One of my favorite tips when I'm talking about bloggers is sending folks off to Technorati to do a topical search in an attempt to build a new pitch list. It's easy for marketers to focus in on finding the topical bloggers who focus on our vertical. Unfortunately, this can lead us down too narrow of a path and causes us to miss opportunities to expand our reach. That's why it's essential to look beyond the most common stops when building your pitch list.
When it comes time to build a pitch list, most people have a few sites in mind. Ones they already know are worth talking to because they've spent a little bit of time in the space. Once they get those first few sites listed however, they need to go out and do some research to find a few more.
For your average person, this means heading to Google.
First Stop: Google
Google is pretty much the granddaddy of all starting points when you're searching for anything online. Why should sites to add to your pitch list be any different?
Let's say you were trying to promote a new blues CD from an upcoming artist. A natural inclination would be to go out and run searches to for things like "blues blog."
In fact, here's what I get when I run that very search on Google:
If you go and visit any of those sites, it quickly becomes clear you've found the bloggers who spend the greatest majority of their time talking about the blues. In fact, if you visit some of the blogs on the list, you'll find they write almost exclusively about albums. This makes them prime fodder for any pitch list you want to put together to promote that new CD.
That's fine and dandy and it's a good start.
The problem is, too many people stop here.
You need to keep rolling...
Second Stop: Blog Rolls
One of the easiest ways to build out your pitch list once you've found a few blogs is to browse through their blog roll for additional sites. The people who blog about a topic tend to be pretty immersed in that community and they tend to gather their favorite sites into lists called blog rolls.
These lists tend to appear in the sidebar navigation and often feature a nice mix of popular and niche blogs.
The great thing about using this method is you can often find newer blogs that will soon build up strong audiences, but are still relatively unknown. Bloggers tend to pick up new blog URLs by watching commenters or running their own topical searches, so chances are, they're way more adept at finding good options than you will be.
Another benefit of working through a blog roll is the fact that you can reach the people who influence the blogger you are trying to influence. I wrote about this concept a few weeks back in my post on "Turning the Gears in the Viral Machine."
Spend some time reading the blog of the person you'd like to reach. Chances are, you'll notice a pattern in terms of smaller blogs they tend to link to or quote on a fairly regular basis. Then, focus on going after THAT blogger. Chances are, getting coverage from them will give you an even better shot at a pick-up than a direct pitch would have.
Because this type of indirect pitch uses the foundational principle of viral marketing to actually launch your viral marketing campaign. When a bigger blogger picks the story up from a trusted source, the story has credibility. When they pick it up from a smaller blogger, they still get the "ego" benefit of having been the first to share it with the masses. When they do the right thing and refer back to the original poster, they strengthen the relationship from both sides and make future interactions even more powerful.
Most companies that build pitch lists are going to do a pretty good job by working their way through the first and second stops listed above. You'll have a nice list of recognized and authoritative blogs you can make contacts with and that will reach your target audience. That's a good thing.
That said, there's a common problem with using this approach. The biggest one is that the sites you find using this method are the sites everyone else is finding using this method. That means there's a good chance you are competing against a lot of other companies when you try to get their attention. It also means you are limiting your outreach to the audience that is already most likely to find and buy your product on their own.
After all, a blogger who exclusively writes posts about blues albums has a pretty good shot of writing about the new album you are promoting, even if you don't end up pitching it to them. That's why I like to add a third level to any pitch, one that goes outside the super focused niche blogs and reaches a more diverse audience.
Third Stop: Related Searches
Sometimes, there's a strong benefit to pitching complimentary bloggers rather than topical bloggers. If you do your searching right and pick the right types of sites, you can end up getting some nice exposure to an audience that probably wouldn't have a shot at hearing about you otherwise. While the overall conversion rates and engagement rates from these types of pick ups is obviously going to be lower (because it's simply not as targeted), it can be a very nice way to test out some new audiences.
I saw this in action a year or so ago when I was contacted by a company that sells household products built from sustainable sources. They were fans of The Lactivist and had seen me write about organic foods and the rain barrels my husband had built for our back yard. They were looking to promote their new line of bamboo towels and blankets. Since bamboo is a renewable resource and I was writing to an audience that was interested in (but not dedicated to) renewable living, they asked if I'd like to review their product.
They sent a bamboo towel and a bamboo blanket my way and I loved them. I've written about them several times on the site and included them in my year end gift buying guide. Based on reader feedback, they did a nice job of reaching out to some new customers. They also caught my eye and my interest with their pitch because it wasn't another baby product or breast feeding product. Bloggers get a little bored reviewing the same stuff over and over...it's nice to change things up a bit.
So, continuing along our earlier theme of pitching a blues CD, you might head off to Twitter and run a search to see who is listening to the blues...
From there, you could easily run a quick scan to see which posters have a nicer following on Twitter.
You could also head off to a site like Technorati and run a similar search. For example, you could check to see who is blogging about Kingston Mines, the legendary Blues club on Halsted St. in Chicago.
The key here, is to look past the blogs that focus on your topic and to seek out influential bloggers that have overlap in interest. This way you are pitching something they and their audience will be interested in, but you won't be pitching something they or their audience is tired of.
Mix all three steps together and you'll find yourself landing coverage on a wide range of blogs that will give you a much better chance of reaching a vast audience and gathering some extended pickup.
Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.
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