Blogger outreach is an essential part of most content marketing and link building efforts. The success of your marketing campaigns will often hinge on the quality of your outreach process.
We have been running such projects for more almost 10 years and wanted to share crucial insights we picked up along the way.
Before we dive into best practices for blogger outreach, let’s make a short stop to familiarize yourself with a standard blog outreach process.
The anatomy of a blogger outreach campaign
A standard blogger outreach process can be divided into four distinct phases:
- Project set-up
If you take a closer look at the activities in each stage, you will see that there is a lot of time-intensive work that goes into each step.
The good news is that many of those steps can be automated with the right tools. The bad news is that too much automation is one of the leading causes for failed outreach campaigns.
Because automation kills personalization. The more things you automate, the less personal your blogger outreach campaign can be. In a world where editors and bloggers are bombarded with emails, generic pitches with generic offers go straight to the trash folder.
However, if you’re willing to put in the work, blogger outreach can earn you great links, improve your brand awareness, and forge long-lasting partnerships.
Here are top 10 blogger outreach best practices you should follow to start getting results from your outreach efforts.
1. Do the groundwork
As with any marketing activity, knowing your target audience is crucial. You should have an intimate knowledge of whatever you are trying to promote, as well as understand the audience you’re promoting it to.
This is why, before any email goes out, we ask clients to provide basic information about their project, goals, and target audience, as well as discuss their past and present marketing activities.
If you’re doing a big campaign that covers both content production and promotion, your target audience analysis should also include:
- researching niche forums
- reading Q&A sites like Quora and Reddit
- doing competition research (their blog and social media channels)
- conducting a survey/interview (if you have the resources for it)
The goal is to find out:
- what kind of challenges and problems your target audience is dealing with
- what are their pain points and how can you help alleviate them
- what kind of content are they interested in
- where do they get their information (which blogs/forums/magazines…)
Here is a link to our complete guide to target audience analysis if you are interested in how to do in-depth research on your target audience (or if you just want to see how we do it).
2. Set the rules for the outreach
When you have multiple people working on the same blog outreach campaign, it is important that they are on the same page. Otherwise, the quality of work will fluctuate, compromising the success of the whole project.
Let’s imagine you’re doing blogger outreach to promote and build links to specific pages on your blog. Here are some things you should define before the emails start going out:
- what kind of sites are you targeting (in which niche, with what sections)
- which metrics should a site have to qualify (domain authority/domain rating, organic traffic, number of social media followers, ranking for certain keywords…)
- what pages are you looking to rank and what kind of anchors do you plan to use
- how many posts/links are you looking to publish on a monthly basis per team member
- are you accepting sponsored posts
- are you interested in link/post/quote exchanges
- how do you track interested opportunities
- how do you track the content creation process
- who has the final word on potential issues and is responsible for leading the project
Get these things sorted out at the beginning of the campaign so you don’t waste time answering the same questions five times in a row or targeting sites and influencers that don’t align with the goals of your campaign.
3. Standardize your workflow
Our workflow has gone through several major overhauls since we founded Point Visible. We have changed several different tools for communication, revamped project planning, tested many different approaches to blogger outreach, as well as changed several different ways of documenting and organizing work.
One thing we always tried to accomplish is to develop a standard routine for simple tasks that are true across most blog outreach projects we do.
Today, we have written templates and standards for:
- creating project structure in the project management tool based on the type of campaign
- naming, assigning, and scheduling tasks
- tracking time and budget for specific tasks
- tracking campaign progress
- ordering content and tracking the content production process
- tracking and reporting results
We are constantly doing blogger outreach to promote our newly published articles. Oftentimes, we have multiple team members that pitch topics from the same list. Without some coordination and standardization, it could easily happen that we end up writing on the same topic for multiple blogs. Which is not ideal.
To prevent that, we made a rule that people mark reserved topics with red. Black-colored topics are free for pitching. Topics in orange are those that we have prewritten and are also free for pitching to other blogs.
When you apply the same rules to all outreach campaigns, it gets much easier (and way faster) to transfer projects between team members and bring people up to speed.
“As your outreach team grows, it’s essential to use a task management tool, like Notion or Trello, to plan each campaign, implement KPIs, and review performance. I personally use Notion for my team. It’s allowed me to create a blogger outreach wiki, filled with all the documentation, requirements, and KPIs. This allows me to easily review each team members’ work and offer feedback to improve the results. It has also made it super simple to onboard new members.”
Amir Shahzeidi, Digital Marketing Manager at Uscreen
If you are planning out a bigger blogger outreach project, consider using a simple PM tool to track the whole process.
4. Battle burnout with work composition
If you just started doing blogger outreach, you will quickly notice that the whole process is not especially complicated. However, it consists of somewhat tedious and time-consuming tasks like:
- website/influencer prospecting
- writing pitches and follow-ups
- finding the right contacts and their contact information
- personalizing and sending out pitches and follow-ups
- email management (responding to replies and negotiating details)
Repetitive tasks will wear you down. It’s not a good idea to personalize emails for 3 hours straight or do a whole day of website prospecting. You are bound to lose concentration and start making unforced mistakes, like use the wrong person/brand name in your email reply.
Mix things up. Even if you have to spend 4 hours sending pitches that day, break it with other tasks like tweaking your guest post pitch, reviewing content, designing a custom graphic, finding a perfect featured image, or anything else really.
It is the only way to stay sane during intensive blogger outreach campaigns 🙂
5. Test different value proposals
While blogger outreach is still a very effective link building method, there is one problem with it – everybody is doing it.
Why are YOU the one whose content they should (re)publish/promote/link to?
It is not always easy to find the right answer. Sometimes you’ll need to think outside of the box:
- Maybe you need to add a quote from a famous person to the pitch.
- Maybe you need to try out an unconventional subject line.
- Maybe you want to focus on and push controversial topic ideas.
- Maybe you need to spend additional time exploring the person you are reaching out to so you can hyper-personalize the pitch.
- Maybe you have something unique to offer in return.
The options are vast. Get a ladder, climb out of the box, and look around.
“First and foremost, stick with the campaign that gives you the best ROI. Find what works best for your industry and double down on that. Marketers are always tempted to do so many different things at once and that’s a waste of resources, especially when you are just starting out. For us, since we are into video editing, offering a free video to prospects was a winning formula. But it can be something different for you depending on what industry you are in. You just need to find your winning proposition and double down on that.”
Cristian Stanciu, Founder & CEO at Veedyou
The one thing you should never do is offer things you can’t deliver. If you do that, you’re just wasting everyone’s time, including yours.
6. Use tools to streamline your outreach process
Blogger outreach, when done right, requires a sizeable time investment. Luckily, there are many tools that can help you speed up different parts of your blog outreach workflow.
Besides project management tools we mentioned earlier, here are some other must-have tools for blogger outreach.
If that is not obvious, it is usually enough to have one tool form each category 🙂
Do you think that you can find relevant sites through Google search or by browsing social media?
Well, you can, at least for the first few months. After that, this becomes an unbearable grind.
Do yourself a favor and start using an outreach tool right from the start. A great blogger outreach tool will not only let you find relevant sites but it will also:
- help manage your emails through templates and automated replies
- allow you to filter out sites based on preferred metrics
- try to find active contact info for every site on the list
- A/B test your guest post pitch and subject lines
- track when and who you contacted in the past, across different campaigns
Here is an in-depth review of the best blogger outreach tools on the market. The article is a little outdated now but it is still worth scrolling through to see all of the standard features you should have access to.
If you want to see your content published on relevant sites with decent traffic, you can’t just scrape the web to make a list and send your pitch to everyone. You need to actually inspect the website you are reaching out to.
“Be aware of “guest post farms” and opportunities that are too good to be true. As a best practice, you should always check the MOZ spam score of a site you plan to guest post on. A spam score as low as 7.5% may be a signal that the site’s practices are risky, and working with them may not be a good idea.”
Douglas Dedrick, Marketing Director at HealingLaw.com
Depending on your goals and resources, you might want to only reach out to websites with certain traffic and authority. For that, you need a tool that is capable of analyzing websites for said metrics.
We personally use Ahrefs and MOZ but there are other tools like SEMrush and Ubersuggest that can help you analyze a wide range of SEO metrics.
Finding the right contact information is something that goes hand in hand with blogger outreach. You want to pitch ideas to editors and content managers, not to accountants or HR managers.
This is where email finders can be very helpful as some of them list job positions and links to social media profiles alongside the email address.
Most of the email finders come in the form of browser plug-ins which makes them really easy to use.
In general, having a quick way to find contact information will significantly speed up your blogger outreach campaigns.
7. Regularly analyze and adjust your blogger outreach campaigns
After you send out a certain number of emails, spend some time analyzing what happened. Note which emails got the most replies, which ideas were most popular, and when did people reply to your emails the most.
This will help with your future campaigns, and could even jump-start the one you’re currently struggling with.
One of the worst mistakes you can make in blogger outreach is to be stubborn. You might think you have a great pitch and that you are suggesting excellent topics, but if the data shows you have a really low response rate, it is time to rethink your approach.
“If you are re-visiting the campaign to make improvements that help increase the response rate of your outreach campaigns, then it is always advisable to see if there is still a further scope of personalization you can achieve by segmenting your email list, upgrading the call-to-action, and giving a more targeted value proposal.”
Dhruv, Co-founder at SalesHandy
There is no shame in admitting that something doesn’t work. Even if you can’t figure out the reason why it doesn’t work, you are only making things worse by prolonging the unsuccessful strategy.
If your response rate is low, you can get more positive answers by either increasing the outreach volume or addressing the reasons why the response is low. You decide what is more sustainable.
It is also important not to get too comfortable when the outreach is going well. Just because something works now, doesn’t mean it will work in 6 months. Be on your toes so you can quickly react to the first signs of trouble.
Whatever you decide to do, make sure you base your decision on a relevant sample.
Sending 10 emails isn’t enough to see which subject line works best. A sample of 100+ sent emails will give you a more accurate representation of what does and doesn’t work.
8. Be open to different partnerships
Blogger outreach campaigns are often run with a single purpose – promote a research piece, republish an infographic, contribute a guest post, etc. While there is nothing wrong with that, it is a missed opportunity if you approach every outreach campaign with a narrow mindset.
If you are reaching out to respectable websites that attract your target audience, there are many things you could collaborate on. And lately, more and more sites are replying back with their, let’s call it counter-offers.
Why shouldn’t you link back to their awesome infographic, become a regular contributor, or participate in their round-up?
Better yet, tell them directly that you are open to other ways to collaborate and watch how that improve the success of your outreach efforts.
9. Get personal – but don’t take it personally
This lesson has 2 parts.
First, most bloggers and influencers appreciate when you are familiar with their site and you leave a feeling that you are not contacting them just to get something.
Take the time and browse around and write a personalized email. At a bare minimum, you avoid a pitch that screams “automated generic email template” as soon as it is opened.
“One thing I would like to advise is not to pitch out of the way topics that might be too generic like “5 SEO tactics for 2020”. These topics generally get you ignored and won’t do you any good. Some trashy sites might even accept it but in the end, it’s about aiming at the quality. Instead of pitching mediocre ideas to even less mediocre blogs, try to aim higher.”
Gurbaj Singh, Freelance Digital Marketer, and Content Creator
According to our own research on how to write a perfect guest post pitch where we asked over 80 editors about their personal preferences, having a highly personalized pitch was cited as one of the most important elements, alongside interesting topic suggestions.
The more you personalize the email, the higher the chance you will get a positive reply.
However, you have to draw a line somewhere. Top blogs in your niche might deserve a fully personalized email, but you will get nowhere if you plan to write emails from scratch for every single opportunity.
What to do then? Simple: compromise.
Write a template that has some personalization fields like bloggers name, the section of the website you want to write for, an URL of their post you just read and so on. If the rest of the pitch is good, that will do for most sites.
If you have a few blogs you really want to be featured on, increase your chances by writing a completely personalized pitch for those select few.
The other part of this lesson is: don’t take criticism and rejection personally.
In any bigger outreach project, you are bound to get a negative response. Maybe the editor had a bad day or just received a ton of spammy submissions and decided to take up that built-up frustration on you because you had a spelling mistake in the title or because you have sent a single follow up.
But don’t get complacent either. If you are getting multiple complaints about the same thing, you are doing something wrong and should look into it.
Blogger outreach best practices summed up
Here’s a short inforaphic that summarizes blogger outreach best practices we outlined in this article – with a few bonus additions.
Recognize when it is time to outsource your blogger outreach efforts
Running a simple blogger outreach campaign is not rocket science. Most people can do it on their own.
However, things change as soon as you try to scale it up. Many businesses soon realize that the combined levels of time and money they are spending on this are not worth the trouble.