A Guide to Creating a Successful Initial Outreach Campaign

After reading this article you will have a methodology for organizing an initial outreach campaign for clients in any industry. When planning an initial outreach campaign, figuring out where to start can be a daunting task. Many marketers are inclined to place all industries into one cookie cutter approach such as:

  1. Social media links/shares
  2. Industry blog links
  3. Niche directory links
  4. Affiliate marketing links
  5. Content marketing links

These are all great places to start, however, they are also too broad to be able to provide a solid direction. The first question one must ask is “What are others in my industry doing?” This needs to be asked because each industry is unique and the link profile for your industry is just as unique as the industry itself. Google and other search engines track this. There is a reason Google asks what industry your company is in when you create a Google Analytics account.

If you are in the hospitality industry search engines will expect to see citations from booking engines (both international and local). Without these you may have a hard time ranking locally, even if you do all the other things you would for most other local accounts.

A company in the fashion or beauty industry will have a large number of links from blogs. A tech company will likely not have as big of a percentage of links coming from blogs; instead they will likely have a larger portion of links coming from online tech magazines and industry new sites. My first and most important advice to any client is this… “Do what makes sense for your business. Acquire links that aid in achieving business goals (other than ranking).” Your primary objective is to increase profits or donations if you run a non-profit. An example would be links aimed at increasing social following, social shares, sales, email newsletter signups, etc.

Tip #1 – Acquire links that aid in achieving business goals (other than ranking)

I know it seems contradictory for an SEO to say focus on things other than ranking. However, if you do the other things right and have a solid website as a foundation then rankings will follow. In the end we all want happy clients (or bosses if you’re in-house). I like to think of link-building as similar to developing a stock portfolio. You want to keep your referral traffic coming from lots of different sources. Rankings come and rankings go. They are always moving up and down. Rankings are the most volatile inbound traffic asset you have. It doesn’t make sense to have that be your primary focus. If your rankings tank for whatever reason the last thing you want is for your business to fail as a result. So don’t put yourselves or your clients in that position.

Whether these are paid advertisements or editorial links doesn’t matter. Search engine algorithms change so make sure you are building a quality referral base. A strong referral base will increase brand awareness and lead to the types of natural links that will help you rank organically in the search engines. And when Google changes its algorithm, regardless of whether your site moves up or down in rankings you will have a steady influx of targeted traffic.

Tip #2 – Build your referral traffic and don’t put all of your eggs in one basket

When considering which social media platforms to engage in, consider where your target market spends their time. Are they youngsters who are always on Facebook? Are they tech geeks or online marketers on Google Plus? Do they keep up to date with current events by following what’s trending on Twitter? Are they highly career focused and therefore spend their social time on LinkedIn? You get the idea, focus your efforts on being outstanding on the platforms that will drive the most business and don’t worry about the rest. Don’t create and manage a Pinterest account because it’s the newest, coolest thing. Keep the Pareto principle in mind and only do it if it makes business sense.

Tip #3 – Remember the Pareto principle and stay efficient

Competitive Link Target Research

When starting a client campaign I do competitive link research on competitors ranking on the first two or three pages of Google. I take this list of competitors and I use Open Site Explorer to discover who is linking to them. I like to use the “Linking Domains” tab and then grab the top page for each domain. If another page I see grabs my attention as a potential link source then I will add that to my list for future use.

When you have all of your competitive link targets ready to go, create a new table with them in Excel and sort them alphabetically. Count the number of domains (you can do this manually or using an Excel function depending on how many domains there are). Now that you have all the data, throw it all into a chart so it’s easy to read. This chart will show you which sites are most likely to link to you since they are already linking to many of your competitors. Keep your original list so you can see who is linking to each of your competitors.

Now that you have a list of URLs, make a copy, and then in Excel under the Data tab use the Text to Columns wizard to separate each domain from the page attached to the URL. You don’t want a list containing www.wonderfulwidgets.com/blog/why-widgets-rock, we just need www.wonderfulwidgets.com for our purpose. Perfect, now we are ready for the next step, eliminating duplicates, which can also be done using Excel as shown here. You now have a clean list of link targets!

Tip #4 – Bosses, clients and coworkers love charts

Non-competitive Link Target Research

I use the same tactic for non-competitive link research as I do for competitive link research. Start by performing searches for business related keywords (widgets blogs OR widgets industry news). Create a list of sites ranking on the first two or three pages of Google. Now instead of using Open Site Explorer, take this list straight to Excel and use the Text to Columns and remove duplicate links. Be sure to keep your original lists separate in case you need to go back to them for any number of reasons.

Social Sharing Targets

Social media is a huge source of inbound traffic and an ever-increasing ranking factor. Make a list of the most used hashtags for your industry, and then research which sites/influencers frequently use those hashtags. Check out this post on Mashable for more information on hashtags.

Armed with the new information on which site/influencers are sharing the most in your industry, create a list of these sites/influencers to reach out to. We have three primary objectives here:

  1. Building relationships with those in your industry
  2. Getting them to write about your brand/client and sharing on social media
  3. Sharing your unique content on social media

Again, remove duplicates from the list you have created. Now you’re ready for the next step, outreach. Also keep track of which platforms they are using as this may help you determine which you want to utilize.

Preparing for Outreach

Congrats, you have three lists of link targets. Go through and remove any sites you do not want links from. Now you have three lists of great link targets! The first list will help ensure your link profile matches your industry, the second list will assist in propelling you ahead of the competition and gaining valuable referral sources, and the third list will help to keep your brand in front of its target market.

Whether you use Gmail or an outreach software provider such as BuzzStream, organize and attack. I’ve seen it suggested in numerous places online to begin outreach by sorting link targets by metrics such as Domain Authority or number of social followers, and then starting with the most valuable link targets, move down the list. Unless you are an experienced outreach link builder, this is exactly the opposite of what you should be doing. Even an experienced link builder needs a little bit of time to get to know an industry before reaching out to the big influencers. At least for now, in order to spend your time efficiently, don’t worry about the least important links on your list.

Here’s why you should wait to go after the biggest blogs/influencers:

  1. You will get to know industry and learn the lingo
  2. Unless your brand is well known, you’ll need time to build its reputation before the big players will want to work with you
  3. Make any initial “mistakes” with less important sites/influencers

Tip #5 – Start in the middle of your link target list and work your way up to the most important

You should now have a solid plan of attack. Keep your business goals in your sights and have fun!


Published:August 10, 2014

Search Engine Optimization

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