I've said it before, and I will probably say it many more times.
But, I can draw a straight line from the day I started outreach, to the success I have with HPD now.
Hands down, connecting with other influencers was the single-most important action for me in those early days. Nothing helps a site or business get traction like having others endorse it.
But let's back up a little bit. What exactly is "outreach" and how does it work?
That's what we're going to cover today.
What You'll Learn Today
What Exactly is Outreach?
Outside of the internet, outreach probably has a different meaning. We're not talking about something like "community outreach" today.
In short, the outreach that people within internet marketing circles talk about, is the act of getting in touch with other website owners and become their friends, or acquaintances at least.
Another word could be "networking", as this is pretty much the same thing.
I guess we use the word outreach because it's us doing the groundwork. We're finding other people in our niche, and getting in touch with them, with the ultimate goal of getting on their radar, becoming their friend, and/or leveraging their influence and authority to boost our own.
This is also known as Influencer Marketing, with outreach being one main tactic of the overall strategy.
While that sounds relatively selfish, like we're using people, outreach only works if you have a "give first" mentality and genuinely want to help and befriend people in your niche. This is what most people get wrong, and what you'll learn more about in this post.
Why Outreach is So Important
In some niches, you won't get any traction at all until you start getting nods of approval from the existing community. In other niches, just getting a few links from high authority sites can do wonders for your Google ranking.
In every niche, the more people talking about your website, the better.
Before we go into more depth, let's look at some tangible reasons why outreach is important, if not vital:
- More backlinks
- More traffic
- More authority
- Increased "brand" presence
- Higher conversions
- Eventually, people reaching out to you
Now let's look at these in more depth.
There are quite a few ways that outreach leads to more backlinks. These include, guest post opportunities, expert roundup inclusion, contextual links, podcast invitations, joint-ventures or promotions, social media shares, and of course, skyscraper posts.
If you're not familiar with any of those, let's do a quick rundown on how outreach worked out for HPD initially.
When I first started connecting with other influencers in this industry, my goal was just to get on their radars. I knew that people in the industry were willing to link to one another quite freely, and I saw people recommending one another and guest posting almost every day. Those opportunities don't happen overnight though. You can't just reach out to someone and ask if you can guest post or if they'll link to you.
First you have to get on their radar so they realize you have been around a while, and later, those opportunities will come.
So when I first started, I was simply commenting on other influencer's posts. I was replying to their emails asking questions, giving them answers, and basically interacting with them like the rest of their audience. If I had a chance, I'd make them aware of my own site, but I wasn't expecting anything from it.
The next thing I did was perform an expert roundup, where I asked about 20 people their answers to a question, and published the results. Not all of them replied, but some of the ones who did have since become good friends. If I recall, this was the first time I'd reached out to Doug Cunnington for example, and we've since interviewed one another, featured guest posts for each other, and linked to each other's posts fairly often.
This all started because I reached out to Doug and featured him in a roundup post, and the relationship developed from there.
I'm a little fuzzy on all the minor details, but once I had started getting on people's radars, I was able to reach out to them for links occasionally. For example, I remember Stuart Walker wrote an epic guide to starting a website, and I linked to it. Later, I wrote a similar guide and asked if he'd be willing to link to it from somewhere in his site, and he did.
There's a few lessons there, the first is to build the relationship in advance, the second is to go for reciprocity (I gave him a link in the past, so he gave me one back) and the third is to create something worth linking to.
Over time, I started attracting more links. I wrote a guide about why Amazon affiliate sites are the best for beginners, and a few days later Matthew Allen from dumbpassiveincome.com wrote an article on a similar tangent, and linked to my article. I didn't ask him to, but because I'd outreached in the past and he'd starting reading my blog, the link came.
I do the same thing all the time. If I'm writing something and I know there's a useful article related to my topic, I'll link to it. Jon Haver has received links from me the same way, and I've received links from him too.
So that's one really good way of building links through outreach. With a bit of hustle to get on people's radar and a bit of prompting, you can get a few decent links, and eventually people will link to you without you asking them to... especially if you've been linking to them and letting them know about it.
This is also exponential. The more people who pay attention to you and link to you, the MORE people will notice you and in turn link to you. It snowballs.
Another example of more links comes from the fact that eventually, your new relationships will lead to guest post opportunities. Again, you can start out by offering people a chance to guest post for you, but initially they might not be interested if you're not perceived as having a big audience.
Not to worry, if you can came up with a good topic idea and demonstrate why you'll be good at that post, people are willing to let you guest post. The entire guest post strategy is covered in our membership area and isn't something I can squeeze into this post, but I will say that it's one of those things where you put a lot of effort in initially for little gain, only to have this reversed later on. Getting guest posts is relatively straight forward for me now, but only because I spent a long time laying foundations.
Finally, you will also start being on receiving end of outreach efforts and expert roundup posts. This will mean that people will be linking to you, with the hope of you linking to them later. You reach this kind of critical mass where you no longer need to hustle a lot to get links, because you're big enough that people will be linking to you and featuring you without much effort on your behalf. It's well worth putting in that initial effort to get to this stage.
It goes without saying that if you are getting a bunch of links to your site, and those links are legitimate links from the above mentioned sources, you'll also be getting traffic.
The great thing is that this traffic is usually high quality and well qualified. When someone visits your site from a relevant link, they're doing it because they're curious enough to learn more about you or read an article that's been recommended.
This means they already trust you more and will be more likely to click your affiliate links, sign up for your email list, or whatever else you want them to do.
Referral traffic is high quality.
Of course, more links don't just get you referral traffic. They also get you higher rankings in Google, which means you get more search traffic too (ah yes, the coveted search traffic!).
This can only be a good thing.
In terms of white-hat SEO, outreach is the best way to go about it, and rankings that are propped up by white-hat links are stable and scalable.
More Authority, Brand Presence, and Conversions
Depending on the niche, authority can make or break your success. If you have a simple affiliate site with some review articles and useful information, authority might not be super important. On the other hand, if you're selling a service or something where people need to trust you, then authority is huge.
Now, if you've done influencer marketing well and you have endorsements from countless other influencers in your niche, their authority and status is automatically going to filter down to you.
When HPD started getting traction, a lot of that was because other influencers were recommending us, which was often all that was necessary to get a sale.
Ironically, more authority also translates to more links and more traffic as well, see how it all ties together?
So the more people that mention your brand, or link to you with your brand name, or talk about you - the more of a brand you have. This is great because it means Google will rank you higher, but it also means people take you more seriously.
More authority and more perceived brand means more conversions.
Speaking of conversions, referral traffic (whether from links or word of mouth) usually converts very highly.
Think about it, you find a site offering a service, but you're not sure if they're trustworthy, so maybe you go and search for reviews. Usually those reviews come from affiliates, so can you really trust them?
On the other hand, if you find several other sites that you trust and follow, and those site owners all recommend the same service, you're going to assume that this is a great service, and 9 times out of 10 it is.
This makes it a lot easier to sell the service.
The same applies for all sites though, not just services. If you've been recommended as an authority in your space and you are telling people to buy a certain product, they'll be more likely to trust you. Your affiliate conversions will only go up in this case.
Types Of Outreach
Now let's look a bit more closely at some of the types of outreach. We've already covered a few this far, but let's make things clearer.
First of all, let me reiterate that outreach/influencer marketing is a strategy rather than a specific tactic. It refers to the act of connecting with people and befriending others in your niche. So while I'm going to list a few ways you can get in touch with people and get on their radar, you should always think about the bigger picture.
Not very effective by itself, but blog commenting can be a good way of starting to interact with a website owner. If they don't have many people commenting, that's even better, because they'll notice you and appreciate you commenting. If you then reach out to them later for a guest post or other "ask", you are more likely to accepted.
On a side note, we recently published a guest post on Spencer's blog for building niche sites systematically. This is a prime example of the benefits that can come from just blog commenting at the beginning. If people are putting out good content, let them know.
Blog commenting is also great because looking for blogs to comment on will let you learn more about the niche, as will reading other comments.
This is where you simply get in touch with someone via their contact form or twitter or something similar. This can work if you are already established and they've heard of you, or you have a very good pitch!
However, most of the time this isn't the best way of reaching out to someone, unless you are doing an expert roundup, or telling them you've linked to/featured them on your blog.
It can also work if you have subscribed to someone's email list and you reply to one of their emails, either with a question, comment, or just the desire to introduce yourself.
This is probably the most under-utilized methods of outreach and it can work surprisingly well. Once you have one or two "buddies" in your niche, you can ask them to introduce you to others.
I've managed to get guest post opportunities and even podcast appearances as a result of asking someone for an introduction, and I'm more than willing to introduce someone else as well.
Caveat, you need to already know the first person well and have a good reason for them to introduce you. Nobody wants to introduce someone to a friend and then find out that it was a bad idea.
A good way to get started when you've not really got any traction is to create some ego-bait. In plain English, this is where you create a post, such as "20 sites I recommend" and then tell each of the people featured that you've done it.
With their ego stroked, you now have a conversation starter and perhaps even some shares or links.
An expert roundup post works a bit like ego-bait as well.
A simpler version of ego-bait is simply linking to somebody, or mentioning them, then letting them know afterwards. You can be sure that after hitting publish on this post, we will be getting in touch with the people mentioned.
What Isn't Classed As Outreach, But Can Work
There are some things that I don't really class as outreach, but they can work if you've been doing outreach well. This is things like broken link building, guest-o-graphics, or other link building techniques that involve cold-contacting bloggers. If you are just sending a bunch of emails out to people in the hope of snagging a few links, that's not real outreach.
However, if you've built relationships with people and then use the above techniques, your more likely to get the results you wish.
Remember, the point of outreach is to be yourself and be friends with people in your niche. Outreach is the act of getting started and putting yourself out there, but only by being a "real" person will you get results. Don't forget this, although many people do.
Services and Technology That Can Help
Here are a few things that can help your outreach efforts:
- Google Sheets - Really useful for tracking who you've spoken to and what you've asked them for and received etc.
- NinjaOutreach - Great software for automating a lot of the processes. (Read our review here.)
- Ahrefs - Useful for seeing what links your competitors are getting, and finding outreach targets from that.
- Social Groups - Seriously, being in Facebook groups related to my niche has had a lot of positive results. (Check out our Facebook group here)
Final Tips And Suggestions
Outreach is a skill that you can develop, but I'd be surprised if you get results instantly. My biggest suggestion is to remember that you want to do people a favour before you ask for something from them.
Equally, you don't just want to ask for the sake of it.
I get a lot of emails from people who have clearly read a few articles about the importance of outreach, and I can tell they're just messaging me the same email they message 20 other people every day. I don't even bother to reply to these.
Remember, you want friends in your niche, with the understanding that eventually those friendships will yield you very positive results.