Blogger Outreach – What Do They Think About SEOs?

Posted by DaveSottimano

Have you ever wondered why bloggers didn’t reply to your last outreach email? Why they refused to link to your shiny new infographic, or what they really think about SEOs?

I conducted a 26 question survey with a sample group of bloggers to help digital marketers construct better outreach pitches and give bloggers the opportunity to voice their opinions.

The feedback might shock some of you; I hope you’re ready.

Disclaimer: Due to the nature of the questions, and in the interest of protecting the respondents, the full data set, exact sample size, and respondents’ blog URLs will not be made public.

Survey information:

  • There are fewer than 100 bloggers in the sample, mostly from the parenting / food niche
  • No demographic requirements to participate, however the bloggers are largely from the UK and US
  • Survey format: Google docs forms, with a mixture of multiple choice questions and text boxes

Important: The sample is not representative of all bloggers, or bloggers within the UK, US, food or parenting niches.

Section 1: Website information (traffic, PR)

Most of the bloggers are currently making money from their blogs. The largest revenue source is paid content, which was defined as advertorials and reviews.

58% of our sample group is getting less than 10,000 visits per month, and 42% are considerably more popular, receiving more than 10,000 visits per month.

65% of the bloggers’ homepages were PageRank 2 or less, and 31% were over PageRank 3.

Section 2: Link selling and link requests

58% of the bloggers said they sell followed links, defined in the question as follows: Do you sell links that pass PageRank, i.e. A followed link is a regular link, a nofollow link is a link that you wrap with rel=”nofollow” in the HTML to prevent passing PageRank.

On the other hand, 73% said they also sold NO-followed links on their blogs. Both questions regarding followed and nofollowed links had an “I don’t know what this is” option, but we were fortunate to have an educated sample, as no one used this response.

When it came down to their stances on selling links in general, 62% agreed that it was okay to sell links as long as they were disclosed.

88% of these bloggers were sent anywhere between 1-10 link requests per month.

38% already have a predetermined price list for link selling.

On a scale from 1 to 5, 1 being never, and 5 being highly likely, it seems as if our group was not very likely to editorially link to content that has been requested via email (by “editorially link” I mean create unpaid links).

Section 3: Outreach email details

31% said they would never open an email with “Link request” in the subject line.

Ambiguity in the outreach email (example: “hi there”) seems to be less favourable, with 62% of bloggers choosing 1 & 2 as their responses, with 1 meaning “never” and 5 meaning they were “highly likely” to open the emails.

There was no clear answer in regards to likeliness of responding to shorter email requests. This was defined as emails with fewer than 100 words.

However, 46% seemed to prefer detailed email requests, defined as an email request with more than 100 words.

65% will open/read an email based on the subject line alone, and 19% will open/read the email regardless.

Section 4: Guest posting, preferred content type, and contact preference

The majority response to accepting guest post requests was “sometimes,” the reason becomes a bit clearer in the next question.

If you can prove that you’re credible, 54% of these bloggers were in favour of accepting your guest posts over others.

Something that surprised me: Most of the bloggers only received 0-1 guest-post requests per week. It might be helpful to note again that 42% were receiving more than 10,000 visits per month.

In descending order of preference, these bloggers were most likely to embed images, badges, videos, and infographics. None were willing to embed widgets (description of a widget was a weather widget).

81% of the bloggers preferred to be contacted via email or a contact form on their websites, as opposed to only 19% who preferred contact through social media (Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn were given as examples).

Section 5: Genuine feedback from open-ended questions

1) What are your overall thoughts regarding being pitched to?

  • “I don’t mind being pitched to, but the truth is I never accept anything that isn’t well written, personally addressed to me (shows that they’ve read my blog) and is in accordance with my blog and audience.”
  • “I like being pitched to providing the person has some idea of who I am and what I do, I don’t get annoyed by completely irrelevant pitches and try to reply to all whether I am interested or not.”
  • “Despite clearly stating on my disclosure page that I do not publish sponsored posts or paid links I still receive a number of such requests each week. This is wasting both my time and the SEOs time. I generally delete such requests without responding.”
  • “My blog is just that…my blog! Whilst I like to ensure that it pays it’s own way in that it covers the cost of the domain name, hosting etc it’s not just some random space that is crying out for graffiti. I have had random generic one size fits all pitches that I think are quite arrogant (read rude) in their approach in that they want me to do a review or add a link and in return they apparently will share my blog to their network that I know nothing of its size or influence. Whilst I must clearly be flattered that they have emailed me, it in fact makes my blood pressure increase and I don’t bother to reply.”
  • “I love being pitched to. It makes me feel like I am writing about relevant things that can fit with brands and that people actually want to read about! Makes me feel a bit *special* (she says in a daft voice!) It makes me feel like companies want to interact with my readership and encourages me to try new ideas/recipes/competitions. I can do this on my own BUT if I am going to be paid, receive a gift or samples in exchange for my effort then that is even better!”
  • “I have no issues at all to being pitched, but rather than ambiguity about what an SEO wants i.e. I am a freelance writer and want to offer you a guest post, I would just prefer a straight we are looking for a follow link and have this budget! I also prefer more unique pitches. I am happy to write posts if you provide me with experiences or review product of a certain value. I like regular income, I love working with clients that I know will be coming back or want to develop relationships and value my websites.”
  • “I like that PR companies are taking bloggers more seriously. Some pitches/approaches do have some way to go before we, as bloggers, feel that we are seen as on a par with mainstream media, however things are improving and its getting there.”
  • “I am happy to be pitched to, I prefer honesty in the pitch and I like to know that the pitch is genuine and the person has actually bothered to look at my site. I can pinpoint flattery a mile away and when a person has not even bothered to find out the ethos of my blog. A genuine pitch will be for something that would fit in with my blog and what I write about too often than not I get pitches for non relevant stuff that would never fit in with my food blog.”

2) Can you think of the most outrageous request for links?

  • Asking for a backlink straight up, no offer of anything, nothing in it for me but hard work and no reward, or a brand asking you to review a product they aren’t prepared to send you – because they say you can write a good review incl backlinks without a product, from a description sheet and recommend it. You can’t be truthful about something without having the full story (or product) I’m all about transparency so this and sly ways to get links really annoy me.”
  • “I am often asked to place a link for free on my blog to a company in return for the opportunity to write content for their website as no charge to myself….what a treat!!!”
  • “The kind of approach which starts off sounding good, that we can build a working relationship but ends with we have no budget. It makes us feel very undervalued and miss led to a degree”
  • “An online craft store wanted me to feature a seasonal craft activity tutorial that they’d written. It all sounded good and was relevant to my blog so I went back to them with my rate card and said that as I liked the tutorial so much I would actually be happy to discuss about a rate reduction to feature this. Their short, sharp response was to tell me that it was “illegal to pay for links” and if I was a “proper blogger” I would have known that!”

3) Is there anything you’d like to say to the SEO community?

Personal note here, this is by far the best feedback I’ve ever received as an SEO. I’ve intentionally added as many quotes as possible because I find it extremely valuable and hope you will too.

  • “Don’t try and trick a blogger, we talk!”
  • “SEO is becoming overrated and content, which should be more important, is fast becoming less so. I find it hard to “follow the rules” of SEO, to have enough “key words” in my opening paragraph, or my title, to remember everything that I “should be doing to improve my SEO”. I know that’s why my SEO is in the toilet, but I would like to say that I find it to hard, complicated and confusing as to why I should. The problem today is that it has become a game of who will win – the SEO or the search engine, and the content, who is the king, is fast becoming obsolete.”
  • “Please don’t try to persuade me to not disclose any links or features, it is not good for either side.”
  • “I feel like anyone else wanting to work with bloggers that SEO’s need to show they value bloggers, read our blogs and give us credit for knowing about guidelines with regards follow/no follow rules. Trying to convince us that we don’t know about these things does not hold well and makes us feel undervalued. We want to work with SEO’s and want to build good relationships but this can only be done by treating us with respect for what we do from the start. Make approaches personally instead of making us feel part of a blanket approach email.”
  • “Buying follow links on blogs risks the page rank of not only the bloggers you work with, but also your clients. Google are regularly updating their algorithms to identify paid follow links and remove them from their indexes. Google provides a sanctioned way for you to get your clients to the top of the search results by paying – it’s called Adwords.”
  • “I sometimes feel like I am at the mercy of the SEO community and that there is something secretive about it all. I am just a person who has a blog and I have no knowledge on the whole SEO front, but I would like a fair go at being ‘discovered’ out in the big world of the web.”
  • “Don’t expect that we (bloggers) are going to give our time, effort and energy to you for free. You wouldn’t work for free so please don’t expect us to! Make sure what you pitch is relevant, READ MY BLOG,I’m not just “”a blogger”" I do have a name! It’s even in my URL and my email address – how can you get it wrong?
  • I write because I love it first and foremost, but if your brand fits with mine and we can build a relationship with each other then that’s good but I don’t want to write about clinical trials in Oz for money! I don’t have type of readers that would be interested – it needs to fit with my content and a sufficient incentive needs to be offered. If you want something for nothing, you’ll go no further than my trash can with a spam flag next to your email address! I want to be challenged, I don’t just want to write a boring post that includes a back link, I want it to be fun for me, and if my readers can take part in some way, even better! Interaction with my readers makes them real. Otherwise, they are just a number on a stat sheet. If I have pitched you and my blog is not suitable, please tell me why! If my stats & metrics are not good enough then tell me your bottom line for accepting, if I got in touch with you then I feel that your brand IS relevant so I will get back in touch once I have met your baseline for stats & metrics as I want to work with you. Metrics aren’t everything to a blogger like they are to an SEO. Stats and metrics are not our jobs, writing is so often when people don’t get back in touch, I feel like they were never interested in my pitch in the first place. I’m not going to tweet my hatred to the world if you say no, I’m just going to go back to you at some point – I am a person the same as you, manners cost nothing, even if you’re telling me no!
  • Please don’t get the same people writing the same things over and over, I read blogs too and it sometimes gets boring when the whole of your bloglovin feed is crammed with the same SEO link that everyone has just been paid for, stagger it out a bit more! You’d probably see better results too! I won’t click on the same link from every blog, I’m sure most other people won’t either!
  • Don’t get overwhelmed by stats! Some bloggers don’t even care about them or know what DA, PR and PA is never mind MozRank or citation flow. If you want a blogger to know this, show them how it is relevant to them and to you at the same time.
  • A lot of bloggers are scared of stats because they are complicated to understand and it’s impossible to fathom how you can make them go up as there is no clear explanation that lots of us have tried to find! The rest either care too much or don’t care at all about their stats! I fall into the I get it, I care category. I want to know who reads me and where in the world they are, I am actually interested! Educate us more on the kind of metrics and stats that you want from us and how they are relevant to you! Be clear on nofollow and dofollow when you pitch to avoid confusion too, there is nothing worse than agreeing a fee with someone only to find that you won’t be paid unless you change to a dofollow link once your post has gone live, the fee is almost always higher from a bloggers point of view for a link of this kind, it’s OUR pagerank that is being put at risk if we disclose or not!”
  • “Please, please don’t try to confuse me with jargon. Don’t make up stories about what is and isn’t acceptable according to Google as I do know. Try to offer everyone roughly the same fair rates. Its very amusing when an SEO person tells me that they have no budget left so can only pay me a third of what they paid my husband twenty minutes ago. Try to pay promptly and also pay me the amount I’ve agreed and invoiced for, not ten or twenty pounds less and expect me to chase as seems to happen quite often.”
  • “False praise will almost always get you caught out- don’t tell me I’m an amazing baker when I haven’t written about baking on my blog for years- I’ll hit delete after reading that sentence.”
  • “Many bloggers, especially parent bloggers, are people juggling lots of balls at once. Whilst blogging may not be their full time occupation please don’t assume that this means that we’re either stupid, prepared to work for free, or don’t talk to other people. Professional bloggers do know the law around disclosure rules, do know what Google’s position on follow / nofollow links is, understand what other bloggers are being offered for similar content and do know just how much brands pay SEO agencies to get links out there on the internet. I have great working relationships with some SEO companies where both sides know exactly what the other one wants out of the relationship and there is professional respect between us. Sadly that is not the case with all SEOs who approach me.”
  • “I like being given links before other people, so my content is unique and more applicable to my blog. I like to be paid extra to write the copy myself (I do a good job of making it applicable to my readers).
  • Be clear in your requirements and explain what they mean in none SEO jargon. Are you looking just for an embedded link, or do you want a post with lots of engagement? Give constructive feedback. Look at ways to reward bloggers that respond in a timely manner and please pay promptly. I do not have time to keep chasing payments.”
  • “The majority of bloggers work hard, we take our work seriously and are very proud of what we create. Please do stop and think before asking us to cover press releases or produce copy with no incentive for us at all – would you work for free?”
  • “Let’s all work together to create a professional, mutually beneficial network. Bloggers who blog to blag give us a bad name. Equally PRs who throw things out to hit numbers give you a bad name. We need a foundation of respect, professionalism and effort from both sides. Bloggers will provide you excellent copy, network well on your behalf and promote things if you treat them as professionals and respect what they do.
  • Don’t ask them to bend or break rules, don’t ask for non-disclosure, don’t insist you’re doing them a favour by letting them promote your site, business or product without paying for the time and work that they give you in return.”
  • “We may seem like odd people that waffle on on the internet but you know what, we are just people too and blogging, more often than not, is our hobby and passion. A little respect about what we do and our worth goes a long way. As does friendliness and relationship building. I’m ten times more likely to do a cheap or even free post as a favour for an SEO I like, respect and have built a relationship with than a fly by night SEO.”
  • “If there was a way that bloggers could be in touch with more white hats then they wouldn’t feel the need to accept the black hat approaches that appear so frequently in their inbox.”

I think this word cloud sums up the bloggers’ thoughts pretty well:

My personal conclusions from the survey

  • Don’t expect bloggers to work for free. I am not telling you to buy followed links.
  • Be honest, and don’t try to pull off any tricks.
  • Talking about stats will only confuse them, and benefits no one. Be clear with your intentions and outline the benefits for them in your request.
  • If you want to buy nofollow links, your best bet is to provide an advertorial feature that is likely to target longtail keywords and drive referral traffic. I am not saying your only option is to buy nofollow links, but you should understand the risks of buying followed links and make your own call.
  • Bloggers are far more informed about SEO than we think, so don’t try and pull any tricks and be honest about your intentions. I am not saying that all bloggers were ever oblivious to requests, nor that all SEOs have tried to take advantage of all bloggers.
  • I would experiment with different subject lines, but I’d steer clear from ambiguity, and provide a detailed request versus a quick email.
  • From the results, I would assume that a good guest post is still probably the best way to get an editorial link, as long as you can prove credibility and the content is relevant. I would also ensure that the content I would provide would be good enough to post on any other site, including my own. I would also include exclusive/unique images for the post as an added incentive for the blogger to accept my request.
  • Email and contact forms still seem like the right way to approach a blogger, although I would still resort to social media as plan B.

Additional reading regarding topics discussed in the post

Final word

There are likely to be errors in the survey design, and the sample is not representative of all bloggers. It doesn’t mean that the results are not indicative of the situation; in fact, I’ve learned more from the feedback questions than any other blogger outreach post. I’d love to hear your comments, but please try to keep them constructive. I’d like to thank all of the bloggers who took their time to fill in the survey, your feedback is greatly appreciated.

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September 30, 2013  Tags: , , , , ,   Posted in: SEO / Traffic / Marketing

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