It’s no secret that most professionals with experience in marketing can understand the value of outreach and inbound marketing. It not only controls a brand’s voice contextually but improves search engine optimization and, if done correctly, can result in some very targeted, high value referral traffic. Simply put, if you are not effectively using an inbound marketing approach you are losing a huge market share online and falling behind your savvy competitors.
With inbound marketing being such a powerful channel and practice, naturally there seems to be a never-ending supply of articles, how-tos and best practice manuals saturating Google and other forums today. It is pretty easy - as with many internet marketing related areas - to begin reading a blog post from an industry leader and within minutes feeling like you are ready to be the next Neil Patel.
As someone who reads hours and hours of strategy and believes in the free exchange of information I am grateful for the case studies and work published online. However, I also feel that it’s important to debunk or, if not so harshly put, call a spade a spade. With that said, it is important to publish from the perspective of an expert doing what the “experts” say to do.
Below are my findings on inbound marketing and as realistic as I can be about the process, expectations and reality it is like to be an inbound marketer.
The ‘oh-not-so-fast’ checklist
Assuming you can emulate Case Studies VerbatimI place this one highest on my list for realities of outreach because I am constantly applying strategies and realizing just how difficult they are in reality.
Take HARO for example. Chances are you have heard of this service as a great avenue to connect with hungry reporters just looking to embed your link on a high level publication. Not so fast. It actually is very over-saturated and in my opinion you will end up wasting much more time trying to connect with a reporter than you would if you have an inside connection or just begin blogger with lower tier websites and eventually work your way up the ladder.
I’ve personally spent over 6 months trying to use the platform for several very qualified startups and established clients to no avail. It’s just not that simple. This is just one real example I’ve found, but what I feel is important is to understand that great ideas or inbound hacks have a very short lifespan.
Thinking it happens overnightOften you will read case studies of sending out e-mail requests, and the SEO or author gets a valuable, niche guest post that propels traffic upward and results in sales. It does happen, of course this is why inbound is so valuable.
However, it doesn’t happen quickly and it isn’t an easy process. The author may not disclose the hours of researching blogs, keeping a spreadsheet of emails sent, the back-and-forth communication about topics, editing and optimizing the article and then follow up. Not to mention most authoritative bloggers have so many emails a day they will not even open your request if they do not recognize your e-mail.
You might be thinking ‘well, with some patience this is easy and not rocket science’. I would argue the fact that neither is cold calling. Cold calling doesn’t require a high level of intelligence, but at the same time most would agree it is highly draining. It’s daunting; you deal with more rejections than approvals and you have to be determined in your quest. Expect to work very hard and be sending out email after email just to have them float into abyss.
When you do secure contact with a webmaster it doesn’t guarantee that you can post. Oh, and finally it doesn’t secure that you will even be able to include a valuable do-follow link. Basically, prepare yourself for worst-case scenario. If you want to do inbound marketing it is a long, process where consistent daily action is required.
Misunderstanding the costs involvedAside from time (mentioned above) which is a valuable resource for any efficient business there are hard costs associated with outreach. This is something that always amazes me when reading case studies from the pros. They fail to mention that these days many bloggers require payment for a post.
Of course, there is no set standard and not all bloggers do but many of bloggers with high audiences will not post your content for free. They already have worked hard building their audience, why would they just give you the stage free? Some of the main hard costs I witness in my campaigns are: actual costs paid via PayPal to the blogger, costs to pay an experienced niche writer for the subject of interest, images purchased off stock imagery sites to support articles and of course time and employee salary for the hours involved.
If you are getting into outreach don’t expect to skip these costs by doing it all yourself, these are costs that aren’t going to get waived.
The ‘oh-yes-now-that-is-doable’ checklist
Brand mentionsMany times I ask myself why more brands don’t just simply go for brand mentions in their strategy. It’s smart to tie in an outside professional that already has existing connections and authorship or a network in place to get your brand out there.
This is a portion of outreach that is by all means better to be outsourced if your team doesn’t have these relationships. You will spend more time and effort trying to build these relationships than just hiring a team specializing in brand mentions. I am not saying to only use this strategy, what I am saying is have your dedicated in-house assistant fulfil write other content and manually outreach while getting some authoritative posts at a faster rate.
Eventually, you may not need this service but it is highly recommended and not mentioned very much in many of the strategies I read these days.
GiveawaysE-commerce websites need to understand the importance of product giveaways to influencers. These are a secret weapon and bread-and-butter for many e-commerce websites bringing in high sales. If you effectively contact influencers via outreach and coordinate a product review you not only drive the potential for quality inbound links but you have a very high rate of conversion of that referral traffic.
Influencers have clout with their audience and I’ve seen countless product reviews result in staggering sales. Giving away product always tends to encourage a more positive communication line with bloggers and although they are supposed to be non-biased usually if they do not approve or like the product they will give the option of just not writing the post.
It is a must for any business with product online and something that should be integrated with any sound inbound strategy.
Climbing the link ladder upwardsI’m talking about not overlooking the easier, already in front of your face authoritative links. You’d be surprised how many clients do not just ask for a link to their website from their existing distributors, suppliers, alliances, etc.
I had a client selling internet radios that had big distribution with I Heart Radio. It amazed me that they didn’t ask for an inclusion on the site in the list of partners section. Once we solidified that link recognizably within a month in a half authority signals went up and rankings followed.
Often businesses do not realize the importance of getting links to their sites especially if they have a very old management team or do not value online practices. Nonetheless, don’t forget to stress the importance and often time’s ease of attaining a qualified link upwards for your clients.
Final thoughtsInbound marketing is never a one size fits all. With a community of savvy technologies constantly pushing the envelope it is exciting to see what is relevant the next couple of years. I personally, believe the best strategy is one that is always testing and changing with technology.
Over the years I’ve read so many tactics it’s hard to remember all of them. I wanted to write a piece that I felt would have some hidden gems and also give new inbound marketers what elements to stress more vs which elements carry a bit more hype. What are your best inbound strategies for 2016?
This article was written by a guest blogger:
Sophorn Chhay is an Inbound Marketing Specialist at Trumpia SMS & Mobile Marketing, tasked with organizing Inbound Marketing activities that includes buyer persona research, content creation, lead nurturing setup, and executing the Inbound strategy.