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In a previous post, we discussed crafting a content promotion strategy.  Subsequently, one of our wonderful readers wrote in:

“The part I got hung up on was the step on building the initial wishlist for placements. Could you please elaborate some more on how to arrive at this? Rather than just put down a list of the top blogs and influencer sites off the top of my head and through a quick search, I’m striving to do so in a more formal, “scientific” process.”

Today we’ll address this question – How do you get to a great list to begin your work? And if you start with a few prospects, how do you build out your list of mid-tail and long-tail influencers?

Let me begin by saying like many marketing tasks, there are many ways to build good lists – lots of tactics will work. 

In the method presented here, you’re going to start with a few examples, and then based on their characteristics, you can expand your sample set to something very large.

Start with a Few Examples

I like to start by sourcing a few examples of the sort of blogs I’d look for, and then analyze them for common signs that I can use to find more sites.

For example, let’s say you have a new software productivity tool that you want to pitch to sites about productivity and LifeHacks.  In this case, you can pitch the ‘chunky middle’ of influencers – blogs that are neither giant nor tiny.  These middle influencers aren’t besieged by constant pitches like the big guys are, yet their audiences and authority (social, link, and otherwise) are large enough to move the needle on a campaign.  Additionally, you can ‘trade my coverage up the chain‘, and get larger publications writing about the product.

Now there are a lot of these, so you should be able to generate a large list to work with.

Start by trying to find 5 or 10 sites that are representative of the genre, and see what sort of opportunities for broadening your list they’ll present.

Start by cruising over to Alltop, and checking out the LifeHacks category:

 alltop list

Now choose some of the medium-sized blogs on the list.  Let’s start with TimeManagementNinja.com – it looks like a good fit.  The blogger focuses on time management and occasionally reviews products, so he’ll be someone good to pitch.

time mgmt ninja

Now analyze the blog and look for patterns:

  • How does the blogger describe their blog?  The keyword ‘time management’ is used heavily, along with ‘disorganization’ and ‘clutter’ used negatively.
  • Time management products are referred to as as ‘time management tools’, so searches for ‘time management tools reviews’ might help you find more opportunities
  • Guest-Post is used in the URL – you can find other blogs like this that accept guest contributions using the inurl: operator in queries.

Now Expand Your List

Mining Blogrolls & Resource Pages

One of the best ways to expand your list is mining blogrolls. BuzzStream’s own Paul May wrote a fantastic, step-by-step tutorial on this process using the free blogroll prospecting tool.  (I won’t recap Paul’s post here – feel free to stroll over to the Distilled blog and check out the tutorial – in a nutshell, you find a blog with a blogroll, then you extract those blog’s blogrolls, and then you drop everything into a spreadsheet and deduplicate.)  

In the productivity bloggers example, take the entire AllTop Lifehacks section (using the Scraper Chrome Extension), and add it to the blogroll outreach tool:

blogroll list tool

 Then select ‘Download as CSV’, and put them into your spreadsheet (or import them into your BuzzStream account.)

Twitter Search & Analysis

Another valuable way of finding new opportunities searching Twitter bios.  Often Twitter searches can help you discover bloggers and influencers that don’t appear in conventional blogroll/search based approaches.

Try a bio search in followerwonk to start.  Socialbro and other Twitter tools also offer search functionality.

In this case, I did a quick search for ‘lifehacker’, as well as one for ‘lifehacks’, and I found some blogger/influencers who I didn’t find through previous means:

 twitter search

Again, once you have a list of likely candidates, you can add them to your spreadsheet or your BuzzStream account, and qualify and research them.

Backlink Analysis

Broadly, backlink analysis is not a fantastic way of finding middle-tail blogs related to one another.  Often bloggers seem to link randomly, or link out to major bloggers who are not wholly relevant to their topic.  This technique can be valuable, but it has a high ‘signal to noise’ ratio.

But, mining backlinks (like mining these other sources) can give you a variety of ideas you never encounter other ways.  (I’ll share an example in a moment.)

I recommend you use a tool like Open Site Explorer, AHrefs, or MajesticSEO, and work systematically through your list. 

ahrefs screenshot

In our example, you can use the referring domains list from Ahrefs to find other blogs that link to TimeManagementNinja.com, and presumably care about time management ninjitsu.

While many of these aren’t relevant to our campaign, there are some interesting insights in this data.  For example, I see several sales and sales management bloggers link to Time Management Ninja, and seem to like gadgets.  This is a whole new rich vein of potential reviews – and as sales executives tend to have money and enjoy buying things, this could be a lucrative audience to target.

 When is Your List Complete?

As with many tasks where there’s not a defined ending, the question is “Where should you stop?”

At a certain level of size, you’ll find that relevance or influence drops off dramatically.  This is the point of diminishing returns in research.  You’ll also start to see the same sites over and over again.

At that point, it’s time to either choose a new ‘content market’ to research, or get started with your outreach.

Happy researching! Do you have any great tips for expanding prospect lists? Share them below!

mattgratt

Matt works on customer acquisition at BuzzStream. Before BuzzStream, he worked as an SEO Strategist at Portent and a Marketing Manager at AppCentral (acquired by Good Technology). You can follow Matt on Twitter or Google Plus.

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