• 01 Oct

    How to combine 2 tools to recover lost link equity!

    Take care of your backlinks, and your backlinks will take care of you

    Me, last night

    As we’re all aware, backlinks make up a vital part of any website’s online visibility.

    Under the constant pressure of acquiring new links to a website, the links you already have can easily be forgotten. Your current backlinks are just as important as the new links that you’re acquiring, even those you got a year and a half a go, because they’re what make up your backlink profile.

    In this post, I’m going to be demonstrating how you can use and combine two great tools to help take care of your existing backlinks, as well as spot where you might potentially be losing some of that tasty, tasty link juice from pages returning a 404 status code. For this post I’m going to use Pets at Home as an example.

    Bobby, why Pets at Home?” I hear you exclaim. Let me explain.

    Using Pets at Home wasn’t premeditated, and actually stemmed from a conversation I had earlier this evening with my housemate, when she entered the house carrying a hamster, and what can only be described as a hamster palace. In what turns out to be a regular occurrence, she had gone to Pets at Home to pet the various soft animals after a particularly stressful day at work, when she spotted the hamster in question, now called Butterbean, and the rest is history. So as I sat at my desk wondering about a website to use as a (sorry to continue with this animal theme…) guinea pig, guess what sprang like a rabbit to my mind… I digress, but you get the idea.

    The two tools that I’m going to be using for this demonstration are Ahrefs and Screaming Frog. For those that don’t know, Ahrefs is primarily a backlink analysis tool, although their new tools are multiplying like (sorry) rabbits, and Screaming Frog is a website crawling tool. Both have free and paid versions and I highly recommend both.

    Step 1. Gather your data.

    • Navigate your way to the ‘site explorer’ tool on the Ahrefs site, and enter your website. As of a week or two ago, you can now choose between ‘fresh’ and ‘live’ links; I chose ‘fresh’. Now in the sidebar you will see ‘Top Pages’, which will give you a list of the top pages on your website, which can be ordered by social shares, or backlinks. Make sure you select backlinks, it’s quite small!
      Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 11.22.51
    • You’ll now see all of your top pages, which in the case of Pets at Home numbers over 30,997! Fortunately, we’re not going to be dealing with anywhere near that number (unless you’re doing this for Amazon maybe), but export the full list anyway to a CSV. Download and open it.

    Step 2. Locate all URLs on your website with at least one backlink pointing to them.

    • First things first, delete any URL that has 0 referring domains or returns a 200 status code, ain’t nobody got time for that. Second, we’re going to use Screaming Frog to check our status codes, as I’ve seen Ahrefs not be completely correct in the past, as well as some URLs having the status code ‘0’. So copy your URLs and paste them in to Screaming Frog and crawl them in list mode.

      Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 11.23.25
    • Once you’re finished, paste the status codes back in to the spreadsheet (make sure it’s in the correct order), or if you’re good with excel, put it in a table (Ctrl/Cmnd + t) and just use a simple VLOOKUP to pull your status codes in. Whether you use a VLOOKUP or not, using a table will allow for easy filtering of status codes, but I’m sure you’re clever and you knew that already didn’t you?

    Also: Filter for any 301s/302s and put these to one side, I’ll share a quick tip for these later in the post.

    • By now you will have a list of all other status code errors, which in Pets at Home’s case, is 272 pages returning a 404 status code. In other words, that’s 272 pages that have earned link equity, but are not passing any of it on to the website.

    Bonus: Check other versions of your site, such as .co.uk/.com versions and old sites to ensure you don’t have links pointing to old pages that don’t redirect or return a 404.

    Step 3. Redirect, redirect, redirect.

    • Now that you have a full list of non-equity passing passing links, it’s time to get that lovely link juice to your website, through the classic 301 redirect. (Note: don’t use a 302 redirect unless it actually is temporary, please).
    • As we know, Google isn’t a massive fan of you just redirecting all old pages en-masse to the homepage, so to get the most out of your relevant link equity, work out the best page to redirect your 404 URLs to. Implement those redirect and that’s it, you’re done. In the case of Pets at Home, they’d now have reclaimed link equity from 202 pages now pointing at their site, from just an hour or two of work. Simple.

    Bonus Step. Stop losing equity through redirect chains.

    • A great report that Screaming Frog can generate for you is the redirect chains report. This report shows you where redirects from one URL to an intended URL occur more than once, thus losing equity along the way.
    • For example, ideally a redirect should happen once: A > B. Sometimes though, possibly due to sitewide redirects or rules, you can end up with one, two, or more redirects before your original URL reaches its intended destination: A > B > C > D. The problem with this is that equity is lost over multiple redirects, so you only want your redirects to happen once.
    • To get this report, simply paste your list in to Screaming Frog, go to Configuration, ensure in the ‘Advanced’ tab that ‘Always Follow Redirects’ is turned on, and crawl away. Once this has finished, click on the reports option, and select the ‘Redirect Chains’ report.
      Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 11.23.05
    • Voila, you have a nice spreadsheet showing you all the pages that redirect, and you can see where any are going through more than one redirect. Once you have found these, you need to cut these surplus redirects out and BAM, you’ve recovered some of the link equity lost.

    So there we have it, 3 quick and easy steps to taking care of your backlinks. As I said late last night to a housemate who had no idea what I was talking about, “Take care of your backlinks, and your backlinks will take care of you”.

    Did I miss any tricks? Got any other methods you like to use? Should I have got more sleep last night? Let me know in the comments below or join me on Twitter at @bobbyjmcgill or @whitedotnet.

    Also, my clever colleague Charlie Williams wrote a more in-depth, 2-step post on this back in 2013 about plugging your link leaks which you might like!

    By Bobby McGill Uncategorized
  • 11 Jun

    SEO Myths Busted – One week on

    Myths. They’re everywhere, and they range from those that crop up in everyday life (cracking your knuckles gives you arthritis) to the downright odd (Tom Jones insured his chest hair for $7 million). Try as we may we can’t escape these falsehoods, and unfortunately it’s no different in the world of digital marketing.

    myth
    1. A widely held but false belief or idea:
    keyword research is all about choosing big volume keywords

    Last week we launched our new resource: ‘SEO Myths Busted by the Experts & You!‘, aimed at creating a space where we can collate all the industry myths we discover, and attempt to debunk them once and for all.

    seo myths

    So, one week on, I wanted to explain the reasons behind the piece, as well as its hopefully exciting future!

    The inspiration

    We had the idea of creating content around SEO myths a while ago, and the inspiration for the piece originated from the website uxmyths.com, which presents 34 myths, as well as explanations for why each of the statements are in fact just myths. The site does a great job of simply presenting these myths to the user, and I personally found them to be a great learning resource. This got me thinking.

    As the saying goes, “practice what you preach”, so instead of creating just another blog post, or putting together another ebook, we decided to approach the task of myth busting in a whole new format. Instead of just using our own knowledge, we decided to get in contact with a number of industry experts, and ask them for their own SEO myths – who better to ask than our peers with experienced minds!

    Inspiration for the design came from the posters that were designed and created for the UX Myths project. The main poster presented each myth in different sized boxes, and each myth has its own poster, that includes explanatory copy. So we took the inspiration of the core poster, and applied it to our design, in turn working in our own interactive features, such as the more popular myth being in the bigger box, as well as the added Twitter handle, image, and total share count.

    Of course, the overarching inspiration for this whole project is to share this curated expert knowledge with the rest of the industry, with the hope that we can start putting these myths to bed, or at least educate those just starting out in SEO.

    Future wise, we don’t want to give away too much, but we’re certain that you’ll be seeing more of our SEO myths project. We will also be releasing some more myths on the page soon and hopefully on a fairly regular basis, as well as the ability to download each myth as an awesome wallpaper for your computer, or even your office wall, so keep your eyes peeled!

    Fancy seeing your own myth on our board?

    seo myths

    If you feel you have a myth that you want to share with the community, please don’t hesitate to drop me an email on bobby [at] white.net. As you may have seen from the piece, we’re looking for roughly 120 words to help put your myth to bed. We can’t guarantee that every myth will make it up to our board, but if we like it we’ll get in touch with you.

    Come and join the conversation over on Twitter with @whitedotnet, or myself, @bobbyjmcgill. Alternatively leave a comment in the box below; we’d love to hear what you think of our SEO myths project, or on a myth that grinds your gears!

    By Bobby McGill SEO
  • 07 May

    Your keyword research needs these 4 tools

    Keyword research. The big KWR. For the majority of those wanting to succeed online, this is a core element of both PPC and SEO, and if you’re not targeting the best keywords for your business, then you may be selling yourself short.

    But where do I start?

    Fear not, brave soul. While keyword research can seem like a somewhat daunting task, with some good practice and a refined set of tools, you can make a great start and very quickly gather a fantastic seed list, which is what I’m here to help with.

    For those of you who are new to KWR, the seed list is the first process in keyword research, and is the process of gathering as many keywords as you can humanly find, search volume or not. It’s about finding any relevant idea you can, and will form the base of the rest of your research.

    In this post, I’ll be taking you through 4 of our favourite tools (other than Keyword Planner) that can help you produce an extensive seed list, quickly. Ready? Let’s begin.

    Term Explorer

    Term Explorer is a powerful keyword gathering and analysing tool that allows you to generate keyword lists, ranging from 1,000 per job, to 90,000. It also analyses the keywords generated and compares it against your competitors, so you can see immediately what’s worth competing for, and what’s not.

    First things first, create an account with Term Explorer – you can create a free account (which is what I use), or there are three levels of membership ranging from $34 to $499, depending on your needs. As mentioned, I use a free account, which allows me to do 5 ‘tiny jobs’ per day, which we’ll come on to shortly.

    After signing up and logging in, you’ll be presented with four options:

    • Bulk keyword tool
    • Keyword analyser
    • URL analyser
    • Need help getting started?

    Feel free to explore the other tools in your own time, they also have some good functionality, but for now we’ll stick with the Bulk keyword tool. Once you’ve clicked through, you’ll be presented with two options, start a bulk keyword tool job or view saved bulk keyword tool jobs – go ahead and start a new job – Bulk keyword tool

    term explorer test 2

    The next page is where you setup your job – start by giving it a name, whatever you want, Keyword job 1, client job 1, blah blah blah. You can then enter a couple of seed keywords; you may wish to enter a small number of top level keywords. In my most recent project, I aimed to gather keywords for a range of products that the client offered, so I entered the primary keywords for each product. Next, select the aforementioned ‘tiny job’ option.

    term explorer test

    Now a ‘tiny’ job claims to give you up to 1000 keywords, but in my most recent test I got 1139, so you can actually get a few more. Nice. There are a couple of advanced options, but for now, start the job and proceed on to the next tool.

    term explorer

    Tip: You can use the ‘bulk shallow scan’ to enter 1000 keywords, and the tool will return the traffic stats for each. Not bad, considering the Google Keyword Planner will only let you do 800 at a time.

    SEMRush

    While your Term Explorer job is running, it’s time to start getting some ideas of your own, and where better to look than your competitor’s (as well as your own) website.

    The swiss army knife of SEO tools, SEMrush boasts a wide range of tools within its platform, but we’re going to be using its keyword research functionality for this part.

    Firstly, if you’re not signed up to SEMRush, do so. Now. There’s both free and paid versions – what are you waiting for?

    Using SEMRush, you can input a URL, and it will return a bunch of data for that URL, most importantly the keywords that it thinks it ranks for. Before you begin looking at competitors, quickly input your own pages, and export any keywords that are returned. This helps you to see what Google thinks you’re already ranking for.

    semrush

    Once you’ve done that, take your top 5 competitors, and enter a number of their best/relevant pages into the search box, and export all the keywords you find. Remember to focus not only on your (or your client’s) competitors in the offline world, but the online world too – their search competitors. Search competitors will likely reveal better, more relevant keywords.

    Combine all your exports quickly, and bang, you’ve got a good list of extremely relevant keywords that your competitors are ranking for. Nice.

    Note: Not every URL will return data unfortunately.

    MergeWords

    MergeWords is a personal favourite of mine.

    In five minutes, you can quite easily put together a list of at least a few hundred keywords. Depending on the scale, you can quite easily stretch this to over a thousand. MergeWords allows you to stitch three sets of words together, and each set can be as long or as short as you’d like – perfect for both short and long tail keyword variations.

    So to give you an example, you have 5 products, 5 modifiers, and 5 location tags:

    mergewords

    Now order these correctly, for example – [large] [villas to rent] [in Spain] (you can also use it to find long tail question keywords, such as ‘how do I…’ or ‘where can I…’) and very quickly you’ve got 125 long tail keywords. Now let’s say you have 15 of each, that’s 3,375. Yeah you heard right, 3,375 long tail keywords!  Now there’s a possibility that only 100 of those keywords will have any search volume, but hey, it’s worth trying!

    large mergewords

    Also, (cue M&S advert) that’s not just a list of 3,375 keywords, that’s a list of 3,375 relevant keywords. Nice.

    Keywordtool.io

    The final tool we like to use here at White.net is Keywordtool.io, and I’ve found that it’s used in two different ways.

    Before we dive in, make sure you’re signed up – you can get 750+ free keywords with a free account, so go ahead and get yourself signed up.

    Keywordtool.io uses Google autocomplete to generate long tail keywords. As they explain on their website, “The search terms that are suggested by Google Autocomplete are based on a number of different factors, one of them is how often users were searching for a particular term in the past.”

    Firstly, Keywordtool.io is great for gathering large numbers of keywords, although the range of keywords is very broad and can pick up a fair amount of keywords that are irrelevant.  To start, simply enter a term and keywordtool.io will give you a load of keywords that you can quickly download. You can do this for a bunch of keywords, great for focusing on a few larger terms that you want to find. The only downside I find with this is that you may have to wade through a lot of results to find the good ones.

    The second way is to use the tool to find some selective terms. Instead of quickly exporting all of the results, I go through the list, and using keywordtool.io’s helpful ‘Copy to clipboard’ feature, start to build up a smaller list of more focused terms. I find it especially helpful at finding good opportunities I might have missed, or good modifiers.

    keywordtool

    By now, your Term Explorer job should be finished, hurray! So download the report and combine all your keywords together in a simple list, and voila, you’ve got yourself a hefty seed list – ready to chuck in to the Google Keyword Planner tool! The best part is that you can easily put this all together in under an hour. Nice.

    Of course, you may need to delve a little deeper into the keyword research process, but we’ll look at that another day!

    Bonus tool: Keywordshitter.com – as the domain name suggests, this tool figuratively (phew) shits keywords at you. I’d highly recommend checking it out!

    So there you go, that’s how you create a quick and dirty seed list. Do you use these tools or other tools to create your seed list? Do you use these tools but in other ways? Do you like turtles? Then get in touch, we love sharing knowledge and discussing tools here at White!

    By Bobby McGill Content PPC SEO
  • 21 Aug

    SEO 2014: the biggest news so far this year

    2014 has already been an undeniably busy year in the way of important news. In a blind fit of rage, Solange Knowles attacked Jay Z in a lift, Kim Kardashian got married to Kanye West in a relatively low-key $12 million ceremony, and Prince George played with a ball in an extremely royal manner; one heard it was spectacular.

    But in much less important news, there have been a number of interesting developments that have taken place in the ever-changing world of SEO and the Web since the start of 2014. Ranging from title tag modifications all the way to a certain algorithm update of the aviary kind, these changes so far have likely had an effect of some sort on the way you work, whether you’re an in-house SEO, agency side, or running your own business.
    So I thought it might be helpful to list a number of the most important developments in SEO and the web so far this year and explain just what they mean for you.

    Before we start though, I’ve listed a few bits of news that didn’t make the cut, but may have been on the mouths of many SEOs. These are my honourable mentions.

    Matt Cutts went on holiday.

    On the 3rd June, Matt Cutts announced that he was going on holiday for three months, citing time off to be with his wife and do a bit of travelling. After almost 15 years of work, he’s now taking some well-deserved time off.

    What does this mean for you?
    Nothing really, he’ll be back before you know it and has left a capable team in charge, so no spammy activity please.

    A blogger was fined for a review

    Back in July, a French blogger was fined for ranking too highly in Google. After writing a scathing review about a local restaurant, the restaurant owner sued the blogger as the page ranked highly in Google and according to the owner had a negative effect on business. It went to court and interestingly, and in my view surprisingly, the Judge ruled in favour of the restaurant owner. The blogger was fined and ordered to change the title of the piece.

    What does this mean for you?
    Hopefully nothing, and it would be a shame to have to worry about writing a negative post. But who knows, we’ll have to wait and see if any more cases like this arise. So at the moment I don’t think it’s anything to worry about, write negative stuff, it’s your right.

    Orkut is closing down

    As of the 30th September, Orkut, once a social media force to be reckoned with, will close its web gates to the public after 10 years.

    What does this mean for you?
    Nothing. Unless you use it… You do? Oh. Sorry.

    Right now that’s out of the way, let’s get on to some real news shall we?

    The ‘mighty’ Pigeon landed

    On July 24th, Google released its most recent algorithm update. ‘Pigeon’, as it was dubbed by Search Engine Land, was released with the aim of providing more accurate and relevant local search results. It also aimed to return results that were tied closely with search ranking signals of the more traditional kind.

    According to Search Engine Land, Google told them that ‘Pigeon’ tied deeper in to their search capabilities and incorporates many of the ranking signals that they use, such as synonyms, and spelling corrections, as well as the Knowledge Graph. It also apparently improves distance and location ranking parameters.

    From what we can tell, Google seems to still be testing the algorithm, as users were reporting rankings as well as page layouts changing on a daily basis, and they couldn’t understand why.

    What does this mean for you?
    If you’re English, fortunately nothing at the moment, as it currently only affects US English search queries. For US businesses, it’s a rather drastic change it seems.

    As Search Engine Land reported, the changes were mostly behind the scenes, but the algorithm was said to “impact local search results rankings” and that “local businesses may notice an increase or decrease in web site referrals, leads and business from the change”.

    It’s unclear when this ‘Pigeon’ will migrate over to the UK, but hopefully it won’t happen before Google has worked out the kinks in the current version, which listed Expedia as a hotel. So for now, keep an eye on the updates and ensure that your local SEO is in check, just to be on the safe side.

    The fall of guest blogging

    Besides ‘Pigeon’, this was arguably the biggest news to have hit the SEO world so far this year. On 20th January, Matt Cutts wrote a blog post all about how it was time to stop using guest posting websites for SEO purposes. Then, on March 19th, Cutts took to Twitter to announce that they had taken action against a large guest blogging website; MyBlogGuest as we soon found out.

    As we’ve seen before, this was yet another once-legitimate link building method that, alas, began to be manipulated and abused. Previous examples include:
    – Directory links
    – Forum links
    – Link exchanges
    – Article marketing

    As with all link building tactics that are manipulated and abused, Google stood up and said that it had had enough.

    While the number of penalties handed out as a result of the hit on MyBlogGuest can only be guessed at, it was evident that a large amount of web masters found themselves suddenly stung as a result of Google’s action against guest blogging. Even we didn’t manage to escape the Google penalty furnace, as you can read in a recent post by Charlie Williams all about the lessons learnt.

    What does this mean for you?
    Guest blogging for SEO is dead, that much can’t be denied. But it doesn’t mean you should completely shy away from it, especially if you want to get your voice out there and share your expertise on a subject. If you get the offer to write for a great website you’re obviously not going to turn it down; it can be a great way to get your name out to a large audience, and even drive some of their traffic over to your website.

    You have the right to be forgotten

    As you may know, during May, Courts in the European Union decided that people have the “right to be forgotten” on the Internet. This means that people in 32 countries now effectively have legal grounds to make it more difficult to find inaccurate, outdated, and even embarrassing information about them online.

    The number of rules, set out by Google, include insisting that you are a resident of one of the 32 countries, the need to provide photo ID, and the fact that the website that you want forgotten must be “outdated, inappropriate, or irrelevant” to named searches for you.  Google will then review the request and approve or deny it, depending on whether it fits the criteria.

    The irony of the whole situation can not be seen better, than in this rather comical case of Mario Costeja Gonzalez, the man who went to court to have his actions removed from the internet as he felt they were damaging his image. The only problem, this made him famous, now everyone knows what he did, which I can only assume he knew was going to happen.

    What does this mean for you?
    It will probably not have a huge impact on SEO at this current time, unless your website contains information that someone might want removing. The only businesses that are likely to be affected by this are newspapers and magazines, or other publishers of similar stories.

    So don’t worry about it for now, but just be aware that requests could disrupt search results, so keep an eye out for posts of yours that could be affected.

    As more and more businesses spring up with the sole intention of filling out the right to be forgotten form for you, it will be interesting to see how the number of requests rises.

    Google’s SERP makeover/under

    In March this year, Google rolled out an updated design of their SERPs. The changes weren’t drastic, but there were subtle changes that are still important.

    Possibly the most noticeable change was the size increase of the title tag. Instead of the standard 50-60 character limit, it’s now important to take pixel width in to account. For instance, capital letters take up a higher pixel width, so the more you use, the shorter your title tag can be.

    The second interesting change we witnessed was that Google removed the peach/orange background for the ads and replaced it with a small yellow ‘Ad’ button.

    Besides these two changes, the rest were mostly slight size increases in text and the removal of underlining for all links, as you can see below:

    What does this mean for you?
    The main factor to be aware of is the change in title tag limits. If you’re using all capitals in your title tag, you can expect to be cut off below the 55 character mark, so keep this in mind when updating your meta data; you can even use this handy online tool for previewing and checking your title tags from Moz! Besides this, you’re all good.

    New robots.txt tester

    As of July, the Google Webmaster Tools robots.txt testing tool received an update designed to help it highlight errors that caused Google to be unable to crawl certain pages on your website. The update also lets you edit your file, test if any URLs are blocked, as well as allowing you to view older versions of your file.

    The updated robots.txt tester will now let you test whether you have an issue with your file that’s blocking Google from crawling a page, or a part of your website. As you may well know, this part of GWT used to be called Blocked URLs.

    What does this mean for you?
    This makes it even easier to test your robots.txt files to ensure that it contains no errors. And if it does, this update allows you to edit and fix the file. You will just need to upload the new version to the server for the changes to take effect.

    In a post on the subject, Google’s Jon Mueller explained that you should check your robots.txt file, even if you believe it’s fine. He also wrote that you should “double-check how the important pages of your website render with Googlebot, and if you’re accidentally blocking any JS or CSS files from crawling.”

    Google removes people’s faces

    Back in June, Jon Mueller shocked a few SEOs by announcing that Google were going to be removing the images from the search results, or as he put it, “simplifying” the way authorship is displayed in search results.

    This change was met with mixed results, since including the image next to an article was supposed to increase click through rates. But on the other hand, some claimed that the authorship image tactic had, like so many other SEO tactics, been abused. So Google removed them all.

    But wait, did they?

    No, not all of them as it turns out. In a move that we might have expected by Google, they removed all of the authorship images from external sites, so the only images that now show up are from Google+ posts, only if you’re logged in it seems.

    While some might not be happy about this move, it must be said it’s an ingenious way of drawing attention, and engagement, to Google+. The only downside I seem to find is that these images will only show up if you’re connected to whoever wrote the post on Google+. So someone like myself, who neither uses or entirely understands Google+, I rarely see authorship images anymore.

    What does this mean for you?
    Firstly, although the images are gone the author links are still present, meaning users will still see who wrote it, providing the writer with at least a certain level of credibility. So it’s definitely worth implementing authorship if you, or your clients actively blog.

    Secondly, the authorship images will show up for those that you are connected to on Google+, which is good if you’re inactive user who is connected to every single person… But this does encourage you to get more involved on Google+, and in a y case, there’s no reason not implement Google authorship on posts that you publish.

    In my personal opinion, this seems quite harsh on those that have put in the effort to have their posts, and faces, appear in the search results. While this might not change the rankings drastically, it’s quite evident that authorship images have a certain amount of power over what a user might click. This change simply seems to make it easier than ever to have your authorship image appear in the SERPs for people that you’re connected to.

    Bottom line: Google+ isn’t going anywhere, so it’s more important than ever to see Google+ as an asset an actively utilise it to benefit yourself, your business, and your clients.

    UPDATE: It’s all gone, it’s over! Google has now removed everything. You can no longer see the author image or a link to the author profile, even if you’re connected on Google+.

    Have you had experience with any of these changes? Have I missed anything? Do you have any predictions for the latter part of the year? If so I’d love to know, as there is a very good chance I’ve missed a crucial update or piece of news and I’d love to update the page if more ideas come in! Feel free to comment below, email me on [email protected], or simply tweet me @robertjmcgill!

    Featured image credit: Mick Baker

    By Bobby McGill SEO
  • 10 Jul

    The simplest guide to better blogger partnerships – Part 2

    Before you start, I know the above picture (of Walter Johnson and Calvin Coolidge shaking hands after the Senators won the AL in 1924, which I subsequently edited) is a huge generalisation of the relationship between brands and bloggers, but I put it here because it made me laugh. Go on, laugh at it as well, it’s okay.

    Hello there again. If you remember, a few weeks back I published Part 1 of a post all about how to work with bloggers. As promised, here is part 2 for your reading satisfaction. As it’s quite long, I’ve included a little-known fact at the end of the post for you, as some sort of half-baked motivation to read the whole thing (but don’t just scroll to the bottom, that’s cheating). So enjoy!

     

    So how do you find the blogs you want to work with?

    If you’ve decided that you want to work with a blogger as part of your, or your client’s, strategy, the next step you need to take is to identify all the relevant blogs you want to contact about potential partnerships and opportunities. For large companies, this may be just the one, well-known blogger, but for smaller companies and start-ups, this could be a number of blogs, ranging anywhere from five to twenty-five, to more.

    A week ago I was fortunate enough to attend a workshop all about working with bloggers, run by Julie Falconer for General Assembly, and in her presentation she detailed the three Rs of identifying relevant blogs: Research, Relevance, and Reputation. I thought I’d share these with you, as I found them incredibly helpful.

    Research

    This is all about how you search for blogs to contact. Now the likelihood is that you will go straight to your nearest search engine and start searching away, and by no means is this a bad idea. If anything, it’s likely the best place to find blogs. But there are also some methods beside search engines that you may not have thought of, as Julie listed.

    Social Media

    Many, if not most, bloggers are not only active in the blogosphere, but on social media too. Whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, many bloggers will probably be more active on social media, so having a search on these platforms is always a great idea, if not an essential part of your research. If you have access to tools such as Followerwonk then use them!

    Another interesting tip that Julie gave was to ask the question on social media. Don’t be afraid to tweet ‘Can anyone recommend a good x blogger?’ Have a look for relevant hashtags and use them too; you’ll be surprised at the amount of responses.

    Lists

    Many bloggers include blogrolls and lists on their sites of their favourite blogs and bloggers. These are great places to find relevant blogs in the industry you’re targeting. There are also websites that compile these lists. Cision, for example, have a plethora of top blogger lists and, while they may not all be up-to-date, they can still be a great resource.

    PRs

    PR officers often work with bloggers for product launches and other marketing campaigns. If you know one (or you’re not too afraid to ask one out of the blue), see if they have any contacts they could put you in touch with. PRs often have their own list of bloggers, so they can be a great source for research.

    Word of mouth

    Not a guaranteed source, but why not ask? You never know who you might discover.

    Note: Always have a check of their metrics too. Check their Domain Authority and PageRank, as well as their social metrics, such as followers and likes. You may want to avoid blogs with a low Page Rank, especially those with -1…

    Relevance

    So, let’s assume you’ve collected your list of blogs. It’s now time to dig a little deeper and have a good look at their on-site content. Checking for relevance is key to ensuring you only contact websites that are truly pertinent to your market and that may actually want to review your product or services. So what do you analyse?

    Content

    Don’t just assume the blogger is right for you because of the name of their blog. Read a range of their posts to make sure that their actual content is relevant to your market and whether your product or service would fit in with what they regularly write about.

    Demographic

    Who the blog markets itself to is vital. If you’re promoting new technological equipment, a blog aimed at over 55s might not be the best fit. Yes, I’m making assumptions, but you catch my drift. Look at their ‘About Me’ section, this is usually a good starting place to find out about who the blog is for. Also, read the posts and the comments, these can be useful audience insights.

    If they have one, a media kit can give you a detailed picture of the blog’s demographic. It also shows they mean business.

    Geography

    Finally, always check where your blog is marketing to. There’s no point partnering up with a US based blog (that markets itself to US citizens) to promote your new range of English Tea. Okay, brand awareness is all well and good, but it’s useless if it’s in a country you don’t ship to or provide your services to.

    Reputation

    The final of the three Rs is Reputation. Once you’ve done your research, identified a blog/blogs and checked they’re relevant for your industry, it’s time to evaluate whether they’re reputable enough. This isn’t always easy, and you can’t just outright ask them what their reputation is like. Fortunately, there are a few methods you can use to help make up your mind.

    Reliability

    An easy check to do, is to look for some of their most recent product/service reviews. Do they say when they were offered the opportunity to do the review? If they say they received the product in late November, but only wrote about it in January, you may need to be slightly cautious.

    Examples of previous work

    Try to find an example of some previous work that they have done for a client and evaluate it. Is it of a good standard? Would your product fit in with this format? Do they use profanity? If you can’t find one, ask them if they have any and, if so, whether you might see an example.

    Outsourcing

    Some of the bigger, more popular blogs may outsource work to other writers. If you’re not sure, ask them if they do and, if so, who it is they would outsource it to. You could also ask to see examples of their work, just to be sure it’s what you’re looking for.

    Word of mouth

    Again, it’s not always possible, but you never know! You could even ask other bloggers if you’re really not sure!

    Okay, I’ve got my list, how do I approach them?

    Approaching bloggers is a delicate task. If you don’t get it right the first time, they might not notice or, for that matter, even want to reply to your attempt at contact. It’s hard to know what’s worse. It’s incredibly easy to not get noticed by bloggers, especially the bigger ones that likely receive dozens of request a day. So here are a few tips to help.

    Approach them as equals

    When you contact your bloggers, approach them as a business partner. Treating them like a fan, or even telling them that they’ve been ‘selected’, is a sure fire way of patronising them, and ultimately ruining any potential promotional opportunities.

    Get the email right

    In the majority of cases, it’s more than likely you’ll use the medium of email to contact potential bloggers and, if you do, you’ve got to make sure it’s nigh perfect. The first, and in many cases the most important, aspect of your email that you need to perfect is the subject line. You need a solid one that, ideally, should include a killer call to action. Don’t be afraid to be direct in the subject line; it’s okay to start it with ‘INVITATION:’ or ‘PAID OPPORTUNITY:’. Doing this gives you a better chance of the blogger noticing your email immediately and, hopefully, not discarding it to their junk, like one of Taylor Swift’s fleeting relationships.

    Secondly, make sure each email is personalised. If the first thing the blogger reads is ‘Dear Blogger’, or worse ‘Dear (Insert Blogger here)’, then you can guarantee the email is going straight to their junk folder. Also, ensure you keep a consistent font and style to your email. If the body is written in Helvetica, make sure your blogger’s name and email address aren’t in blue Calibri; this stinks of copy and paste and just looks damn tacky. If your email is written in Comic Sans, I bid you good luck, you brave soul.

    Finally, make sure what you’ve written is persuasive, yet genuine. Start with a warm introduction but don’t waffle. Be enthusiastic and get straight to the point of telling them what you’re offering before you tell them about your brand; you want them intrigued immediately. Read their blog, and let them know you have. Bloggers will appreciate your feedback and will be more willing to work with someone who is genuinely interested. Even a simple line such as ‘I read your recent article about…’ can go a long way. You should also be clear and direct about what you’re offering. Keep it short and sweet, but be realistic about what they will get from your relationship.

    Be social

    The majority of bloggers will be involved on social media, so you should be involved too. Before you contact them, find them on Twitter (if they have it) and follow them. Simple actions like ‘favouriting’, retweeting, and replying to their tweets can help develop an early relationship so that when you come to contact them for real, they’ll already know who you are.

    So was it a success?

    Let’s look to the future for a minute. Imagine you’ve used all these tips, and you’ve found and contacted your bloggers. They agreed to work with you and subsequently each blogger posted reviews about your product/service. You now need to discover whether all your effort was a success, and worth the time and resources spent on it. Often it’s easy to get a top-level sense of whether it has been a success or not. For instance, you might have kept an eye on the linking articles and the response they had received. There are many ways to measure your ROI and, depending on your business goals, they might all apply, or just the one. Below are some of the important factors you might measure.

    Sales and Traffic

    If you’ve got a Google Analytics package, it’s easy to monitor how many views a certain page has had, as well as the medium and source these views have come from.

    Brand Awareness

    It’s not always easy to gauge an increase in brand awareness, but you can look at your social metrics, number of new followers, tweets etc. You could also look at the number of site views and new users in the period following the marketing campaign. If views are higher and staying higher, this may be a good marker for brand awareness.

    Event Attendance

    An easy way to gauge if your event has been a success is to simply look at attendance numbers. You could also look at number of new followers, tweets, and interactions with the brand during the event for a more in-depth view.


    So there we go. You got to the end, kudos to you! Here’s your fun fact: Turtles can breathe through their butt. Interesting eh? (If you just scrolled down without reading the post, shame on you. Shame I say!)

    There are a plethora of ways to work with bloggers, and what may work for one, may not for another. So don’t just dive in, take some time to do your research. Whether it’s looking at the quality of their content or simply their blog statistics, some research is better than none.

    This is definitely not the definitive guide to blogging, but hey one day in the future it may be.

    Have I missed anything? Have I got something completely wrong? Got a tip you want to share? Let me know if I have, I’d love to hear from you! Feel free to comment below or find me over on Twitter at @robertjmcgill

    By Bobby McGill Content
1 2