One question we hear a lot at BuzzStream is “How do I start my link outreach campaign?”
Before they go all crazy with the outreach and the requests, top performing link development professionals get their resources together and get buy-in and alignment from their companies and clients. Just like chefs laying out their mise en place, they get everything they’ll need together before they start.
Here are some pieces you should get in place before you start a campaign to make the whole process run smoothly:
Set Goals, Deadlines, & Expectations
Know how you’re going to measure your success before you start, and get buy-off on it. Are you trying to generate a certain number of links? Use a certain number of hours trying? Aim for certain kinds of sites or certain metrics thresholds?
Starting without these agreements often leads to disastrous misalignments of agency and client expectations. (Or internal expectations, if you work in house.) Make sure both sides know what they’re paying for and getting paid for, and what constitutes success. (If you need suggestions for what to measure, check out our article on link building metrics and measurement.)
Additionally, set expectations for deadlines. Outreach campaigns don’t work overnight – often they involve weeks of negotiation and waiting before you see results. Make sure you set deadlines and expectations long enough that you’ll have time to see results and you won’t have to beg people to move up pieces in editorial calendars.
Personally, I’ve had guest posts on significant blogs take up to 3 months to be placed. While those guest posts were indeed impactful, if I was in a hurry I would not have gotten the placement. (For more on setting appropriate deadlines for outreach, check out this excellent post from Distilled’s Jimmy Daugherty.)
Getting these basic expectations around timelines and success in place and agreed upon create a foundation for a successful working relationship with your client or internal sponsor. This is definitely step one to any successful blogger outreach campaign.
Get Some Basic Marketing Materials in Place
Next, make sure you have everything you might need (from a marketing communications standpoint) together to do outreach.
While these things will be different in different verticals, some of the things you’ll want to start with are:
- Logo Artwork, in different sizes and formats (.eps, .svg, and .png are a good start), on different backgrounds
- MarComm-Approved Descriptions, in 1 sentence, 3 sentence, 5 sentence, and longer lengths
- Contact Information for various people you might be asked about as part of your outreach efforts, including people for affiliate relationships (it’s not uncommon to do outreach to bloggers and have them ask about affiliate potential) and customer service staff.
If you’re working with clients, this sort of material is usually available on a Press page or the like.
Get Your Linkable Assets Together & Understand How They Can Be Delivered and Shared
You’ll need to be able to deliver your linkable asset as seamlessly as possible for your outreach campaign to be successful.
While this sounds obvious, often I see outreach professionals start connecting with people about product reviews – let’s use clothing as example – before they’ve done the work to figure out a) how many items they can ship out, b) what the sizing is like on the items, and c) how shipping works. This creates a problem when they need to go back and forth extensively between blogger and brand on every little detail – both increasing the odds that something will go wrong, and spending more time (and thus money) on one placement than is necessary, lowering outreach ROI.
You can avoid this by thinking through the whole process – not just outreach, but the whole process, including shipping, delivery, posting, and return – step-by-step before you start.
These failures in linkable asset (connection wc) aren’t limited to physical review items. I’ve seen marketers as bloggers to embed interactive content without embed systems, or link to ebooks behind paywalls or registration gates. Just like you’d do for a physical object, walk through the actual process a blogger would need to post about something you’re promoting.
If you’re promoting content that ‘lives’ behind a registration wall or needs to be downloaded, spend some time thinking about how you can make something shareable. If you want busy, influential folks to share your stuff, make it easy for them.
You can do something like user testing on this – get a WordPress install, and attempt to share your content or review your product. How long does it take you? Do you run into any issues? What can you do to make it easier?
Ideally you want to have your system ready to go once you get a yes. If you have to go back and forth and work on things like budget approvals and shipping after a blogger agrees to feature you, you’ll lose momentum and bloggers will be less excited to work with you as more interesting offers take their time and attention.
Business Development and Partnerships professionals like to say “Time Kills All Deals.” This applies to link placements, reviews, and just about everything else. Don’t let time kill your placement – have your stuff together before you start.
Know Your Limits
Marketers are put into tricky situations all the time – often bloggers will ask for payment for placements (in violation of potentially both Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and advertising disclosure (such as FTC) rules), ask for lots of free product, reciprocal links back, custom versions of content, affiliate fees, and more.
Now it’s up to individual outreach professionals to work with their clients and manager to decide what they’re comfortable giving out. It would be silly to pretend that the internet is made of rainbows and unicorns and all sectors are happy-go-lucky and driven entirely by merit. In many competitive sectors, people will expect you to pay them for placements. They’ll ask for free product, a link back, or send one of my least favorite outreach email responses, “OK, but what do I get?“
But you should make these decisions ahead of time so you aren’t facing these decisions on the fly.
Some of the things you should think about:
- Will you pay for placements?
- Will you give out free product? What if a blogger asks for more than one?
- Can you customize content for each publication?
- If someone asks to swap guest posts or asks for a link back or a tweet, what will you do?
It’s highly worthwhile to spend some time thinking about these things ahead of time – especially in conjunction with your clients. Then when things come up, you’ll know exactly what to do and can get back to work, rather than ponder ethical dilemmas.
Know where your limits are. For example, you might be willing to swap guest posts with someone if they ask for a link back. Or arrange for them to post on another site, etc. Many of these requests can be turned into something positive – for example, you might be able to get an excellent post for your own blog out of it. But many can’t – and before they come in, you should know where you’ll say yes and where you’ll say no.
Onto Prospecting, Outreach, and New Friends!
Once you have these things in place – expectations, timelines, resources, and limits – you’re ready to start finding opportunities, reaching out to influencers, and connecting with new people. Enjoy!