One of the hallmarks of today’s small e-businesses is the need to pursue inbound marketing. Unlike traditional marketing, with its one-way line of communication, inbound marketing invites customers to join a dynamic dialogue. By sharing useful, engaging, and impressive content, you can bring customers along on your company’s journey.
Your (potential) customers probably don’t spend their leisurely web-crawling time on your business website. This means you need to find a way to reach customers where they DO like to spend hours on the web. Writing guest posts for blogs can be a genuine social form of web marketing that actually engages the audience by sharing your expertise and business tales.
Sounds great, right? But… how? How do you get that stuff out there? How do you get your content from your wheelhouse to your audience’s eyeballs? For starters, it requires you to do some active relationship building and blogger outreach! That means getting out there with cold calls and e-mails. Important here is to remember that there is a right way and a wrong way to go about these things to maximize your results.
Below you will find helpful tips to get your inbound marketing strategy off the ground – or help it fly even higher.
Find Sites You’d Expect to See Your Guest Post On
Finding the right sites may seem like an obvious step, but when you’re looking to reach out and proliferate your content, it’s tempting to go for the bulk outreach approach. In most cases, this is not the most efficient way to get your message out there. It is, however, a good way to get your e-mails thrown in the spam folder.
Rather than just throwing link requests out there at random, like a t-shirt cannon, find sites you think your content aligns with. Once you do, explain why you think your article seamlessly intertwines with their existing content. This way, it will make a much more compelling argument.
If there is a site you would love to get a blog post published on, consider creating one specifically for them! Many websites allowing guest posts will permit backlinks to your site, but they don’t want derivative content – they want exclusive access. Get to know their site and its style, and submit something that specifically matches their style.
This brings us to the next point:
Personalize Your Messages and Build Relationships
“Personalizing” doesn’t mean just change the name of the website for the subject line and copy-paste the rest. You have an e-mail inbox, you know what a standard form-letter e-mail looks like, and you probably discard or ignore dozens of them a week.
Don’t be one of those e-mails! Really personalize your approach; mention a piece of content on their website that you enjoyed, or a way that you can help them. If you make it about them, not about you, you are a lot more likely to get a response.
Even if you are contacting a mass number of people, it’s possible to personalize your approach in a quickly replicable way so you can send e-mails people will be compelled to read.
Do that, and you can start a dialogue and start building actual business relationships with individuals and businesses related to your industry. That’s a great secondary goal to have, aside from only pushing your content on a case-by-case basis.
Be Concise and Helpful
When you’re trying to establish a relationship with someone you’ve never talked with before, they’re not a captive audience. They might be the farthest thing from a captive audience you could ever possibly find. Most of the people you contact with disregard you immediately
Before they even open your e-mail.
For those who stick around past the subject line, consider their attention span like you would the fuse of a bomb. You don’t know how long that fuse is, but you know once it’s up, you’re out of luck.
That means you need to get to the point, and fast, without doing anything to burn that fuse faster. A few points to make sure you hit in a paragraph or three:
- Who you are
- Why you’re contacting them
- What you want
- SPECIFICALLY what you want them to do (next steps, call-to-action)
- Why they should bother
If you’re sending out messages that don’t have these elements and expecting a high response rate… just don’t. You’ll be highly disappointed.
There IS a counterpoint to this, of course. It can be effective to start building the relationship first, by contacting them with a question, helpful comment, or compliment on the site (especially for personally-run blogs). If you’re comfortable playing the long game, you can try establishing a friendly relationship with your target first, before making any requests of them. It will likely make them more receptive to your application.
Track Your Correspondence
If you’re scouring the web for some link-building goodness, it can be difficult to tell all the different magazines, personal blogs, and industry websites apart after a while. Did you message that one already? Did they have a contact form? Did they get back with you?
If you’re contacting any more than just a couple sites at a time, these are questions you’re going to have a hard time answering from memory. And if you accidentally re-mail somebody you’re already in contact with; you can probably kiss that contact goodbye.
You know that feeling you have when your co-worker or colleague you’ve met three or four times introduces themselves like it’s the first time you’ve met? Yeah, it doesn’t feel right. Don’t do that to people.
Track all the correspondence you send, so you know exactly who you’ve contacted, how many times, and what kind of response you’ve gotten. This post goes into more detail
and also contains a helpful spreadsheet you can use for tracking your messaging.
That will make this last part much easier
Follow Up and Stay Persistent
When it comes to link-building and outreach, once is rarely ever enough. You can safely send two or three e-mails to the same target site, over the course of a couple of weeks or so, even if they’ve ignored you.
Maybe they just didn’t see your message the first time. Or maybe they’ll pay more attention if it’s the second time they see your name in their inbox. When you’ve been ignored the first time, it’s usually helpful to phrase your follow-up as a “check-in,” and perhaps mention you’re gauging their interest (even a reply that they’re NOT interested is a sort of win here – you got a response, and you can safely file them away for now!).
In some other cases, you may end up locked into a lengthy discussion with one of your targets, without making much headway. Keep at it – you may get a link or publication out of it yet, and even if not, every message you exchange strengthens your fledgling business relationship.
Those are some tips to get you started. Remember that inbound marketing is an imperfect science, and sometimes you just have to go on feel. It is about understanding people, after all.
The success rate for guest posting and link building can be exceptionally small, but don’t be discouraged – the payoffs you get are worth the work, so long as you keep at it and personalize your approach just as you would with any other sort of marketing!