There’s no questioning the power of influencer outreach when it comes to marketing your business.
Both audiences and Google love it and if those two factors don’t win you over when you’re doing business online, you’re in the wrong job.
Influencer marketing is a broad, complex subject that could be picked apart and studied for months.
But I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t need to be. In fact, I’m going to go one step further and suggest that it shouldn’t be.
When we obsess on fine details before we’ve got a service moving we’re just avoiding getting started.
A simple Influencer outreach strategy that’s up and running is infinitely better than the perfect strategy that fails to make its way from a series of scribbled notes to reality.
So here it is. I’m going to tell you how to make a simple and very doable start to your influencer outreach strategy.
Plan your communication
Whether you’re working directly as a brand or helping to promote someone else’s brand, it’s vitally important that you’re working with the right ‘persona’ for the organisation.
If you’re doing outreach on behalf of someone else the most simple way to do this is by using an email address or domain linked to the business you’re representing.
It looks a lot more natural if the request for sharing content or linking back to the site comes from the company in question instead of a third-party company that might not share the same brand values and eye for detail.
Understand how to monitor your results
Any outreach campaign really has to represent value and the only way you can discern any value from a process is to consider it a ‘funnel’ – a process in which an amount of effort is put in at the top and a return on that investment appears at the bottom.
To do this you’re going to need to have the appropriate analysis tools in place and the two most important of these are:
- Google Analytics
- Google Search Console
Not only does this give you an understanding of how the work you’re going to do will continue to impact your site, it also allows you to get a good understanding of where the site is currently in relation to links and general SEO performance.
What are you working with?
Whether you’re able to do it fully, or you plan to have someone do it on your behalf, it’s really important to do an SEO audit of the site.
Don’t worry, we’re not talking about a full nuts and bolts technical walk-through, just checking that the current SEO strategy (whether intentional or accidental) doesn’t show the site as being over optimised or having any penalties.
Over optimisation can occur for a number of reasons – not the least of which is outdated ideas around what gets a piece of site content to rank. You should be aware of over-repetition of keywords and too many links with exact match anchor text.
Essentially, you’ve got to ask yourself – “do I want to start this race with my shoelaces tied together?” If the answer’s no, then make sure you’re not impeded by current content.
Check out what a good anchor text profile looks like:
Now, have a look at what a really poor anchor text profile looks like:
You can see the different straight away. The first has lots of natural, internally linked pages – the second has a lot of totally unrelated link text.
Produce excellent content
Site copy, blog content and guest articles really need to be of a high standard if you’re going to build on the quality links coming in by appealing to an influencer.
It’s simple really – higher authority influencers and sites have found themselves in that position because they produce and link to top quality information. They’re not going to change that because you got in touch.
If you don’t have the writing skills or time to produce the content you need, then find someone who does. There are some great content producers out there and you don’t have to pay the earth, but be prepared to choose a capable writer over a cheap one. Even if it impacts your budget short-term, you’ll see benefits long-term.
If your campaign is on behalf of another brand, you might find that they have some exceptional writing talent in-house. If so, you might want to reflect that in the price they pay for your services.
Pick your keywords and content tactically
It’s important to keep in your mind that any marketing work is likely to have a return on investment expectation – whether it’s your own, or that of a marketing or sales manager of a company you’re working for.
Therefore, it makes sense to look at promoting the ‘low-hanging fruit’ pages right off the cuff.
Have a look at what’s close to ranking already and begin your focus on these. They’re likely to have good content behind them already and won’t take as much effort to push up quickly.
This isn’t to say that you should ignore the super-competitive terms. Instead, consider site strength as a whole and look to build that, rather than hoping for the big wins that take a lot of work.
Find the appropriate sites and influencers
At last, it’s time to actually do some outreach.
You’re going to want to start by opening a spreadsheet. Record everything you’re doing, it’s all part of the funnel that’ll eventually give you a basis for pricing, staff required, effort needed, budget required and much more.
Now, there are a handful of ways to approach finding sites and influencers, including:
- Talking to personal acquaintances
- Reaching out to social media contacts/follows
- Search social media for guest posting opportunities or influencer blogs in your niche
- And last, but by no means least - search on Google
Searching on Google warrants its own discussion and very probably a few dedicated tabs in that spreadsheet you’ve got open.
The reason is, there are so many different possible search results that could return something useful – “Submit an article”, “Become a contributor”, “Submit blog post” – and that’s before you’ve used Google’s wildcard operator to mix things up a little.
First search for as many variations on this theme as possible, including using a wildcard (*) operator and ‘OR’/ ~ operators – then start building a directory of these potential sites:
Make a comprehensive to-do list
If you want to get the idea of a process nailed then you’re going to have to treat it in the same way as you would any other process – that is, with defined steps, deadlines, tick-boxes and more.
This can be another tab in your spreadsheet.
Check out an example from one of our real campaigns:
Keeping a written record like this is especially helpful if you’re outsourcing any element of what you’re doing – spinning those kind of plates is hard enough without having to remember exactly where everyone’s at with each stage of the process.
If you’re planning on firing out a bunch of generic emails to the influencers and sites you identified I’m going to beg you not to. There’s a much much better way of doing things.
It’s called being a human.
Think about the way that canned emails come across. You know how impersonal they are when you get them so you’ve got to think twice about sending them out.
If I’m not convincing enough, try it for a few months. I can assure you you’ll be writing personalised emails when you see what an impact they have on your conversion rates.
The results you have are going to depend on the level of influencer you’re hoping to connect with. Want to guest post on the site of a celebrity influencer? You’re going to need to bring your A game.
I’d encourage you to start with realistic expectations. Get some links under your belt from decent sites – you can even use them to name drop with other sites or influencers when you get in touch. It never hurts to use a bit of leverage.
Your conversion rates are going to be even better if you do some homework before you get in touch with the site owner. For example, why not have a look at what they’re doing on social media? Your email is going to be better received if you’ve already made yourself something of a familiar face with a couple of comments, shares or likes.
You’re also likely to be able to gauge what kind of communication the person responds to – there are obviously no hard and fast rules here, instead, just aim to get a feel for the kind of levels of humour, formality, topics and tone seem to work with people communicating with the person.
Write effective emails
When the time comes, you’re going to want to write emails that are as effective as possible. To do so I’d suggest following these 6 points:
1. Choose a strong subject line
Direct and concise is the key. No gimmicks (*YOU MUST read this TODAY*) – imagine you’re summing the email up in 6-12 words.
2. Be direct
People don’t have time to wade through the history of your life or why you want to make a link with their site. They know you’re there for the link, so explain your proposal without too much waffle.
3. Show a little credibility
If you’ve already posted with some similar sites or influencers then mention them. If you’ve met their standards it’s highly likely you’ll meet this site’s standards too. Consider it a reference.
4. Show you’ve done your homework
It goes without saying that you should know the person’s name wherever possible, but you should also go with a line that proves you’ve read their stuff or are familiar with their site, for example:
“I know you’ve posted some great information on…. So I wondered if you’d be interested in the information that I’ve put together on…”
5. Don’t pressure for a reply
You’re less likely to get a reply if you ask for a reply. Strange but true. So instead of going for “I look forward to hearing from you”, go with less pressure – “I’d love to hear from you but I totally understand if you’re busy”.
6. A no response doesn’t mean ‘no’
How many times have you intended to reply to a message but forgotten? Or been distracted? Or the fire alarm went off? All of these are possible, so don’t rule them out when you don’t hear back. Follow up and keep following up until you get a yes or no – this will seriously boost your conversion rates.
Track your results
By now you probably realise that it goes without saying that you should be logging everything you do, including managing your potential sites in the same way you would hot sales leads.
Every site or influencer you’ve identified is a possible link to your own if you get the process right. But remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect, you’ve just got to be doing it.
When you start to see links coming back, work out what’s made this work. Did you do a great job of finding an obscure site that others might not? Did you do some great relationship building prior to asking the big question?
When you’re logging everything you do and you know what makes your outreach campaign exceptional, then it’s time to start building some serious scale.