Portent Staff // Dec 1 2010
Outreach is a delicate process with no one-size-fits-all approach. The beginning is truly about trial and error until you find your own stride in effectively communicating with the public. Through some experimental approaches mixed with endless research on “expert” opinions, I have discovered a few guidelines that have helped me garner several high ranking, and I’m talking page rank 7s and 8s, within the past few months.
Up-and-coming internet apartment search site PadMapper.com blends features from Craigslist, Apartments.com and more to create a one-stop apartment hunting site.
To tap into their market, it was decided that fleeting link juice that stems from blog links via link baits and other one-time use material was not the way to go. The path chosen was of relationship building with very high ranking sites through offering a useful tool in order to gain permanent links within their niche market.
Using search techniques such as “site:.edu “off-campus housing” “craigslist,”" the company was able to tap into a goldmine of strong page rank university sites that clearly had links to their closest competitor and would likely link to them as well. With a list of well-researched sites ready first contact, with link included, began. The results slowly trickled in with several takers.
The following guidelines offer a similar approach to finding a fitting, and successful, outreach style.
You don’t have to visit a Tarot card reader over this one, simply determine what your end result should be. Are you looking primarily to fix broken links for a couple quick scores? Maybe you are in it for the long haul and want to establish an on-going guest blogging relationship. Perhaps you fall in the middle and want to forge a friendly open-door relationship where you can return periodically to offer new press releases or link baits. Whatever it may be, determine your goal early on. Though these goals may become malleable as relationships grow, having no goal to begin with may lead to approaches that repel rather than build relationships.
Just about everyone has a favorite way to search. Your query can be as simple as entering in a keyword and hitting enter or you can find technical versions that speak directly to the search engines and how results are categorized. For a great list of easy to understand search query options, both basic and advanced, try SEOMoz’s Long List of Link Searches.
I prefer to begin with organic search queries as that will turn up pages that are likely to appear when the public searches for those same terms. With good relationships, your client will soon be included on those pages.
Once I land on a wonderful site I like to spend several minutes flipping through a few pages, sifting through some blog posts, both old and new, and learning a little bit about who this writer is. If it is an amalgam of writers all sharing an insight on one subject, I will interpret the connecting thread that brings them together. Take notice of your gut reaction to a site, to their writing style, to their overall appeal and how it would fit with your goal. If the site does not quite fit with your goal at the moment, there is no reason why you couldn’t add them to your list and return at a more appropriate time.
There are a couple of options when it comes to making first contact. If I have something of “tangible” value, such as a list of broken links or a link bait piece, I might include it in the first outreach. Most sites worth reaching out to want to have a competent site free of dead links and just about all sites want more content to generate traffic. It seems lame, but it has to be said, make sure any content you offer a site is relevant and useful to them.
Most other outreach efforts are on precarious ground as you will need to gain the trust of, and build a relationship with, the site’s author. In these instances, start small. Leave useful, insightful comments on a blog post or two. Find and follow them on Twitter, then retweet what you find interesting.
When it comes time to outreach, I like to start by sending a short and sweet message that you enjoy their site and have been following them. If they don’t respond, wait a week or two before trying again with a different angle. If you really love the topics they cover, ask how they think of so many observant ways to tackle their niche subject. If you want to find out more about a certain blog post, ask for advice on where to dig deeper. Once they respond, the relationship can begin.