As an essential part of most content marketing strategies, running a successful outreach campaign can be a challenging project with many different obstacles.
We have been running blogger outreach campaigns for more than five years and wanted to share some insights and tips we picked up along the way.
Before we get to the actual tips, let’s make a short stop to outline a standard blog outreach process.
The anatomy of a blogger outreach campaign
Blogger outreach process can often 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.
Below you can find some of our favorite tips you can use to build great blog outreach campaigns.
1. Do the groundwork
As with any marketing activity, getting to know your target audience should be the first thing on your to-do list. You should have an intimate knowledge of whatever you are trying to promote, as well as understand the audience you’re promoting it to.
That is why during every blogger outreach campaign set up for a new client, we send out a simple questionnaire as a part of our client onboarding process. We ask for some basic information, discuss their past and current marketing activities, and ask a few things about their target audience. We appreciate any answer, no matter how short or elaborate it is.
The questionnaire is just the starting point. If you’re doing a larger 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)
- reviewing top blogs in your niche
- conducting a survey (if you have the resources for it)
The goal is to find out:
- what kind of challenges and problems your potential clients/consumers are 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 of the game
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, which means that the overall success of the project will be at risk.
To keep your outreach campaigns on the tracks, 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.
Oh, and make sure the whole team is familiar with these ground rules as there is no point in setting them otherwise.
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
- leaving important notifications
Here’s one example why these things matter. We are constantly doing blogger outreach to promote our newly published articles and build some links towards them. It is not rare that we have multiple team members that pitch topics from the same list. Now, without some coordination, it could easily happen that we end up writing on the same topic for multiple blogs, which is not ideal.
To ensure that doesn’t happen, we made a rule that people color the taken topic in red so that everyone knows to avoid pitching those topics to other blogs. Black-colored topics are free for pitching. Topics in orange are those that we have prewritten for whatever reason, but 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
Long things short, if you are planning out a bigger blogger outreach project, you should seriously consider using a simple PM tool to track the whole process.
4. Battle burnout with work composition
We probably don’t have to explain that running any type of successful marketing campaign is dependant on having decent organizational skills.
However, when it comes to blogger outreach, there is one unique thing that we want to highlight – work composition.
If you just started doing blogger outreach, you will quickly notice that the whole process is not especially complicated, but that it consists of somewhat tedious and time-consuming tasks like:
- doing research
- website prospecting
- writing pitches and follow-ups
- email management (personalizing and sending out pitches and follow-ups; all kinds of negotiations with the editors)
All of these tasks can wear on you with time so you should always look to populate team schedules with different types of tasks. It’s not a good idea to send emails for 5 hours straight or only review websites for the whole day. You are bound to lose concentration over time which will drop the quality of your work, or even worse, lead to mistakes such as signing a wrong person in your email reply.
Instead, look to mix things up. Even if you have to spend 4 hours sending pitches that day, break that up 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. Don’t be an island
Blogger outreach (and content marketing for that matter) works much better when it is infused with creativity and personality.
And when it isn’t working as expected, a pair of fresh eyes can offer new ideas.
Talking to your co-workers can be just the thing you need to jump-start your creative juices. A fresh mind, that didn’t just spend 3 hours looking at the same three keywords and Google results is likely to have a perspective you didn’t think of.
Of course, not all ideas will be good, and you don’t have to accept everything your coworkers throw at you, but we have found inspiration more than once while talking to each other, either in person or using Slack.
Coworkers are here to help with any other problems as well – from determining why WordPress is adding extra space in a blog post, to which toppings to put on your lunch pizza.
Another thing you might consider using if you have a whole team working on blogger outreach is what we like to call workshop Wednesdays. Once a month or so, we have a workshop where team members share some tips they learned in their marketing projects. It helps us improve team collaboration and increase the quality of our work across the board.
No reason why you couldn’t utilize something similar for your blogger outreach campaigns.
6. Test different approaches to blog outreach
While blogger outreach is still a very effective link building method, there is one problem with it – everybody is doing it.
That means you have big competition out there and editors have a lot of options to choose from. Why are YOU the one whose content they should (re)publish?
It is not always easy to answer that question and sometimes you 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 write a crazy subject line, come up with a controversial title, or do something else that can give you a competitive edge. The options are vast. Get a ladder, climb out of the box, and look around.
You can A/B test your subject lines, include more personalization in your pitches, offer something in return, etc. 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.
“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
7. Use tools to streamline your outreach campaigns
It is probably redundant to bring this up again, but 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 generally enough to have one tool form each category 🙂
Do you think that you can find relevant sites through Google search?
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
If you did come to your senses and now you’re panicking because you don’t know which tool to use, we got you covered. Here is an in-depth review of the best blogger outreach tools on the market. Grades and screenshots enveloped in over 8 thousand words just to help you find the right option for your business.
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 resources, you might want to only reach out to websites with certain traffic and authority. And to be able to do that, you need to have a tool that is capable of analyzing websites for said metrics. We personally like to use Ahrefs and MOZ but there are other tools that can help you analyze a wide range of SEO metrics.
The downside is that some of these tools can be fairly expensive. However, they offer extensive features that go way beyond showing a couple of simple metrics so it gets hard to complain about the price. Options like keyword research, rankings, backlink profiles, and top-performing pages are just some of the additional features you will be able to utilize in your blogger outreach campaigns.
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 can noticeably speed up any outreach campaigns. This makes them an important part of every free marketing stack.
8. 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 topics were most popular, and when did people reply to your emails the most. It 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.
As Dhruv (the co-founder of SalesHandy) puts it: “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.”
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 really low, you can get more positive answers by either increasing outreach volume or addressing the reasons why the response is low. You decide what is more sustainable.
On the other hand, 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 50+ sent emails will give you a more accurate representation of what does and doesn’t work.
9. 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-offer.
There are always other opportunities for collaboration that can arise from quality blogger outreach and it is up to you to decide if you want to chase them or not.
10. Get personal – but don’t take it personally
This lesson has 2 parts.
First, most bloggers appreciate when you are familiar with their site and you leave a feeling that you are not contacting them just to get a link. So take the time and browse around the website, learn the name of the person you are contacting, and write a personalized email. At a bare minimum, you should have a pitch that doesn’t scream “premade template email” 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 the niche might deserve a fully personalized email, but you will get nowhere if you plan to write emails from scratch even for low-authority sites.
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.
However, 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.
11. Give back
Whenever they publish your content, most bloggers will ask you for social shares. If you are proud of your work, there is never a reason to decline.
Share it on social media, include it in your newsletter, schedule QUUU promotions, and link to it in one of your future blog posts. Giving back builds relationships, reputation, and sometimes even your social media following. It’s a win-win situation.
12. Recognize when it’s time to outsource
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 and increase the outreach volume. Even by employing the tools we mentioned throughout the article, many businesses soon realize that the combined levels of time and money they are spending on this might not be worth the trouble.
They realize that it is better to outsource such marketing activities to a digital agency and focus all internal efforts on their core business.
Blogger outreach best practices summed up
Here’s a short infographic that summarizes blogger outreach best practices we outlined in this article.
The ball is in your corner
Blogger outreach campaigns are one of those things where the effort you put into it directly correlates with the result you’re going to get out of it.
Just remember – be creative, don’t be afraid to ask for help, stay organized, and don’t hesitate to adjust your approach when things are not going according to plan.
If all of this seems like too much trouble for you, but you still want to reap all the benefits great blogger outreach campaigns provide, don’t hesitate to get in touch and see how we can help you on that front.