Back in August, growth marketing guru Sujan Patel wrote about the data behind viral hits like Psy’s Gangnam Style, The Harlem Shake, and #thedress. These global viral phenomena, along with the more modest viral posts achievable by small and medium-sized businesses, are examples of the incredible heights that can be achieved when skill, luck, and perfect timing combine…but that’s not what I’m here to talk about.
While going viral is certainly a worthy achievement, it’s completely unpredictable. For every Gangnam Style, there are a million wacky music videos out there with zero views. For every infographic, case study, interview, or opinion post that draws a lot of traffic and attention, there are countless comparable ones that languish unseen.
That’s why I want to talk about real outreach strategies that work. Yes, they take time. Of course, they require effort. And no doubt, they take patience. But I can prove that when you put in the time and effort, you’ll experience measurable results. When executed correctly, a thoughtful outreach strategy will produce quality traffic, draw social signals from influencers, and land huge backlinks from authoritative sources. We’re not talking theoretical, either – below I’ll walk you through three real life examples of outreach strategies that get results.
Help a Reporter Out (HARO) is an online service that connects journalists with sources. It originated as a Facebook group in 2008 and has since grown into the most widespread sourcing service in the English-speaking world. At present, there are more than 475,000 sources and 45,000 journalists who submit and respond to queries.
To start using HARO, all you need to do is sign up for an account and subscribe to categories of interest, ranging from lifestyle and fitness to high tech, business, and finance. Three times per day, you’ll get an email to your inbox with queries related to your subscribed categories. You can scroll through the list and respond to any questions you’d like, as long as you meet the qualifications outlined by the reporter.
There are two ways you can use HARO:
You become a source for HARO by answering a question via email. All you need to do is offer your perspective on a question in your area of expertise. If the reporter likes your answer, you could be quoted on frequent HARO participant media outlets like The New York Times, HuffingtonPost.com, Mashable, and more. You get free publicity and maybe even an ultra-powerful backlink.
Reporters request content by filling out a HARO questionnaire. They get immediate access to 475,000 qualified sources – ranging from industry experts to regular people – who answer the question according to your exact terms.
How do I use HARO for SEO?
Here’s the great part. Some people use HARO to garner credibility and publicity by responding to queries made by reporters. Other people get free (yet insightful) content from expert sources. I use it both ways.
Outreach as a source
When you’re a source, it’s basically reverse outreach. Reporters from the Associated Press, Reuters, Forbes, Yahoo and hundreds of other authoritative outlets are reaching directly into your inbox and asking you to share a bit of your knowledge.
Don’t believe it works? Contributions by seoplus+ team members have been featured on Search Engine Watch, Grasshopper, StackOverflow, Kabbage, and in bit.ly’s The Big Book of Marketing Analytics Tools.
As a source, you begin to build relationships with writers and reporters in your field. When you give credible responses, you demonstrate your expertise. What do you get in return?
- You get your name “in lights” from a respected media outlet
- You get fresh content you can share on your social channels
- You get a backlink on an established, authoritative website that drives referral traffic right back to your site.
Acting as a source is a win-win situation for everyone involved.
Outreach as a reporter
The real magic in HARO is involving yourself in both sides of the equation. To be successful, this method does require an established website and social profiles. You aren’t going to get any responses if your website has no traffic or traction – your question may not even be included. But if you’ve got some clout, then this can be a very rewarding avenue.
According to HARO, they only accept queries from the top million websites in terms of traffic. Many small and medium-sized businesses will not make the cut. seoplus+ is ranked in the top 50,000 websites in Canada, and top 500,000 globally, and our rankings only continue to increase. Even if your site is not in the top million, you can still try to submit a query but there are no guarantees it will be accepted.
You want insightful content on your site, but it isn’t cheap or quick to produce. With this method, you get free content of value from influencers in your industry.
Let me give you a real life example. I submitted a query to HARO: What is the single most effective tactic or strategy for B2B companies and why?
I received more than 30 thoughtful responses from highly qualified individuals in B2B marketing. We’re talking CEOs, marketing directors, SEO specialists, content managers, account executives, and more.
I fashioned these responses into an Expert Roundup on my site. I sent an e-mail to all of the sources to notify them that they were selected, and I asked them to promote the final article on their social channels and blog.
One of my sources was Sean Si of SEO Hacker. Would you believe this? SEO Hacker was one of the first bloggers I followed when I first started learning about SEO. Years later, SEO Hacker is contributing to my blog and even promoted my post on his social networks.
Here’s another example: We featured one SEO specialist in our roundup, and he linked back to us on his website. Yes, you read that right. A direct competitor has a link to our site on his. These types of links and mentions on social channels act together to boost your online presence and drive referral traffic.
To recap, here’s what so incredible about acting as a reporter:
- Curate insightful content, completely free of charge (content ain’t cheap!).
- Build relationships with influencers in your field.
- Get relevant backlinks and drive referral traffic to your website.
HARO is a simple but powerful example of using classic outreach to connect with relevant individuals in your field to land backlinks, produce traffic, and build relationships. I use HARO as a source and as a reporter to achieve these important goals in an above-board way, and you can too.
Outreach is all about building relationships and helping each other out toward a mutual benefit. I’ve made so many connections with incredibly intelligent, inventive, and courteous individuals. Relationships provide us with so many riches in all walks of life, and this is certainly true in business.
I am always happy when I get the opportunity to share my knowledge and experience with others, like in this very article. It is a great honour to be able to contribute something to my field and leave a lasting impression. In the same regard, I love meeting new faces, discovering their perspective, and learning something new from people and organizations I deeply respect.
How do relationships help with SEO?
I’m always keeping an eye out for interesting developments in my field and am always excited when a mutually beneficial opportunity arises, which is a very natural form of outreach. I am going to show you how genuine networking can lead to great results in terms of SEO ranking factors.
I am very active on LinkedIn and like to follow like-minded companies, potential partners, local businesses based in my hometown of Ottawa, and form other connections that make sense. I like to know what is going on in my business community and stay connected to those who are plugged into the pulse in my city and industry.
One of the liked-minded companies I follow is Versature, a hosted PBX service (aka a VoIP telephone provider for businesses). seoplus+ actually uses Versature for our office phone system, so it was natural to follow them.
One day when I was scrolling through my LinkedIn feed I came across a case study about how a local accounting firm implemented Versature services to solve frustrating issues like dropped calls, misrouted callers, and unpredictable phone reboots. It prompted me to reach out and offer a client testimonial on my company’s behalf.
I connected with Versature’s Marketing Coordinator via LinkedIn. I introduced myself and offered to write a client testimonial because I was so happy with the service. She contacted me and requested we do a case study focusing on a core feature. Of course I said yes!
We coordinated and a couple weeks later the case study “Digital Marketing Agency SEO+ Streamlines Sales Processes & Scales Effortlessly with Versature” was published and promoted on their website and social channels. We got a valuable backlink on a relevant website, drove social engagement, and drove referral traffic to our website as a result of this case study. The Marketing Coordinator even attended my SEO workshop with Camp Tech.
And where did it all start? With something as simple and sincere as following relevant companies on social media. Tell me you can’t lay similar groundwork before your morning coffee!
Guest posting + social promotion
Hear me out – I know guest posting is not exactly a ground-breaking suggestion. In fact, some would even argue that guest posting’s value in terms of SEO has not only declined but completely cratered. I hate to disagree with Google’s former head of web spam, Matt Cutts, but I want to prove that guest posting is still a valuable proposition for SEO as long as we focus on writing high-quality, insightful content.
I think real, genuine guest posting is a fantastic way to connect with a new audience and share your insights with a whole different crowd. I love coming across a heretofore unknown voice on a trusted website, or vice versa.
Along the same lines, we have featured a few notable guest posters on our seoplus+ blog and these endeavours are completely sincere on the part of the author and the outlet.
How do I use guest posting for SEO?
I came across an article linked in the e-mail signature of a client. I was interested in the topic, so I clicked the link to an article on TechSoup Canada, a tech resource for Canadian non-profits and charities. While reading the article, I recognized the name of the organization. I had worked with them previously to get a client approved for the Google AdWords grant program.
I found the contact information for one of their co-ordinators and pitched my idea. The correspondence went well and they ended up publishing my article “6 Ways You Can Improve Your Nonprofit’s Google Ranking.”
Within the article, I mentioned SEMRush as a useful keyword research tool that non-profits should be using to identify the most relevant, highly-trafficked, and cost-effective keywords out there. The mention of SEMRush was completely organic, because it’s as much of a no-brainer as tools like Google Analytics – I didn’t even include a link!
Shortly afterward, I noticed that an SEMRush employee had been browsing my LinkedIn profile. I always keep an eye on the “Who has viewed your profile” feature of LinkedIn, because it’s a great way to connect with people when you’re clearly top of mind.
I messaged the SEMRush employee and mentioned how much I love their software – with total sincerity, no buttering anyone’s bread here! She connected with the blog editor and I’ve now published multiple articles for SEMRush, including “A Guide to CRM Retargeting,” “How to Rank a Youtube Video,” and “An Expert’s Guide to Producing Low-Cost Professional Videos.” These articles really allowed me to push the boundaries and chart new territory in terms of my professional work. They also created exposure for a whole new audience that I never would have been able to reach had I not already built a decent guest blogging portfolio.
These articles were published on the SEMRush blog page and circulated on all their social media channels, in addition to shares, tweets, +1s, and more. I garnered credibility as an author and SEO expert as a result of being featured on a significant industry website like SEMRush. Finally, this is simply a great publication to promote when doing further outreach.
I should mention that the SEMRush article did not generate a “DoFollow” link back to the seoplus+ homepage, which is the Holy Grail in terms of SEO. However, the “NoFollow” link still drove considerable traffic back to my site, which cannot be understated.
To date, I’ve been featured in nationally known publications like The Huffington Post and Financial Post and industry-specific outlets like Search Engine Watch and SEMRush, among many others. It makes it that much easier to propose guest blogging opportunities and that much more common to receive media requests for comment, all because of this ever-growing portfolio of work.
Guest posts are an effective example of real life outreach that produces referral traffic, increases social following, and generates authoritative backlinks. I encourage you to pursue guest blogging as well, as long as you have something new and interesting to say. You have to be prepared to be ignored and rejected – many, many times – but I promise if you stick with it the payoff is worth it.
In modern SEO, marketing, and even PR, people have become too focused on gimmicky quick fixes that actually fix nothing, and so-called roads to riches that lead nowhere. Trying to engineer the exact alchemy that leads to a viral hit is a colossal waste of time, especially when simple and direct outreach actually works.
I engaged with, contributed to, and solicited from communities like HARO to ultimately produce traffic, increase my personal and company social following, and generate huge backlinks.
I networked with people and organizations that I was genuinely interested in connecting with, like Versature. I drove traffic, increased social traction, and landed a meaningful backlink as a result.
Finally, I authored guest posts on relevant outlets like SEMRush to produce traffic, increase credibility, and expand my portfolio for further outreach.
The real beauty is that every single one of these outreach strategies is completely replicable by you. Are you ready to get started?