Using Personal Experience To Qualify Your Outreach

So, you’ve spent hours slogging through the net for a beautiful list of prospects. You’ve created a great piece of content and have crafted (what you believe is) the perfect pitch that will propel you to supreme internet fame… only instead of fame, you find an inbox full of bloggers asking for ‘posting fees.’

We’ve all been there – the “outreach blues” as I like to call it. Those times when you can’t seem to find the outreach love that you’re so desperately looking for. But why is this? How is it that great pieces of content are frequently rejected by bloggers? I mean don’t they want every article they can get their hands on?

Actually, no.

With the rise in guest posting efforts, I think that a common misconception has developed amongst SEO’s - mainly that good content speaks entirely for itself. While content is innately influential, it usually only carries the authority of its creator or publisher. For example, while I may be able to offer an insightful breakdown of which brake pads are most reliable, it would hold much greater value coming from a renowned car mechanic… or from Chris Farly.

In essence, information is only as reliable as its source. So why should blogging be any different?

Good Outreach Begins By Being Real

When beginning outreach efforts, one of the best places to start is with your own skills/experiences. At a basic level, people like working with real, honest individuals, not some scammy liar. So to find success you’ll need to begin by focusing on two specific tasks:

Qualify Yourself As A Human Who Cares

Your first objective should be to simply show that you’re human – not some random robot. Outreach is notorious for being a mechanical, script driven task that sucks all the life and dignity out of the bloggers who actually have to sort through these emails.

Don’t let yourself stray here.

Instead, dig into a few articles and let the blogger know what you found helpful and/or interesting. Show them that you care about the well-being of their readers and want to help contribute to their goals as a publication. This step may seem mundane (or even overly time consuming), but it’s arguably one of the most important parts of an effective outreach email.

Qualify Yourself As A Resource

The second, and significantly more difficult step, is to show that you’re a person of value. If information is dependent upon its source, then you need to show that you’re a source worth mentioning.

For some niches, this can be as simple as declaring your experiences as a writer with a few references to random posts that you’ve written. But for others, qualifying yourself can take a great deal of effort. For those more difficult blogs, here’s what I found:

Leveraging Your Personal Experience

When I first started doing outreach, I had recently left a web/graphic design job. I didn’t have any experience with PR efforts and found myself biting off way more than I could chew (high value sites, off topic niches, etc.). Consequently my emails often sounded frantic and angsty – a desperate call to “please let me write for you…” Needless to say, I didn’t find much success.

However, I began to realize that I did in fact have something very valuable to offer – my design experience. And it slowly began to change my outlook from trying to finagle wins to focusing on communicating this expertise. This caused me to adjust my approach in two different ways.

Embrace the Tough Stuff

First, I began to comment on particularly specialized articles within my emails. I’d find a post on coding techniques or different plugins/frameworks and offer my thoughts. This allowed me to simultaneously show the blogger that I had taken the time to interact with their work and had an informative and qualified knowledge of the industry.

Show Your Work

Next I began to reference my personal design site (one I had developed months earlier). I’d mention my background in design, link to my portfolio and remark on a few of the projects that I’d worked on. This was especially helpful. It gave bloggers tangible proof that I was able to contribute good quality content. It also helped cushion the stigmas that often come with SEO agencies. I ceased to be a ‘link builder’ and became a knowledgeable resource. This is now one of the staples to my outreach approach. Regardless of the niche I’m working in, I use my background in design to show that I have a unique voice worth listening too. And consequently, bloggers are keen to work alongside me.

For those who don’t have a personal portfolio/website to leverage, assemble a list of high value articles that you’ve written (make sure that they’re specific to the industry). Or, if possible, find a post on the targeted blog that’s similar to one that you’ve written in the past. Use this, or any past job/life experience, to show the blogger your own expertise.

The goal of becoming an influential resource is neither simple nor cut and dry. Instead it requires creativity and dedication. Find what you know (could be your love for travel, food, ballet…), invest in it and then create some sort of tangible representation of your knowledge (either a website, a series of high value articles, interviews, etc.). Finally, use this expertise to position yourself as an authority with a unique voice.

While at first this may sound irrelevant to some of your outreach efforts, remember that outreach is intrinsically tied to your personal brand. Displaying your expertise or interests publicly will only help in allowing bloggers to get to know you a bit more.

Curiosity Pays Off

Beyond simply embracing your background however, it’s important to always be looking forward. There will constantly be projects that are far outside of your area of expertise. This is why it’s essential to never fall stagnant in your marketing efforts and must continually ask yourself, “Do I have something valuable to contribute in this field?” If the answer is no, then it’s time to start learning.

Photo credit Shutterstock Photography

Regardless of whether you’re an expert or not, one of the best things you can do for your outreach efforts is to become informed. Focus on a specific niche and read everything you can get your hands on. Learn the basics and get to know the lingo within the industry. Discover the current trends and familiarize yourself with a few of the more influential author’s names. All of this knowledge will come in handy when you begin to work with experienced publishers.

Expertise Is Often Exponential

Simply put, the more you know, the faster you’ll learn. As you begin to leverage your personal experiences and qualify some of your prior work, you’ll find yourself getting more wins on the hard to reach sites, which will in turn give you more experience to leverage. By focusing on your immediate experiences, you give yourself a foundation to build upon - from which you can expand and grow your areas of expertise.

Outreach usually fails when it is severed from personality. So don’t back away from using your skills, stories and interests to make those pitches shine.

Got any questions? Either comment or shoot me a tweet @lukeclum

Luke Clum

Luke Clum

Luke joined the Distilled team in 2012. With a background in design, Luke loves discovering and promoting beautiful content on the web. He’s fascinated by the internet’s potential to act as a catalyst for creative ideas and is excited to be a part...   read more

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11 Comments

  1. James

    +1 on leveraging personal experiences. Great post.

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  2. Hi Luke, I have a new SEO manager who is learning the ropes and is struggling with outreach, so this is timely. Thanks for sharing, I will be passing your tips along to her.

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  3. Luke, solid article on outreach. I clicked through to your personal site and loved the design. Did you customize a theme or create the whole theme and design yourself? Also, are you selling that design/theme?

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    • I appreciate it Ryan. Yea I designed it from scratch - but right now I'm looking to hold on to it. Thanks for asking though.

  4. Hi Luke,

    Spoke to the rest of my team today about the importance of this toward link-building efforts. This article had come at the perfect time to reinforce what I have been saying. Really loved some of your ideas and I concur with everything you've said!

    Matt.

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  5. Hi Luke ,

    Great article on outreach , and very nice design of you newly made website , i found a very helpful article their for me :- " http://www.lukeclum.com/understanding-wordpress-templates/ " for my wordpress site thanks for sharing , bith this article and about template designing .

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  6. Hi Luke,

    Thanks for your post! I am a graphic designer and I have focused on SEO, SEM and web development. I have been identified in your post. The best we can offer is our knowledge and experience. I liked reading your post!

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  7. I have recently had some good results for gaining links by simply putting into practice what you have written above. By simply being Human and using simple experiences and requirements I have found people are more likely to show and interest and therefore share your posts, links, profiles etc. Good, relevant post.

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  8. Hi Luke,

    This post is really helpful! I understand, the challenge begins right from producing a high value article to finally getting the bloggers sold for them.

    I have tried multiple styles of outreach and certainly the proven key to success is to make the publisher feel some trust and authority in you to even strike a conversation with them.

    Will keep coming back for more tips like these!

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  9. Just echoing the others, but great tips Luke. I think the step to turning from a link builder to an "expert" in the niche you are targeting is key and what can help many SEOs take that next step forward.

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