Want to know why most blogs never really take off?
I discovered the answer when I reviewed about 100 readers’ blogs earlier this week on a free-feedback day.
What’s the big stumbling block? Most bloggers are writing all alone.
No mentors. No collaborators. They’re not guest posting, and there are no guest posts on their blog.
They’re blogging in a vacuum. That means you don’t know the best practices, the trends, the sweet little design tricks and shortcuts that help you get more subscribers.
Don’t blog alone
Loads of bloggers are trying to connect with big influencers — but few do it successfully.
Recently, I got three spectacularly great reach-outs from bloggers that really stood out from the constant stream of inept connection attempts prominent bloggers are subject to every day. (And in the world of ‘popular’ bloggers, I’m like the tiniest microcelebrity ever! I can’t even imagine how much junk the giants get hit with.)
Let’s view those examples, so you can see how to succeed at this:
Blogger outreach done right
First, you want to do something nice for the person, and just give them a chance to get to know you. There are many classic ways to do this — comment on their blog, share their stuff in social media, connect over your hobbies.
Here are three approaches that get a bit more creative:
1. Create a tribute
Now that’s a social media marketing strategy that works. What a touching tribute!
Even better, Idellah has yet to ask me for anything. She didn’t even tell me she had done it — I found it myself, poking around Pinterest.
If she did ask, I’d certainly be interested to help her out.
She’s built rapport before she needs anything. That’s key.
2. Cite and promote them — without a request
Every day, bloggers get emails bearing the news that a small blog has mentioned them and given them a link. We haven’t talked beforehand or anything — this is the first I’m hearing of it.
These always end with:
“Please share it in social media and post about it on your blog.”
Well, I might, if I think it’s interesting…but it’s annoying to constantly be nagged and told what to do with this information. Which is why this email from Andrew Wise at WiseStartupBlog was so refreshing:
When I took a look, it turned out he had made my About page on this blog his #1 example of how to do an About page right.
Now it can be told: Popular bloggers are susceptible to flattery.
I was charmed and helped him, even though you’ll note that he accidentally put his OWN name in the salutation instead of mine!
He could do not wrong — because he wasn’t asking me for anything. Just letting me know he featured me on his blog, in case I want to see my mention.
I was so impressed, I shared it on Twitter (even though his site didn’t have a Twitter button, which usually makes me give up):
This strategy is so simple, and just one tweak away from what many bloggers do. Simply omit the ‘ask,’ and you’re set.
3. Start a Mutual Admiration Society
I was fascinated to get this email recently — talk about a breath of fresh air:
Chris Enns: Just wanted to write and say that I really love your site. I’m not a writer (gasp), but I’m an artist (opera singer… double gasp), and I love sites like yours that give artists the tools they need to earn more, and earn better.
I write my own blog specifically about the personal finance challenges that artists and storytellers face making a go at life as freelancers (.
I just wanted to connect and share my admiration.
Have a wonderful December how ever you choose to spend it!
This note, which simply gave me some positive feedback and noted what we had in common, led me to check out his blog, RagstoReasonable. There, I discovered he has some great resources for any creative type trying to make a living, including writers.
I thought he’d make a great guest on my Freelance Writers Den podcast — so I invited him. He was recently part of a session we did about cash flow for freelancers, and had an opportunity to offer a “Den deal” discount to our members on one of his products.
Blogger outreach done wrong
I wish I could say that most bloggers are creating the types of friendly, non-salesy blogger outreach messages that you’ve just seen above.
But unfortunately, these three examples stand out in a sea of annoying blogger outreach.
I thought I had already run down all the ways you can bungle this, but recent emails made me want to share more instructive examples of what not to do. All I can say is, bloggers — you can do better than this!
1. Publish untruths, and ask for shares
I often get emails notifying me that I’ve been included in a roundup of top freelance writing sites, would I please share and post about it… and it’s the first I’ve heard that would happen. The blogger never talked to me.
When I go to the site to check it out, what’s being said about me isn’t even accurate. Here’s a recent bio I found, with my corrections in parens:
Carol Tice is a full-time freelance writer who teaches on the side.’ (True until about 2014, but not now.)
Carol Tice began her blog to give back to the profession that has paid her bills since 2005 (the early ‘90s, actually), and her 12k (17,000) subscribers prove she is doing something right.
Her passion? To leave a legacy behind by creating work that does more than just take up space on a screen or paper. (Actually, my passion is to help freelance writers earn more, and my legacy is my 3 kids.)
Though Carol does offer advice on how to write, she makes her living from freelance writing (Not true since 2012 or so. Though I do still freelance for a few select clients including recently Intuit and Freshbooks, the bulk of my income now comes from my blog-based businesses).
This experience gives her that extra finger-on-the-pulse authenticity that her audience appreciates. It also makes for advice that is both current and tried, so you can expect results when you follow it. (OK, finally, something that’s true.)
Moral: Check your facts! Bloggers’ About pages are not always completely up-to-date. Don’t make assumptions, either — most of what this blogger wrote is not even lifted from my site. Not sure where it came from.
2. Ask an overly broad question
Another recent favorite is to ask me a question that would need a book-length answer, such as:
Q1 – What’s the future of content marketing according to you?
Big tip: Think sound bites. That sounds like a topic that could make for a best-selling business book…but what can I answer for you in a few sentences? Most roundups only give you that much space, anyway, so don’t ask for something you’d just have to edit way down.
3. Have an elaborate process
When you reach out to a super-busy, popular blogger you don’t personally know, let them shoot you a quickly reply and be done. Don’t do this:
I just wanted to personally invite you to participate in an expert roundup post I am putting together for new(er) freelancers.
Could you spare a moment to respond by completing a short Google form?
>> [link to Google form]
(It’ll take less than 10 minutes… probably 7-8… I swear!)
On this short Google form, I’ll be asking you two questions:
What is your best source of new business?
What’s best tip for setting your prices?
I get that using a Google form makes it easy for you to compile this post. But you’ll get more responses by making it easy for your subjects. If you’re just asking two quick questions (one is better), don’t make me go visit a website and fill out a form.
4. Use a stranger to make a paid product
Continuing on with the same request as above, it gets cheekier as it goes:
The second question will be included in an upgrade to a premium roundup post (PDF) for $9.
While answering the second question isn’t mandatory, you’ll have the option to obtain an affiliate link to promote the expert roundup post… and purchases made to unlock the upgrade through your affiliate link will earn you a 75% commission.
(Pretty easy sale.)
Sending a cold email asking to partner on a paid product that you will profit from…that’s just sleazy. Don’t. Go. There.
The affiliate offer does not make this right.
5. Give a short deadline
The final nail in the coffin of any small blogger’s attempt to get help from a popular blogger comes when you give them no time to get back to you.
Big bloggers are busy in a way that other people probably can’t imagine — like, too busy to pee or wash our hair. Forgot-to-eat-lunch busy. So don’t say this:
If all goes according to plan, I’ll be publishing this expert roundup post on X date — so I’ll need your answer(s) on or before (2 days from now).
Would you walk up to a total stranger, in person, and say, “Hi there — would you do something for me? And please — hurry it up?”
No, you wouldn’t. So don’t do it online! There’s a real person behind those pixels, and if you’re just needy, needy, needy in your first interaction, you’re not going to form a relationship.
Instead, be giving. Get creative. Connect now, not when you want something. You’ll find yourself growing a network of high-powered people who can send your blog traffic and guide you to make your blog better.
Have you reached out to a top blogger? Comment and talk about your approach.