The 50% Success Rate Outreach Process Blueprint.April 21, 2015
I reached a success rate of 50% recently. Yes, that’s five links/mentions or positive replies per ten messages sent.
How I did I achieve it and how you can replicate that process: a DIY blueprint.
Reaching out to strangers
You know what outreach is and how it works by now: approaching people on the Web out of the blue (that is without prior relationship building) to get publicity and links is not the best thing to do. You also know that it’s difficult.
You can expect a lot of people to ignore you, others to want money to write about you while some will not even understand what you want from them. Even those who send a positive reply can’t be relied upon. They often won’t link to you despite liking you and your offer.
Did I mention that it’s already hard to get through to strangers?
Thus I was very fond of myself when I finally reached a success rate of 50% in a recent real life attempt to get the word out about a new calendar site. This was, as it’s often the case with my clients, a small business even though it acted internationally.
The owner had calendar sites in several European countries like France, Spain or Italy and wanted to get links for his latest site that was geared towards the German speaking population (that’s at least three countries: Germany, Austria and Switzerland).
Small business outreach tends to be small as well
Not only the budget was small, also the topic didn’t really make sense for relationship building. Why would someone want to befriend a calendar site or become friends with a calender site owner?
Sure, you could create content on each and every holiday and send reminders or such but that would require a lot of effort. Nope, we needed fast action with clear objectives. Reaching out to relevant sites and blogs to announce a new calendar site at the beginning of the year.
In this low budget fast track case I offered my smallest package available.
The “Outreach S plan” is only about researching and contacting ten highly relevant bloggers and website owners. You may assume that such a small number is pointless from the start given the industry average success rates of such campaigns that range below 5%.
Ouch, that’s roughly one in twenty sites reacting positively. Yet, it’s not the case with my outreach attempts. I had often 3 of 10 people write back. Some needing clarifications while others saying “thank you for the heads up” and linking right away.
Without a value proposition don’t even start
Only your mother loves you because you are you. To convince other people to support your site you need to add some value to the equation. Here comes the so called value proposition. “Here I come, please link me” is not a value proposition.
A value proposition is something that is helpful, useful, entertaining, lucrative or all of those.
You may argue that your business is
and thus everybody out there needs to link to you but that’s not true and you are of course biased. You may be offering the same thing as others do, why would someone want to link to you instead of the others?
Try to get into the shoes of the blogger/webmaster. What do they need you can offer them?
Of course money would be the most evident answer but that won’t work for link building outreach. Text links ads aka “paid links” have to use the crippling “nofollow” attribute according to Google so that they don’t work for SEO purposes. Alternatives are:
- unique insights (studies, surveys, data)
- high profile content (infographics, videos)
- expertise (interviews)
- freebies (tools, resources)
In some cases the site/tool you mention might be enough. This was the case with my client, who offered a free online but also printable calendar and widget. Why did this suffice? It’s because I’ve found bloggers and webmasters who covered exactly such services in the (recent) past and there was timely demand for it.
The most important part of outreach is not the message
The most important aspect of outreach starts before the outreach. Ideally you already know the people you want to send a message to. In case you don’t – just like with my “cold outreach” attempt – it’s crucial to address the right people. They have to be active, relevant and responsible for publishing.
- A blog that has written 5 years ago about your topic but hasn’t published a single post in a year is dead or on hold. They won’t even reply for the same reasons they don’t update their weblog.
- A blog that has mentioned a calendar in one sentence within an article dealing with something else is not relevant.
- An occasional writer who has contributed a post a year ago but hasn’t written for the publication ever since is not responsible for publishing most probably. The individual will in most cases not even be able to update the old post.
In case just one of these things is missing you already lost.
How to find relevant blogs/sites?
I keep it simple. I use Google to find most of the people I write to. What do I search for? Nothing fancy. I start with the obvious search queries to find out how competitive the searches are and whether I can find someone to talk to already here on top of the Google results or a few pages down the line:
[calendar 2015 blog]
[calendar 2015 inurl:blog]
I refine the search by limiting the results to more timely ones: I click on search tools “past week”, “past month” and “past year”:
The top 5 look already pretty relevant as you can see to some extent. Now I only have to look them up and find out whether they really are. Then of course I need to get their contact details.
Talk to individuals not companies or teams
As mentioned above you don’t want to write to company or group blogs where the writer isn’t even able to add something to an existing article let alone publish a new one. I had to learn that lesson the hard way.
You want to reach out to individual webmasters or bloggers responsible for their sites or blogs.
In other words you need to contact the person who decides what gets published, creates that content and owns it. Company blogs with firstname.lastname@example.org are the worst. You never get the right person to talk to. Even in case you get to speak to the writer s/he won’t be able to help you.
There are just too many people involved in the decision process. Even worse the internal hierarchy and goals will prevent them from linking out at all. Sadly most business do not help they just sell even in case a helpful gesture would be free like with linking out.
Outreach messages that don’t annoy
OK, now that you have 10 blogs/site that have covered exactly what you offer and found out name and mail address of the responsible owner here comes the easy part, the actual message. Keep it extremely short, as relevant as possible and as personalized as possible.
Many lazy SEO and PR practitioners tend to automate that process and they just clumsily enter a scraped name and URL to the message. I can spot such messages right away. Don’t start your message with “Dear Sirs!” or “Hello,”.
Both subject line and name have to be personalized to the site owner.
Let’s assume there is a fictional blog called Happy Blogging! run by Amanda Jones who has written an article called “Happy New Blogging Year with Fresh Online Calendars”. This is the info you need to have for personalized message:
- Blog name: Happy Blogging!
- Name: Amanda Jones
- Mail: email@example.com
- Headline: Happy New Blogging Year with Fresh Online Calendars
- URL: http://happyblogging.com/blog/happy-new-blogging-year-with-fresh-online-calendars
Then the message would look as following:
Subject line: Calendar Post on Happy Blogging!
While looking for resources on online calendars your article “Happy New Blogging Year with Fresh Online Calendars”:
stood out in a positive manner.
Did you know that there is a new free online calendar out there that is also printable? It’s available at yourcalendar.link
I’d love to see it added to your post. In case you don’t like it, I’d appreciate some feedback so we can improve it.
Your name, company and signature
As already explained in the “actual message” link above you don’t want to ostracize the blogger by using an obnoxious signature. It might be even problematic to reach out with the wrong name of from the wrong company. I’m not kidding.
For example people in the US might be annoyed when someone with an Indian name is approaching them because there have been many attempts at low level outreach from outsourced companies in India in the past. On the other hand using a fake name like some Indians did and call yourself John Miller might backfire as well.
Personally I have a very weird looking and sounding name for most people around the world including Germany. Yet the name looks real and not made up. This is by now an advantage.
That’s why I use my full name when addressing people out of the blue. In case they don’t like my name for some reason (xenophobia?) they are probably not ready for my message either. I also only use my name “Tadeusz Szewczyk” then. I don’t add the company in my “name” yet.
As long as I have been doing outreach as part of larger projects and campaigns I used the mail address of the client company to send out messages. This time I changed my mind and for efficiency reasons I decided to use my own address (onreact.com) to send out messages.
It’s not only about efficiency though. True, some companies needed weeks to set up a mail account for me and then it still did not work properly so that I had to mail back and forth with the tech support guy.
My website is simple and friendly enough while not being overtly marketing oriented.
In short I don’t scare people by sounding and looking like a marketer or even worse search engine optimizer. I simplified my site copy so that everybody can understand it. I changed my wording so that it does not only cater to potential clients but also to average people who just want to know what I’m about. Now my outreach works better.
I can add a neutral signature to my mails without being afraid that the people will check my site out and leave
based on their prejudice. Remember most people hat marketing. Also the companies I write the outreach messages for are often very commercial. That’s why they need outreach in the first place as they do not use inbound techniques to get a healthy number of supporters.
My actual signature looks like this (with the exception of the mail address I had to change so that spam bots can’t crawl the original one):
Tadeusz Szewczyk, onreact.com/en
Help with Blogs, Social Media & Search
+49 (0)30 60 98 62 38
In Germany you have to add a signature when you are sending out business mail. It needs to contain your physical address and phone number. I’d add them even in case your local legislation does not force you to do so. This way you can ensure that people are assuming that you are an actual human being not a bot and work for a real brick and mortar business ideally.
* Creative Commons image by Kalyan Chakravarthy