I received an email the other day from someone I know in the blogosphere.
He is a popular and successful blogger, earning well into five figures per month. I’ve featured him on Leaving Work Behind more than once and he has done the same in reverse. A quick Gmail search shows that we have exchanged well over a 100 emails since February 2013. So it’s fair to say that we have a bit of history.
Here’s the email in full, with identifying words obfuscated to protect the blogger’s anonymity:
Not exactly what I was expecting from someone I know quite well in the blogosphere.
Actually, this email didn’t come as a total surprise, because I had received something similar back in December from him:
I sent a playfully sarcastic response to this email “Hi [name], nice to meet you ;-)” but received no response.
This blogger is not alone in his automated outreach efforts though. Far from it.
For example, I’ve received so many emails recently from another blogger who interviewed me last year that it’s practically tantamount to harassment (four unsolicited emails this month without me actually replying to any of them). Each of these emails is a template with personalized touches added. More thoughtful than our above blogger’s emails, for sure, but it’s still clear that the purpose of each email (and the correspondence as a whole) is to get something from me. He wants me to promote his book, he wants to get a guest post published on my site (with a link, natch) and so on.
It’s gotten pretty tedious.
I used to feel bad about ignoring emails, but time and experience have led me to having no problem with it all these days. Don’t get me wrong – I still reply to all my readers and people who seem genuine – but I have no issue in hitting Delete whenever I see a form email, tweaked or not.
As someone who approaches blogging (and business) from a genuine “how can I help people” angle, I’ve gotten really sick of automated emails. It’s something I dabbled with in the past but backed out of pretty quickly. It’s just not something I feel comfortable with.
I’m sure that leveraging automation in the way that the above bloggers have done has led to some (perhaps a lot) of success, but it’s just not something I would ever want to put my name to. If you feel the same way, keep reading, because I want to show you that there is another way.
The Foundation of an Organic Blog Outreach Strategy
There are basically three approaches to blog outreach:
- Automated outreach. Where you get either someone or something to do all the work on your behalf. Otherwise known as spam.
- Pseudo outreach. Where you make an effort to seem genuine, but in reality you’re after just one thing: exposure for your site. A very prevalent form of outreach at the moment.
- Genuine outreach. Where you seek to make real connections with people that motivate, inspire and inform you with a view to building a genuine and mutually beneficial relationship. Rare.
I dislike the first approach, but it’s easy to ignore. I’m really starting to hate the second, because it enables people to masquerade as having genuine and positive intentions, while in reality they are singleminded in their desire for exposure and have no real concern for the people they email.
The third approach is the one that I advocate. Through this approach – which I have followed naturally rather than deliberately – I have built genuine relationships with a number of bloggers who I consider friends (and have mostly met in person); most notably Steve Scott and Alexis Grant. I speak to Scott every week in our mastermind session, and Alexis and I speak whenever we both find the time!
Beyond that there are a huge list of bloggers – big and small – that I would consider my friends. From Travis Sherry to Justin Cooke to Corbett Barr to Onibalusi Bamidele to Nathan Weller and many more, these are all guys that I chat with occasionally and would meet up with if I was ever in their hometown. More importantly, they are all people that I expect nothing from. But you know what? Sometimes they do things for me. And I in turn do things for them.
I helped Steve with the design for his new site (which is in my humble opinion, the best resource for Kindle publishing on the web) and he thanked me with a link at the bottom of every page. Alexis and her team at The Write Life featured LWB in her 100 Best Websites for Writers list and I thanked her by sharing it and mentioning it here. I promote Corbett’s Fizzle membership site and he gives me a share of the proceeds.
The list goes on, but these are all exchanges formed on a simple frame of mind: that you act as you would in building a friendship in your personal life. That frame of mind forms the foundation of an effective organic blog outreach strategy.
Putting an Organic Blog Outreach Strategy into Practice
Effective blog outreach is essentially about being a good human being.
It’s about wanting to know people because they interest you – not because you think you could profit from knowing them.
It’s about wanting to offer them something because you want to help – not because you hope to get something in return.
It’s about keeping in touch because you like talking to them – not because you know that you need to keep relationships alive to profit from them.
It’s about blurring the lines between your personal and business life – because you should have friends in business too.
With that in mind, I want to take you through a hypothetical situation in which you’re in search of blogging friends. There’s no need to overcomplicate the process and we may each have our own ways of doing things, so just take the following as an indicative guide rather than a blueprint to follow.
I’m aware of the irony of offering a step-by-step guide to what should be an entirely organic process, but if in doubt as to what you should do, always refer back to the foundation of an effective organic blog outreach strategy: act as you would in building a friendship in your personal life.
Step One: The Search
Future friends aren’t likely to come flocking to you – especially if you’re brand new to the world of blogging. And those that do will more likely than not be following either strategy one (automated outreach) or strategy two (pseudo outreach).
So let’s be proactive about this. You need to go out into the blogosphere and find likeminded bloggers. And I use the word “likeminded” deliberately.
This process is not about finding the most popular blogger in your niche and attempting to manufacture a relationship. It’s about finding people who you think you’ll actually like. I cannot understate the importance of this. If you try to establish relationships with bloggers who are leagues above you, you will almost certainly fail (unless you happen to really hit it off). They get tens (or hundreds) of emails every day, and I’m afraid to say that you will almost certainly just be another number. Give yourself more of a chance than that, and remember that today’s startup bloggers are tomorrow’s big-time bloggers.
That said, there are many ways to find new blogs in your niche.
- Do a simple Google search: “top [your niche] blogs”
- Search popular blog directories such as Best of the Web Blogs.
- Keep an eye out for links to other blogs in blog posts you read.
This should yield you a good amount of blogs, from which you can take the time to discover which ones you like.
Step Two: Initial Outreach
Your initial outreach efforts should be subtle and unobtrusive. In other words, they should be actions that do not imply a required response from the blogger, the most obvious of which is social sharing.
But don’t just send out a headline tweet like everyone else does. First of all, only tweet out articles that you actually like. Secondly, only tweet out articles that you have something to say about. Don’t just tweet out the article’s headline – tweet out your opinion. Add value and demonstrate that you care about or are interested in what the blogger has written.
Here’s an example:
— Tom Ewer (@tomewer) January 29, 2015
Don’t worry about whether or not the blogger will actually see your tweet – you’re sharing the post because you like it and you think that your followers will enjoy it – not because you’re hoping to gain something from doing so.
If you’re already an active Twitter user and you start to follow this strategy, you may find yourself sending out fewer tweets as you more carefully consider the value of each one. That is a good thing. Quality over quantity.
You can follow this same strategy for sharing via other social media networks. Go crazy on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram – whatever takes your fancy.
Finally, feel free to get involved in the comments section on your chosen blogs at this point too, but the same rules as above apply: only comment if you actually have something of value to add. That means something more inspiring than “Great post!” Do your very best to add value to the post, and as with social sharing, do not write a comment with the expectation of receiving a response.
Step Three: Contact
By the time step three rolls around, hopefully the blogger will recognize your name. They will have seen you in the comments section on their blog and perhaps on social media. You’ll be a known entity – not just a stranger – and perhaps the blogger will even have appreciated what you’ve done for them.
So this when you try to take the relationship to the next step: via email.
Most importantly, you must recognize that this step comes when it’s good and ready. You must not force it. I do not want you to send an email because you want to complete step three – I want you to send an email because there’s something interesting you want to say to that blogger. You should have a genuine reason to reach out to them.
Beyond that, it doesn’t really matter what you say so long as you’re not actually asking for anything. The point is that you should have something interesting enough to say that the blogger will be compelled to respond.
And what if they don’t? I’d say feel free to write a single follow-up email and call it quits on the email front for a period if you don’t receive a response. You may choose to continue sharing that blogger’s content (remember – you’re not doing it to benefit from it), and at some point in the future you might choose to email them again. It’s up to you.
Step Four: Taking it to the Next Level
You’re on your own from here.
You may continue an email exchange or you might take things onto Skype if possible, or even a face-to-face meet if you’re local to each other.
I also strongly advocate conferences for building genuine relationships. Nothing beats meeting someone in person, and conferences can help you sow the seeds of numerous friendships (as I can testify to following my attendance at Alive in Berlin and the World Domination Summit last year).
You will find that beneficial exchanges will arise from these relationships organically. I can’t tell you when or how, but these things will happen. You may find yourself getting into a position where you actually feel comfortable asking for something, and that’s fine, as long as it’s a friend asking a friend for a favor, not a strange looking for a leg-up.
Ultimately it’s down to you. You’re likely to follow this strategy if you don’t feel comfortable with the more ‘forced’ approaches to blog outreach, in which case I advise you to rely upon your intuition. Just go with what feels right.
Is the above strategy the most ‘effective’ in growing your blog? Almost certainly not. But I’ve laid it out here for those of you who are keen to conduct themselves in a genuine manner; people who feel horribly uncomfortable following the less organic and more systematic forms of marketing that so many bloggers tout.
Now I’d love to hear what you think about it in the comments section below. Share away!
Image Credit: Alderaban Robotics