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As content marketers, we’ve seen the depths of the internet. We’ve come across blogs with unimaginable themes like drinking cocktails with chickens (and loved them). And we’ve hurt our fingers scrolling through thousands of search results all to find people that might be interested in our content.

Though outreach will never be easy, these six tips will help you refine your queries and analyze your prospects to conduct more personable and meaningful outreach.

1. Check your prospect’s current content strategy

This may seem obvious — you may think that the blog’s name or the post that you land on will tell you if the blog’s relevant to what you’re pitching, but that’s not always the case. Checking the blog’s current content strategy goes beyond making sure that articles are up-to-date and aren’t primarily sponsored or affiliate posts. It’s about asking the question: Has the blogger’s content changed?

If you’re looking at a post from two years ago, is the blogger still creating content in that format? Are the themes that they talk about the same? If they’re a journalist, do they now focus on a different area?

When bloggers are starting their site, they often create roundup posts because these have a low barrier to entry. As they establish themselves and hone their strategy, they write more original content and share less outside content (or ask for money to share it).

We see this a lot with food/recipe sites. In early stages, they curate content and create recipe roundups. As they become more authoritative, they primarily post original recipes.

That extra click to the homepage (or author page for journalists) allows you to quickly see if they’re posting original content or outside content, and how their strategy has evolved.

2. Create a persona for who you’re pitching to

There are two ways that you can create a persona. The first helps you find tangentially related topics. The second gives you a clearer picture of the type of person you’re pitching to and what their interests are.

General persona

General personas help you think of tangential queries. That is, topics your prospect enjoys that would hint that they’re interested in the topic you’re pitching, without being too closely related to that topic. This helps you avoid prospects who have already shared the exact topic you’re promoting. To create a general persona ask yourself: If a blogger is interested in X (the topic you’re pitching), what else would they also be interested in sharing?

For example, if I’m promoting a post on how to make a cheese platter, my first instinct is to try queries around cheese like “types of cheese” and “cheese utensil uses.” However, that will restrict my audience and increase the likelihood that the blogger has already posted similar content.

If I figure out what related topics they might be interested in, I’ll be able to think of tangential queries like wine tasting parties, food pairing guides, antipasto platter ideas and cocktail party hosting tips. This broadens the prospecting pool from a specific food type to various non cheese-related topics.

Specific persona

If having a concrete persona to reference is more helpful, dig deeper to identify the hobbies and interests of the type of person you’re pitching.

One trick my colleague, Katie, uses is to create a list of blogs related to the topic she’s pitching and browse their social platforms. Twitter and Instagram reveal popular hashtags and hobbies that give further insight into the bloggers in the vertical that she’s prospecting.

You can use this information to create a specific persona, similar to a brand persona, that highlights hobbies, personality traits, and interests. My colleague, Emma, found that specific personas personalize your prospects and allow you to make deeper connections to them.

Here’s an example of a persona she created when pitching a DIY decor post:

Madeline is a woman in her early 30’s. She’s conscious about the environment, likes to be ahead of the trends and was reading about hygge two years ago. She lives by Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and has a fun, modern style. If you can’t find her, she’s probably at Anthropologie.

A persona like this will help you refine and tailor your pitch, because you really understand who you are reaching out to and what they’re passionate about.

3. Use timed searches

Timed searches help identify seasonal opportunities and life events like birthdays and anniversaries. For example, if you’re pitching content on anniversary date ideas, your thought process might look like this:

  1. It’s currently April. I want to find people who have anniversaries in May or June so I can share anniversary date ideas with them ahead of their anniversary.
  2. To find people talking about their anniversary, I should use first person searches like “our anniversary celebration” or “our wedding day.”
  3. To refine to people with upcoming anniversaries, I should create a timed search from April to June of last year (or other previous years).

With all this in mind, your search will look something like this:

Keep in mind niche holidays like World Kindness Day or National Reading Day, in addition to major holidays and life events.

4. Search terms that imply that blogger’s share outside content

Find the low hanging fruit first by targeting terms that imply that bloggers share outside content. Such as:

  • Ideas
  • Roundups
  • Infographics
  • Friday Favorites

There are two strategies we use when we find roundup posts. The first is to pitch our content as an addition to the post. We’ve found that bloggers tend to update the publish date on seasonal content and refresh it as the holiday gets closer, which is backed up by the stat that 55% of bloggers update articles. This is a low friction way to get links, especially if the post you’re pitching has high quality photography.

The second is to use the roundup to verify that they share outside content, and then pitch them tangentially related content. For example, if I’m pitching a post on bridesmaid duties and find a roundup of bridesmaid proposal ideas, I know that they curate wedding content and are likely to share. (Don’t forget to check if they still share outside content if the post is dated.)

5. Use Google search operators

To narrow down search results so that you’re not scrolling through thousands of unfitting prospects, use Google search operators.

Exact Match

Add quotations around a word or phrase to find results that contain exactly that term. This is helpful when searching for niche phrases like “Friday Favorites” or “Wedding Wednesday” or performing first person searches like “our wedding day.”

Inurl:

Inurl: searches help you find URLs with specific words in them. This search operator is helpful for finding both a certain industry and a certain type of content.

If the post you’re pitching works well on a specific type of blog, like a moving blog, a cleaning company blog, or a nanny blog you can easily find these sites by searching for URLs that contain terms associated with these industries.

For example, nannies might be interested in a post on Easter crafts. To find nanny blogs who have shared crafting posts in the past, you can search something like craft ideas inurl:nanny.

If you’re looking for a specific type of content that would likely be indicated in the URL (like a roundup) you can perform a search like Easter crafts inurl:roundup. The intitle: search helps you find titles with specific words in them, and also can be used to find specific types of content.

Minus (-)

Adding a minus sign before a word removes search results with that word in it. This is especially helpful if types of sites you would never reach out to appear in the SERP (-restaurants -menu) or if certain websites are dominating the search results (-Pinterest – Etsy).

6. Branch out from Google

Google is the ultimate tool for prospecting, especially if you don’t have access to expensive tools like Cision. However, platforms like Pinterest and Bloglovin’ use different algorithms to refine results and share more content from mid-tier bloggers, who often optimize their posts for these platforms over Google.

Both of these platforms show related tags for your query, which give you more ideas for prospecting and hint at what users (many of which are bloggers) are interested in.

Remember, you may not find fitting prospects in the first few pages of Google, but that doesn’t mean you should give up! Use these tips to refine your results and don’t be afraid to look on page three (or ten, or twelve…) for people who might be receptive to your content. If you do, you’ll be sure to find relevant prospects and see results!

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