When a blogger’s world collides with a professional digital marketing world, it’s as though the great mysteries of society are revealed. Okay so we’re not really talking revolutionary on a global scale, but to me that’s how it feels. As a lifestyle blogger who has begun working in the industry of digital marketing, particularly taking on the task of outreaching to bloggers, I feel as though I have stumbled into some pretty sacred industry secrets. From domain authority to SEO metrics, there is more to working with bloggers than you might think.
And then there’s the other side, the side of the blogger taking control of the outreach. I feel like Batman, the vigilante, rising from the flames of receiving no end of bad outreach emails. Once again, I may be exaggerating with the grand comparisons but that’s what goes on in my head … Having faced my fair share of bad campaign emails asking me to participate, whether that is attending an event or receiving a product, a blogger can always tell whether or not the campaigner has done their research. For example, I spend my days blogging about how I obsess over handbags, make-up and general amusing antics. Yet I am receiving invites to attend wedding fairs or requests to blog about expensive furniture stores. Do you see the connections between those campaigns and my blog? Because I don’t. There is also the error of companies assuming you will post their campaigns completely for free as though your blog is an empty advertising space on Google.
When it comes to recruiting bloggers for your campaign, you need to remember there’s a human being on the other end of that generic ‘Hey blogger’ email you’re about to send. Without research and a well-structured approach, your efforts are wasted and your campaign is lost. You also risk your brand getting snubbed across the blogger industry and social media, as at the end of the day, bloggers talk.
Let’s start with the blogger going into outreach. From my level, fresh out of university and independently running a lifestyle blog, I assumed that when a company selected a blogger for their campaign, they either used one of the many blogger/PR data bases floating around on the internet or searched Twitter. They then decided to use the blogger based on their content and how many followers they had on Twitter and Facebook.
Now I am working within the industry, I can see that my basic understanding of how it worked isn’t entirely incorrect. I have however been enlightened about the mechanisms, workings and insights of a Digital Marketing Consultancy: typing and clicking away site after site, testing the strengths of blog after blog and ending with successful and crafty SEO results.
The likes of MOZ, Search Metrics, Ahrefs and so on are a dream for those trying to establish the best sites to support links, host campaigns and promote brands. I have learnt that the treasured data is ready and waiting – you just have to know where to look. That definitely blew my ‘blogs are used based on their social following’ theory out of the campaign window.
And of course, there is the ever-so-faithful Google Analytics, something I had used for my own blog but whose power I now realise (with the help of my co-workers and Google Analytics Academy) that I had underestimated. Yes, I understood the valuable data Google Analytics stored about those landing on your site. I didn’t, however, truly see how that data could be applied and how it could be adapted.
Now referring back to a superhero stance, with great power comes great responsibility. Once you’ve analysed every inch and social sites of a blog, all of that time can be completely wiped within minutes of sending a badly phrased or poorly researched and disrespectful email to your intended blogger.
It’s no secret that the blogging community is now in fact an industry and if you get on board with the right bloggers your campaign is golden. Let’s look at high-end cosmetics company, Benefit Cosmetics, sending out extraordinary, instagram-worthy packages of their latest lines to the highest ranking bloggers. You then end up with the result of thousands of beauty bloggers heading to their nearest Benefit Cosmetics counter, spending at least £15 a trip on the latest product and blogging about it for free because they too want to be associated with the highest brands and most popular bloggers. Who is gaining here, the bloggers who are featuring the elite brand on their blog, or Benefit Cosmetics who are successfully getting the thousands of beauty bloggers to advertise for free?
However there is a dark side to this newly formed industry. It seems as bloggers get bigger, brands get more and more outreach savvy and what was once a small-scale community has transformed into a global viral network of blogging and brand wars. As this industry grows and its value increases, I notice the growing tension between bloggers and brands. Brands aren’t following through with payment for posts, bloggers who were promised retweets and promotion online receive no mention and I have even witnessed PR blackmail to bloggers in return for product reviews. Bloggers feel increasingly exploited as companies push harder for the increase in their social presence. For those good and saintly marketers, it creates a bad name and a harder job of getting bloggers on board.
Based on my experiences on both sides, when approaching bloggers it can be easy to offer kind words, compliment them on their wonderful blog and offer them a product in return for a blog post. However, would you stand in a store and willingly promote a product to costumers without being paid? As bloggers work independently and online, it can easily be seen that lines are blurred and rules are forgotten. You need to remember that when a blogger is writing a post on your product, taking photos, editing and sharing on social sites, they are working in their free time. Therefore you need to ensure it is a fair deal for both blogger and brand.
The best approach is to be fair and honest. Bloggers appreciate it when you read their blogs, ensure your product or campaign is relevant and show that you have genuine interest. If a product is of higher value, you’re fine asking bloggers to feature it. However, if you are asking bloggers to promote links, an infographic or a video, offering an incentive is a must. Yes, sometimes bloggers can be overambitious with a demand for money and if a fair deal cannot be worked out, it’s okay to offer to work with them in future campaigns with larger budgets and move on.
Remember, bloggers are flattered to work with brands; they appreciate your consideration and value in their blog. To remain professional and considerate throughout the process will ensure happy bloggers, happy campaigns and a promising future of further successful collaboration. Learning from experience in outreach, the data and power is there – you just have to know the right way to use it.
“I’ve worked with bloggers for a few years now and seen the community grow substantially in that time – what started as a casual hobby for most bloggers has developed, in some cases, into a full-time career. There are bloggers I used to work with on link-building campaigns who’ve now had books published, who’ve been interviewed by newspapers. As bloggers have come to realise their own value, the community has expanded and strengthened, and blogging today is bigger business than it was even three years ago.
The problem is that some PR and SEO companies haven’t grown alongside the bloggers, which explains the lazy emails Laura points out above. Generic, ‘Hey Blogger’ emails hark back to a time when link-building was about numbers, and bloggers, new to the game, didn’t realise their own worth. Back in the day, there was a sense of validation for bloggers when a company – any company – got in touch, and though relevancy has always been important, the focus wasn’t so strong, and some more unscrupulous companies more or less did what they wanted for the sake of links. This is how fashion bloggers could end up mentioning holidays or cars in long-tail anchors at the bottom of posts. These days however, that doesn’t fly at all in the eyes of Google, and outreach needs to be more researched; brands must reflect the blogger and vice versa. When done correctly today, outreach is far stronger today than it ever was in the past.
Some companies would also withhold information from bloggers or outright lie to them for links – I’ve seen a fair few ‘linking to my brand will improve your blog strength’ claims back in the day, taking advantage of new bloggers who didn’t understand the industry to get as many links as cheaply as possible. But as bloggers have developed into a community, with their own resources, conventions and guides, this sort of thing has thankfully stopped; bloggers now know how the system works, and SEO companies need to be honest, direct and relevant if they want to keep working with bloggers. These days, relationships are more important than ever – as Laura points out, always remember that bloggers are people and treat them as such; they’re not suppliers and they’re not machines, and an honest, friendly relationship will be of benefit to all parties. Blogger outreach is increasingly taking on a PR slant, meaning these days, keeping long-lasting relationships with bloggers is crucial to outreach success.
Another problem, as Laura mentions above, is to do with incentivising bloggers. Now that bloggers know their worth, they expect (fair) compensation for their time. This counters Google’s push for ‘no paid links’ which, combined with clients cautious from penalties, creates a void between what bloggers now want and what brands are willing to give. An outreach team needs to bridge this gap, and this doesn’t necessarily mean asking clients to spend more, or throwing more cash at bloggers. With strong relationships, we’re able to work closely with bloggers and find out what they want from brands. Creative, original and fun campaigns which generate great content which readers will want to read; it’s all about finding positive ways for brands and bloggers to combine which benefit both parties. We’ve gone from the brands being in control to the bloggers taking it back – but these days, we really need an even partnership between the two to generate real success stories.
The best people to do this are those who walk both sides of the line – bloggers like Laura who move into the digital marketing world – as many eventually do – are often in the best position to provide for both the client and the blogger community. They understand how it works from both sides, can see what both parties are after and learn to develop means of working between the two for the best possible results. The blogger community has grown a lot, but the best SEO companies have grown alongside it.”
Carl ‘Cyclops’ Eden, Online Marketing Consultant
“Blogger outreach is all about building relationships. Like Laura said, “you need to remember, there is a human being on the other end of that generic ‘Hey blogger’ email you just sent.” I’m sure any blogger will tell you, regardless of how often they post, or how many followers they have, a blog is a very personal outlet, a way to express creativity, and so unless it’s a topic that’s of interest to them you’ll probably be wasting your time getting in touch.
I’m extremely new to the blogging world, with a mere 9 posts, but if I was approached by a brand who had taken the time to look through my website, picked up on my interests and approached me to advertise something that was relevant to me, I would jump at the chance. Being unestablished I’d happily do it for free – being paid wouldn’t even cross my mind. I’d be promoting the brand as much as my own website visibility. It’s a win-win situation in my eyes.
I can relate to the progression that’s required from a blog as being similar to a career ladder – once you’re at the top you earn the big bucks. After taking all that time to climb that social ladder, bloggers now know their worth and it’s up to the outreach team to take the time to nurture this relationship, building trust and collecting contacts that can be used again in the future. Outreach, when done correctly, has advantages for both parties.”
Jenny ‘Phoenix’ Pearse, Online Marketing Consultant