In a world of growing emphasis on content, outreach has almost become an art form.
Outreach is a tactic used by SEO strategists to get valuable one-way back-links from 3rd party websites.
Typically the SEO strategist will identify a website where they would like to get a link from and reach out to the webmaster or business owner with a helpful piece of content for their website.
Its a win-win situation for both parties as the business owner gets a helpful piece of content for their website and the SEO strategist gets a back-link to their website.
There are tools and tricks to scale outreach to target hundreds of sites, bloggers, and businesses a month, without spending hours crafting the perfect message to each one.
But how do you become effective within a niche market, where the pool of possibilities is measurably smaller and the stakes higher?
The following steps can guide you to perfecting your outreach message to produce results, even in the narrowest of fields.
1. Plan Your Purpose.
Are you asking for a link, unique content, a guest post, a product review? All of these requests require a different pitch. In a niche market, you should also know what will be more effective for your inbound campaign. Know what you’re asking for, and divide your targets into segments. Which leads to step two:
2. Know Your Audience.
Possibly the most important step in creating an effective outreach message is knowing who you’re reaching out to. In a niche market, your choices are more limited. Let’s use the automotive industry as our example for the rest of the post.
Are you reaching out to truck enthusiast blogs for a product review? It might seem like an obvious choice, given their niche content. But do your research: do those bloggers do product reviews? Have they written negatively about the auto manufacturer in the past? Do they link out frequently, or not at all?
It’s important to pay geographical attention as well. Are you reaching out on behalf of a dealer in Texas, to a blogger in California? From a linking perspective, this might not be the best target.
For a niche outreach strategy, scaling your outreach is mostly ineffective. Focus on quality, not quantity. Narrow your criteria down and choose a small group to reach out to each month.
3. The Rule of Three: Be Honest, Be Unique, Be Personal
When crafting your message, remember that top bloggers in particular receive tons of guest post, product review, and link requests daily. To stand out and increase your acceptance rate, follow these three rules:
Be honest. Don’t use doublespeak or flashy language to hide your end goal. If you are personalizing your email and staying away from dull templates, you can state your purpose without seeming like a link-begger.
Explain your purpose—stating “I’m with an inbound marketing agency trying to boost our client’s link profile” can be off-putting, but claiming you are a “representative for the dealership trying to ramp up their brand recognition for their SUV inventory” is relatable and more convincing.
Be unique. How many times do you think bloggers see the following: “Hi, my name is (blank) and I’m reaching out on behalf of (blank) to see if you would be interested in (blank)”?
Probably too many times to count—and they click the delete button after the first sentence. Or even worse—without even opening it, because the subject is generic/spammy/boring. This is especially important in a niche market—you are reaching out to people with a specific passion or interest in your business and industry.
Give them a reason to read your message—even if you are using a semi-template, make sure it catches the attention of your target and gives them one of the following: an incentive to respond, a positive memory of your name or brand, or (best case scenario!) a yes.
Be personal. In addition to standing out, outreach in a niche market requires personalization. You have a smaller pool of targets, so avoiding templates is easier. Some steps to personalize outreach for a niche blogger or site include:
- Name repetition. If you cannot find a name, focus on a specific point of contact (ex. Webmaster, Marketing Manager, etc.).
- A relevant example of their work. If you’re asking for a review of a 2014 vehicle from an auto blog, link to a previous review to show familiarity and appreciation for their work.
- Mention something off-site, like their active Instagram or humorous Twitter account.
- Draw a distinct link between you and them. Are they following your dealership on any social networks? Have they written a review for your manufacturer? Find some way to relate to them on a business level as well as a personal one.
4. Offer Something in Return
People are fueled by reciprocity. If you take a friend to the airport at 5 AM, you expect something in return—a bottle of wine, gas money, or a heartfelt “Thank you.” Bloggers operate the same way when approached with a pitch, so you need to prepare for the inevitable question:
“What do I get out of this?”
The exchange does not have to be monetary if you have a small budget—which is usually the case in a niche market. If you are asking to write or receive a guest post on 2014 vehicles, include a link to their blog beside yours on your social channels when the post goes live. Present your shared audience to show the added benefit to their visibility—your fans could become their fans too!
If you are reaching out to a business site or organization to ask for a link, you have two good options. In a small, focused market, these sites should be ones you are partnering with or have established relationships with—organizations around your dealership or national partners.
That opens the path of communication for outreach—include a Partners page on your site where they will be featured in return. If you have no previous contact, but have a local/brand connection with the site—a restaurant in the area, a local nonprofit, or a tire store--share your content specific to that area or brand to show your authority in that space.
If they are already featuring similar content, point this out to build a link between your businesses. If they aren’t, explain how they could benefit from it. Establish yourself as an expert in that area or industry to provide a picture of how your content will pass along that authority.
To capture the bigger fish in the smaller ponds, provide value before you even pitch. National sites for organizations or business groups may have a Resources page that you want to get a link on—research their existing links and call out any outdated content or broken links.
Then offer something you have as a replacement. If it is content you have existing on a blog or site, show how it has added value to your business—has traffic increased since it went live? Do you have a more targeted audience?
Show what it has done for you, to show what it can do for them.
When you’re building links and doing outreach in a niche market, your choices are limited for relevant targets. But the opportunity for quality links and relationship building is far greater once you narrow down your audience and tailor your message.
All the best,
Kelly Ayres is a SEO Team Manager at Stream Companies, a full-service Philadelphia area advertising agency.