By Monica Karpinski, Content and SEO Manager at Curated Digital.
Picture this: you’ve spent months putting together an amazing website for your business that’s finally ready to go. You’ve collated all this terrific content, had it put in place by a tremendous designer, and painstakingly planned each page with careful mind to user experience. You hold your breath and send it live.
Nothing happens. Why?
You might have the most perfect website in the world, but without promoting properly, you may as well be yelling into a chasm. This is where your outreach campaign comes in.
Successful digital outreach calls on a creative blend of PR, audience research, and editorial know-how to figure out how best to put your site in front of the right audience. Not only will this draw the right people to your site, it’ll help build your brand and boost your SEO. You’ll do this by finding other websites your audience are likely to read, and convincing them to feature your site. “But what’s in it for them?” you ask. That’s exactly the question your pitch needs to answer.
Finding your audience
Properly identifying your audience is the first and most important step of any campaign. Look carefully at your brand, and the product or service it provides. Who are the sorts of people you want to engage with it, and, more importantly, who will get the most value out of what you’re providing? To figure this out, you need to take a hard look at your product or service, consider all the different elements of it, and how these may appear in different contexts.
For instance, your business might sell kitchenware containers. They might be useful for busy parents packing lunches for their children, but also to professional cooks looking for high-quality containers to keep their ingredients in. They may also be of use to campers, who want to keep supplies fresh whilst on the open road. Once you’ve got all these ideas are out, do some research about each of the audiences you’ve identified: which form the biggest markets, with the greatest need for what you’re offering? Then, to connect with them, you’ll need to find websites they’re likely to be reading, and influencers they’re likely to follow.
Make a hit list
Putting together an outreach hit list can feel a bit like searching for a needle in a haystack. How to find the right websites, against the plethora of different sites already out there? The trick is to be smart about the way you search.
Consider your audiences. What are their interests, needs and concerns? If they are a chef looking for high quality containers, what other things are they likely to be reading? You need to think critically about other things they might be searching for: including the websites of your competitors.
The easiest place to start is via a basic Google search. Think: what would someone search if they were trying to find your business? For instance, your audience might type in ‘best professional kitchenware containers’, ‘cheap kitchen containers for kids’, or ‘best kitchenwear containers for camping’. The sites on the first page of results is most likely what your audience is going to be clicking on, and can give you a good idea of the types of sites they’re interested in. Play around with different searches to give yourself a good idea of what’s out there.
You can also get an idea of the types of things people are searching for in relation to your product or service (your ‘topic’), using tools like SEMrush or Google Keywords Tool. SEMrush can also be used to find your main competition sites, to give you some ideas for the types of things your audience is interested in. A nifty tool for finding influencers is Followerwonk, which will help you find people to target via Twitter.
Once you’ve got your hit list sorted, you need to figure out how to convince them to feature your site. To do this, you’ll really, really need to know their site well: what sort of language do they use when talking to the audience, and which sections of content have the most engagement? Do they accept editorial submissions, or is your product/service something that could enhance their user experience by providing value to their audience? Identify how your business, brand and linked expertise can bring value to the site your targeting, and then break down why this is to them when you get in touch with them.
Over email it’s tricky to hit the right tone. You don’t want to sound too curt, sales-y, or too long-winded. Use honest, benefits-driven language, and be sure to outline why you’ve chosen their site to target. For instance, you might write something like: ‘We love the ethos and tone of your site, and feel it would be a perfect platform to engage with busy parents, and let them know that there are reliable tools available to help them manage their time. We’d love to be able to share this resource with them!’ Frame your argument in terms of the audience’s need, and how both your sites can work together to meet it.
Subject lines should never, ever read like news headlines: often your email will come across as spammy, or as a press release. Whilst different approaches have gleaned different results (some swear by short, leading lines that broach the topic; others simply pose questions, such as ‘Partnership opportunity?’), the important thing is that it reads as if a real person has written it: not a PR company trying to entice a journalist to bite.
Again, there’s no hard-and-fast rule in crafting the perfect follow-up. There’s no way you can predict what someone is thinking from the other side of their screen. This is where handy email tracking software, such as Yesware, can help you see who has opened your emails. If they’ve opened but haven’t replied, give them a day or two before you email again, asking if they have any thoughts on what you’d previously sent. If they haven’t opened it, wait a few more days before you try: the last thing you want to do is seem pushy. Once they bite, go in with the details of what you want them to do.
During an outreach campaign, things go cold more often than not. Pick your battles and don’t take this personally: consider whether it would be a better use of time to target someone else, rather than trying to warm a cool lead.