The Long Tail
Last week, I wrote about how to succeed with B-list bloggers, but maybe some of you aren’t convinced. So, this week, I want to draw an analogy to successful Google AdWords approaches so that you can see how to apply that same technique to blogger outreach. When it comes to reaching out to bloggers online, there’s a lot you can learn from Google AdWords. Long-tail blogger outreach is like long-tail Google AdWords advertising. Instead of putting all your money on the top 10 most expensive and popular keywords that everyone bids on, smart advertisers segment their markets and hyper-target their highest-performing keywords with their most compelling ads and content while always pruning away their worst performers.
The same should be done with blogger outreach. There will always be blogs that are out of your league and your target audience. Instead of hitting your head against the wall by trying to make it onto TechCrunch and Mashable, learn to segment your blogger list, target more precisely while expanding your pool of bloggers past the top most blogs that tend also to be the most exclusive and difficult to break into — out of your league — to blogs and bloggers who are just starting out, who blog more from passion than ad revenue, and who are naturally more receptive to your content and your message based on a natural affinity.
Affiliate marketers have learned that they can reliably make money by spending money on Google AdWords by finding keyword phrases with such low bids that they can make money from the relatively small commissions or bounty they get from converting the click throughs to sales. Millions in yearly profits cent by cent, dollar by dollar. A cascade of small sales made by people who were so well targeted to that they were almost powerless to resist.
The same thing can be done with blogger outreach. If you’re able to find yourself thousands of bloggers who have yet to be discovered by your all your competitors, you’ll be able to secure hundreds of earned media mentions. In concert, hundreds of earned media mentions both drown out a single post on TechCrunch and also do a better job or finding what you really want: sales.
All the most successful AdWords gurus, such as Adam Viener of imwave, realize that you can only make money in affiliate marketing with Google AdWords if you can make more money from your converted sales than you spend. You can’t do this unless you find the magic sweet spot where there aren’t many competing bidders who are bidding up the price of your keyword phrases so that you can both keep your spending low and also increase the likelihood that those who do stumble upon your ad will not only click through, costing you money, but also make a trackable major purchase, resulting in a commission–in commissions–that cover the costs of the ads and then some. This is not easy and the field fluctuates.
It takes expertise and vigilance, Adam tells me, and a mistake can be costly. One possibly apocryphal story reported that there was a very profitable keyword phrase that suddenly also became popular and the bids shot up without someone noticing, resulting in the equivalent of a Range Rover being lost in one day. Because of such high risks tantamount to the stock market, these folks are very good at discovering and milking the long tail, realizing that making a little bit here and there spread concurrently over hundreds and thousands of ads and keywords is more profitable, long term, than making a single big score.
If you’re loaded with cash and don’t really care about extracting value from your campaign, you can spend all your money on trying to get your ad copy at the top of every Google Search just to see it there but being constantly outbid by others, ultimately clearing out your budget or maxing your credit card; the same can be said with regards to blogger outreach: you can spend all your budgeted time and money pursuing the top bloggers while constantly being blocked by content from bigger, sexier, richer, more impressive national and global brands that have exclusive content and truckloads of valuable review products, better assets, and a promise of more and better traffic resulting in higher advertising revenue.
The most obvious thing you can learn is how easily it is to get outbid. Another thing you’ll learn is that AdWords can rapidly burn all your cash with nothing to show for it. Finally, you’ll learn that Google doesn’t wage a fair fight — they both play favorites as well as giving preference to quality of ad over quantity of bid.
What this means in Google AdWords ads is that you’re rewarded for the following: 1) Having lots of cash: a fool and his money are soon parted 2) Finding new markets: Being willing to hunt out holes in the market — keyword combinations that are not so obvious but are hyper-targeted to appeal to a new segment of visitors, bringing new opportunities for Google to make money 3) Creating an irresistible ad: no matter how much money you’re willing to spend, Google doesn’t make money unless visitors are compelled to click through 4) Becoming a long-term client: there are many cases where no amount or money and wit will claim you the top ad position on Google search, inline with organic search, because that spot almost always goes to the client who has made Google the most money, historically, over time.
These lessons map perfectly to blogger outreach.
The blogosphere rewards specialization and laser-targeting
The most desired, desirable, and “easy” keywords are like the top bloggers with the highest Alltop rankings and Klout scores are constantly being pursued. How realistic are you that you can even compete with all the others vying for their time and copy? If you’re Dell or Sony, you probably have the sort of brand recognition and respect to be able to get a blogger to schedule time to review your new gizmo pretty thoroughly. You’ll probably also have the sort of marketing budget that would allow you to offer a review product to everyone you engage.
You’ll probably have a graphic design department and a staff of copywriters who can develop an amusing and compelling pitch which could include press junkets and personal meet and greets. Finally, a company like Dell is able to commit the long-term time, staff, and expense account towards making sure their communications team developed and professional as well as personal relationship with as many online influencers and online journalists over time — to use Google AdWords parlance, they have learned how to appeal to Google on all levels.
How many levels are you able to compete on? If you’re unable to compete on any of these levels, you’ll go bankrupt trying. It’s not that A-List tech bloggers are corrupt, it’s just that they’re under pressure as well. They have only 24-hours/day and they’re heavily rewarded with traffic when they’re able to get exclusive content from a national player such as Dell. In the same way that Google AdWords rewards its clients for trying harder and digging deeper into the “long tail” in order to find new, under-served, markets, the blogosphere also rewards specialization and laser-targeting.
In a perfect world, one should only spend one’s AdWords budget on keywords phrases that display ads only to people who will convert into clients and customers. The better one knows one’s market and customer and the more time one spends finding out who and where they are and engaging them there, the more value you can extract from your sweat and cash.
Let’s say you’re preparing to launch your new book online and you want to use bloggers as an essential distribution channel, both great ideas. However, let’s think this through. Are you internationally famous crime fiction writer James Ellroy or are you an unknown first-time, self-published, crime fiction-writer? Do you have a huge war chest to fuel your promotional campaign or are you running on sweat equity? Do you have thousands of friends online who are already committed to buying your book because you have been developing your popularity online by sharing chapters and answering questions and giving free advice or have you been busily scribbling your work on yellow pads and consider your work protected by strict copyright and not something to dilute by giving it away?
Novice Google AdWords users waste a lot of money with limited results when they start out because they don’t understand how the competition works in contextual ad-buying: It’s an auction. A complicated auction.
In short, the way it works is that every keyword combination, such as “social media marketing,” competes with four things: the general popularity of the search, the quality of the keyword ad, the long-term success of the campaign, and how much money others are willing to bid for their ad based on their keyword choice, also dependent on their prior successes, ad spends, and long-term commitment. In shorter, while how much you’re willing to bid for a keyword phrase is important, it isn’t that simple.
With blogger outreach, you face the same odds as for paid search. If you are targeting only the top blogs, you’ll face immense competition and can easily be outgunned by bigger foes. If you target the long tail of bloggers, you can more easily land your targets and will build up success one blog at a time, rather than in one fell swoop.Chris Abraham is a partner in Socialmedia.biz. Contact Chris via email, follow him on Twitter and Google Plus or leave a comment below.