When organiser Kelvin Newman asked me to present at the April 2016 BrightonSEO, I didn’t need much time to think of which topic I wanted to cover.
I wanted to share some of my insights of how we, as an industry, tend to work with bloggers, and how we can improve our relationships with them. Being both a blogger and a digital marketer, this is something I’m hugely passionate about!
The name of my talk was called Hello My Name is Blogger, Don’t Make me Mad! at BrightonSEO. You can view the video of my talk in the embedded video at the bottom of this post, or view the video of the whole afternoon session in full on YouTube from around 2:55:30.
I’ve also embedded my slides here for you in case you missed my talk, or want to have another look at what I was sharing on the screen at the time:
It’s great to be able to provide the visuals for my presentation, but I wanted to give you some more background information about my talk and why the relationship between brand and blogger is a subject so close to my heart.
Why is the brand/blogger relationship important?
My own shaky beginnings
When I started working in the SEO industry in 2009 at another agency I was heavily involved in the creation of content for brands. This was mostly off-page content, and it certainly wasn’t the best content I could’ve possibly written on a topic; a far cry from the content I put my name to these days.
It existed mostly for the purpose of getting links from sites, and it didn’t really matter whether they were from article syndication sites, websites semi-related to the keywords we were targeting, or from bloggers who wanted to make a quick buck. Once I had written content, my colleagues were responsible for identifying these link “opportunities” and arranged placement (often for a fee).
I only started questioning this process when I actually started to work with bloggers myself. A couple of the clients I was working with had some products that they wanted to push, and it was at this time that I began to get into outreach.
By identifying some vaguely relevant bloggers, I could send them products, they could write about them, and then… LINKS! It was great, and it was different (and it meant I had to write less myself), but it was just the beginning of my outreach education.
Discovering the answers
After some time, I discovered that it wasn’t just as simple as: find blogger > send product > get link. I was getting inconsistent results; not ideal after carrying out a proof of concept for my clients. I started asking myself questions like:
- Why are some bloggers linking back to the brand’s website whilst others aren’t?
- Why are some bloggers not putting their email address on their website when I have something they can have for free?!
- What is the best way for me to contact bloggers?
- What on earth do I put in my email if this is how I want to contact them?
- Do I need to pay bloggers or just give them something?
My natural inquisitive nature put me in good stead, and by means of learning, testing and refining, I began to see more positive results from my outreach. The two things that have always stuck with me are:
- Be nice
- Choose your targets wisely
Essentially this means that you never know when you’re going to need to work with a blogger on more than one occasion, so make the experience a positive one. Not only that, but you’re also representing a brand, regardless of whether you work in-house or for an agency. Don’t put your brand into disrepute because it can balloon further than a conversation by email; with social media, anything can be inflated to a wider audience.
Comments, engagement and relevancy
What I did find is that I wanted to get comments and other forms of engagement from the audiences of the bloggers that I was working with. I found that audience feedback and discussions usually took place when a blogger knew their niche and focused on it, rather than spreading themselves thinly over lots of different topics.
This makes sense, as an engaged community will likely be just as passionate about a topic as the blogger is, and they will come back to that blog to consume more content on that topic. I found that domain authority and greater numbers of followers on social media didn’t always sway my decision on which blogger to work with, but rather their spirit made them much more appealing to me.
Real passion is hard to fake, and those who came across with having a thirst for providing the best (read: interesting, different, informative) content on their topic were much more up my street. In return I realised that in order to do outreach, I needed to buy into this commitment, and resolved to start my own blog to realise great passion for myself.
Becoming a blogger
When I started my first blog (it was all about food; both eating out and home cooking) I quickly realised the time investment that was needed. Creating new posts was a LOT of work, and it was tough to fit it in alongside my full time job. Not only that but it was the first time that I really had to understand some of the more technical things: buying a domain, getting hosting, not destroying my WordPress theme by tweaking the CSS, etc.
Soon enough I started to get emails from various digital marketing and PR folks who identified that I was writing on the topic of food, and in some cases, the local area in Oxfordshire. This is when I began to be invited to events and got products to review of my own.
Along with some excellent opportunities (particularly for reviewing any burger places) there were some equally poor outreach attempts, notably those where my name was misspelled or the pitch was way off what my blog actually offered to readers.
Even worse, some emails I received were obviously sent out to a huge list of bloggers, and then upon replying, I was invited to provide my stats for further consideration! I soon understood why brands shouldn’t put the onus on bloggers to do extra work just for the chance to promote a product, place or service. This isn’t the way that advertising works!
Due to my thoughts, it was a natural progression to lead me to where I am today, including talking to a crowd of over 1,500 digital marketing people on the topic. I also really enjoy reading what other bloggers have to say on the topic, which is why I included the opinions of Janet Newenham in my presentation.
Janet – who blogs at Journalist on the Run – has an awesome post called Exposure Won’t Pay For My Next Flight which I would encourage you to read in full for some more background information on this topic, and so you can get a great insider’s view!
I think that’s enough of my blogging backstory now; onto the presentation…
PS. Laura Hampton from Impression Digital wrote a great post on LinkedIn Pulse on what it’s like to speak at BrightonSEO; you might find this helpful if you’re thinking about speaking at your very first conference!