If you want to stay relevant on the Internet (who doesn’t?), you’ve got to strike the right balance between “shareable” and “strategic.”
It doesn’t matter how much research you put in, how many revisions you go through, or how badly your boss wants to go “viral” (see below). If you’re not doing any kind of outreach, your content is likely to get lost in cyberspace where no one will ever, ever read it.
Me, every time my boss uses the word, “viral.”
Fortunately, once you nail down the basics of outreach marketing, it’s pretty easy to get started. Here’s a quick guide, including some of the most common tactics for building high-quality links:
What is “Outreach,” and why should I do it?
To win in the current SEO landscape, link-building has to be a vital part of your content strategy. The best way to build links? Create outreachable content.
As the name suggests, outreach is the process of reaching out to relevant prospects and Internet influencers to show off the awesome content you’ve created. You can do this via e-mail, social media, or any other way humans communicate. If your content really is as awesome as you say it is, they may reward you with referring links (which is just a fancy way of saying they’ll post links to your piece on their sites).
If you’re an outreach marketer, high-quality referring links are life. They make your site stronger by boosting your site’s domain authority and improving your site rank. That means your site will appear higher on Google’s search results page – and potential customers/viewers/fans are more likely to find you. (Poof! SEO magic.)
Now let’s get to the fun stuff. Here are five types of outreach content you can use to make your blog more visible:
1. Ego bait
A piece meant to flatter your subject.
Rockstars, multi-million dollar corporations, people who run Instagram accounts for their dogs — they all want the same thing. Likes.
Nobody says “no” to good PR, especially if it’s free.
So do a write-up on a small business, non-profit organization or a local event that’s hungry for some time in the spotlight. With a little manual research, you can narrow down a list of prospects who are likely to appreciate the love.
Pro tip 1: Look for an active news section or recurring series on their website so you can frame your post as a contribution to something they’re already doing. Editor’s Choice pieces, weekly spotlights, and holiday features all typically work well.
Protip 2: Communicate with your prospect ahead of time to gauge interest and test the viability of your topic before you invest time in actually creating the content. Pre-outreach also gives you an opportunity to ask for a quote or photo, which may generate a little extra buy-in.
2. Expert advice
A piece that offers insight from a respected authority.
Fun fact about humans: we like to feel helpful. So, find someone who’s respected in your space and ask for a quote, an email Q&A, or even a full-on phone interview about your blog topic.
Be sure to get written permission to use what they say, and ask for a photo to feature in the post. If you ask the right questions, these pieces are a light content lift. Plus, there may be an opportunity to develop a continued content relationship. But best of all, expert advice pieces make for some really compelling information for your readers.
Dropping a block quote into your WordPress draft like…
Pro tip: You should definitely send a final draft to your interviewee and offer them a chance to give approval – just make sure you frame it as an opportunity to fact-check rather than an invitation to write the next Great American Novel.
3. Data-driven lists
A piece that ranks prospects based on your own data and methodology.
For this type of piece, it’s up to you to create the methodology, gather the data, and compile it all into one beautiful, color-coordinated Excel sheet.
That makes you the expert.
The goal here is to create a compelling “ranking piece” (i.e. Top 20 Small Colleges in the U.S.) for your readers, using variables you’ve sourced from reliable datasets — all while providing awesome exposure and promotion for the schools, companies, or products you’re featuring.
Pro tip 1: Ready to start data mining? The Census Bureau’s American Fact Finder database is an excellent place to start.
Pro tip 2: Don’t let these posts get too long. Even if you’ve compiled a ranking formula that rivals the Princeton Review, no one brags about a mediocre ranking. Appeal to people’s desire to win gold, silver, or bronze. Don’t expect a referral link for ranking someone 75th Overall.
4. The one-hit wonder
A piece designed to catch search traffic leading up to an event or holiday.
Let’s get timely! Popular holidays, movie premiere dates, and anniversaries generate predictable spikes in search traffic. If you’re in the right place at the right time (with the right keywords), you can easily capitalize on that extra demand.
But writer beware: the competition is stiff. Don’t expect to outrank the big guys like Buzzfeed or Mental Floss. Instead, embrace a unique angle that makes your post topical and relevant to your unique audience.
In my experience, Halloween really gets the people going.
Pro tip: This content has an expiration date, so don’t dedicate too much time to these pieces. What’s the saying? You can’t count on old news to generate new links. Yeah, that’s it.
5. Niche-specific content
A piece written specifically for an underserved or underrepresented segment of your audience.
Try creating content for groups that aren’t talked about much. Pragmatically, these prospect pools are less saturated and more likely to take interest. Altruistically, these groups deserve better representation and better content. You can deliver just that.
For example, let’s say you write for a technology blog. Instead of writing (yet another) roundup of top-rated apps, write about apps that special education teachers can use in the classroom. The latter route requires more research, but if you do it right, your work will resonate with a specific group of readers, AND the creators of your featured apps will appreciate the good press. Win-win.
When you’re an NBA sweater fanatic and they finally post about the new line of NBA sweaters.
Pro tip: Don’t get in over your head. This isn’t about pandering to an audience or fronting as the authority on a particular topic. It’s about creating meaningful content that appeals to a less visible, but equally important, segment of your existing audience.
But wait, there’s more!
More good news, that is. You can hit multiple content categories in a single post. Compile a data-driven ranking of prospects, and include quotes from an expert or two. Or, write a profile on boss businesswomen (ego-bait) just in time for Women’s History month (one-hit wonder). See what we did there?
Pro tip to-go
You should never compromise your site’s core mission for the sake of a good link. If you’re a dog food company, for example, it may not make sense to seek links from a fashion blog (no matter how high their domain authority).
When in doubt, refer to the Hippocratic Oath: no matter the numbers, your reader comes first. (Or, something like that.)