Blogger outreach. It’s a tricky one. Reaching out to prominent industry bloggers and asking for a favour – and a significant one at that: can you promote my content for me? It’s not easy.
It neatly encapsulates some of the big fears we have as humans, fear of rejection, the fear that we don’t belong, the feeling that some people are unreachable – that they are somehow different from us and should not be troubled with our trifles. Yes, all of that.
But what happens when you grit your teeth, realise you have to do it, and do start to make those connections? You realise what a helpful industry we’re in, that people are generally receptive to your approach (if they’re approached in the correct way and if you’re producing good content) … and you realise that, hey, you might belong after all.
Oh, and you make some mistakes too. In my first, faltering attempts at blogger outreach, here’s what I learned …
What blogger outreach means to me
First of all, I should give a little background on what I was hoping to get out of this:
- I’m new to blogging. I’ve been helping people professionally with their websites and online marketing for over 10 years, but I’m new to blogging and audience growth from a personal perspective. I need to grow an audience for my book.
- I wanted to share some of my content with people who were referenced in it, in the hope that they would in turn promote it (however fleetingly) with their much larger audiences.
- I wanted to see what would happen if I – an unknown – would reach out to some of the industry big-wigs and ask them for a favour
Before last week, I was creating content – but not promoting it. Blogger outreach was my first significant step to promote the work I was creating.
To begin, I needed a great piece of content. There’s no point in trying to promote dross. So I wrote an piece on the ‘Best Online Marketing Articles of 2013‘. Through the year, I’d bookmarked many good articles, so I had these as a starting point. I needed to write an introductory paragraph to each, include an opinion and links to the original article and the author(s).
Once written, I had the list of people I was going to approach. In all, there were about 20 people I wanted to reach.
But I needed their email addresses.
How to get the email address of nearly anyone
In this great article, Iris Shoor details the process she took in writing ‘The cold emails that got me meetings at Twitter, LinkedIn and GitHub‘. She wrote to seemingly ‘unreachable’ C-level people at the organisations she wanted meetings with. It’s brilliant and you should read it. For my purposes, we need to really look at the following steps she took to find out their email addresses:
The gmail account is required specifically so that you can use the Rapportive plugin. The Rapprotive plugin is the first genius part. It shows you the social profile for any email address you type in gmail. When I type in an email address and hover over it, the Rapportive plugin takes over.
The email address I have is real and represents the person I want to reach out to.
But what if Rapportive draws a blank? The chances are the person you’re contacting has a Google account, or a Facebook account, or a LinkedIn account; But if it looks like you’ve got the wrong email address – this is where the Email Permutator steps in.
It’s a google doc spreadsheet (you’ll need to save a copy to your account in order to use it) that runs a combination of first name, last name, and domain name through some common email address permutations – giving you a list of about 40 possible email addresses that you can now try in gmail. Brilliant. (It’s written by Rob Ousby – over at Distilled.net, and in this blog post, he goes through everything in detail for you).
Put the first address in Gmail – hover over it. Do you see the social connections in the Rapportive plugin? No? Then move on to the next permutation … and repeat until you find it. Now I had a list of email addresses for the bloggers I wanted to contact.
(Of course, often times a simple google search will turn up the result you’re looking for – and I did start there, but a lot of bloggers understandably keep their email address close to their chest.)
I’d done the geeky part – the bit where I could remain in my cocoon playing with my (admittedly not very exciting) toys. Now I needed to craft a decent email to these people. And I can’t stress this next part enough:
Each email I wrote was personal, non-templated and reasonably quickly established it’s purpose. Because I was asking each essentially the same thing, there were of course elements I didn’t need to change – but that’s different from using a template or a canned response. Here’s an example of what I wrote:
A few things to note:
- This was an extremely popular article on an extremely popular blog (Moz.com) – I was shooting high.
- Yes, I’m using flattery to endear myself to them. But it’s true. The article in question is now a default resource for me to share with clients. Feel free to flatter – but it needs to be sincere.
- I’ve been very clear as to what I’d like them to do – ‘share this with your readers’.
- And I’ve made it reasonably clear why they should – ‘help make them aware of some of the great online marketing content produced in the last 12 months’. (Bloggers are not interested in your content, they’re interested in their readers – if your content doesn’t serve their readers, you’re on a hiding to nothing).
And a couple more:
- I didn’t say ‘Thank you’, or ‘Thanks in advance’ at the end … which was an oversight. I should have done, but the email feels okay without it. It’s formal – we’re not best friends. But still, I should have said ‘thanks’ at the end!
- The opening – ‘I just wanted to let you know’ was a mistake – and I wouldn’t start with that again. Just wanting to let somebody know something feels presumptuous and arrogant somehow (what could I teach this guy?!)
So, then I repeated a similar thing for the rest of the people on my list, clicking ‘send’ as I went and sat back, quite nervously, to see what would happen. Materially, this is what happened:
- Of the 17 people I contacted (I couldn’t find an email address for everyone I wanted to), I got 8 tweets of my article to a combined audience of just over 58,000 people
- Those tweets were re-tweeted at least 5 times – more exposure
- I got mentions on 4 people’s Google+ pages
- My blog received 1 months traffic in 2 days. That’s then about 15 times it’s normal level of traffic. Again: 1 months worth of traffic, in 2 days.
Here’s what didn’t happen
- I didn’t do a good enough job of converting that traffic. Of the people who came to my blog, only 5% did what I hoped they would do (sign up for my newsletter).ÊI need to do a better job of converting the traffic.
And yes, I made some mistakes:
- I spelt the name wrong of one quite prominent blogger. He took it in good spirits (it was a small, genuine mistake), but I was quite annoyed with myself – it was the mistake of an amateur.
- I attributed one article to the wrong author. Yup. It was a guest post on a popular blog, and in my original article I’d attributed it to the blog owner rather than the guest writer. Again, swift correction and all was well (and a tweet to over 10,000 followers went out after my correction)
- Ideally, my blog outreach would not have begun with a straight request for a favour. Ideally, I’d have written to these people the week before, saying ‘hey – loved this article, I’m including it in an upcoming blog post – do you want me to let you know when it goes live?’ That’s what I’ll do next time. It’s softer and less presumptuous.
But I also got some big wins
- aside from the traffic (which is nice, but if it doesn’t convert, it’s just a number) I struck up 4 or 5 good email conversations with people I know I’ll stay in touch with. These are people who I now know are friendly, helpful and interested in the topics I’m interested in. Next time I email them will not be for a promotion request, but for an exchange on our similar interests.
- I gained confidence. I can do this – I will do this. I can create something worth sharing and I can talk to people who could share it. Brilliant.
- I noticed that it’s not people with the biggest followings that provide the most benefit. The most traffic I got came from someone with about 2,000 twitter followers – not the couple of people who had over 10,000 followers.
So, that was my first blogger outreach program. Not my last. I enjoyed it and it was hugely beneficial – both for my blog and for me personally.
What about you?
What experiences of blogger outreach do you have? Have you done it before – how did you get on, what successes did you have, and what mistakes did you make?