Imagine this scenario …
You’ve poured your heart and soul into your startup—not to mention a large part of your savings. Naturally, you invested as much into the company website and blog as possible.
The experts, and even your friends, all told you “content is king,” so you created a consistent blogging strategy that is fresh, unique, topical, and evergreen, with posts by top tier pros.
You post to your company blog regularly, with the help of an editorial calendar. Your on-site SEO is pitch-perfect and you run a responsive design that looks sleek across all devices, featuring all the right social sharing elements. Yet, to your dismay and frustration, there it sits, gathering dust instead of new site traffic and leads.
So, now you think to yourself, “Content is king?!”
“Lies, all lies…”
Sadly, the above-mentioned scenario is as true as ever. But as social media strategist Phil Baumann so rightly amended the phrase: content can only be king if it’s got a kingdom of context. As that famous philosophical inquiry goes: “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”
Does anyone care?
This line of thought applies to your company website and blog as it sits there gathering digital dust. It’s likely going to waste because you haven’t tapped into the power of blogger outreach.
Building a Kingdom of Context
If you want to see some action on your company blog, you need two things: a solid SEO strategy and an equally sound blogger outreach strategy. But no matter how well the former is implemented, it’s for naught without the latter.
Yes, search engines matter. But, primarily, the web is about links—and it always will be. Yet, even if that is the biggest truism in the history of online business, it doesn’t make it any less disregarded.
Many startups choose to focus on SEO, alone (probably because on-site optimization is easier to quantify in terms of KPIs and ROI). The analysis of SEO results in clear metrics, spreadsheets, data on reach and engagement, etc.
With blogger outreach, analyzing results is more intangible and less straightforward. Often this strategy takes some time to mature. But when it does, the boost in traffic and high-quality leads are incomparable.
So, take note of the following tips below and you’ll see why blogger outreach is a winning strategy.
1. Niche bloggers are small business owners.
As Jonathan Gebauer of The Social Ms explains, “Many startups see niche blogs like this [his] as ‘second or third tier press’. After all its a place where they can get talked about – where they can convince someone to write about them or publish a guest post. But niche blogs aren’t press. Niche blogs are part of businesses.”
Gebauer suggests, “that means that the people who run those regular niche blogs and people running startups are basically two sides of the same coin.” And that’s precisely what irks the latter. As newly minted entrepreneurs pointlessly try to get media attention on all of the big-shot sites, they ignore that 90% of the web is made up of niche sites.
Most of them are run by career bloggers, who are entrepreneurs in their own right, just like you. So, treat them as you would like to be treated: understand they’re busy, respect their time, network with them on equal footing, and pitch them content which they, too, can benefit from. Blogger outreach is not always lumped with PR—instead, see it as a business development activity.
2. Influencers who matter are always early adopters.
Marketing cartoonist Hugh MacLeod, of Gaping Void, put it best (and in humorous visual form) when he illustrated the quote from advertiser extraordinaire Andy Sernovitz that reads: “Advertising is the cost of being boring.”
Essentially, it pays to be amazing. If you want a reputable blogger to feature your product, you should be genuinely excited about it first. Then communicate how it can solve a real-life problem that’s relevant to their readers.
If you can’t get bloggers to care (i.e. to write about it) perhaps the product itself is not so good after all. You can either pay for advertising or perfect your brand and what you’re selling. Being remarkable is a lot more rewarding and cost-efficient.
3. Treat thy blogger as thy neighbor.
Tor Refsland over at Twelveskip suggests that startups should treat influencers as though they’re reaching out to a new neighbor, who also happens to be a “niche celebrity”. Once that sinks in, you will want to make a good first impression and be friendly and accommodating to the new fixture on the block.
Refsland equates a social media share with passing compliment, a comment with a knock on the door, and a guest post with an offer to help with something personal, like babysitting the neighbor’s kids.
You wouldn’t interact this way with a complete stranger, right? It would make you look like a creep. If you’re not a creep in real life, then don’t be one when you start blogger outreach either.
4. Don’t make bloggers think, “Errrm… what?”
Tamar Weinberg, a contributor for Search Engine Journal, illustrates this point with a real-life scenario, in her guide to the 5 best blogger outreach practices. She recounts how she was pitched for a beat she hadn’t covered in eight years.
Don’t be that guy (or girl). Study bloggers, read their recent posts, make sure they actually accept guest posts before pitching them (e.g., Tamar published a “no guest post” disclaimer in 2012—three years later, she still gets pitched).
To stay in the loop, use an influencer marketing and business intelligence tool like The Shelf, which can handle a lot of the grunt work for you.
5. Take your time.
You’ve heard this one before, but it bears repeating. Startups fail at blogger outreach because they want to see instant results. Yet it is exactly like any other type of networking.
Before you see results, before you get a coveted inbound link, and before they even listen to your pitch, you need to invest time, energy, and patience into the relationship.
In a piece published on The Next Web, Jeff Foster of Tomoson advises outreach marketers to toss the email outreach template. Similarly, he warns them to never-ever start with a cold call-style hard-pitch from the get-go. Truer words have been written, but this is also true—and in spades, no less.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Ioana Pelehatai is the COO and Senior Content Manager at Digital Web Properties – an up-and-coming content marketing boutique agency. She’s a freelancer turned web entrepreneur who’s been working in new media for the past 4 years. She’s driven by a passion for words and a penchant for data, so her love of content marketing came naturally, as the industry sits squarely at the intersection between those two fascinating fields. Connect with Digital Web Properties on LinkedIn.
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