Online marketing is all about presence. The more frequently other websites mention your company and its products or service, the better your own site will perform online. More mentions online will lead to increased site traffic, higher rankings in search engines, more visibility on social media sites and a strengthened reputation as an authority.
Yet how do you achieve all these good things without engaging in a formal PR effort? Fortunately, you have a lot of potential supporters out there. The challenge is to convert them into actual supporters.
A study by NM Incite, a social media research and consulting firm, estimated that there were 173 million blogs in October 2011, up by 25 million from a year earlier. And an estimate by WordPress, one of the leading blog-publishing software firms, is that 329 million people view more than 2.5 billion pages each month on its software. With staggering numbers such as these, blogs can offer a great way to increase your presence online.
But to do that, you need to enlist the help of the small fraction of blogs that are both relevant to your business and popular. Relevance is mostly about topic consistency, and you can find relevant blogs by doing a search on Google Blog Search for a number of keyword terms related to your business. Keep in mind that those labeled as “blog homepages for [keyword X or keywords X+Y]” are the most relevant.
You can estimate the popularity of specific blogs in a couple of ways. One is to visit the web-traffic site Alexa and compare the statistic called Traffic Rank among various blogs (the lower the ranking, the better); another is to compare the relative score of the blogger herself on Klout, a site that gauges influence online (the higher the score, the better). Again, first identify the relevant blogs and then target the most powerful and influential of these blogs and bloggers.
Once you’ve identified a short list of bloggers whom you’d like to write about your business, try some of these six tactics to get them on your side:
Provide a free sample
Reach out to the selected blogs and bloggers by offering a free trial of your product or service, or even send it to them to own at no charge. My preference is always to reach out in person and explain the offer. The key is to develop at least some sort of relationship with the blogger before making a pitch.
Often, however, office gatekeepers prevent this type of access. In these situations, I generally accompany the offer or gift with a letter explaining why I’m sending it, and that if the blogger likes the product or service I would appreciate if she would blog about it. Ford does this routinely, offering power bloggers the use of a Ford vehicle for three to six months and requesting that the bloggers write about their ongoing experiences with the vehicle.
Offer exclusive content
Websites with exclusive content are, all other things being equal, more valuable than those whose stuff is all available elsewhere. So reach out to a blogger you’re targeting and offer content to run exclusively on his site. Your goal here is primarily to build a relationship with the blogger, and to help him see you as an authority in your space so the blogger is more likely to reference you and your ideas in the future.
Focus on what’s in it for them
It’s crucial that your pitch to bloggers is primarily about what you can do for them rather than on your own company and product. This is the point that most people pitching bloggers seem to overlook.
Here’s how not to do it. You email a blogger: “We believe our product is revolutionary, and that readers of your blog would love it, so please consider writing about it.” Notice how the focus, although unstated, is in fact on what the blogger can do for you. You’re far likelier to succeed by writing: “We’ve launched a revolutionary new product, and believe that if your readers knew about it, it could benefit them in the following ways—and here’s the evidence. Would you have time so I can show you this product in operation?”
Mind you, none of the above tactics will work if you can’t gain the time and attention of a blogger who is likely inundated with generic requests. Here are a couple of ways to cut through the clutter:
Appeal to the blogger’s ego
In this technique, known as vanity baiting, you mention the blog or blogger via social media, saying something positive about her or one of her ideas she has blogged about. Most social networks will then notify the blogger of the mention, making her aware of you—and, hopefully, leading her to send you a thank-you message. This is your chance to begin a relationship with this blogger that—if nurtured carefully and not rushed—will lead her to blog about your company and product.
Use LinkedIn to score an introduction: If the blogger doesn’t take the vanity bait, try another route. Search for her LinkedIn profile, which will include a widget on the right-hand side of the page listing all the connections you share with her. Look for someone with whom you have a good relationship and ask if he’ll make an introduction for you with the blogger so you can start building a relationship with her.
Don’t try any of this unless your content is worth paying attention to: None of the five tactics suggested above will do you much good if your content is lame. So the first thing you need to do is produce remarkable content on your website. The better the quality and uniqueness of your content, the more likely bloggers are to find it and discuss it via their blogs and social networks. And the more types of content, the better: infographics, blog posts, images, videos, webinars, contests, ebooks and more.
Produce great stuff, and then use the other tactics to ensure that it gets the audience you need in order to build your business.
Related: 4 Keys to Getting Media Coverage
Jeff Quipp is an expert on search and social media marketing. He is the founder and CEO of Search Engine People Inc., an Ajax, Ont.-based search and social media marketing firm that has been on the PROFIT 200 ranking of Canada’s Fastest Growing Companies for the past four consecutive years.
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