There have been so many blogs in the past twelve months about how “easy” it is to do content outreach using a variety of expansive – and expensive – techniques. Proponents of the ‘art’ have thrown into the mix a plethora of tools and ‘secret sauce’ tactics to make it as easy as brushing your teeth.
Sadly that is not the case, and it never will be. Why? Because outreach is about more than placing content on a site. It’s about human relationships and creating long-term value.
I have spent the last few years working on outreach in a digital context and have used every tool imaginable and every approach possible to improve conversion and ultimately positively affect our clients by doing it. In doing so we have really refined what we actually look for in a new potential outreach partner and how they are best approached.
To get an edge might involve a bit more work than you initially imagine. For instance some site owners will request certain things of you – not just meeting a specific word count or an author-bio link as opposed to an in-content version – but writing a number of posts each month.
To acquire a link of this kind you need to weigh up whether or not it is worth all of that effort. In my time I’ve received several emails back from site owners and bloggers saying that yes I can place a post on their site, but they require one post each week. While this is perfectly manageable to an extent, I’ve also had requests for three each week, which is a lot of work to do to get one post place or one link.
“Focus on the relationship and all else will follow”.
If this specific link or placement is key to your strategy, you should really consider whether or not it’s worth going to all that effort just for one link. If so it may well be worthwhile and will form a part of your content strategy. If not, put it on the back burner and revisit it should you need to. It’s a bit like buying a player “for the future” – you want to get a player in to score twenty goals a season immediately, not from the start of next season or in three months time. You want an instant impact, not a Fernando Torres!
Going the extra mile to achieve your goal will be beneficial, particularly in terms of the reaction from your client – if they know the lengths you’ve gone to in order to get them such a high quality placement and/or link, they’ll reward you handsomely with further work or even recommendations. On the other hand, they might expect it of you going forward – but hard work pays off; we should all strive for perfection, not just getting the link or placement.
Going back to the established and newly formed site objectives, it can be highly beneficial to sit down with the site owner and form your content strategy with their help. For an established site, links and placements can often be easier to obtain, mainly because the site owner is getting content from a site already highly valued in terms of Page Rank, Alexa Rank, social activity and so on. For a new site, it can involve more work convincing the site owner that this link will mature in the future as the reputation and audience grows. Branded links are often the best bet in this instance as opposed to specific anchor text, mainly because of Google’s preference that your number one term is your brand name.
When we receive insertion orders for content and link building campaigns, we ask for the client to give us a set of specific metrics and requests – no different to any other campaign I’m sure – but why do certain people ask for certain metrics? Maybe because everyone else does? Perhaps it’s because they have a basic knowledge of SEO and appreciate the benefits of links to certain sites? Or it could just be that they see bigger numbers as meaning they’re better sites? (They are right in this case, but they don’t know it!)
The Key Metrics we Measure
So how do we use metrics to choose which sites we want to work with? Initially it was all about PageRank but that very quickly became an irrelevant marker for what we were looking to achieve.
Over the months we have looked at every metric going, it’s all part of the learning process, but as a rule we now stick to these:
This is a popular metric and one we still use occasionally. Our preference is to look for DA’s of more than 30, as this shows that a site is both established and relatively authoritative.
As the name might suggest, this is very similar to Google’s PageRank, but is the popularity score set by SEOMoz. Pages earn their rank according to the quality of the other pages that link to them, so the higher the quality of the links, the higher the MozRank. It’s a critical metric we use over all others to measure top level ‘authority’. Stay above 2.2.
We played with this initially as a sign of a ‘real site’. The reality is however the data is too flaky.
It’s a social world we’re in now, and if you’re writing an article for someone, they want to see that it’s getting maximum exposure. A lot of sites might have good quality PR, DA, DmR and so on, but a very small – or non-existent – social following. Just being able to see that a site has a Facebook and Twitter account with a good following and regular shares, likes and retweets is the best sign of an active site with an audience worth leveraging. Shares are also, undoubtedly, a trust metric being used by Google to filter blog networks from the ‘real’ thing.
Building links to a site with the same I.P. address as another you might be posting on can be detrimental to the value each link. While it might look good to your client that you’ve got them ten new links in this month’s guest posting campaign, if they’re all to the same I.P. address Google will not be so appreciative, only classing your ten links as one rendering your efforts useless.
Similarly, some clients request that an I.P. is “USA only” to rank highly in the United States, but this is something that can be discussed in your initial strategy meeting when you set out the objectives of the campaign.
We check these carefully before even beginning the outreach process.
Planning for the Future
Above all else, you need to plan for the future. You need an on-going strategy in order to achieve long-term success, Sir Alex Ferguson won’t just sign the best players in the world to win the Premier League once, he wants to repeat that success and go on to bigger and better things.
The same is true with link building and guest posting. One simple five guest post campaign might get you five very good links and an increase in traffic, but once that novelty wears off and your competitors catch up with you, you’re back to square one.
There are a number of REAL benefits of guest blogging that should be measured over and above simple links. Access to new audiences and building relationships with bloggers – like writing regularly for the site – as well as getting your name out there as an expert writer in a specific field should be seen as extra value.
If you’ve got high quality content out there already, then getting the chance to post on a top quality site will become much more likely than it would be for a novice. What’s more, you help your client to reach their goal by hitting a larger audience and you get the link you desire.
A six-month plan can be highly effective here also to add structure to your outreach and content creation process. It is something that we preach to our clients, both existing and prospective. This allows us to set out a strategy to help them to achieve their objectives over the long term, which is THE critical component of all content marketing.
Overall, everyone involved in the campaign needs to be striving to reach the one target. Producing high quality content is key, just as getting it placed on an authoritative site is. If you’re producing underwhelming content, you’re not going to get it placed and you’ll fail in your campaign. Take the time and effort to produce only your finest work, and the best sites will come looking for you, helping you in your future campaigns because authoritative site owners are crying out for you to post on their sites.
Communication is Key
The way you communicate with bloggers is also key to the overall campaign success. Writing a brilliant article with a well-thought out plan based around your link building strategy is all well and good, but if you can’t get bloggers to post your article on their site, you’ve wasted your own time and could lose the business.
You may have to contact certain bloggers more than once, you may also have to negotiate terms with a blogger – like when the post goes live, the word count, the location of your link, that kind of thing. In this instances, you need to remember that the blogger is doing you a favour and, therefore, calls the shots.
Think of your campaign as a relationship between you, your client and the blogger. You want it to form something solid and based around trust and consistency. So many times you see the names of bloggers attached to various articles on one site, for a variety of different guest posting campaigns, and the quality begins to suffer because they take advantage of the blogger.
Having done the hardest part of all, convincing someone to let you post on their site and actually getting the guest post live, you should never let the quality of your follow-up posts slip just because “they’ll definitely post for me.” A blog belongs to a person, just like a pair of football boots you’ve borrowed, a pen, a book, anything you might borrow. At the end of the day, you’re borrowing space on someone’s website to post an article – an article that your clients will want to be of the highest quality also remember – so treat their site with respect in order to get articles posted their repeatedly.
Don’t take advantage of a willing blogger by submitting below-par content – you’re a content creator, take pride in your work if nothing else!