You hear it all the time from marketing blogs and influencers...
"CREATE MORE CONTENT!" and "THE MORE CONTENT, THE BETTER!"
They're right... ...but they're also wrong. You should be constantly creating content, but you should never create content just for the sake of creating content. That is especially the case if you don't have a focused audience that you're writing for (hello marketing managers and content specialists out there!). Beyond creating content that is interesting, tells a story, educates, and provides unique value to the reader; you should be setting time aside to amplify your content, and doing influencer outreach is one of the most efficient ways you can start amplifying your content right now.
Why Bother With Influencer Outreach?
It's simple. Your website is a walled garden. It's an undiscovered ecosystem brimming with life. All of your great content is just wasting away in a beautiful sanctuary that no one visits. If you're not showing the right people your beautiful garden of content, you're missing out on a massive potential audience. Some of the best articles I've ever read were articles that were tweeted at me or linked to in emails that I've gotten from marketing companies and influencers. If I had not been sent that tweet or email, those pieces of content would have never existed in my world. Put another way, what if Rebecca Black just kept "Friday" all to herself and only posted it on her little website where her friends and family only visited? We never would have been privy to this pre-weekend jam.
But, I Don't Have Time To Email 100 People Oh, but you do. If you dedicate 1 hour every day for 1 week you'll have enough time to properly amplify your content. But most importantly, you'll have enough outreach time to get real results. Here is a simple formula you can use to maximize your efficiency with outreach: Items You'll Need
- Access to Google and an email account
- A linkable asset
- Influencer finding tools
Well I'm going to just go ahead and assume you're not waiting by your mailbox for the next CD-ROM of AOL to install and you have an email account and access to Google. Good, we're already one third of the way there. But What is a Linkable Asset?
A linkable asset is a piece of content that you've created that other sites are linking to, or theoretically would want to link to.
Day 1: Find or Create Linkable Assets
How Do I Know If Someone Is Linking to My Content? There are many tools out there that you can use to see what pages on your site are getting links from external sources. Some are more comprehensive than others. In this case, we'll want to use Moz's Open Site Explorer tool, which is free for limited results, though you'll need an account to access the tool's full abilities. Just enter your site's URL into the tool and it will show you most of the domains that are linking to your site, as well as to what pages those links are pointing to and the anchor text that was used. Here's an example using our domain digitalthirdcoast.net.
Once you identify content that is linked to on your site, you'll want to start thinking about ideal audiences that may have an interest in that content. This will be very helpful when you go to pitch to influencers. More on that later.
What If I Don't Have Any Links to My Content? That's okay, don't panic. You're starting with a clean slate, which can be good. You'll want to create content that is appealing to bloggers, industry influencers, journalists, and/or publications. This can be a daunting task, but keep the 8 News Values That Will Make Your Content Newsworthy in mind and you'll be just fine. Good content takes time to create, so it's probably worthwhile to push your content calendar back in order to create this linkable asset. Remember, it's better to spend time creating good content AND promoting it, rather than spending all your time creating content that no one is going to see. As added insurance, you can always do pre-outreach to test the viability of a content piece to make certain that the content you're about to create is appealing to the people you want sharing it.
Day 2: Identifying Content Amplifiers
I've picked the content I want to amplify, now what? It's time to prospect for influencers. The best place to look is the aforementioned BuzzSumo, a tool we love here at Digital Third Coast. It's even great if you're still stuck trying to decide what to write about in order to create a linkable asset. But, unconditional love aside, BuzzSumo is a powerful tool for finding and identifying influencers that can become your content amplifiers. This tool is an efficient way to find the people you need to reach out to so that you provide value (and receive access) to their audience. Just enter a keyword into the search bar and let the tool work its magic. In this case, you'll want to enter a keyword or phrase that is closely related to the topic of your content. Let's say your in-depth blog post is on student debt and it's filled with unique viewpoints, expert commentary, and included quotes from industry experts. That's a great linkable asset that a wealth of websites would want to link to...in the right context. Guess what? You have the power to give them the right context to do so.
As you can see in the chart above, BuzzSumo ranks the top shared content for that keyword or keyword phrase from the past 12 months. This is a great way to see which articles, but more importantly, which writers got the most shares on that topic. Make a Google Doc or Excel spreadsheet that lists the writers name, the publication they write for, their contact info (more on that coming up), and a "notes" section to jot down any specific notes on that influencer.
Pro Tip: Use the "Influencers" tab at the top to find social influencers that can help amplify your content further.
Day 3: Outreach Prep
Now that you've identified who you'd like to reach out to, it's time to prepare for outreach. This means that you'll need to find the influencer's contact info. You'll ideally want their email address, but if you can't find that there are viable ways of getting in contact with them. How Can I Find Their Email Address?
- Google it
This may seem like a one-dimensional answer but it actually works really well with a few simple search modifiers in place. Many writers are employed by multiple publications, most of which have writer bio pages. In my experience, the writer's email address is listed on this page about 50% of the time, depending on the publication and writer's policy. This can be a good way to find their email address but it's not a sure bet. Let's take a look at an example of how to find a writer's email address if it's not on their bio page: Say we're looking to amplify our infographic about content marketing (meta, I know), and a search in BuzzSumo finds content marketing maven Joe Pulizzi. One of the best things you could find is a writer's personal website/blog (see circled site above). They typically have a "contact me" page setup for people interested getting in touch with them regarding work. Also, if they have it listed on their personal website, they'll be less caught off guard that you're emailing them about covering your content. The goal for reaching out to journalists or writers as opposed to social influencers is that you're looking for them to cover your topic and link back to your content as a source in their article. This can work really well when you have a data visualization or in depth article that covers a specific niche in your industry. Often writers will reference it in their post if the topic is parallel to yours. Remember that spreadsheet I talked about earlier? This is where you can throw all their information to have it in one centralized place (great for companies with multiple people doing outreach).
Pro Tip: With influencers that have large social followings (via BuzzSumo's "Influencers" tab), you'll want to follow them and engage with them before reaching out via email. Build a lasting relationship, share their content, comment on their articles. This will reduce the barrier when you go to pitch them your content, plus you've created an awesome relationship.
Day 4: Outreach Time
Now you're ready to rock n' roll. For the sake of time you'll want to create a template email. Despite the email being a template, there will be places in the email that should be customized each time you send an email out. Areas you should customize:
- Reference to their site/work
- Reason why it's specifically good content for their audience
All of the highlighted text should be areas that you customize for each person you reach out to. By creating these templates, you can easily copy and paste the full email and change the highlighted text before sending it off. I don't usually recommend sending templated emails to influencers, but given the time restrictions that you most likely have, using a template will be your best bet. Doing so, you should have no problem sending 50+ emails in a given hour.
Pro Tip: Unhighlight the text before hitting send. Seriously, it happens.
Day 5: Validation and Follow Ups
You've sent all the emails the day prior, now it's time to kick back and let the links start pouring it. Wrong. This part of the process is a critical one that determines outreach success or failure. You'll start seeing emails coming in from interested people. The deal isn't exactly sealed yet... They may ask for additional information on your topic, or ask to interview you or someone on your team. You can schedule this out so it's not that big of a time waste but don't let it go too long, interviews can be a great way to get exposure. Follow up in a fairly timely fashion with these people, they typically don't have a ton of time to waste and if they're interested, keep them interested by responding within 24 hours. Some writers won't even respond, which is okay. But, you'll want to check to see if they posted your article or referenced your article regardless of a response. There have been many times that we've gotten no responses from writers but came to find that they posted our infographic without so much as a peep in our direction. This is great, but it can take some extra time to find these unknown placements. Validation It may seem like finding rouge mentions and links to your content can take some time to find; and it can if you don't know what you're doing or what to look for. Here are some easy steps to find people that have linked to your content:
- Google the exact title of your article
Many times people will reference your article by using the anchor text of the article, or even just mention the full title as a reference in their post. You can do this by using quotations in the keyword search in google (see below).
- Use Open Site Explorer's "Just Discovered" Link Tool
You can find information on the tool here, but basically the tool finds the "freshest" links pointing to your site. No SEO tool is perfect, and this one can take a while to find and index some links, however it's a good tool to get a sense of who is linking to you recently. Following Up With The Influencers We're all busy, and influencers get a lot of emails. Maybe they meant to respond but forgot. Maybe they just didn't see your first email. It's just good practice to follow up with the writers the week after the initial email. It doesn't have to be very comprehensive. A simple, quick note:
"Hi there, just wanted to see if you had a chance to review my blog post I sent over last week. Looking forward to any feedback you have on it".
Not only will it help jog their memory, but it's also an indicator that you actually care about their opinion and aren't just spamming their inbox.
- You in fact actually have the time to properly amplify your content. And in terms of ROI, it'll be the best time you spend on your marketing all week.
- Invite people into your walled garden and eventually tear down those walls instead of building them higher.
- Be confident in your content, it will show in your outreach emails.
- Be persistent. Some people will say no, others won't respond, and there may even be some trolls. You know you created a great piece of content, let the people that want to see it actually see it.
Now that you know how to pitch your content to influencers, it's time to create better content. To help get you started, check out our webinar with BuzzSumo on how to create high quality, linkable content.