11 steps to building an effective blogger outreach list

There’s no shortage of ‘homework’ required, but the payoff is significant.

There’s no shortage of ‘homework’ required, but the payoff is significant

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.

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

I work with a couple of great folks who put together blogger lists for me on occasion, but I’ve created a few myself. 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 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 winnow it.

2. Check the blogger’s Technorati authority ranking. You won’t find every blogger listed here, but it gives you a nice idea of where they stand in the bigger online picture. Although it may not be the perfect measure of influence, it’s something. 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 so, they’re probably more apt to share content than bloggers who aren’t. But do more than check whether they’re on Twitter. Dig 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 I include folks on a blogger list is their post frequency. If they haven’t posted in a month, that’s usually a red flag—though sometimes it’s just a hiccup. Most 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: 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. 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—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. 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, 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. (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, that’s a good indication he or she has built a solid community.

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 that I (a) care about helping others; (b) attend local digital events; and (c) mentor younger pros. 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. If you’re by chance a part of those groups, you can find out how often they engage/contribute, what they’re saying and whom they’re interacting with—all valuable content as you decide 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 see: (a) where the live online, (b) what blogs they’re commenting on, (c) 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?”)

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

Arik Hanson is principal of ACH Communications.

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