Getting a better understanding of the influencers within your niche is a great way to find opportunities to get your content in front of them. I'm always looking for ways of getting my content organically picked up by influential bloggers, SEOs, social media marketers, etc - it's what gets my content out there without me having to tirelessly self-promote all the time (which isn't a sustainable option for the long-term).
To do this, I create profiles around my outreach targets. By this I mean that I get a deeper understanding of the content that they like, what they share on social media, which websites they regularly visit and who they are influenced by. Sounds good, right?
Step 1: Identifying Your Targets
The first stage is really to find out who you want to build a profile around. You may already know who the main influencers are within your industry, but if you dont then there's a bunch of tools that you can use to find out.
A new tool that I've started using recently (Note: it's still in beta stage) is called BuzzSumo. BuzzSumo is a pretty incredibly tool for finding influential people within a niche as well as really popular content. A simple search for 'SEO' within the influencer search gives us an array of different Twitter users that share/produce popular content related to SEO.
Another one of my favourite tools, Follwerwonk, can achieve similar kinds of results. To do this, just use the 'Search Twitter Bios' feature to search for keywords related to your niche and then sort the results by 'social authority'. There you should have a nice juicy list of influential users within your niche.
Step 2: Finding Out What Content They Like
An important part of profiling your outreach targets is to understand what websites they regularly read content on and the types of content they read.
You might be wondering how the hell you can find out what websites someone is visiting without having access to their computer - well, luckily for us, they tell us every single day. They tell us every time that they share an article on Twitter that they've enjoyed. Now it's just a case of gathering that information and organising it. Here's how...
First you'll need to navigate to another handy free tool that I use, AllMyTweets. This tool can be used to gather all of the tweets from any given Twitter user in a matter of seconds.
Now that I've got all of Bill's tweets, I'm going to extract all of the URLs that he has tweeted in the past. This gives me an overview of the articles that he has enjoyed, and more importantly, it lets me know the sites that he regularly visits to find content.
The way that you can quickly scrape all of the links from this page is through using the free Link Gopher plugin for Firefox. Once installed, you'll notice a little link in the bottom right of your browser (make sure you're using Firefox - doh!). Right-click the text saying 'Links' and select the option 'Extract all Links'. Once clicked, you should see something like this:
Now that we've got a long list of the links, simply copy & paste them into an Excel spreadsheet.
You'll notice that nearly all of the links will have been shortened with a link shortening service, such as bit.ly, t.co, goo.gl or ow.ly. This is where another one of those useful free tools comes in particularly useful - the SEO Tools Plugin for Excel.
If you haven't installed the SEO Tools plugin for Excel then take a quick trip to Niels Bosma's website and download it. Once installed, you can use the 'UnshortURL' function to revert all of the shortened URLs back to their original, full URLs.
[sws_blue_box box_size=""]NOTE: This can take a little while for Excel to unshorten your long list of URLs. My advice is to do get it running and make yourself a cup of tea and come back in 15 minutes or so. [/sws_blue_box]
Once all of your URLs are unshortened, it's time to strip out the domain names from the full URLs. This can be done with a simple Excel formula:
Replace 'A2' with the cell number that has your unshortened URL within it. Better yet, just watch this awesome video from the lovely, Annie Cushing:
This should now leave you with a list of all the domain names of the websites that have been tweeted by your outreach target:
Having reams of data is great, but it's not always easy to be able to identify findings from it when in its raw format. This is where some simple graphs come into play.
Just before we make any graphs, a quick Excel formula is needed to identify the number of times that any of the domains have been mentioned. This can be done with the COUNTIF function:
You can create a new column called 'Mention Frequency' and run the above formula across the list of domains in the column next to it.
Finally, within Excel, navigate to Data>Filter>Advanced and select the whole column that contains the list of domains (probably column C) and select 'Unique records only'. This will get rid of any domains repeated in the list and leave us with data in a format that can be easily placed into a graphical format.
Visualising the Information
This is where we can get some real value from the data that's been gathered.
All you need to do is simply sort your 'Mention Frequency' column from largest to smallest and then select the top 15-20 results (domain and mention frequency) and place this data into a bar chart.
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Step 3: Find Out Where the Influencer Writes
Now that we've found out where they regularly read content, it's time to find out where they actually publish new content.
First stop - their Google+ profile. One quick look at Dan Petrovic's 'contributor to' section gives us a quick indication of the places where he writes...
Another tactic that I use, which I explained in much greater detail in my post about finding guest post opportunities, is through running a reverse image search on their Google+ profile image URL.
This method will instantly show us a load of websites that our target has written in the past.
I now scrape this list of URLs using the free Chrome plugin, Scrape Similar, then add them into the Excel spreadsheet, labelled under 'Contributing Domains'.
Step 4: Identify Common Followers
It's now time to head back to Followerwonk and navigate to the 'Compare Users' tab.
This is an awesome feature that allows you to compare up to three different Twitter users to find commonalities in their followers/following. What I've done is compared Rand Fishkin, Bill Slawski and Dan Petrovic to find out anyone who they all follow.
The result was a list of 15 people:
These are particularly important Twitter users to me. Any of the tweets from these accounts have the potential to get right in front of my targets. With this in mind, it's a good idea to export this data from Followerwonk to a .csv file.
Within the .csv file it will list the URL on the bio of each of the Twitter users - this is usually their personal blog/website. This information can be used in the next step...
Step 5: Contact Information Gathering
It's time to now pool all of the data that's been gathered into one place. That place is BuzzStream (another one of my favourite tools).
The first thing that I upload into BuzzStream is the list of the top domains tweeted by each of the influencers. Make sure that you assign relevant tags here within BuzzStream to separate each of the type of website that's being uploaded (e.g. Bill's contributor websites, Rand's favourite websites, common followers website, etc.).
Let BuzzStream do its thing and you'll have a nice list of contacts, email address, social media URLs, etc from all of the sites that we've found from profiling the influencers.
On top of this, you can use LinkedIn to great effect for gathering contact information on your targets.
The way that I usually go about things is to find LinkedIn groups that my target is a member within and then join them. Once approved, spend a few days engaging, commenting within them, etc. After a few days you can request to connect with your target and mention the group as the commonalty; better yet, you can actually message members that you're in a common group with - win!
Step 6: Admire Your Data
After this process you should have an armoury of information on the types of website that can gain you exposure to your outreach targets. Getting your content regularly in front of these guys/girls will help expand your online reach and start opening other opportunities for traffic growth in the future.
I've found that just commenting once a day on a few of the sites that my targets regularly visit can gain enough exposure to make them aware of my content - it's then a case of following up.
- Get a deeper understanding of the influencers within your niche to identify was of building relationships with them.
- Find out where you targets regularly frequent by scraping the URLs from their tweets.
- Compare influencers within Followerwonk to find commonalities in who they follow.
- Use BuzzStream to gather extra contact information.
- Learn to use Excel like a boss.