10 ways to generate links with online influencers
Columnist Kevin Rowe shares tips on working with online influencers to boost your brand's link profile, its brand visibility and traffic to your site.
You may be thinking that no one wants to share your content, but the opposite is actually true: Because they post so often, online influencers are always looking for interesting content to share. All you have to do it research, create and position the right content opportunities to influencers so they will want to start working with you.
If you’re not sure what angle your organization should take to work with online influencers, consider the following angles: unique content sharing, product promotion, sponsorships and relationship building.
Produce unique content
Producing fresh content that is engaging and interesting to your target audience is what entices industry influencers to share. In addition to “how-to” posts, consider creating studies and long-form content and developing discussions that push industry issues. Because content is so competitive, it’s crucial to take an angle that is different from everyone else’s, whether that is a point of view or a niche topic.
Recent research by Sumo found that only 20 percent of all content is even read, on average — so it’s key to bring your A-game in order to have people actually read it. Here are some ways you can bring in more readers:
1. Publish unique research
Stone Temple Consulting does a good job of this in the search marketing industry. They frequently release unique studies using research that their own team gathered. As a result, they are known as thought leaders in the SEO community, frequently keynoting and authoring books about search.
If something is trending or new in your industry, consider creating a study around it. Poll your email list or readers for survey responses, or run data tests to figure out how new technology works best. Not only does this provide unique value to the readers, you’ll often get more inbound links, because it’s exclusive findings that aren’t found anywhere else.
2. Go niche and in-depth
Anyone can write a blog post about a broad topic, like “How to Start a Blog,” but it takes a unique approach — like “How to Start a Blog in One Hour For Less Than $100” or “How to Start a Product Review Blog in The Pet Industry” — to make it stand out. If you want to be found for common industry terms, figure out how you can “niche down” your content. Go beyond the basics and create multiple pieces of content that can cover different angles in depth.
3. Create controversy
Every industry has controversial or touchy topics. Without being too gauche, consider what you can write about that will let you be the “devil’s advocate” and provide a unique perspective that no one has tackled before. HubSpot recommends writing from an angle that will resonate with your audience and to ensure that you can back up your points with data.
Similarly, if there’s a topic that is dividing industry experts, cover it from an angle that fits for your company. Marketo recommends finding a piece of content that you don’t exactly agree with and write a rebuttal. Having a piece of content as inspiration makes it easier to write and can draw more audience interest.
Offer free products
When done right, offering free products can help to spread your products by word of mouth. Product recommendations have a lot of trust value for online users. According to research by BrightLocal, 84 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Here are some ways you can give away your products to influencers.
4. Provide samples for review
Use a tool like BuzzSumo to find industry influencers in your target market, and reach out to them to see if they’d like to try out the product in exchange for a review. To make your campaigns get more influencers for less cost, try going after the mid-size influencers who aren’t at the top level, with 100,000 followers or more. Instead, target users with 100 to 10,000 followers. They will be more willing to work with you, since they likely aren’t approached as often as the upper-level influencers. In addition, make sure the influencers follow proper FTC guidelines for disclosure.
5. Free products only for the influencer’s audience
In addition to a review, you can also offer to give away products to the audience of the influencers. Once they share their review, they can host a giveaway on the blog post that allows users to enter to win more free products. Here’s an example from the healthy living blog “Peanut Butter Fingers,” which teams up with Chicco to do a car seat review and informational safety post. At the end of the post, they did a sponsored giveaway:
Often, the influencer is responsible for running the content and choosing the winners, and the company will send out the products once the content is over.
6. Run contests to win free products
Another free product option you can do is product giveaways. This harnesses networks of all sizes, as you can give users more entries into the giveaway if they share it to their networks. Make sure you are following all giveaway regulations and policies for applicable social media platforms, and you have a list of giveaway rules on your website. If you want users to share using multiple platforms, use a service like WooBox or Rafflecopter.
In addition to free posts, you can also spend some of your budget sponsoring or running ads on influencers’ websites. This varies by website, but some influencers offer sidebars, ads, email newsletter mentions or sponsored blog posts. If they don’t have the ideal sponsorship available on their website, it doesn’t hurt to propose an alternative arrangement. Most influencers are open to offers, provided it’s not intrusive and offers value to their audience.
7. Sponsor a post for them to publish
Some websites will take sponsored posts that are written by the sponsor or by a dedicated staff member. Usually, costs are higher if the influencer has to write the content himself or herself. A sponsored post might be something like a walk-through of a product or a new feature. It is paid content, but it showcases value to the audience by covering a topic or service they are interested in. Search Engine Land offers this, calling it “Sponsored Content.”
8. Sponsor their blog in general
Many influencers also accept ongoing sponsorships for their website. What this covers varies, but it could include a sidebar ad, mentions on specific pages or blurbs on other online mediums, like social media or email. Creating this type of relationship not only gets you more exposure, it also gives you an in with the influencer to start a conversation around other ways they can share your content.
Build actual relationships
Starting a conversation is key toward long-term influencer outreach success. By building relationships with influencers, you can work together to come up with new and fun ways to share your content and promote your products or services. Besides reaching out online directly, you can also seek to get to know them and support their goals. A collaborative approach will lead to a better relationship.
9. Support their goal by mentioning them in other articles you write
A relationship isn’t one-way. A partnership is one where you are also supportive of the influencer and what they are trying to build with their own website and online platform. When applicable, mention influencers in industry roundups, in quotes or as examples in the content you’re writing. Recommending them to your audience on social media by tagging them can also get their attention and show that you are supportive of their brand as well.
10. Meet up with them at an event
Besides striking up a supportive relationship online, try meeting influencers in person to get the conversation going. Attend industry networking events, conferences or trade shows and look for influencers that could help you promote your content and products. Oftentimes, non-corporate speakers at conferences have their own companies and websites, and blogging conferences (like BlogHer) are full of influencers who are open to partnerships with brands.
By building relationships with influencers in different ways, like product giveaways and reviews, sponsorships, and unique content, you can get your offerings in front of more audiences. This leads to better website traffic and sales. While it may take some experimentation to figure out the best influencers to work with, influencer outreach can be an effective part of any link-building — and more importantly, traffic-generating — campaign.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.
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