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Blogger Outreach….Mistakes Made and Lessons Learned: Case Study

blogger outreach case study

Blogger outreach. It’s a tricky one. Reaching out to prominent industry bloggers and asking for a favour – and a significant one at that: can you promote my content for me? It’s not easy.

It neatly encapsulates some of the big fears we have as humansfear of rejection, the fear that we don’t belong, the feeling that some people are unreachable – that they are somehow different from us and should not be troubled with our trifles. Yes, all of that.

But what happens when you grit your teeth, realise you have to do it, and do start to make those connections? You realise what a helpful industry we’re in, that people are generally receptive to your approach (if they’re approached in the correct way and if you’re producing good content) … and you realise that, hey, you might belong after all.

Oh, and you make some mistakes too. In my first, faltering attempts at blogger outreach, here’s what I learned …

What blogger outreach means to me

First of all, I should give a little background on what I was hoping to get out of this:

  • I’m new to blogging. I’ve been helping people professionally with their websites and online marketing for over 10 years, but I’m new to blogging and audience growth from a personal perspective. I need to grow an audience for my book.
  • I wanted to share some of my content with people who were referenced in it, in the hope that they would in turn promote it (however fleetingly) with their much larger audiences.
  • I wanted to see what would happen if I – an unknown – would reach out to some of the industry big-wigs and ask them for a favour

Before last week, I was creating content – but not promoting it. Blogger outreach was my first significant step to promote the work I was creating.

To begin, I needed a great piece of content. There’s no point in trying to promote dross. So I wrote an piece on the ‘Best Online Marketing Articles of 2013‘. Through the year, I’d bookmarked many good articles, so I had these as a starting point. I needed to write an introductory paragraph to each, include an opinion and links to the original article and the author(s).

Once written, I had the list of people I was going to approach. In all, there were about 20 people I wanted to reach.

But I needed their email addresses.

How to get the email address of nearly anyone

In this great article, Iris Shoor details the process she took in writing ‘The cold emails that got me meetings at Twitter, LinkedIn and GitHub‘. She wrote to seemingly ‘unreachable’ C-level people at the organisations she wanted meetings with. It’s brilliant and you should read it. For my purposes, we need to really look at the following steps she took to find out their email addresses:

The gmail account is required specifically so that you can use the Rapportive plugin. The Rapprotive plugin is the first genius part. It shows you the social profile for any email address you type in gmail. When I type in an email address and hover over it, the Rapportive plugin takes over.

Blogger outreach

The email address I have is real and represents the person I want to reach out to.

But what if Rapportive draws a blank? The chances are the person you’re contacting has a Google account, or a Facebook account, or a LinkedIn account; But if it looks like you’ve got the wrong email address – this is where the Email Permutator steps in.

It’s a google doc spreadsheet (you’ll need to save a copy to your account in order to use it) that runs a combination of first name, last name, and domain name through some common email address permutations – giving you a list of about 40 possible email addresses that you can now try in gmail. Brilliant. (It’s written by Rob Ousby – over at Distilled.net, and in this blog post, he goes through everything in detail for you).

Blogger outreach

Put the first address in Gmail – hover over it. Do you see the social connections in the Rapportive plugin? No? Then move on to the next permutation … and repeat until you find it. Now I had a list of email addresses for the bloggers I wanted to contact.

(Of course, often times a simple google search will turn up the result you’re looking for – and I did start there, but a lot of bloggers understandably keep their email address close to their chest.)

I’d done the geeky part – the bit where I could remain in my cocoon playing with my (admittedly not very exciting) toys. Now I needed to craft a decent email to these people. And I can’t stress this next part enough:

Each email I wrote was personal, non-templated and reasonably quickly established it’s purpose. Because I was asking each essentially the same thing, there were of course elements I didn’t need to change – but that’s different from using a template or a canned response. Here’s an example of what I wrote:

Blogger outreach

A few things to note:

  • This was an extremely popular article on an extremely popular blog (Moz.com) – I was shooting high.
  • Yes, I’m using flattery to endear myself to them. But it’s true. The article in question is now a default resource for me to share with clients. Feel free to flatter – but it needs to be sincere.
  • I’ve been very clear as to what I’d like them to do – ‘share this with your readers’.
  • And I’ve made it reasonably clear why they should – ‘help make them aware of some of the great online marketing content produced in the last 12 months’. (Bloggers are not interested in your content, they’re interested in their readers – if your content doesn’t serve their readers, you’re on a hiding to nothing).

And a couple more:

  • I didn’t say ‘Thank you’, or ‘Thanks in advance’ at the end … which was an oversight. I should have done, but the email feels okay without it. It’s formal – we’re not best friends. But still, I should have said ‘thanks’ at the end!
  • The opening – ‘I just wanted to let you know’ was a mistake – and I wouldn’t start with that again. Just wanting to let somebody know something feels presumptuous and arrogant somehow (what could I teach this guy?!)

So, then I repeated a similar thing for the rest of the people on my list, clicking ‘send’ as I went and sat back, quite nervously, to see what would happen. Materially, this is what happened:

  • Of the 17 people I contacted (I couldn’t find an email address for everyone I wanted to), I got 8 tweets of my article to a combined audience of just over 58,000 people
  • Those tweets were re-tweeted at least 5 times – more exposure
  • I got mentions on 4 people’s Google+ pages
  • My blog received 1 months traffic in 2 days. That’s then about 15 times it’s normal level of traffic. Again: 1 months worth of traffic, in 2 days.

Here’s what didn’t happen

  • I didn’t do a good enough job of converting that traffic. Of the people who came to my blog, only 5% did what I hoped they would do (sign up for my newsletter).ÊI need to do a better job of converting the traffic.

And yes, I made some mistakes:

  • I spelt the name wrong of one quite prominent blogger. He took it in good spirits (it was a small, genuine mistake), but I was quite annoyed with myself – it was the mistake of an amateur.
  • I attributed one article to the wrong author. Yup. It was a guest post on a popular blog, and in my original article I’d attributed it to the blog owner rather than the guest writer. Again, swift correction and all was well (and a tweet to over 10,000 followers went out after my correction)
  • Ideally, my blog outreach would not have begun with a straight request for a favour. Ideally, I’d have written to these people the week before, saying ‘hey – loved this article, I’m including it in an upcoming blog post – do you want me to let you know when it goes live?’ That’s what I’ll do next time. It’s softer and less presumptuous.

But I also got some big wins

  • aside from the traffic (which is nice, but if it doesn’t convert, it’s just a number) I struck up 4 or 5 good email conversations with people I know I’ll stay in touch with. These are people who I now know are friendly, helpful and interested in the topics I’m interested in. Next time I email them will not be for a promotion request, but for an exchange on our similar interests.
  • I gained confidence. I can do this – I will do this. I can create something worth sharing and I can talk to people who could share it. Brilliant.
  • I noticed that it’s not people with the biggest followings that provide the most benefit. The most traffic I got came from someone with about 2,000 twitter followers – not the couple of people who had over 10,000 followers.

So, that was my first blogger outreach program. Not my last. I enjoyed it and it was hugely beneficial – both for my blog and for me personally.

What about you?

What experiences of blogger outreach do you have? Have you done it before – how did you get on, what successes did you have, and what mistakes did you make?

Guest author: David Horn. For the past 10 years David has worked with small businesses like yours, launching their websites and guiding them through the first steps of doing business online. He used to call himself a web designer. Now he prefers: ‘Freelance Provider of Success’! You can find him blogging at http://forwebsiteowners.com

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  • very detailed article @David. Still trying to outreach with http://chitchatbiz.com

    • David Horn

      Thank you Marius! Good luck with your site – looks good.

      • Btw, do you use a certain email template for contacting people to help you? I believe that would be interesting to see an example

        • David Horn

          No, I don’t. I don’t think ‘templating’ is the way to go. I know that it’s harder to scale if you write each email individually, but I think it works better. Templated emails are an easy spot and easy to dismiss. I think you need to show that you’re genuinely interested in what they do, and how you can help their readers – and I think it’s harder to do that with a template. In the article, there is a screenshot of an email I sent to an author – and I mention that some parts of the email are always going to be the same, but much of it is written new each time.

  • This did work well for you but my personal opinion is that trying to reach out to “A List bloggers’ is a waste of time. They’re bombarded with so many of these emails and message from people trying to get their attention. I like what Chase Reeves says about connecting with the Third Tier, if Jeff will allow me to share the link (the post isn’t mine): http://fizzle.co/sparkline/third-tier-theory-networking

    • David Horn

      I absolutely agree: the third tier (or second, or whatever) is a great place to be. Many of the people I reached out to were definitely third tier and I got a lot out of it. However, I don’t agree that reaching out to the a-lister’s is a complete waste of time. I think you just need to reach out more thoughtfully; you recognise that they’re bombarded with requests – so don’t request anything until you feel like your relationship is at that point where you can. Build up to it, respect their privacy and the fact that they have many people asking the same thing. It doesn’t take much effort and could be hugely rewarding.

      • I appreciate your response David and do agree that if you are going to reach out, make sure you’re adding value.

    • What you shared about bloggers being bombarded is so very true. My blog is my business and along with it, I have a full time job – so I have 2 jobs and it’s so easy to get overwhelmed.

      What I find is that sometimes people who are trying to connect with me get lost in a sea of spam emails as I go through and press delete just to clean up my email (a habit I’m trying to curb).

      When someone takes the time to genuinely connect with me, making the email personal and having a back and forth as mentioned in this article, it makes hell of a difference.

      • It really does make the difference. I get about 150 emails a day, I can’t imagine how many someone like Seth Godin or Chris Brogan or Jeff would get!

      • I agree and I also think that if bloggers take the time to find and connect with *genuine* thoughts from the author or other blogger, then he stands a better chance of being noticed, rather than leaving some mindless, empty thought on the blog. I know that I personally look for some kind of connection, no matter how many emails I get or how busy I am.

  • vivienne neale

    Checking grammar/typos is a must – so many get through – almost impossible to monitor however hard you try, no matter who checks too. I suffer, I admit and there are a couple here too. That puts many off when you pitch but not everyone. Thanks for the share it is certainly interesting reading; sometimes Twitter works very well too I think:)

  • From a sales perspective this is also a great article for prospecting new business. If it works on bloggers why wouldn’t it work on prospects?

    • David Horn

      Yes Iain, why not? Cold emails can be effective if done well – and respectfully. You should check out Iris Shoor’s article that I link to above on how she got meetings with major players through cold emails. Well worth a read.

  • Krystian Szastok

    I’d recommend ‘warming them up’ next time before emailing asking for a favour 🙂

    • David Horn

      Yeah … definitely. That’s down as one of my mistakes, for sure … like with everything in life, I wish I’d been more prepared … I was getting an itchy finger wanting to pull the trigger on it. If I’d given myself another week, I’d definitely have warmed them up first! 🙂

  • Dominic Canterbury

    Great article, David. I’m going to make it required reading for anyone doing blogger outreach here.

    • David Horn

      Thanks Dominic – glad you found it useful!

  • Great post, David and thanks for email address technique which I hadn’t come across before. I would echo other comments about initiating some relationship building in advance to prevent the pitch from being totally cold. Plus, I’d agree that email is not always the best medium as I think everyone gets inbox overload, so unless the subject line looks really compelling, it’s going to get deleted. I find that Twitter can be a useful way to initiate contact.

    • David Horn

      The email technique is great – but not something I can claim credit for! Check out Iris Shoor’s article linked above; it’s worth the read. I haven’t really tried reaching out on Twitter … I think I struggle to communicate value in 140 characters. You need to explain why they should share this with their followers and if you’re completely unknown to them, I think that email is probably a better way to start.

  • Email is so the way to go David, to make impacts. People love the one to one connection and from a pitched guy – yeah, here and there I guess 😉 – I love when someone notes my name, my latest posts read, and if they comment on said post too. Build a bond to stand out from the crowd and you’ll do outreach right.

    Side note; just published a blogger outreach book on Amazon; timely pop up in my twitter stream. Thanks!


  • Hey David,

    I thoroughly enjoyed this post for a number of reasons. One you shared a number of ideas that I am going to put into practice in the near future – thank you, but you also made it real by talking about the ups and downs.

    I too feel squirmish when I send out any work and then find a typo. What is it with that, I always think it is some sort of sabotage and someone else has just come into my computer and changed one word before I sent out the post. How could I have possibly overlooked such a error. It stops me in my tracks and it is like I have a one second seizure. A typo can put you into action real fast.

    This sort of outreach is a lot of work but the benefits speak for themselves. It would have been a real confidence booster. And I am taking your advice and will certainly not be using ‘I just wanted to let you know’,

    I never see feedback that is sincere as flattery – I see it as a worthy way of acknowledging someone’s work with true intention.

    Thanks for some great tips.