How We Use Blogger Outreach To Promote Content And Build Links

Tim Soulo

Tim is the guy responsible for marketing and product strategy at Ahrefs. But most importantly he’s the chief evangelist of the company. Learn more about Tim

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    Do you publish new content exclusively for the enjoyment of your existing audience? Or do you want it to rank high in Google and bring new visitors to your site month after month?

    If you’re here for the latter, you’re going to enjoy this article.

    I will show you how we use blogger outreach to promote our new content and build juicy backlinks that help us rank higher in Google.

    I did my best to make this article very actionable and straightforward so you could just forward it to your VA or marketing team and watch them nail the promotion of your next content piece.

    Maybe some of them will even get offered a free lunch in Vegas:

    How blogger outreach works

    Blogger outreach is a process of putting your product or content in front of relevant bloggers and journalists in your industry by sending them personalized emails. The primary objective of blogger outreach is to make website owners and people with a large audience talk about you and link to your website.

    How is that different from SPAM, you ask?

    Good outreach is all about giving some kind of value to a relatively small list of targeted prospects and expecting some positive return in exchange.

    On the other hand, SPAM is all about extracting any value you can from a monstrous list of random recipients, usually by tricking them into it.

    The right approach to blogger outreach starts with a question:

    What’s in it for them?

    If you have a compelling reason for why the person on the other side of the screen should care about what you’re sending them, your outreach ROI will go through the roof.

    I have extensively covered this idea in an article titled: “I Just Deleted Your Outreach Email Without Reading. And NO, I Don’t Feel Sorry”.

    How to vet outreach prospects

    There are three groups of prospects potentially eligible for your blogger outreach:

    1. People who wrote articles on the same topic;
    2. People who linked to articles on the same topic;
    3. People who tweeted articles on the same topic.

    But before I show how to collect these lists in the most efficient way, I want to remind you that “I saw you wrote/linked/tweeted a similar article” is a bad reason for outreach.

    People don’t care about “similar articles.”

    They care about unique articles, outstanding articles, controversial articles, disrupting articles. But never similar articles.

    Thus, the point of vetting your outreach prospects is to identify whether your content actually adds any value to what they wrote/linked/tweeted. This is something that should be clearly articulated in your email if you’re hoping to get their attention.

    Here are some bad blogger outreach excuses for your reference:

    • My article is similar;
    • My article is new;
    • My article is bigger/longer;
    • My article has more images.

    And here are some good ones:

    • In my article, I’m sharing a different opinion on that issue;
    • I have done research and collected some interesting data (or cases) that support (or contradict) ideas from your article;
    • I have discussed this issue with authority people from our niche and came to some interesting conclusions that I didn’t see you mention in your post.

    If you can’t find a good reason to reach out to a person, don’t reach out to them.

    One additional step in our own prospect vetting process is to make sure we don’t bug the same people too often. No one wants to get bombarded with dozens of emails every week, even if these emails are well crafted and perfectly relevant.

    Many professional outreach tools will let you see your conversation history with each of your prospects, which makes it easy to avoid being too intrusive.

    Buzzstream makes it easy to keep track of your blogger outreach efforts

    Extra tip
    There’s one more group of outreach prospects that I didn’t mention — “people who tweeted or linked to your own content.” Reaching out to them makes a lot of sense when you’re just starting out and trying to get some traction, but on later stages it’s better to focus on the three aforementioned groups instead.

    Creating a list of prospects for blogger outreach

    Let’s get back to the three groups of outreach prospects that I outlined earlier and discuss how to find them with ease.

    1. People who wrote articles on the same topic

    This one is easy. Put some keywords related to the topic of your article into Google and collect a list of articles that appear in the results.

    You might also want to use the “Tools” functionality, in case you need to focus on “fresh” content (more on that later).

    But copy-pasting hundreds of URLs from Google search results can be quite tedious (unless you’re good with scrapers).

    So here at Ahrefs, we use our Content Explorer tool for that purpose. It has an easy export option along with some other useful features that will help you to narrow down your list:

    Use “one article per domain” feature to narrow down your list

    As a general rule, it’s a good idea to earn backlinks from websites that have never linked to your website before. So if the list of articles is too big, you might want to use the “highlight unlinked domains” feature and only work with websites that have never linked to you before:

    Highlight unlinked domains” is a unique feature of the Content Explorer tool

    These “unlinked” prospects should be given special care in your outreach emails because a link from them will bring more value than a link from someone who has already linked to you.

    2. People who linked to articles on the same topic

    Collecting prospects from this group necessitates a backlink tool.

    Since Ahrefs is one of the leading backlink tools in the market today, we tried to make it easy for our customers by integrating backlink data into Content Explorer.

    Follow two simple steps to identify which articles in your list have the most backlinks:

    1. Set “Referring domains” to only show articles with at least 2 websites linking to them;
    2. Sort the resulting list of articles by the amount of referring domains (high to low).

    From there, it’s just a matter of putting the URL of each article into Site Explorer and examining its backlinks one by one to see if there’s an opportunity for outreach:

    This can be super tedious at first, but with some experience, you get very good at identifying the most promising outreach prospects just by looking at the title of the linking page and the text that surrounds a link.

    3. People who tweeted articles on the same topic

    I listed my three groups of prospects in order of decreasing effectiveness.

    So this group is the least effective of the three, and I’ll tell you why I think so.

    Partially, it’s due to the fact that people tweet out a lot more content than they publish or link to.

    Other than that, too many people simply don’t read what they tweet:

    On June 4, the satirical news site the Science Post published a block of “lorem ipsum” text under a frightening headline: “Study: 70% of Facebook users only read the headline of science stories before commenting.”

    Nearly 46,000 people shared the post, some of them quite earnestly — an inadvertent example, perhaps, of life imitating comedy.”

    But that doesn’t mean that you should ignore this group of prospects altogether.

    As with the other two groups, it’s just a matter of cherry-picking the best prospects to reach out to and investing some time to personalize your outreach.

    Finding people who tweeted a certain piece of content is quite easy. Just put the URL into a Twitter search:

    By default, Twitter will show you the “Top” tweets, which is very convenient for outreach prospecting. But you can also click on the “Latest” tab to see everything they have.

    For some older articles, however, Twitter won’t give you too much information:

    This is where you can go back to Ahrefs Content Explorer and try the “Who tweeted” button:

    This functionality is still in “beta” so we might be missing a few tweets here and there. Even so, as you can see in my example above, the beta version may still give you more data than Twitter themselves.

    How to set blogger outreach on autopilot

    The three aforementioned lists of prospects represent the “existing” blogger outreach opportunities.

    How about the new ones?

    A lot of new content is published every day, and you have to keep your hand on the pulse of your topic and reach out immediately if a new opportunity pops up.

    Here’s how to do that:

    1. Mentions of relevant keywords

    SEOs and marketers have been using tools like Google Alerts for many years.

    Just put a few keywords related to your piece of content into the alerts tool of choice (there are many), and you’ll be notified whenever someone mentions these keywords online.

    Depending on the context of that keyword mention, you should decide if it makes sense to reach out to the author of that article and show them your own content.

    Since Ahrefs has the second-best web crawler after Google (according to a third-party study), we’ve developed our own web alerts functionality:

    But if you’re not an Ahrefs customer, there are quite a few other tools that offer this service.

    Right now, we’re running a small internal comparison of Ahrefs Alerts vs Google Alerts vs a few commercial services to find out if there’s any difference in speed and quality. If you want to know the results of this experiment, please subscribe to our blog updates at the bottom of this article.

    2. New links to relevant articles

    Here’s a fun observation. Put the URL of any article that ranks #1 in Google into Ahrefs’ Site Explorer, and you’ll see that it consistently gets new backlinks:

    Far too often, people settle with whatever is the #1 result in Google, and they rarely do any additional research. So later, when they need to reference a resource on that topic, they give that top ranking article yet another link.

    I call it a “vicious circle of SEO.”

    You have to use that vicious circle to your advantage and monitor any new links the top-ranking results get.

    Just enter the URL of any article you’d like to keep an eye on in Ahrefs Alerts, and you will get an email notification whenever they get a new link:

    On the importance of timing

    Here at Ahrefs, our marketing team spends the vast majority of time working with the “new” blogger outreach prospects rather than sifting through the thousands of old ones.

    If a person wrote/linked/tweeted something a year ago, it is unlikely that they are still interested in that same topic today. Therefore, our most sophisticated outreach email will smell “spammy”—simply because the timing isn’t right.

    But once a brand-new opportunity lands in our inbox, we want to react as soon as possible. The topic is still fresh on the author’s mind, and he is usually very open to discussion.

    It’s not that we completely ignore “old” prospects. We’re just very picky about who we decide to contact and ruthlessly filter out prospects that don’t look promising.

    On outreach objectives

    Obviously, everyone is in this game for links & exposure. But if you make them your primary outreach objective, you’re going to irritate a lot of people with your impudence.

    This is why we rarely ask people for links or tweets directly.

    Our sole goal is to make a person genuinely interested in our piece of content and read it start to finish.

    If we reach this goal, there’s a high chance that this person will decide to share or reference our content without us even having to ask for it.

    And if our outreach flops, at least we won’t ruin the relationship with that person by being aggressive and pushy.

    Try to be more aggressive than we are

    We’re in the “marketing for marketers” niche, where the rules of the game are much more fierce than in any other niche.

    But if you’re doing marketing in a niche that’s not as saturated with blogger outreach as ours, I suggest you to try being more aggressive than we are.

    • Be less picky when vetting outreach prospects;
    • Spend more time on “old” outreach opportunities;
    • Experiment with “weaker” outreach excuses;
    • Be more upfront with your request for links/tweets.

    There’s a good chance that your industry will forgive you all that.

    I know the guys at AuthorityHacker are advocating something they call “shotgun outreach,” and it works like a charm for growing affiliate websites in different niches.

    So please treat our “extra cautious” model with a grain of salt and feel free to experiment with the boundaries of your own niche.

    That said, I would love to hear your own experiences with outreach. Feel free to share them in comments.

    Tim Soulo

    Tim is the guy responsible for marketing and product strategy at Ahrefs. But most importantly he’s the chief evangelist of the company. Learn more about Tim

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    • Awesome article, Tim! I’m going to create a checklist out of this and put it to good use for future projects. One thing that I’ve learned while doing outreach is that if you’re honest about your intentions while appealing to the prospect’s personal beliefs or motives, that can also go a long ways towards nailing a link. Genuine and thoughtful (no generic “great article” or “love your site” crap) compliments about a person’s website or blog also help quite a bit in winning them over your cause. 🙂

      And if you have to email lots of blogs in a short period of time, write outreach templates that are geared towards that niche specifically and sell them on the benefits and end value that your content provides. In my experience, this approach works pretty well for infographics and visual content if you’re pressed for time.

      • hey Maximillian.. yeah, that’s actually a topic for an entirely different blog post.. which I actually covered a while ago. –> – did you see it? 🙂

        so in this article I didn’t share any tips on writing outreach emails, but rather showed how to never run out of quality outreach prospects 🙂

        • Yes, I do recall reading that. Lots of gold-nugget tips to be found there! Anyhow, sorry for going off-topic. If other readers wanted to be more “aggressive” or at least more persistent with their outreach, I figured I could help by sharing what’s worked for me. I guess it was more of an addendum to your “Try to be more aggressive than we are” section than anything else, though I’m well aware you guys have covered outreach tactics and strategies several times on your blog. 🙂

    • Albert Tan

      Hi Tim,

      Just curious whether your team at Ahrefs is using an automated outreach software to run your outreach program.

      Or you are only using manual method?

      My experience is like this.

      For highly valuable prospects, it is best to manually write each and every outreach email manually.

      For second and third tier prospects, create my own template which is unique (not to be found on the net at all — definitely not those templates which are floating on the blogs). Make it appears to be as personalize as possible.

      Unless you have a lot of time to spare you can’t possibly write personalized email to every prospect. Things get messy when your target prospects become big say few hundreds or thousands.

      • hey Albert.. we rely on Buzzstream heavily.. but that doesn’t mean that our outreach is highly automated.. we try to make each and every email that we send very personal.. but it starts from a template of course

        and the main reason why we use Buzzstream — we want to keep history of all our communications in one place.. so that one team member could see that another team member have already contacted this person recenly

        hope that makes sense 🙂

        • Albert Tan

          Thanks Tim for your clarification.

        • Make sense Tim! 🙂 We are doing the same thing at our agency, except we’re using Pitchbox. Also, everything starts from a fully customized template for every campaign (different niches requires different approaches to bloggers/editors), but the rest of communication (after the initial email is sent and reply received) is unique for every prospect.

          • hey @tinikas:disqus

            Yeah, I love Pitchbox as well, but I found their software too advanced for our needs. It’s perfect for marketing agencies though. At least that’s my opinion 🙂

    • This is great. There is certainly more demand now than ever for lessons about whitehat outreach.

    • I find this post as very useful particular for me. Since, I’m in a process of doing this now. I use google alert for this.

      • good luck with your outreach, Gabriel 🙂

    • Hey Tim — great article as always.

      Asking for a link is always the hardest part — which is why I often opt for a more direct approach to save time. Would love to learn your secret on how to drive your prospects from reading to linking to your site 🙂

      • the secret is to create a piece of “linkable” content in the first place.. in case of Ahrefs, we love to fill our content with unique research studies or results of our marketing experiments.. people like referencing such things 🙂

        • RahulKuntala

          Rightly said Tim! Creating link-worthy content is the key here.

          Also figure out more creative ways to get links from other sites.

          One of the best ways to get best results with blogger outreach is: “do pre-content promotion”.

          Ask for experts advice (around the topic you’re writing about) and include to their stuff within your content.

          When the post goes live, let them know about it. You’ll get better outcome with foot in the door technique than reaching out to others after finishing your article.

    • Hello Tim,

      I have gone through your article regarding Blogger Outreach and understands its importance as described by you.

    • good article 🙂

    • I pay attention keyword density and I write related keywords to header and content. But my organic hits doesn’t increase.

    • Nice Article.

      Thanks for writing on this topic.

    • Hey Tim,

      Awesome article! I’m a big fan of actionable & “to the point” content, and you’ve nailed it.

      As a person who came from the “niches affiliate industry” to the marketing niche (Recently started my marketing blog), I’ve realized the importance of quality over quantity when it comes to outreach strategy. Also, I couldn’t agree more with “What’s in it for them?” phrase as an approach to bloggers outreach. (You have to put a tweet button next to it)

      Although I’m familiar with the three type of prospects that you mentioned, some new ideas popped up to my mind while you described the “vicious circle of SEO.” And also thanks for reminding me of the Alerts feature, I used to work with Google Alerts a few years ago and completely forgot about it.

      Thanks very much for this useful article. Will tweet this now as I’m sure it’ll be useful for others too.

      Stay awesome,

      PS: Tim, above all I liked your red smiley on the picture in section #3, you should do something with your drawing skills! 😀

    • Nora Willa

      In this way I’m get a 50 links per month.
      Thank you Tim solo.

    • I like your blog, guys. But sometimes I would like to have an opportunity to click on the image and zoom it…

    • Great Article. What about using outreach tools like Ninja Outreach, Mail Shake or Buzzstream