Blogger Outreach – The Strategy and The Reality

By Michael Jenkins | 17 Mar 2014

Blogger outreach may be a surefire method for building your brand’s visibility, but there’s a lot of effort required to get it right, says Michael Jenkins.

The challenge that the Digital Industry presents, is also its greatest quality. Simply put, it’s an untameable beast, the professional world’s equivalent of King Kong. Consistently evolving, unpredictably and apparently without limit, we’re often left feeling that just as soon as we’ve gotten a handle of it, it’s changed overnight all over again. But, isn’t that what keeps it interesting?

The SEO industry is no exception to this, in fact it’s the epitome of it. In my previous contributions to Power Retail I explored the recent changes within the SEO landscape. With the help of the Google Panda and Penguin algorithm updates; link farms, link networks and link exchanges are now well and truly dead and buried, somewhere deep within the walls of Google’s Head Offices. With them, died the ability to artificially manipulate rankings, and Google’s product is all the better for it. And so, whisperings within the industry spread like wildfire that ‘link building was dead’. But, while artificially building links may be a thing of the past, earning links, naturally but proactively, by contributing valuable content to the online world is a strategy that is just beginning.

Just as SEO has changed, so too has the world of content. From the way we view it, with ever advancing tablets, smart phones and everything in between, to the way in which we use it. Social Media, with world domination now truly in its grasp, has opened up limitless lines of communication. Every day we share, receive and personally recommend new, interesting, useful content in both our professional and personal lives. Magazines have online followings that rival their print circulation, and companies from all niches engage with their customers via carefully written blogs. From advice on how to cook the world’s best beef wellington, to the reviews of the latest sports revelation; in the online world, content is king.

And so, we are faced with an untapped resource. Proactively contribute content to the online world in your niche, offering valuable insight and knowledge, and crucially optimising your contributions, is the only future proof, natural and genuine way to grow your rankings. It is this strategy we have named Link Earning, via Blogger Outreach.

So, the strategy is clear, but the implementation remains clouded. Though a change in strategy may seem like a subtle shift in theory, in reality the adjustment for brands and agencies alike is substantial.

We’re not saying that collaborations with bloggers are in any way a sparkling new concept. The bond between brand and blogger has long since been formed and bolstered, by copious PR releases and affiliations galore. What we are saying, is that these efforts should also be a major component of a successful SEO strategy. But this component of blogger collaborations has so far been completely overlooked. The truth is that brands are simply not hitting the mark here yet, they’re missing the boat completely, and missing out. But, this begs the golden question: Where do I start? Is this something I can put on my Digital Content Manager’s desk, send in a hope filled email to the PR team, or my Digital Agency?

One of the many first steps, is to start to establish a community of blogs that you can contribute to. The first thing to note is that with outreach, relationships are everything. The core, the foundation of what you’re trying to achieve. And, like all good things, they can’t be rushed. As with all truly valuable business relationships, trust is crucial, and must be built up over time, as must a personal relationship. You’ll often be reaching out to the owner of the blog themselves, who has painstakingly built the site, grown it, and put blood sweat and tears into creating an expression of their interests and passions, which is now so popular with others that it can offer value to your site. It’s their business, and often their personality, all in one space.

And so, bloggers aren’t interested in a cut and paste transaction, where it’s a pay for page rank style arrangement. They are looking for long term commentators and valuable contributors to their site, whom they feel they can trust. Whilst some will accept a once off article, provided that it is very topical, these typically aren’t the calibre of sites you’ll want to be reaching. Each blog will have different requirements, preferences, approval processes. And so, the task you’re faced with will not only takes the time needed to build trust and dependency, but time at your desk, researching, outreaching, negotiating, liaising, researching, outreaching, negotiating, liaising…

But, don’t be fooled. This isn’t just a case of finding blogs that look great and provide your perfect target audience. There’s the technical analysis of the site to be considered. Each potential site must be analysed to determine whether it has sufficiently high technical SEO metrics, to pass sufficient authority back to your site, and therefore increase your rankings. In short, a blog can’t just be a pretty face.

Similarly, there are sites out there in the blogger sphere, who aren’t quite what they seem to be. Without understanding the wider implications of a blog being part of a large blog network, and crucially how to spot and avoid these networks, you could find yourself actually creating content and links that are sending your site backwards in results. The epitome of a lose-lose.  An understanding of how to identify a genuine site, with a genuine readership and large social followings is a must.

And of course, you’ll also need content. The jewel in the crown of your blogger outreach strategy. And once again, there are no cutting corners. The success of your strategy is dependent on quality: a sufficiently high quality to be attractive to the best blogs, and to be engaged with, shared and enjoyed by the user. Churn out strings of poorly worded sentences that push the reader around in endless dull circles, and you might as well be pouring your efforts into link networks. Your articles will need to be thoroughly researched, and of PR standards. And so, you’ll need to recruit a team of expert writers, who have a proven portfolio of work within your industry or niche.

And last, but by no means least, you’ll need to be able to strategise your link profile. No, I’m afraid it’s not enough just to have great quality links pointing to your site from authoritative blogs via well written content. The way that you link from the article is also critical. You’ll need to ensure that links from each article are natural, a mixture and range of keyword rich and branded anchor text. But also, that you’re not relying wholly on this strategy. These links should form a part (albeit a bulky one) of your an overarching linking strategy, balanced by other forms of links from a range of different types of sites, to get maximum benefit and to avoid penalties down the track.

In sum, it’s not a walk in the park. It’s labour and love intensive. But when has anything worth doing been easy?

In my next contribution to Power Retail, I’ll be exploring what Blogger Outreach means for smaller brands.

2 Comments

2 thoughts on “Blogger Outreach – The Strategy and The Reality”

  1. Hi Michael,

    While I don’t disagree with your basic premise that creating a healthy blogger outreach program can be beneficial to SEO, I don’t think you can say it’s an untapped resource. Bloggers have been doing it for years. But this tactic has been eroded by people chasing links to the point that Matt Cutts from Google has advised brands to quit doing it. In his post of 20 January titled, The Decay and Fall of Guest Blogging for SEO, he warns everyone that it’s time to move on to another tactic. Cutts is very specific when he says, “if you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop.”

    What your describing in this post is not an SEO tactic at all. You’re endorsing a full-blown content strategy and it’s a complicated, slow-burn, long-term method of building links. I would also advise anyone wanting to go down this path should add it to an overall part of their content strategy and not focus on the SEO potential at all. As Cutts has duly warned, it could do more harm than good.

  2. Lots of quality take-aways in there, Michael, so thank you for sharing. And I agree with Sarah’s comment that this whole strategy goes well beyond SEO, but that just serves to highlight how the pervasiveness of digital is forcing big overlaps across different disciplines – in particular marketing, public relations and SEO, all of whom would reckon on having a role to play in the process that you outline.

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