1. Always set goals
One of the first things you should do at the start of outreach is to set goals for the campaign. I once came across an acronym which I have since found very useful: Keep your goals S.M.A.R.T.
- Specific: Define your objectives. Set weekly and monthly one to help you reach your ultimate goals
Measurable: Place a numerical value on objectives (i.e. 100 likes). Then agree on a method of tracking results
Action-orientated: Define exactly what actions need to be taken in order to meet objectives. Decide who will be responsible for completing specific actions and when by
Realistic: Objectives should be stretching, but reachable
Time Specific: Set deadlines for progress reports and be honest about the results.
Outreach will always be far more successful if you have set goals and targets to achieve, as it gives you something to aim for.
2. Don’t worry about spending a lot of time on emails
The first email you send to a potential ‘prospect’ is extremely important, so get it right. What you’ve got to remember is that people who run websites and blogs receive hundreds of similar emails. As a result, you have to stand out from the crowd. This may take some time to do until you have mastered it. Here are a few tips on writing effective emails:
The main tip I have for you is to make emails personal. I’ve broken this down into a few strategies:
- Research who runs a website or who writes the articles related to the content you want linking to (You should have done this when prospecting anyway)
- Find out a bit more about this person using social media (the best to use is LinkedIn). If you can find their direct email address within the business, this is much better to use than the sites general email address
- Put their name in the ‘Subject’ line. This is so they see that the email is actually to them personally and isn’t just another SPAM email
- Try and create a relationship with the person – that could make the difference between successful and unsuccessful outreach in the long run. However, do remember to always remain professional. In order to create a relationship, keep the writing tone informal and mention something personal to whoever your writing to. Here’s an example: ‘Hi Joe, I see that you write blog articles on graphic design. We have just created an Interactive page that I think you may find interesting. Take a look: /’.
- Finally, before you send an email, you need to consider ‘would I publish this content if I was the blog/site owner’. If the site you are reaching out to doesn’t fit the content you are trying to promote, the you are wasting your time.
With every email you send out, think: “would I mind if this email was published?”. If the answer to that is no, then re-write the email.
Keep emails brief and to the point. Spend time working on a template that gets across what you need to say in as few words as possible. Then tailor this template to each individual that you outreach. Due to the huge number of emails which bloggers and website owners receive, they are very unlikely to read a long email. Therefore, your chances of getting the result you want are greatly increased if your email is short and snappy.
My final tip for emails is very important. Due to past experiences, some journalists and bloggers regard emails requesting links or the promotion of content in a bad light. As a result, you should try to avoid explicitly saying the words ‘link’ and ‘infographic’ along with any other SEO talk. If you look back at the example I gave earlier, notice I avoided using the word infographic by saying ‘interactive page. Thats just an illustration of what can be said, obviously it varies between what you are trying to promote, so just try and find words that best fit your content.
3. Track progress
It’s vital to track the progress of an outreach campaign as it enables you to assess if you are on target to meet goals and therefore wether the outreach is succeeding or failing. The way you track progress is down to the goals of the outreach. The metrics for a contest (Product Based Outreach) and a guest post will be very different. Ultimately, the goal of any outreach is to bring more organic traffic through a website and there are three main ways of tracking this:
- Earned Wins (Links/Shares you find and produce)
- Organic Wins (Links/Shares that naturally occur)
- Changes in Ranking.
I use Open Site Explorer at Impression to track both links and shares. It’s a very useful tool as it enables you to see the number of links to a piece of content, the website and page with the link on, whether a link is ‘follow’ or ‘no-follow’ and finally the number of social shares and likes. You should track your progress at every step of an outreach campaign to assess the progress of your goals.
4. Create a database of ‘prospects’
Keeping track of your connections and contact history is vitally important to a successful outreach campaign. Before you start sending out emails, tweets etc, create a spreadsheet in Excel to track who you’ve contacted. This should include the following categories:
- Website Domain
- Website Domain Authority (prioritise higher quality links ie links from a site with a higher Domain Authority)
- Relationship status (Explained below)
- Contact date
- Number of times contacted
- Contacts name
- Contact email address
- Additional notes
All this information enables you keep track of your outreach actions, enabling you to increase the chance of converting each prospect.
A successful outreach campaign is one that persists (without pestering), so don’t be afraid of contacting someone more than once. If you don’t get a reply to an email, send another out a week later that has been adapted i.e. with a different subject line and opening paragraph. If you still don’t get a reply, after that, maybe it’s time to review your approach.
Relationship status is useful as it enables you to see the status of a prospect at a glance, using colour coding. You can use relationship status to decide your next move with a prospect. It should contain all of the following sub categories, each with its own colour:
- Not contacted: After a contact has been prospected
- Attempted to contact: After the initial outreach email has been sent.
- Under review: After a positive response from the site has been received.
- No response: If no response is received after a week.
- Fizzled out: If the relationship goes silent after initial positive contacting.
- Success: After a positive placement.
- Rejected: If a ‘no’ is received.
A helpful tool to use which will give you useful insights is Sidekick. This enables you to see when someone opens an email that you’ve sent them. You can use this information to your advantage. For example, if an email is opened multiple times without a reply, then they were strongly considering a placement, so you may choose to send your next email substantially sooner.
A database has many more advantages beyond the ones I’ve illustrated here, so experiment until you find a system that works for you.
5. Be realistic with expectations
Remember that outreach is a long-term strategy for success. It takes time to get good results. You should make sure your clients understand this so they don’t get false expectations about seeing results straight away.
Do all of this and you’ll be in the best possible position for outreach success.