Too often link development efforts fail because SEOs conduct cold, non-personalized outreach. (The recipients of these emails call them spam.) These failures damage clients’ brands and SEOs’ credibility and pocketbooks. And this kind of outreach is neither fun nor professionally satisfying.
There Has Got to Be a Better Way
If you’re reaching out to bloggers, you can start with a ‘softer touch’ before you ask for a link. This builds a connection, creates some familiarity, and increases the odds that a busy site owner will open your email.
Always remember, while building links may feel like a mechanical process, it’s fundamentally about making connections and influencing people.
Even better, you’ll be starting a relationship with that blogger. If you work at an agency or maintain a large portfolio of sites, you might have other clients that would be a great fit for that blogger and their audience. If you can amass enough of these great relationships, you have a significant competitive advantage over other SEOs and link builders.
Systems of Engagement
Some ways to engage with bloggers are:
Comments – Some bloggers do a lot with their commenters, while others are overwhelmed by spam and don’t really use them. If a blogger reads and responds to every one of their comments, chances are it’s a good way to engage them.
Twitter – If a blogger is on Twitter, you can of course engage with them. You can tweet them directly – trite comments like “Nice Post!” won’t get you too far, but if you can really engage them or answer their questions, you can build a relationship.
Another tactic is including their work in your social media content curation. If you (or more likely, your company’s social media coordinator) tweets relevant articles from your corporate account every day, why not include some from that blogger and @ mention them?
Quora – Many bloggers, particularly in the tech space, but increasingly in other areas, are active on Quora. Quora has something of a unique psychology to it, because users answer strangers’ questions.
Quora has a particularly aggressive notification system, so literally any engagement you take with a question, answer, or person triggers an email alert. You can follow bloggers (good), vote their answers up (better), or answer their questions (even better if you can say something substantive.)
You can also ask someone to answer a question using Quora credits. If you ask an influencer a relatively simple question, and then go back and let them know you’ve acted on their advice, you’re well on your way to a great relationship.
Pinterest – Just like Quora, many bloggers are active on Pinterest – particularly in verticals like travel, food, design, and fitness. You can repin them, from either your personal or corporate account, follow them, and comment on or like their pins.
Email – Email is the oldest, and often, most effective way to engage with influencers. However, you should exercise much care here – you basically get to send someone one unsolicited email before they consider you a spammer.
Mixing & Matching
You can mix and match these different engagement scenarios together. In fact, you want to stack them, so you start with the lightest of gestures – a retweet or a upvote – and move into engagement via longer form communication and email.
A Note on Timing & Profiles
Don’t do this all in a week – you will come across as a false flatterer. Spend at least a week on each step.
Additionally, many niches (travel, mommy bloggers, finance) have been targeted by SEOs for years – and those bloggers are thoroughly sick of us. For outreach into niches like this, you might want to create an alternative Twitter profile or email, rather than your online marketing/PR/link buidling profile.
Integrating Social Engagement Into Your Workflow
If you have a list of 10-20 bloggers you want to cultivate a relationship with, you can implement a system by hand.
But if you’re reaching out to hundreds of bloggers – for SEO or viral marketing campaigns – you’re going to need a better way to scale this outreach.
To start, think about outreach as relationship building over a series of weeks, rather than an email list you blast once and move on from. Then, pick an ascending series of social actions, and do them over a series of weeks.
For example, if I was promoting a new iPhone case to Apple & Design bloggers, in week one I would ask my social media coordinator to include the best articles from our list of blogs in her curated Tweets.
In week two, I would leave comments on the relevant blogs, or engage with bloggers on Quora (if they were active there.)
In week three, I would send a quick email, asking a thoughtful question about one of their latest posts.
And in week four, I would finally ask for the product review.
Perhaps the best part of this strategy is that I can keep these bloggers in my little black book and make sure I ping them periodically. Then the next time I’m promoting something Apple-related, I know exactly where to go – and I have friends there.
How Do You Engage with Bloggers as Part of Your Link Building? How Do You Scale Your Process?