Outreach: Is It All About Hustle?

November 1, 2011
By Michelle Lowery in Internet Marketing Conferences

All the things we produce are for naught if there’s nowhere to put them. Content on your own site only gets you so far. So how do you get your stuff out there on other people’s sites? Outreach. But there’s a right way and of course, a wrong way. Rob Ousbey tells us what’s worked for him, from the actual techniques to hiring the right people to do it.

We start immediately with a thought-provoking philosophy: Linkbuilding isn’t an activity; it’s the outcome of a variety of disciplines.

Good linkbuilding is the intersection between great concept & execution, and great outreach.

Priorities for outreach

  • build relationships
  • get coverage
  • acquire links

People are the key to a good outreach team.

You need hustle. But is it all you need? No. If it were, that’d be marvelous, but it’s not. When we’re looking for people to do outreach, there are a bunch of things we look at. Smart people who can get stuff done. Keep that in mind, and you can find people for any job role. If they’re just smart, they’re academics who want to have conversations. Then people who just get things done, but they’re like headless chickens.

Outreach people tend to have:

  • Creativity & Ingenuity
  • Internet Savvy & Fluency
  • Curiosity

There also has to be passion for your brand. Whether they’re on the phone or in email, the passion will come through. They can use that passion to be more effective.

There’s a great post on SEOmoz about what makes an effective link builder.

Team Building and Recruitment

Rob shared some techniques they use at Distilled when they’re interviewing people. [If you’re looking for a job, pay attention! Distilled is hiring! :-)]

  • Smart, GTD, Enthusiasm: conversation
  • GTD & Hustle: tell us about a time you got something done despite roadblocks
  • Hustle & Ingenuity: tell us about a time you tried something new and it failed
  • Curiosity & Ingenuity: tell them about a problem you’re having and see what they come up with
  • Curiosity: what have you learned lately?
  • Web fluency and Savvy: the “Internet Test;” give them a case study, ask them how they’d promote a piece of content, sit them down at a computer, ask them to do it.
  • Once you have those good people, what do you do with them?


    Remember what it is you’re trying to do. He repeats the list of priorities for outreach from before:

    • build relationships
    • get coverage
    • acquire links

    Identifying (Blogger) Targets

    Rob says let’s be honest. Most of the time we’re looking to place links, we’re looking for blogs to place them. There are hundreds of thousands of blogs out there, with thousands more created every day. GroupHigh posted about this recently; so did Distilled.

    Perform competitor analysis. If you’re trying to place an infographic, look at sites that published similar infographics. Contact people who linked to it, and build a list of people interested in your topic at the same time.

    Rob recommends you use Followerwonk. “It’s so good, it feels like cheating.”

    Combine niche Directories with processing/outsourcing. Find a directory, then outsource to find out which ones should be higher priority. A couple of examples of places for outreach are Alltop and Tumblr. Search them for your topics of interest, and you’ll find tons of options.
    Search: your-topic.alltop.com or

    Once you find those sites, you can ask for feedback, and find places to publish the infographic. This is one way to build relationships.

    Old school way of building relationships: pitch e-mails.

    A single step approach to outreach leads to getting what you want, or not. Usually, no one ends up happy here. This is like sending an e-mail that says, “Hey, I’m Rob. Do you want to have sex?” [His example, not mine!] It’s probably not going to work, and the people it does work on, you probably don’t want to be involved with.

    He says they were getting bad results until they cut their pitch down to two sentences. This made the barrier to entry so low. All the prospects had to do was respond and say tell me more.

    First Contact Strategy

    • Follow them on Twitter
    • Comment on their blog
    • Retweet something of theirs
    • Tweet at them
    • Comment again on their blog
    • Email them

    By the time you send the email, they know you and have spoken to you. You’re lowering the barrier to entry of the relationship. Create a spreadsheet to keep track of where you are in the process with people you want to target. Set goals.

    Overcoming Objections

    This is why sales people make amazing outreach people and link builders. Salespeople will hustle through any objections. A few objections will account for a massive proportion of the people you contact. In other words, most people use the same objections: don’t have time, don’t want to, too busy.

    Contacting Journalists

    This is a different category of people. They are pitched all the time. Contacting the News Desk can be reasonably successful – for news. Contacting the journalist is fine, but no one persuades them to write a story the first time. If you’re an expert, and personable, respectful, etc., you’ll be a useful contact for them to have.

    Priority: Stay on their radar (but don’t overdo it)

    If you build a relationship, keep their data. Buzzstream one way to do that. It’s like Salesforce for linkbuilders.

    Know your VIPs

    • Very invested/big fans of your brand
    • Knew you well when you contacted them
    • Might talk about your regularly on Twitter
    • Keep in touch with them
    • Flatter them
    • Give them things that will benefit your topic
    • Give them anything else you can think of (If they mention they’ve been tired, send them a Starbucks gift card.)

    Outreach Metrics

    [I think I must have zoned out for a couple of minutes here because my notes aren’t very detailed, so I’m going to give you what I have and hope it helps!]

    • Simplest measure you can use: Unique Linking Domains Acquired
    • derivative metrics: ULDs/hour
    • allows for work to be broken down by tactic
    • Classify links to give more detailed info about ROI
    • Create a matrix: With anchor text (guest posts); no anchor text (infographics)

    If you’re trying a lot of different tactics, you can see what’s working in the matrix, as well as what’s not working. You can also identify questions like, How can we get anchor text with infographics? Can we sacrifice anchor text to get on better sites?


    Rob recommends the following tools for outreach and linkbuilding:

    • Buzzstream
    • ToutApp
    • FollowerWonk
    • Linkstant (Rob built this free link alert tool—give it a try!)

    What Rob wants you to take away from this:

    • It’s about building relationships
    • Choose the right people to do your outreach
    • Consider how you can improve your first contact
    • Tabulate your objections
    • Stay on the radar of journatlists; be valuealbe resources
    • Know your ViPs
    • Figure out how you can improves things
    • Find ways to infect your team with hustle!

    And that’s it for me! Thank you to everyone who has retweeted and commented on all these liveblogging posts! I appreciate the support my first time out. It’s been a learning experience! Lisa is now threatening to retire. We’ll just see about that! ;-)

    Thank you to all the speakers for informative and entertaining presentations! (Special thank-you to Michael King for the Hammer dance!)

    And finally, a big thank you to Distilled for being such wonderful hosts, and putting on such a fantastic conference. I’ll say it again—if you ever have the chance to attend a Distilled event, do whatever it takes to get there. You will come away with a ton of information to take back with you, and put into action to do awesome things. You’ll also get to meet a lot of great people, like I did. See you guys at PubCon!


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