11 steps to building an effective blogger outreach list

If you work in the arena of what I like to call “digital PR”, chances are you’ve probably put together a blogger list or two on behalf of your client or organization.

But, because the tools just don’t exist yet to put these lists together in a timely, efficient fashion, it’s a somewhat manual process. And everyone seems to have a little different way of doing it (some better than others).

I must admit, I do work with a couple of great folks who put together blogger lists for me from time to time. But, I’ve also created a few myself. So, I thought I’d share my process. I’d love to hear how yours differs. Please share in the comments.

1-Cast the net. First, I try to identify a wide swath of bloggers in the specific industry niche or area I’m targeting. I use tools like Alltop, PostRank, blogrolls and even Google Blog Search to work up a list initially. Once I have this large list, I’m ready to cull it down.

2-Check the blogger’s Technorati authority ranking. Simple step, and you won’t find every blogger listed here, but it gives you a nice idea of where they stand in the bigger picture online. And, although it may not be the perfect measure of influence, it’s something. And, if you’ve ever put together a blogger list for a client, you know you usually have to have some measure of influence.

3-Check their other social platforms. Is the blogger active on Twitter, Facebook or Friendfeed? If yes, they’re probably more apt to share content than bloggers that aren’t (I know, duh, right?). But, do more than check if they’re on Twitter. Dig in a little to see how they behave online. Do they share other bloggers’ content? Or, are they just out for themselves? I tend to stay away from the latter–usually they’re not as open to “pitches”, guest posts or other ideas.

4-Check how often they post. Another indicator of whether or not I include folks on a blogger list is their post frequency. If they haven’t posted in a month, that sends up a red flag. So, I dig a little more. Sometimes, it’s just a hiccup. Other times, it’s indicative of a larger trend of posting once in a blue moon and I nix them from the list. My general rule of thumb: If you don’t post at least once a week, you’re not making the cut.

5-Check their “About” page. Another basic step, but a must. You’ll learn oodles about the blogger from this page–information that will most likely work its way into your “pitch” or idea.

6-Check their blogroll. While you’re at it, check their blogroll. You can tell a lot from someone’s blogroll. I was just researching a blogger the other day and glancing at her blogroll I noticed she had all the requisite industry names: Brogan, Godin, Problogger. You know the ones. But, that was it. There wasn’t a single blogger on that list that wasn’t a professional blogger or uber-A-lister. To me, that raises a red flag. For starters, there’s little chance this blogger knows any of those bloggers. To me, a big part of blogging is community and building relationships with other bloggers. If you don’t have people on your blogroll that you know personally, again, that’s indicative of a bigger issue. And, it’ll usually knock you off the list.

7-Check what kinds of media the blogger uses. This one can be key depending on your idea/”pitch.” For instance, if your client is in the entertainment business, chances are video is going to come into play. Does the blogger use video in his/her posts? If not, that may be a red flag.

8-Check their Twitter lists. Another ad-hoc sign of influence (note, I didn’t say this IS a definitive sign of influence–just a measure you can use to compare and rank). If the blogger is on more than 1,000 Twitter lists, to me, that’s a pretty good indication they’ve built a solid community. And, that matters to me because I know there are a 1,000+ people out there who trust this blogger enough to list them.

9-Check their blog badges. I’m not necessarily talking about the AdAge 150 list badge here (although that one can be nice for ranking/comparing). I am talking about the next tier of badges–the more personal badges. They will tell you a lot about the blogger. For instance, just look at my blog. Although I’m in the middle of a blog revamp and many more badges will show up in the new layout, within my existing blog you can tell quickly I: 1) Care about helping others (HAPPO, 12for12K badges), 2) Attend local digital events (Unsummit, Social Media Breakfast badges), and 3) Mentor younger pros (30 under 30 badge–kind of a stretch, but if you did any amount of digging on me, you would confirm this quickly). Not bad from four badges, eh? Most people have many more.

10-Check their LinkedIn profile. Don’t forget to research the blogger’s LinkedIn profile–a veritable treasure trove of information. Learn where the blogger works. This will tell you more about their interests and when the best time to “pitch” them might be (evenings if the blogger has a corporate day job). You can also learn a lot about someone by scanning what groups the blogger has joined on Linkedin. And, if you’re by chance a part of those groups, too, you can find out how often they engage/contribute, what they’re saying and who they’re interacting with–all valuable content as you decided whether or not to keep them on the list (and in crafting your pitch).

11-Check Google. Another basic step, but one I bet a lot of people overlook. By Googling the blogger’s name, you can find out: 1) Where the live online, 2) What blogs they’re commenting on, 3) Photos that may eventually find their way into a pitch (I saw you recently attended SXSW. What were some of the better sessions you attended there?), just for starters.

I’d love to hear more about your process in researching bloggers. What tips/tricks work for you?

Note: Photo courtesy of bitzcelt via FlickR Creative Commons.

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53 comments on “11 steps to building an effective blogger outreach list

  1. Definitely some good tips, Arik. Something I'd add (another very simple thing to look for) is check out how many comments they're pulling in on average on their posts. If it's consistently less than 5, then that's so-so. If they're attracting 15 or 20 comments to every post (and actively responding to these), then that probably means they have built a pretty solid community that both respects what they say and enjoy carrying on the discussion. This is super valuable if you want them talking about your product.

    Good stuff Arik!

  2. Arik Hanson says:

    How could I forget the comments? Thanks for the suggestion, Jackie. Right on. Do you think the responding piece really makes a difference? It certainly does from a blogging/community building standpoint, but what about someone like Chris Brogan's blog? He doesn't respond to every comment. Just raising the question for discussion.

  3. jeffespo says:

    Arik – solid list here my friend. One tool I use is the Chrome SEO plugin. This allows you to see everything at once including Page Rank, Alexa, Technorati as well as compete. The comments, I am not as concerned with as only 10% of folks who read blogs actually leave comments. The main measuring stick is their sharing as you note and self promotion.

  4. Arik Hanson says:

    Huge thanks for the Chrome SEO extension point. Definitely will be using that going forward. I'd still argue comments are important–probably not as important as the propensity to share and some of the other criteria we discussed, but in my mind, it still matters.

    Like you said, only a small portion of folks leave comments. But, if a blog has a ton of comments consistently, that tells me people were compelled enough by the content to leave a comment. There's merit in that, I think. Purely from a comparison/ranking perspective.

  5. jeffespo says:

    Well I never thought of it that way. good point my man.

  6. Dominique says:

    Hello – Thanks for this great post.

    We actually have a full application that provide similar value: we map communities and influencers and enable you to slice and dice it based on your objectives.

    As an example you can find in a few clicks, the top 100 Mommy blogs that talked about Coke and not about Pepsi in the last 6 months.

    Our apps comes up with pre-populated community lists (Mommy, Pers Finance, Food, Travel along with many deep list on B2B High Tech).

    Here is as an example a link to the top 500 social media marketing blogs.



  7. Scheryl McDavid says:

    Love the post! Great information and concrete, useable tips but, since we're talking communications here, can we please all do a basic spell check for typos, missing letters, and the like before publishing? The editor in me would appreciate it. :) Thanks!

  8. Yeah you can definitely look at it both ways. I wouldn't not reach out to a blogger because they don't respond to their 75 comments, but if it's a smaller number of comments that consistently go three or four deep in a thread, then that's going to be pretty valuable to note. It's just like in real conversations, if someone just says “hey I really like your shirt”, that's good for the shirtmaker, but it's even better if the shirt wearer responds “oh thanks I got it at Urban Outfitters. It's actually really cool, it's made of recyclable materials.” This could spark a whole discussion on your product.

    Also, it's important to look at that b/c if there are 50 comments and no responses, then that's 50 comments, but if there are 50 and the blogger has been responding to each of them, then there are really on 25 comments (from readers). So don't let the numbers fool you.

  9. Arik Hanson says:

    Good point on the inflated comments, Jackie. Something I've noticed on my own blog recently as well.

  10. @cloudspark says:

    Arik – useful tips for any PR pro, thanks for sharing. I'll add that I also check a blogger's reach through 2 sites:

    Both sites that use standard metrics to measure links, rank, etc.

    Be well,
    J Schmitt @cloudspark

  11. Tom Martin says:

    One note on comments… find that # of comments are often influenced by writing style. That is, if the blogger tends to have a more “this is my POV” or authoritative style, many of his/her readers may be doing just that…reading but not necessarily commenting. Thus, even though the avg post has a low level of commenting, it doesn't necessarily mean the blogger has a low level of influence.

    Take Godin for instance – he doesn't even allow comments but that is in no way a reflection of his influence in certain contexts.


  12. Very true, Tom. Given these style differences, would it be more valuable to reach out to bloggers whose styles do encourage more commenting? If the writing style does lead more people to comment, that means they're thinking about your brand/product even longer and making others think about it more.

    Probably not a huge issue since, if there's a large readership, you're going to be happy either way, but interesting to discuss.

  13. Arik Hanson says:

    Bookmarked! Thanks for the recos, Jen.

  14. Arik Hanson says:

    Maybe I could send my posts to you before publishing for a quick proof–I would love that! πŸ˜‰ Admittedly, I'm much more a writer/idea generator than I am an editor. I make no bones about that, but I've always realized it's an “area of growth” for me πŸ˜‰

  15. GWS Media says:

    Really useful post – thanks! (we have included it in our weekly round up post: http://onlinemarketing.gwsmedia.com/2010/07/gws…). One thing I would add is that I'm not sure your point about not personally knowing people on your blogroll is as much of a turn-off for me – surely it depends what your blog is about, what kind of information it's providing. Our company blog is aimed to provide information for businesses, and the blogroll is designed as further reading along those lines. We have made connections by following others blogs, but our presonal connections don't seem as appropriate.

  16. Tom Martin says:

    Interesting angle — and true something to think through — but I honestly don't know. Guess maybe the real answer would be to look through not just comments on blog posts but comments on blog posts that were about products/services — and see how many comments those posts get (vs site avg) and see if the commenters were talking in general or talking/debating the product/service that was the core of the post.


  17. Yeah that could work. And all of this is assuming your product has some sort of unique characteristic for people to latch on to and discuss in the first place. Maybe your product is much more talkable than others the same blogger has discussed in the past.

    Really, what we're seeing is there are a number of factors that come into play, but, it all comes back to your product. If it's solid and interesting (and you approach the right groups of people), then discussions around it will eventually take off.

  18. Arik Hanson says:

    And I would argue the post/comment string doesn't even need to be about your product/service, necessarily. The post/idea/concept could be something that revolves around your product or service. For example, if you're selling bikes, you should be having discussions with customers around the things those bikes allow the customers to do: racing, evening workouts, getting away for a long ride on the weekends, geeking out over fixing your bike. Those are the topics that have legs in forums like these, right? And those are the topics customers really care about–not your organizations product necessarily. Sorry–probably preaching to the choir here.

  19. Right on, Arik. Those types of topics are the ones that will get legs and generate the conversation.

  20. jaybaer says:

    Great stuff. I'm sharing this with clients. I'd also use Klout.com and Flowtown.com for additional influence anthropology.

  21. Marsha Cade says:

    We get a ton of inquiries from bloggers wanting to review products. We're an online artisan food marketplace, RegionalBest.com (http://www.regionalbest.com). These are great suggestions for a checklist. Thanks!

  22. Danny Brown says:

    I'd also look at the ads that they present on their blogs, and how this comes across aesthetically.

    A blogger might be influential, but if their blog looks like a Daytona racer, I'm put off. I don't want crazy distractions with 20-30 ads.

    Also, are your client's competitors on there? If so, does this create potential conflict and the chance of a “bidding war” further down the line on future campaigns?

    We all love promotion, but not at the expense of having to give away more of our “brand” just to share the spotlight.

  23. Frank Strong says:

    Great list Arik — I'd also add two things:

    1. Process: a bit about process and keeping it manageable. We hear a lot about “Twitter in 20 minutes a day” and I think this is applicable to bloggers as well. If you research three to five bloggers a week, you'll spend quality time on the site getting to learn about their background and content and at the end of the year, you'll have done good research on 270 bloggers.

    2. Visuals. Once I research a contact, and determined they are a good contact for me, I'll add them to my list and include a photo and a link to a post that interested me (along with links to their SM profiles). Later if I'm thinking about pitching blogger, these help me to remember why and when I did the research and helps me ensure my pitch is relevant

  24. Bob Reed says:

    Great list. One of the tactics I'm using to spread the word about my new blog (http://www.secondspot.com) is reaching out to travel and lifestyle bloggers. This list will definitely help.

  25. This is a solid list of ways to create a blogger list.

    One important thing I think is necessary to include is audience. Read the comments of a blog to find out what kind of audience they have. Sometimes a blog roll is not indicative of the community. Also, I'd go a step further than looking to see how many Twitter lists they are listed on and see WHAT twitter lists they are listed on. In fact, I'd venture to guess that you can tell more about them from the lists than the quantity of said lists (but both are worth review, for sure).

    Finally, you'll want to conduct a search within each blog for your client's name. Blog content is fluid and while they may love sprockets in general, they may have ranted about how your client's sprocket ruined their day a year ago. Very helpful to know and depending on the gripe, your pitch could become an opportunity to let your client make it right.

  26. Lisa Gerber says:

    Great list, and thank you. Another source might be a niche blogger conference. I have a list from a past conference I attended, and will use this list to help cull that down to a meaningful list for my clients.

    From a blogger standpoint, some good points I learned to do to my own blog!

  27. Charlie Kondek says:

    I'm the blog outreach specialist, or one of 'em, at my place and I can't argue with much here! Great advice. Hope you don't mind a shameless plug here – we do so much outreach that we've built a fluid database, outreach execution and monitoring tool, so building our lists is much easier. Short vid here: http://www.mslmultiloguer.com/explained

  28. Great tips! Here are some additional tips in getting started in blogger outreach. Seems like this is a hot topic! http://spreadthechatter.com/2010/07/blogger-out

  29. Arik Hanson says:

    Thanks for the Batchbook point. Will be checking that out!

  30. Arik Hanson says:

    Really like your second tip, Frank. When “pitching” bloggers, we need to remember there's a human being on the other end who is usually VERY passionate about the topic/concept they are blogging about.

  31. Arik Hanson says:

    Excellent points, Jessica. Sounds like you've done this before πŸ˜‰

    Your Twitter list point is a good one–how did I forget that? You can learn an awful lot about a blogger on Twitter by checking out what kinds of lists they're on. Good indication of what the community thinks about the blogger.

  32. Megan says:

    Fantastic advice, Arik. I would also say that there is one tool that does make blogger research a bit more efficient. Shameless plug: The Blogger Black Book has more than 3,000 bloggers in its database. In addition to full contact information (including many twitter addresses), the blogs are run through an algorithm that ranks them based on page rank, post frequency and referring links.

  33. Hana says:

    Great post, thanks for the tips (comments were crazy helpful too!)

  34. I always like to check Backtype to see where *they* comment. That way, you can get in with those that influence them at the same time you're trying to get on their radar. However, Backtype is moving away from this model, which is a shame. Anyone know of a replacement tool to conduct this type of research?

  35. Arik Hanson says:

    Great idea, Ian. And, a great question. I'd love to hear ideas.

  36. Johnny Ryan says:

    Great stuff! I'm learning so much to improve my blogging skills. From how to write one to who to follow and why.

    Thanks for the tips!

  37. TOM.P. says:

    Hey Phill.I am not a blogger,more a buggar. i find your script interesting. A nd it sounds like you.As i read it,i hear your voice. Well done.
    Two butts from me. Or a thumbs up! TOM.P.

  38. I hope you wouldn’t mind a few more tips. As you mention, Technorati and PostRank are useful and PostRank is likely to grow in importance.

    Check bloggers Twitter stats on Klout.com and PeerIndex.net. Read what other influencers in their niches write about them and search for reviews.

    Besides the AdAge Power 150 some key rankings for Internet Marketing and Social Media Marketing types are TopRank Big List of Internet Marketing Blogs and the Junta-42 Content Marketing Blogs list. Less well known but with more detailed stats is the Winning the Web IM-Top-Blogs list.

    Identify one or more core members in any niche and ask them who other influencers are or let them know what type of audience you wish to reach and have them introduce you to other bloggers they personally recommend.

    Some influencers stay within their niches while others like me intentionally seek to build cross-niche collaborations as preparation for connecting businesses with bloggers. We facilitate blog outreach efforts by knowing who writes about what, who their target audiences are, and where their ethical standards lie.

    I am collaborating on a book about Blog Outreach so if anyone has thoughts, questions, or content they feel should be included I’m all ears.

  39. Great post.. Those tips are really helpful to me.

    Thanks for this great post.

  40. Β The tips are really good ,I would follow this for effective link building.

  41. Hey,Nice post.Thanks for sharing this article with us.

    Six Steps to Running a Successful Blogger

    Step 1 – Planning Your Targets and Criteria (12
    weeks out)

    Step 2 – Find blogs that match your criteria (12
    weeks out)

    Step 4 – Reach out to bloggers (3-4 weeks out)

    Step 5 – Fulfill and follow-up (2-3 weeks out)

    Step 6 – Remind bloggers (3-5 days out)



  42. ruchikadadhwal2011 says:

    hello nice post

  43. diane@youngatheartcommunications says:

    Thanks for the wonderful article, Arik. I have a question: What do you think about doing a blogger relations party or setting up an in-person meet and greet with a CEO of a company with whom the blogger may be interested in blogging about the company or CEO? This of course would be only for local bloggers in that company’s geographical area. I have over 20 years experience in Public Relations and this is something we used to do with the media…do you think it would work for bloggers? Or, are there other types of “events” that would work.. I would be interested in finding this out…thanks so much! Diane Castro, Young at Heart Communications, LLC diane@youngatheartcommunications.com.

  44. augusta_tina says:

    Great post, a lots of ideas here in this post. thanks for sharing