This is a guest post by Matthew Barby at Wow Internet.
Outreach seems to be the buzzword of 2013 and I have read numerous articles over the past couple of months on “how to find guest blogging opportunities” and “the best ways to contact your outreach targets”. What I want to talk about is a model of outreach that we have been working with at Wow Internet that I call ‘The Content Outreach Pyramid’.
The purpose of the model is to identify high authority outreach targets and gain their attention through ensuring that your content is directly visible to them. This will then help you to build a relevant case to them that can secure you an outreach opportunity. At the same time you will be creating a connected web of relevant content that drives PageRank back through to your website, whilst developing some valuable relationships in the process.
The first thing that I will say about this particular link-building method is that it is very much a long-term strategy, but it is one that can deliver especially high quality results.
Guest blogging shouldn’t be looked at on a link-by-link, short-term basis. There should be a long-term goal at the end of it and outreach should be approached from a strategic, sustainable point of view. Forget just finding a handful of blogs that you have gathered after doing an intitle:”write for us” query and think more toward gaining maximum exposure for your brand.
This has to be the most important stage. This is where you need to identify your end-target to where you want to have your content published. Now, the way I look to identify my outreach targets isn’t based on whether they actively promote that they accept guest posts or not. The metrics that you should be looking at are:
To do this, I usually start by performing some simple search queries within Google (I won’t go into all of these as I would be here all day, but here is a handy article from Peter Attia that goes into this in a bit more detail). For example, if we were using Wow Internet, one of the subjects that I look to create content around is link building (evidently!), so a typical search query would be:
intitle:”link building” inurl:”blog”
As you can imagine, the first page of results is full of SEOmoz articles, but as I’ve already had an article published there (and there is a clear route to submit content on the site) I will remove these from the results by carrying out the following query:
intitle:”link building” inurl:”blog” -seomoz.org
Once I have a SERP full of link building blogs, I like to download all the URLs from the top 3 pages and place them in a spreadsheet. Luckily, you don’t need to do this manually as you can use the SeoQuake Firefox plugin to do this for you.
Once I have this together, I hop over to Mozcheck.com and quickly get a breakdown of all the page authority, domain authority, mozrank and moztrust metrics for the URLs and then paste them within the spreadsheet.
Now that you have a list of potential website targets, it’s time to find out who the main contact or influencer toward the blog is. This can be done by taking a quick look at regular posters of the blog and getting their social media profile links.
Make sure that you then store these details within your spreadsheet. You can start removing any unrelated targets from your list and once this has been done you need to narrow it down to a maximum of around 3 or 4 major outreach targets.
For the purposes of this article, I will look at targeting one user, AJ Kohn (@ajkohn), who I’m sure many of you are familiar with.
This step is where it starts to get interesting. We want to find out who our target(s) are exposed to on a regular basis and who they are influenced by. Once we find this out, we can then start to get our content in front of them organically. To do this I use one of my favourite tools, Followerwonk.
What you can see in the image above is the results of the ‘Analyze Followers’ feature within Followerwonk. I have looked at exactly who AJ Kohn follows within Twitter and, using Followerwonk’s influence score, I can take a look at users that are likely to appear most frequently in front of AJ Kohn.
Once I click through to see the list of influential users (i.e. influence scores of >60) I have the option to download them all to a .csv file. This is the first thing that I do, and as this article goes on you will see how an excel spreadsheet will become your best friend!
Once you have collated all of the influential followers, you can remove all of the columns apart from ‘Screen Name’, ‘URL’ and ‘Influence Score’. This will now give you a list (which I have ordered by highest influence) of the users that AJ Kohn will see the tweets of on a regular basis.
Now, you could just start to approach these users to see if you can get outreach opportunities on their blogs in order to get in front of AJ; however, I think that if you’re finding it hard to get in front of AJ Kohn then you may find it even harder to do the same for Danny Sullivan or Rand Fishkin. So let’s take this one step further…
The first thing I do with the list of influential followers that I have gathered is to get rid of the ones that are completely irrelevant to the type of content that I am going to be trying to approach my target with. For example, one of the most influential followers that AJ has is @TheEllenShow.
When I have sifted through the list, I will then take the top 10 followers so that I can drill-down on exactly what they’re sharing.
My first port of call is www.allmytweets.net in order to get a list of the most recent (around the last 3221) tweets made by a Twitter follower (Note: you can gather this data through the Twitter API yourself but I thought I would use these tools in order to appeal to the less API-savvy amongst us!). The above image shows where I have gathered all the latest tweets from one of AJ Kohn’s most influential followed users, @ginatrapani.
All we want from these tweets is the URLs that Gina has been tweeting, so here is another handy Firefox plugin that can help us out: Link Gopher. Link Gopher will scrape the webpage and display any links in a nice ordered list. You can then copy all of these into your spreadsheet.
After doing this for the top 10 influential users that AJ follows, I now have a list of all of the webpages that the influencers of AJ Kohn have tweeted. More importantly, you have a list of webpages that AJ Kohn is exposed to on a regular basis.
At the moment, we only have a list of the shortened URLs (as Twitter does this automatically most of the time) so we can’t actually see which websites are being tweeted at all. This is where Neils Bosma’s fantastic SeoTools Excel plugin comes in handy. This amazing plugin has many useful features that can help with all areas of your SEO analysis, but I will be specifically taking advantage of the =UnshortURL() function that will take any shortened URL and un-shorten it (as the name suggests!).
If you’re not a master of Microsoft Excel, don’t worry, I will explain the next couple of steps in the easiest way to follow as possible.
Once you have installed the SeoTools plugin for Excel, bring up your spreadsheet that has your list of shortened URLs within it. Assuming that your list of shortened URLs are in column A, with the top cell being occupied by a title for the column, write the following formula within cell B2:
Then all you need to do is drag this formula down across all the cells in column B of the spreadsheet and it will run the UnshortURL formula for each of the URLs in your list. This might take a little while to load so go make yourself a nice cup of tea (or coffee if your not a stereotypical Brit, like myself) and by the time you’re done you should have a lovely list of unshortened URLs to play with.
The next question that I want to ask is ‘which websites are being tweeted the most be AJ Kohn’s influencers?’ The way that I can find this out is by doing a few little tricks within Excel to organise our data a bit more.
I have now created a new column in the spreadsheet and this is where I will extract the root domain address from the list of full URLs. This can be done using the ‘=LEFT()‘ function within Excel. Simply type in the following formula into cell C2:
=LEFT(B2, FIND(“/”, B2, 9))
What this does is look for any characters in the URL from cell B2 after the forward slash (i.e. after the domain name) and remove them, leaving us with just the root domain of each of the tweeted webpages. This needs to be done so that we can analyse how many times each website has been tweeted.
To now find how many occurrences of each of the domains there are, we can use the ‘=COUNTIF()‘ function. So, like with the last stage, I have created a new column in the spreadsheet and then within cell D2 I have typed the following:
You’ll now notice that next to each of the domains that we have in our list is a value that lets us know exactly how many times this domain has been tweeted by AJ’s influencers. This is incredibly valuable to me because I can now see the sites that AJ is exposed to the most.
We’re not quite finished yet though, as the spreadsheet is still a little messy. To neaten things up a bit, highlight the column with the list of root domains in (column C) and go filter this to show unique records only. You can do this by going to Data>Filter>Advanced Filter and then selecting the ‘unique records only’ tickbox. This will hide any duplicate domains from appearing and make it easy for us to create a nice graph to display our findings.
The final stage of our spreadsheet work is to create a nice visual representation of the websites that our target is most frequently exposed to online. To do this, highlight the last two columns (the one with the root domain URLs in and the number of times it has been tweeted) and create a simple bar chart. You can use another type of graph but I find that a simple bar chart will display everything that I have found in a way that I can interpret best.
This is where it all becomes worthwhile. I can now see some clear targets to reach out to that will give me a great deal of visibility in front of my target. I have then underlined some of the sites that I have found accept guest authors, simply by Googling ‘site:domainname.com “guest post” OR “write for us”‘.
Using the data gathered within the spreadsheet, I can start pointing out websites which I can look to approach in order to expose my brand to my target. From the analysis that I did around AJ Kohn, I found that the most valuable sites to get my content within are:
Not all of the websites that I have identified may be particularly easy to get my content on but I have definitely found some more than achievable targets to get me started. I can then start putting together a plan of content that has synergies with a number of the websites that I am targeting.
By doing this, it means that if one of the sites doesn’t like the content that I approach them with, there is a chance that another site may (or will at least hold relevance to their users). This can save a lot of time when putting together content.
The other factor to bear in mind is how well you can link between the websites that you approach. Don’t forget that although your end goal is getting your content in front of your target, each of the sites that you reach out to can provide extremely valuable links back to your website.
By linking between each of the articles, you are creating a connected web of related data that is passing PageRank to each other. This will then increase the power of the links that you have gained. On top of this, webmasters will love you to gain extra links to the content on their site so this could help in building long-lasting relationships with them. This is also the perfect opportunity to link to the content of your target, which is sure to get them to at least retweet it.
Once your content has started regularly appearing in front of your target, it will give you a great advantage toward reaching out to them. In some cases you may find that your target comments within one of your articles or retweets it; this is a great point at which you can start conversing with them. Start creating the building blocks of a relationship and then, when you find the right opportunity, reach out to them.
When you do eventually reach out to your target you will have an armoury of references that you can cite from the sites that you managed to get your content on. Not only this, but they are sites that your target will be well accustomed to and that should be relevant to them. Hopefully this will enable you to build a compelling enough case to your target and all the ground work that you put in will be worthwhile. The worst case scenario is that, even after all this, you are unsuccessful. If this is the case, you will at least be able to rest in the knowledge that you have built a series of powerful and related links from sites within your niche.
I have been using this strategy for some time now and it has uncovered some fantastic opportunities that I wouldn’t have come across before. I have built some really strong online relationships that have helped me to get my content (and the content of my clients) published on high authority websites.
This very post that you’re reading now is sitting on the PointBlankSEO site as I have identified Jon as one of my key outreach targets. Understanding who and what influences your target should be one of the first stages of analysis that you carry out, from there you have a strategic direction to follow and I assure you that you will get better results.