This is my first blog post as part of the Builtvisible team, so I hope everyone enjoys it!
Since joining at the beginning of March, I’ve built a bit of a reputation internally for link building, something I’ve enjoyed a lot of success doing in my two and a half years in digital marketing. I pretty quickly started working with some existing content (namely infographics) the team had built for clients and getting them featured on some awesome sites, cementing my position as ‘the outreach guy’ for the foreseeable future.
In-fact, in my second week, I managed to get an infographic we had just finished featured on DesignTaxi, Huffington Post, Yahoo News, as well as some of the most authoritative food sites around, surpassing our (and the clients!) entire linking expectations almost instantly. So hopefully some of the techniques I use can be useful for people new to the industry and seasoned pros alike.
Look for the linkers
In the example above I was coming in from cold with an infographic just about to be signed off, with no preliminary outreach under my belt. The journalistic contacts I’d built up working for one of Builtvisible’s previous clients (small world huh?) were all focused on technology, miles away from wanting to write about ‘the best coffee in Europe’. My first focus was then to look for the linkers.
There’s tons of coffee related content out there, I just had to find related infographics that had been produced before and then the sites that linked to them. This cuts down our workload by more than half – not only helping us find people/sites to get in touch with, but also those that are more likely to link as an end result.
To replicate this yourself, you’ll need to first find similar content to what you have or are planning to produce (it works both ways). To do this try really broad searches in Google. For example I started off with ‘Coffee infographic’ – simple stuff right?
From there I found a pretty well linked to infographic called ‘Your Brain on Beer vs Coffee’ created by ilovecoffee.jp. Running the URL through Ahrefs then delivered a list of domains linking to the infographic itself.
As you’ll see, I quickly discovered DesignTaxi were previous fans of coffee based infographics, so surely they would also be interested in ours? A quick email later and it appeared they were!
Finding email addresses
DesignTaxi was a bit of an anomaly when it comes to outreach as the initial (and in fact, only) contact happened through one of the dreaded and usually unproductive ‘Contact Us’ forms. The first and always preferred method should be finding a direct email address of the person you wish to contact.
So the situation is that you’re doing some preliminary or post publication outreach, you’re googling (sorry Bing, the word just…works) related keywords and you’ve seen a journalist who’s written about a similar topic quite recently. You can almost smell the link (!?) as you click on the authors name and it takes you to a page with a list of their articles but nothing else, no bio, no picture, no email address, nada. So you google (Bing, again, apologies) their name and there’s nothing listed on journalisted.com under the contact section. You also can’t see an email address in their personal website or Twitter bio and you’re pretty much out of options. This is where Allmytweets.net saves the day.
Armed with the journalists Twitter handle, you can paste it into the search field and be gloriously presented with all the tweets from their tweeting history – including deleted ones! Do a quick CTRL+F (opens the ‘find’ box) and start trying ‘contact’, ‘email’, ‘gmail’, ‘@[domain they work for].co’, etc. And before too long, you’ll strike gold; with their email account sitting there in a brilliantly highlighted ugly orange colour.
Alternatively, if that doesn’t work, rely on Rapportive (alongside the Email Permutator by Distilled). With Rapportive installed and running alongside Gmail, it’ll flash up details of the person behind an email address when hovered over. So, using your personal copy of Email Permutator through a Google Spreadsheet, you type the first and last name of the contact you’ve noticed (no one uses the middle name feature btw) along with the domain that they work for and it creates a list of potential email addresses that person could have.
Once you’ve got the list, copy all the cells with the addresses in, head over to Gmail, hit ‘Compose’ and paste your list in the ‘To’ field. Then one by one, hover over each of the addresses until a little human (usually it’s a human but it could be anything) appears. Once that happens, you’ve found them!
I cheated a little bit in the example…but you get the picture!
Now I’ve found the email address that I know works, I can simply copy it, delete the draft email and start again, pasting only the working email address in.
If you don’t get a link, make a connection
Now, I’m not going to show you word-for-word how to write an email. There’s a million posts already out there doing that (12,100,000 actually from my Google search) – but as a quick summary of all of them ever = keep it as short as possible and don’t be afraid to ask the question ‘do you think this is something you’d write a feature about’.
However, it’s not the wording in the email I want to target here, more the mentality of the person writing it. A lot of people who are quite new to outreach are mostly focused on getting the link and end up feeling ‘spammy’ after sending a few emails. I suggest switching this view a little bit, which will help not only fight that feeling but also your future outreach endeavours.
This isn’t the last piece of content you’re ever going to have, and the writers are likely going to be people you’ll want to exchange emails with in the future. So don’t jump in with the idea of just getting a link, change you’re thinking to focusing on building a relationship with the whoever it is and working out what sort of content it is that they like to receive. Don’t be afraid to ask that either.
If they ignore your first pitch attempt, simply ask for feedback. It’s ok that this writer didn’t write about it, and you obviously think they’re worth pitching to, so simply ask for feedback so you can adjust. From there you’ll ideally have a future pinging them over content they will love. The writer could also potentially play a huge role in designing future content alongside you once you’ve built a relationship, gaining their buy-in for when the piece(s) is finalised and ensuring other writers (probably also looking for the same sort of content) find it interesting too.
Now you’ve made the trade from aiming for one link to potentially getting dozens from one writer, not to mention the others that’ll follow off the back of that. If that doesn’t excite you, you’re in the wrong game!
Digital marketing is growing faster than ever before, and as Richard pointed out recently, 70% of marketers recognised content marketing has increased their brand awareness. This does also mean that companies will ramp up their content production, giving us not only more work (yay!) but more competition (boo!). Therefore, you have to stay ahead of the game, and hopefully these techniques will help you do just that.