Wanna Do My Job For Me? I’ll Return The Favor

Being relatively new to the SEO community, I was shocked to see how helpful even the largest competitors in the industry are with one another. Whether it be sharing a helpful tool, recommending new techniques or discussing strategy, the conversation is open and everyone is welcome; from the biggest names to the newest entrants. We all end up doing better work for our clients when we are willing to help each other out.

There is a scene in the movie Rounders where all the local poker players are in a casino at the same table. Some casual conversation ensues, then two anonymous players sit down at the table, cuing in Matt Damon’s monologue discussing how it is exactly they go about playing the game with one another at the table:

“We’re not playing together, but then again we’re not playing against each other either. It’s like The Nature Channel, you don’t see piranhas eating each other, do you?”

working together but on different teams

After a few weeks of joining Distilled, I read this post by Rob Ousbey on making yourself redundant. I enjoyed theoretically applying it to many of my previous ventures, making little mental notes in ways I could have directly utilized the concepts laid out in Mr. Ousbey’s article to various aspects of those responsibilities.

Over the next few months I began looking for ways in which I could make myself redundant in my outreach efforts when it hit me…

…But first, a brief explanation:

The outreach team here at Distilled occasionally puts together “hack days” where we lock ourselves in the conference room, as we sit and strategize, philosophize, theorize and then materialize. Dedicating all of this time and effort in one sitting has thus far proven to be both fun and fruitful; nobody has been strangled, scratched or scathed, so I think it’s safe to say we work fine in tight quarters.

I remember, almost sarcastically thinking, “What if we could get a bunch of outreach coordinators from various agencies in the same room all working on building links for the same client for several hours? Efficiency! Cohesion! Synergy! We could all pool our contacts and live in perfect harmony!”

Obviously, reality sunk in a little bit, realizing a lot of different elements here don’t necessarily work. For example, we would naturally have competitive clients. We might not want to share all our best contacts. It is also a lot of work to ensure that everyone is getting an equal amount out of such a deal.

But the reality is, with these things all under consideration, there is plenty of opportunity here to work alongside one another in the realm of outreach and PR. It really is no different than sharing valuable tools, only with a human element involved. And for those of us in the world of outreach, this should work, as interacting with a diverse group of people should be our biggest strength.

There are people who will remain shortsighted on the long term benefits who will try and take advantage of such a community, but this will ultimately be their loss as acting in everyone’s best interest would surely offer more reward. To cultivate lasting relationships, we should work together to strengthen trust among outreachers at different agencies. With transparency, respect and understanding the value of the long term, this can easily remain healthy and mutually beneficial.

Other outreachers agree:

Steph Staszko, an outreach coordinator at Webvitality, and someone with whom I share a lot of the same outreach values, has quickly become someone I can ask for help and resources, and would gladly do the same for her. I asked her a few questions about her personal outreach efforts, her good and bad experiences and general thoughts:

“It’s great to come across people who genuinely care about forging a relationship. Some people want to guest post on your site and try to offer you one of their spammy grabbed domains or blog network sites in return. I find this very disrespectful and it’s certainly not going to earn you any great contacts in the internet marketing world.

I’ve had people tell me I can publish a guest post on their client’s on-site blog and when they’ve published it the URL is entirely different (i.e. it’s on a weak subdomain or spammy microsite). I think this is really misleading and I know a few outreachers who have been stung by these phony publishers.

I’ve had some great experiences with outreachers. A rather big brand outreached to me asking if they could write for one of our sites, I said yes and asked if I could do the same for them. I didn’t really think they’d agree, but not only did they publish my piece, they really helped me tailor it to get past their editorial team (they had very thorough guidelines). I thought that was great as many people would just reject something they don’t see fit - even if it has potential.”

I also spoke with Cathy Stucker, curator of Blogger LinkUp, an email list I have used for the past several months that has opened the door to several great opportunities for long term relationships with other outreach coordinators.

She asks for everyone in the community to follow some simple rules that keep things fair, as well as report and self-police the community to make sure it stays healthy and vibrant. Because of this, there have thus far been very few issues:

"We started in April, 2009 and despite the number of people we have involved, there have been very few problems. Our community members are honest and ethical, and they work and play well together. The more members we have, the more valuable the community is to all of us.

We have some fantastic people in our community, and it is great working with them and hearing about the connections they have made through Blogger LinkUp."

The details:

  1. Focus less on only your needs and act towards improving the outreach community -- You can easily benefit in the short term by breaking into an established outreach community, grabbing all the contacts you want and disappearing. But I can attest that if you openly contribute, the benefits are far greater. The more you contribute, the more people will be willing to help with your needs as well, especially in the long term.
  2. Build the relationship first; the benefits will reveal themselves overtime -- Treat other outreachers like people, not email addresses. Get to know one another. Find out the fun details about people in the community. Build that trust and the benefits of what is essentially a friendship will appear. Get to know other outreachers’ client focus and keep an eye out for something they could benefit from. Imagine how amazed they would be if you surprised them with a few prospect contacts.
  3. Play the middleman -- Offer soft introductions between your contact list and outreachers who you trust. I can guarantee from personal experience that a few of these introductions are a great way to get the same favor in return, quickly scaling your outreach efforts.
  4. Most importantly, be transparent -- There is no faster way to get blacklisted from a community than by lying about your intentions. Always be up front and honest about what you are looking for from other outreachers. Word will spread quickly if you are taking advantage of other’s help. One of my favorite quotes from the My Blog Guest forum is “stay away from those who don’t get it.”
Consider making your outreach efforts even more efficient by getting active in the respective forums and email lists. If you’re looking for a place to start, shoot me an email, grab me on twitter @stentontoledo or leave a comment below, I’d love to chat more on the topic.

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