Effective Branding: Utilising The Power Of Branding In Content Outreach

People listen to advice from people that they like and trust. In the digital age, often the people that are most trusted are those who we have never physically met.  Think of your favourite tech or hotel review blog and how invaluable their advice is. I, for one, would not dare to buy a new device without first checking with tech radar to see how it measures up against the competition and if it is worth spending a premium to upgrade.

Bloggers blog about every topic under the sun and bring with them a cachet and built-in audience that, if handled correctly, can be tapped into by the use of content outreach. Content outreach is the process of finding a partner outside of your business through whom you can get your message out to the public. By choosing the correct outreach partners, you can increase your profile and credibility by borrowing theirs, but charm is key.

Many established and wanna-be established brands seek to identify marketing partners, but a major fault is finding a partner who is a less than ideal fit. For the big boys, money can sway opinion; but for those of us who are working with limited resources, research and finesse are required to build relevant, mutually-respectful and beneficial partnerships that can succeed. Below are some tips on identifying and partnering with content outreach partners.

Identify your brand

Effective Branding and Content Outreach

Know your company’s strengths and what your differentials are, or at least what you would like them to be. Think through who your target audience is. Are you marketing a mass market product that is going to be adored by all? Unless you are selling ice cream, the answer is probably no. What’s your niche market? Are there any obvious blogs that you know catering to that market? Are you confident in your product or service? If not, this is the stage to start becoming confident about it. If you do not believe in what you are offering, how are you going to be able to convince others of the value of your offering?

Get to searching

The first thing that you need to do is identify a blog that is likely to have an audience which is interested in your product. To give a ridiculous example, there’s no point hooking up with a vegetarian website to try to promote your new range of livestock burgers.  The importance of research cannot be understated. Once you’ve identified what your brand means and who your likely audience are going to be, get to Twitter and Google and try and find out where they go and who they respect. Scribble down any names that seem relevant so that you can come back to them later. At this stage you are looking for breadth rather than depth in your searches. Brandi offers some tips here on what to look out for when thinking about which bloggers to reach out to.

Go Sherlock

Once you’ve identified the key mavens in your field, dig into their lives. Find out about the blogger, they are people just like you and usually with a great passion for the often thankless task of writing.  If they’re hosting a blog then they probably have a public Facebook and/or Twitter page. Follow them and learn about what makes them tick, what are their interest, what piques their attention and what causes meltdowns. This information is going to be invaluable at the next stage.

Houston, We Have Contact

Once you know what colour socks your target wears each Wednesday, it is time to get in touch. This is where your personality needs to come into force. People do business with people they like and you are asking for a fairly big favour. You want this person to put their own credibility on the line to help you out. This stage is essentially a sales pitch, yet it is unlikely that money is going to change hands. Reciprocity and synergy are the key words here. How can the two individuals who are interacting benefit each other, where is there crossover and how does this person pointing people in your direction benefit him/her? These are things you need to have ready in advance, although you do not need to jump straight in with the pitch.

By all means take some time to engage in chit chat, build up a friendship and it doesn’t have to be a fake one. If your audience is the same then there is a good chance you have shared professional interests, if nothing else. Seek advice and consult over an issue which makes the other person feel like the voice of authority. Show them that you respect them and let things grow organically from there. It shouldn’t feel forced.

If you believe in your brand and know your audience then there is a logical symbiosis to the promotion of your product. Should you be a company that makes something, send it over and let the blogger try it out. They’ll appreciate the gift and if you believe in your product, then you are going to get a good review, too. For other services you can point to records of success, or even offer a free sample, perhaps some web development services if you are a web developer, for example.

Other means of contact

While emails, Twitter conversations and Facebook messages are the easiest way to get in touch, they may not be the most beneficial. There is very little that is better than a face-to-face meeting for building lasting relationships. Brian Zeng offers some useful tips here on alternative ways to make contact with the bloggers you have targeted and these are golden. Find out what functions they are attending, networking events, etc. I am not saying you should stalk them, but an accidental meet up and bonding over canapés is a great way to build a lasting relationship. Here’s a post about the relationship between Brand and Blog and how you can maximise this tie-up.

Some examples of successful outreach

Of course, paid content is guaranteed to get eyeballs, but they may be wasted. Sponsored Buzzfeed lists have drawn some attention recently, and this is definitely an example of one way to guarantee a big audience. However, a cost benefit analysis may well show that there are cheaper and more creative ways to reach your audience that focus on the human to human connection that is essential to content outreach.

A benefit of doing this outreach method is boosting your brand and services by being mentioned in your partners’ websites. One good example of outreach is to write about informative and creative ways to promote your niche and product. This should appear on your blog.

Char-Broil – The Outdoor Cook’s Favourite

One of the major outreach success stories is that of Char-Broil. They partnered with the best of the bunch when it comes to outdoor cooking bloggers and these partners get access to products to review, mention and even get to write blog posts on the Char-Broil site. The relationship is fully synergized as both sides get extra content and exposure. This is the very model of the reciprocal content outreach partnership. Char-Broil do pay some of these bloggers, but the process of identifying the best fit really is the key takeaway message from the Char-Broil example. Methodical and targeted, partnerships developed organically.

Going Further with Ford

Ford’s approach shows great confidence in their product and is the model for open engagement with the public. While a newspaper advert telling us about the latest Ford may capture some attention, it’s a passive experience and one in which suspicions may be running high due to the public’s increased advertising literacy and awareness of when they are clearly being sold to. The content outreach approach blends advertising with social media and Ford encourage their content outreach partners to be as critical as possible with full transparency.

The approach puts everything out in the open and comes across as a more sincere and authentic form of engaging with the public. Ford also gets to really see how people feel about its products and make changes to their approach moving forward. Again, finding key mavens is important and ensuring that your bloggers are professional and of sufficient quality is a must, but the Ford model shows the kind of transparency that is becoming more expected with consumers in the digital age.

Micro-Level Love for the Smaller brands

My wife loves shopping. I don’t. Online shopping then makes us both happy. She gets to experience the shopping and I don’t have to leave the house. Either way my pockets hurt anyway. I started to notice recently that my wife likes to buy from independent retailers who run their businesses through Facebook. I have no idea about their legal position on taxes, etc., but that’s not my concern here.  It is clear that at this micro-level that there is a desire to get the name of the vendor out to the biggest possible audience, often by having somebody with some existing kudos showing them some love through a ‘like’. The best option would be to have a celebrity customer, but if not then a positive review from a well-respected blog would do the job just as well. As you have hopefully garnered by this point, relationships are key and partnering with those who have an interest in your product as well as a ready-made audience for you to tap into works, even if you are a tiny fish.

Getting up close and personal

Relationships are key to success in business. No man is an island, but that doesn’t mean that all archipelagos are even. There are no short cuts to success, but there is little substitute for methodical research. You must know your product and understand why others will be interested in consuming it.

Once this is done, think about your favourite blogs and what makes them successful. You may be lucky and find that the perfect partner is already somebody you subscribe to and have a relationship with. If not, get to finding out who fits best and target them. You don’t want to have too many partners, but a few well-positioned bloggers with decent readership and kudos are going to help you out an awful lot.

Content Outreach and Relationship Building

An example of how you could reach out by email is shown here. This email style has been successful in establishing a relationship with a blogger. It comes out natural but most importantly, it comes out as personally as it can get.

Hello Jane,

My name is Denise Connors and I am a big fan of your blog ukstylishblogs.com because I also love everything about fashion and trends. I follow you in Facebook, Twitter (@janestyles) and Google+.

I love reading your Facebook posts about the latest style trends and retweeting your Twitter posts. I just recently read your blog “How to be Stylish Without Really Trying” and it definitely made me a fan. I see a lot of similarities with our tastes in fashion and couture.

I’d like to know if you accept contributions from fans of your blog. I am willing to contribute wholesome and creative content relating to fashion trends.

Regards,

Denise

Fashion Fanatic

www.MediaBuzzer.net

 

At the contact stage you need to sell without selling. Partnering up should seem like the most natural thing in the world for your outreach partner to be doing, but you also will need to incentivise things somewhat, either with samples, reciprocal marketing or advice. Take your time considering your approach. There is no universal piece of advice on this, but being polite and charming never hurt in any walk of life. After that, hopefully you’re good to go and both parties can thrive.

Remember, there are thousands of other companies like yours, having the same ideas as yours, doing the exact same processes as yours. Make yourself stand out by focussing on the essential element – the personal element.

Google removing author pictures from search: Your input?

Last week Google announced removing author pictures from search results while keeping the author name. Seeing author pictures within search results was a huge competitive advantage, so no wonder this step was criticized by many authors who were participating in Google Authorship feature.

From the good news: Participating is Authorship has been easier…

  • If previously you could never be sure if your author markup will make it to the SERPs, now all you need is to have your authorship correctly set-up (which may be a bad thing too as, let’s face it, it’s easier to have for anyone now)
  • If previously you could only have ONE authorship snippet per SERPs, now you’ll all of them (if several of your articles have been ranked, all of them will have your name)

I have been discussing this issue around the web and have collected some opinions. My Google Plus thread has lots of great insights, please check it out:


 

 I especially liked this one from Shelly Cihan:

I support the removal. Knowing what a person looks like should not impact whether or not you click on a result in the SERP. It accentuated an already too vain society.

[Hard to disagree: Having an advantage in SERPs because your headshot looks nice doesn't seem fair at all!]

I have also collected some opinions from MyBlogU below:

Our interviewees were answering the following questions:

Let’s see what they think:

Q. Do you believe Google has done that to optimize for mobile devices? Why not? :)

David FaltzA. David Faltz (Founder White Rabbit Marketing. Search Engine & Branding Optimization (SEBO) Marketer)

I do believe that mobile probably did play some part in their decision to remove author images, but that is not the whole story for sure. They have been toying with author images for while now, and they have not gotten people to conform as they wanted. With low adoption rates by what Google would consider “real authors,”  and more people using it as a marketing tactic to stand out from he crowd, Google decided “enough was enough!” 

Swayam DasA. Swayam Das (Social Media Marketer)

Umm.. I really don’t think so ! Google always has a reasonable logic working behind their each and every move. So I’ll just wait and see how things work out on the mobile space! Mobile searches results tend to be location oriented so I don’t see much of a movement without any Authorship pics.

Marc NashaatA. Marc Nashaat (Enterprise Marketing Consultant)

No, that’s not very likely. Google uses device detection to decide whether to serve up their mobile layout vs. desktop and they could just as easily style mobile to exclude authorship snippets. I don’t think it’s a matter of consistency as Google has been preaching the importance of different user experiences for mobile vs desktop for years now. 

Paul ShapiroA. Paul Shapiro (SEO Director at Catalyst)

I was a bit baffled at the decision to remove the author images from the SERP. I was a found believer that when Vic Gundotra left Google, it was not the end of Google+.

This change however, had me second guessing the future of the platform. Surely, the author images were a HUGE incentive for Google+ usage. Why in the world would they choose to remove one of it’s most significant features?

I have a number of theories beyond the typical answer of it helping pretify the SERP or creating a better mobile search experience:

  1. Maybe it was negatively affecting AdWords CTR.
  2. Google wants more eyes on knowledge graph.
  3. Now that x number of people are using authorship, they care less about incentivizing it’s use or perhaps it started to lead to spammy usage.
  4. It detracted from the CTR of the ranking algorithm. Shouldn’t position 1 get more clicks than position 2? What if it weren’t the case due to an author image?
  5. Google wants to push personalized searches even more and the inclusion of images in those searches actually detracted from this. People would click on personalized search results much too often compared to regular results. They want them to be “blind” to it, by making it visually more integrated.
  6. Google is making big changes to Google+ and how it is integrated with other Google products. There are more big changes coming! 

Dave RekucA. Dave Rekuc (Marketing Director)

Probably not, if it were a mobile only difference, Google would only roll the change out to mobile devices, they’re smart enough not to treat their entire search audience as one unit.  I think what’s happened is a feature with good intentions wound up driving results that didn’t actually favor a better search experience, plain and simple.  Mediocre articles with author mark-up caught the eye in search results and good sites that were ignoring the mark-up got passed up.

I’m sure there are 1,001 conspiracy theories that believe that Google rolled out such strong authorship mark-up in their SERPS to lure contributors to Google +.  Totally possible, completely unprovable.  Whether it did or didn’t I think it’s fair to assume that Google + is here to stay and that ignoring authorship mark-up, even after losing the author’s image, is a fool’s errand.  We know the web is getting more social and we know Google is paying attention now, it’s easy to implement, I can’t see why an author should ignore it.

Q. Do you believe @JohnMu that will not affect click-through? Why not? :)

David FaltzA. David Faltz (Founder White Rabbit Marketing. Search Engine & Branding Optimization (SEBO) Marketer)

Absolutely not! Google is always trying to convince us they are not the big bad corporation, whose interests are aligned with ours. Though I respect John Mueller, I do believe this is just PR. There has been all kinds of testing done by 3rd parties already, that already confirmed author images increase CTR. How could it not have?! It was a fantastic equalizer in terms putting less emphasis on where you ranked on any particular SERP. 

Swayam DasA. Swayam Das (Social Media Marketer)

I do not believe in the fact that CTRs won’t be affected. Primarily because if I place myself in the Searcher’s position I would definitely click on results that had images beside them. To my eyes they serve as a signal of being genuine,  someone that holds authority.  For example, if I search for “diet pills” and amongst the 10 results I see a doctor’s pic beside a site then I’ll definitely click on that ignoring others. The reason is for a normal user he/she won’t be knowing which is an authority site.

Marc NashaatA. Marc Nashaat (Enterprise Marketing Consultant)

Not particularly, putting aside the case studies, common sense tells us that a result with an image is going to stand out more than a plain text result. When things stand out, they get more attention. Pretty simple. I’m also curious what these observations were based on; whether they were SERPs where all (or most) listings had authorship images. If so, it’s possible that you wouldn’t see significantly higher CTR’s than on a SERP with all plain text listings. 

It’s hard to come up with alterior motives for Google on this front, maybe they’ve found that authorship detracts from ad clicks, but that’s just entirely speculation. 

Paul ShapiroA. Paul Shapiro (SEO Director at Catalyst)

The first thing I thought when I heard John Mueller say that the removal of author images in the SERP wouldn’t affect click-through rate was “Okay, that’s easy enough to test”. I doubted that Google would want to make a false claim about something that is so easily tested. Someone will release a study on this subject and we’ll know the truth soon enough.

Dave RekucA. Dave Rekuc (Marketing Director)

I don’t believe that even a little bit.  On a relatively clean search results page, you’re going to tell me that an author’s image doesn’t catch the eye?  In eye tracking studies, human faces come up all the time as one of the first places the eye goes.  We’re definitely going to see a drop in CTR on our articles.  Everyone is losing the article picture at the same time and that may soften the blow, but not every search result contained the mark-up and that’s where we lose our competitive advantage.

Q. Please share what you feel about that? Will you still care to verify your content after this change?

David FaltzA. David Faltz (Founder White Rabbit Marketing. Search Engine & Branding Optimization (SEBO) Marketer)

Setting up authorship is not really not complicated, and less so if you are working with Worpdress. There are plenty of plugins that make it even easier to implement. I would imagine it will affect adoption and participation rates moving forward. I think for the most part author verification has been a failed experiment that has mostly been used by internet marketers. Google knows that and wants to take away yet another edge from us ;) G+ make be next! lol

Anna FoxA. Anna Fox (Blogger)

Google seems to be still showing up pictures in personalized results: Which means you need to seriously work on your G+ following!

The big news for personalized (logged in to your Google account) search is that _author photos may still show for Google+ posts by people you have in your circles. (h/t to +Joshua Berg). Every other authorship result now looks just like those in the logged out search example.

Swayam DasA. Swayam Das (Social Media Marketer)

This move by Google kind of coincides with the recent Google+ update! Personally I was wondering if this move is directly signalling a cancellation of Google Authorship in the near future. If that is so then I won’t be verifying my content. Has Google just removed author pics from search results or the entire authorship program? Depends!

Marc NashaatA. Marc Nashaat (Enterprise Marketing Consultant)

I don’t agree with the change, but I’ve learned to adapt to the whims of Google. I will definitely still be using authorship markup. If you believe in the future of the knowledge graph, there’s no reason not to. At the very least you’re creating structured data for your content, and that’s never a bad thing. 

Paul ShapiroA. Paul Shapiro (SEO Director at Catalyst)

I’m going to continue to apply authorship to all of my writing. It still gives me a sense of ownership (especially within search) beyond a simple byline. I also think there are advantages beyond the author image. People can click to see other things I’ve written write within the SERP. It affects personalized search results (probably more important than author images honestly), and it open a world of future benefits in semantic search and the possibility of agent rank, should it ever be used beyond indepth articles (which is also a benefit).

My gut is telling me this isn’t the end of Google+, but rather one change of many to come in how Google will interacts with Google+ and how the Google+ team functions as an organization. Interesting times are ahead of us.

Dave RekucA. Dave Rekuc (Marketing Director)

I honestly think it’s crazy to consider not verifying your content just because the short-term benefit of the author’s image has disappeared.  Google has proven a commitment to making Google + work and to making it’s search results more personalized.  They’ve created a way to structure your contributions across the web and personally build an authority that transcends domains.  I think any content creator would still be foolish to ignore authorship at this point.

Now, what’s your input?

5 Useful Facts About StumbleUpon Traffic

StumbleUpon may have been around for awhile, but marketers have been mixed in their advice about using it. As far as social media tools go, it is much different than most. Rather than allowing for interaction, it is used as a discovery tool. You introduce people to your website through this randomizer, increasing the chances of your users finding you based on how many pages you have to share.

***Take part in the thread: Is SstumbleUpon any good for building traffic to my site?

They also have a paid advertising program. StumbleUpon Paid Discovery service links people directly to your pages without any clicks-through from ads. It is supposed to remove the most difficult step, as so many users are jaded about following real advertisements thanks to an increase in shady pop-ups and sidebar ads.

How StumbleUpon Paid Discovery Works

Using the Paid Discovery tool is simple enough. You sign up and then pay a rate per Stumble, so you are only paying for the people who see your link. There is a base pay, and then you add ala cart based on specifications.

For example, the base Stumble is $0.10 each. Adding things like location and age targeting are between $0.02 and $0.06 each, upping the price of each Stumble to as much as $0.35 a piece.

What you are ultimately paying for is traffic that comes directly from StumbleUpon. But is it worth it? Here are five facts about StumbleUpon traffic that you can use to decide if it is the right tool for your campaign.

  1. SU Is Still a Social Platform: Don’t make the mistake of assuming just because it is a traffic driver that StumbleUpon is just another marketing tool. It is still a social platform, and one that is increasing its user base by the month. People like a content driven social network, as it provides a unique formula that takes it out of the usual micro or connecting spheres (think Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn). It is more comfortable among the category of Pinterest and YouTube, as it is there to push traffic through content itself, and not engagement. While you have to change your tactics of interacting, you still have to look at it through the same lens. For example, sharing your own content is fine. But it is not likely to get you a large following on its own. Instead, you have to engage socially by sharing third party content relevant to the interests of your target demographic. This will ultimately increase the numbers of users who regularly return to your stumbles, and so your site.
  2. Mint Has 180,000 Unique Visits From SU Alone: In probably its most enticing case study, Mint is a primary success for StumbleUpon. The financial site itself stated that SU was the most effective and cost-efficient form of advertising they had used, including an unnamed social network (ahem, Facebook) they had used for PPC. That number isn’t in total, it is per month. They managed to both increase traffic on a consistent monthly basis that continues today, while increasing their user demographic to include the elusive 18: 25 women category they had wanted to more strongly influence into using their product.
  3. Only a Percentage Of Traffic Will Be Paid: Looking at the Mint example again, all of the primary traffic came from free campaigns. Only 44% came from Paid Discovery. An additional 20% came from shared Paid Stumbles, so when they said it was cost efficient, that was obviously very much the case. SU’s other case study, the Wisconsin Milk Board, saw an addition 60% traffic increase from Paid Stumbles. So while you use Paid Discovery to increase your traffic boosts, there is evidence to suggest a fair amount of what you see will come from free Stumbles.
  4. Good Content Provides Increasing Traffic Over Time: Nicholas Tart of Income Diary presented an interesting look into his own use of StumbleUpon. He said that he had submitted a single, high quality piece of content that was “content StumbleUpon users like”, and measured the results. Case studyOn that single piece of content, he got an astonishing 158,000 Stumbles over time. Most of this started to happen five months after it was initially submitted, which teaches an important lesson: timing is different for SU campaigns. Where with other social networks you would hope to see a quick increase in shares, and possible viral status once in a blue moon, SU is a more patient form of marketing. It has to be planted and allowed to grow. Be sure to check out Tart’s article for some interesting advice on improving your results. Here’s also a very actionable article on getting traffic from StumbleUpon (supported by my own case study).
  5. SU Might Be The Best Hidden Treasure On The Social Web: Check out this post by Shareaholic. In the beginning of 2014, SU saw a 30% increase in referrals. In fact, it saw the highest increase of all of the social networks, along with Facebook, Pinterest, and Google+. Sites like Twitter, Youtube, Reddit and LinkedIn saw a fall in referral rate. Granted, the numbers for SU could be because marketers started to really catch on to the platform’s potential in the last two quarters of 2013. But it doesn’t change the potential seen in those gains. StumbleUpon might be the best hidden treasure on the social web, and really worth a shot if you are failing to see the traffic or influence you hoped on more saturated, less content focused social networks,

Conclusion

Nowadays StumbleUpon may not be the most talked about social tool out there. But it is one of the most promising, and it is growing by the day. The statistics speak for themselves, and seeing the progress made by sites like Mint using it is nothing short of inspiring.

If you are looking for a traffic driver that will be based more on content than on links, you might want to try it out. Less focused on building through clicks-through, you can see how it might be more appealing to the average social user. Plus, the competition is less fierce, thanks to its status as being under the radar.

Have you used StumbleUpon for marketing? How did it go? Let us know in the comments!