What a Beef Stroganoff Recipe Teaches About Bad Blogger Outreach

One of the problems with having a blog about content marketing is that people want to constantly post guest articles on my website. And just like the spam connections I get on LinkedIn, these all follow a certain formula.

Dear NAME,

I enjoyed reading your blog post at URL, and thought you might be interested in an article about TOPIC.

We just wrote an article about SIMILAR TOPIC and thought you might want to post it on your blog.

And don’t forget to include the backlink that will boost our skeezy client’s Google search ranking and possibly help affiliate sales. [I’m paraphrasing that last part a bit. — Erik]

And no, I’m not exaggerating. I get two or three of these messages per month. They all follow the same formula, they all want to publish something that is sort of tangentially related to what I write about (content marketing and writing), and they all praise an article they never actually read.

But I got an email last week that may qualify as Worst Email Ever. I could tell that not only was the entire process automated, the author hadn’t actually read any of the information he purports to have read. This is what I got.

Dear Editor, [My name is literally all over my website. —Erik]

My name is [J—] and I’m the Editor at [Unnamed Website]. I was doing research on beef stroganoff recipes and just finished reading your wonderful blog post: https://problogservice.com/tag/content-marketing/

In that article, I noticed that you cited a solid post that I’ve read in the past: http://beefandboards.com/

We just published a delicious beef stroganoff recipe complete with step-by-step pictures and detailed instructions. You can find it here:  [URL that I will not dignify with a backlink]

If you like the recipe we’d be humbled if you cited us in your article. Of course, we will also share your article with our 50k newsletter subscribers and followers across our social platforms.

A plate of beef stroganoff. I looked and looked at it, but it teaches me nothing about blogger outreach.

Besides, my mom made the best beef stroganoff!

Four issues told me that J— hadn’t read anything.

  1. The “article” he supposedly read is a Tags link on my blog. You can click a tag on any blog and read all the articles that have been tagged with that keyword. So it’s not an article, it’s a whole list of articles. He would know that if he had even briefly skimmed that page.
  2. The “solid post” he’s read in the past? It’s a URL for Beef & Boards Dinner Theater. Beef & Boards used to be a national chain of dinner theaters that closed down. The only one left is in Indianapolis, Indiana. The URL is to an entire website, not a single blog post.
  3. The article he wanted me to link to was about how to make beef stroganoff. And why? Because I wrote an article about a place called Beef & Boards. Again, if he had read my blog, he would see there are no recipes; if he had read the actual article I wrote, he would have seen there’s no mention of food.
  4. This was the first and only article I ever wrote on this blog where I mentioned Beef & Boards, and it was based on an interview I did with an actor in a show at that theater. I was a travel writer for several years, and I wrote about Beef & Boards shows on other blogs, but I never did a theater review on my work blog. J— would have known that if he had read other articles; he clearly didn’t.

So I wrote back to J— and said that while I was not interested in publishing a beef stroganoff recipe on a blog about writing and content marketing, I would make sure his request appeared on my blog rather soon.

And now it has.

A Plea to All PR Flacks and Content Marketers

To those of you doing blogger outreach, please please PLEASE write individual letters to your contacts, not form email.

Don’t find a way to automate this so you can do more faster. This is not something where you want to pump out hundreds and thousands of emails every week. If you’re only going to get a 1% success rate, the trick is not to send out more spam, it’s to give your efforts a more personalized touch. Reduce the number of people you contact, and don’t waste the energy and effort on contacting people who aren’t a good fit for what you do.

Look, you already have a job where you sit down all day and the only things you move are your fingers. Don’t find a way to be more lazy about it.

Instead, just try these simple steps:

  • If you say you read an article, make sure you actually read it. Quote something from it. And not just the opening sentence. Talk about why that article is important to you.
  • If you’re going to send any links, copy and paste them into your browser and then test them. Make sure you grabbed the right link, and that it actually works.
  • Tell the other person why you think your article would make a good fit on their blog. It shows that you read more than one, which means you’re actually interested in them. They’re more likely to accept your request that way.

Blogger outreach is tough because you’re writing to people who aren’t likely to write you back. But that doesn’t mean you should take shortcuts or automate the process to make it easier. I’d be willing to wager that you’d get a better response if you wrote 10 individual emails per day than sent out 100 automated messages.

Photo credit: JeffreyW (Flickr, Creative Commons 2.0)

Writing for Exposure: Mark Eveleigh Replies

After Monday’s post, “Writing For ‘Exposure’ Is Not Payment,” travel writer and photographer Mark Eveleiegh emailed me a great response that helped me crystallize my own thoughts. With his kind permission, I am reposting his reply here (not a differing response, but more of a ‘hell, yeah!’ reply), because he makes a very important point.

Mark Eveleigh in Chiapas, Mexico

Mark Eveleigh is a professional photographer, travel writer, and journalist. I also like his tattoo.

(Note: Mark is British, so any ‘misspellings’ are actually English writing styles and spellings.)

When I was starting out I had a golden rule NEVER to write for free. The magazines that want your free work are rarely the ones that can offer the best exposure (also most pros and editors know you wrote for free, thereby lowering your professional credibility). Will the day come when Nat Geo will expect us to write for free? After all it is the best exposure we will ever get. [Read more…]

Who Should Sponsor Your Blog?

Should you have a sponsor for your blog? Is it worth the effort? Or are you selling out your soul by accepting filthy lucre for a company to have a say in your blog’s content and tone? And which company’s filthy lucre should you pursue?

(Yes, yes, not really, and it depends.)

I’ve been DMing with Mark Eveleigh, a first-class travel writer, book author, and photographer who takes some gorgeous photos of those places you’re never going to see before you die, about whether he should blog (he should) and if he could get a sponsor (he could). He also owns a freelance photography assignment agency where several other outstanding outdoor photographers are available for hire.

Mark Eveleigh

Mark Eveleigh. Petty jealousy and raging insecurity make me want to not help him. A guilty conscience makes me do it anyway.

Mark has an interesting situation, because a sponsorship for his personal branding blog makes a lot of sense. As I see it, he would appeal two basic categories of readers: travel enthusiasts and photography enthusiasts.

The experience levels in these two categories may range from “I wish I could do that” to the serious amateur to the consummate professional. And because Mark is a specialized travel writer and photographer — trips to remote locations to take beautiful pictures — he is most likely attracting readers who want to do similar activities, or at least learn more about it.

Why Sponsor a Blog?

Travel writers have a special niche that can appeal to a wide range of readers — from people who like to travel to people who like to read about travel — who have self-identified as loyalists and users of a particular special interest. That’s a valuable niche for marketers to tap into. Anyone who sells products to travel fans should take advantage of sponsorship opportunities.

So who should sponsor Mark’s blog?

If he wants to appeal to the travel readers, he should talk to large travel agents that specialize in adventure travel, airlines that travel to out of the way locations (think Brazil, Thailand, South Africa), adventure travel gear manufacturers, and publishers of travel guides for the adrenaline-addicted.

On the photography side of thing, he should reach out to makers and online dealers of high-end camera equipment, camera bags, and other photography-related businesses.

(Frankly, Mark’s camera manufacturer, Nikon, should be begging him to throw their logo all over his blog, and include him in their ads.)

In exchange, Mark can write include basic mentions in an occasional article, review a sponsor’s service or product, and allow some ads on his site.

Sponsorship doesn’t always have to include money though. It can also include goods or services. For someone like Mark who travels constantly, it could be free flights for a year, or an expensive new lens to review and keep.

Prove Your Value First

Of course, pursuing sponsors also means being able to prove the value of the blog itself. It means knowing the number of readers, what their interests are, what kinds of influence they have, and even who they are.

Using tools like Google Analytics for web traffic (where they came from, what they read the most), Klout for influence (your readers’ and your own), and even what your network is interested in (using Twellow.com or Gist.com) can help bloggers show where their readers are coming from and what they’re interested in.

I think that as blogs grow in popularity and blog owners are able to show something newspapers have never been able to demonstrate — accurate and up-to-date reader stats — we’re going to start seeing more marketers get involved with real bloggers who can deliver on both great content and valuable readership.