances are that if your (email) name is Katie and you have just given birth to your second child and you want to share you experiences then more doors will open for you.

Try it for yourself. The results are indisputable.

The key is to find people and not content so once you have a clear idea of whom you want to target the next step is to find them. 

Tools, tools and more tools

For those that haven’t read one of my pieces before I am a complete tool nerd. I love nothing more than a nice bit of SERP Turkey or SiteSkout of an evening.

Everyone has their favourites but most authority outreach projects start with a combination of Followerwonk, Google Blogger Search and a poke around Technorati and Alltop to find the most authoritative players in the space.

The basic stuff is OK but I also like to add in a side serving of the Link Buzz Link Building Query Generator as it does a lot of the hard work for you, creating lists of advanced searches to pick through to find the right blogs based on specific search terms.

It is also imperative that if success is measured by’ links placed’ then you also understand the relevancy and authority’ of the sites you want to reach out to. This is where Page Rank and Moz metrics measurement tools also come in handy for helping you to understand the size of the prize, and prioritize later on.

Other tools to experiment with include:


Analyze Words

Mention Map

Mozbar for PR


Peer Index


Linkedin search

By creating your own little mix and process with these tools you will very quickly build an awesome outreach list full-to-bursting with the very best bloggers out there.

For those that want to test out one of my favourite ‘flows’. It's captured below for you.

This is one of my favourites. Simple but effective, and once you get a grip with how you prioritize in Excel (you can sort in any way that best suits your requirements for each particular outreach project (by audience reach, Page Rank of site etc)) outreach becomes like taking candy from a baby.

What tickles their taste buds? Right now.

The next step is knowing what floats their boat right now. It’s time to get reading because you’ll have an infinitely better chance of getting them to take your blog if you find a way of linking your ideas to their most recent posts.

By doing so you’ve given their ego a boost by clearly demonstrating that you have read their blog and you like it so much that you want to write a retort/extension to it while also sticking to what they clearly feel passionate about in that moment.

If you really cannot find the inspiration then the next step is to carefully create a short list of tantalising blog ideas to whet their appetite.

So, you know who you’re targeting, you know how you plan to get them to ‘bite’ and you have a plan for your email you are going to send and who it will be sent from. All that is left is a way to organize your list and responses to ensure that you keep the conversation going and don’t let it drop.

Excel is good here of course and because we have several people reaching out at any one time a collaborative tool such as Buzz Stream and Highrise combo is a favourite here to ensure everyone has full view of the conversation and can pick it up immediately if needed (if a call comes in or email requires urgently responding to and you’re out or otherwise engaged).

Top outreach tips

Before signing off I wanted to share a little extra reading with you to help round your knowledge of outreach, while also capturing a few top tips that people have shared with me over the years. I hope you find at least one them helpful…

  • Brainstorm before you start the outreach process. Get a list of great content ideas down which you can mould to specific site.
  • Consider testing different personas for outreach. That way you will increase conversion.
  • Don’t overload your outreach emails with lots of ideas. Keep the shortlist short –two max – as it makes it easier for the site owner to choose which they like.
  • Read their blog beforehand and try an idea that links/leads on from a recent post of theirs.
  • Ego baiting on your own site can increase your chances of conversion. Write about them on your site first and let them know about it. It’s a great way of opening the conversation.
  • Reach out with social media. Another great door opener. A conversation in the social space first allows you to reach out easier via email to follow up.
Simon Penson

Published 8 March, 2012 by Simon Penson

Simon Penson is MD at Zazzle Media and a contributor to Econsultancy.

3 more posts from this author

Comments (2)


Arthur Huynh

Mapping out communities of authroitative influencers and experts is what eCairn does best. You can find out how we do it here: http://blog.ecairn.com/2011/11/10/how-to-rank-an-influencer/ and see a great example of it here: http://blog.ecairn.com/2012/01/18/top-150-social-media-marketing-blogs-jan-12/

over 4 years ago

Simon Penson

Simon Penson, MD at Stickyeyes

Thanks for sharing your skills Arthur can you share any further knowledge of your techniques here for the good of the community?

over 4 years ago

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