BrightonSEO 2017 Presentation Slides – How to Incentives Bloggers Without Buying Links

In case you haven’t heard, BrightonSEO is a one-day search marketing conference and series of training workshops held in Brighton. It takes place twice a year and brings together some of the best speakers in the world of search. BrightonSEO is a chance for SEOs to meet, learn and do their job a little better.

In 2017 we jumped at the opportunity to deliver a talk on ‘How to Incentives Bloggers Without Buying Links’ to thousands of delegates that swarm Brighton for the largest conference in the Search industry in Europe.

For those of you that didn’t get a chance to come along to BrightonSEO this year or you simply want to refresh yourself with the presentation, we’ve put together everything you need in this post. You can download the original slides, read a brief overview of the talk, and we’ll be uploading a YouTube video of the talk once it’s made available.

To everybody that had questions, please do not hesitate to tweet, email or connect with me on LinkedIn.

The presentation was delivered by Sam Charles and held on the main stage (auditorium 1) at Brighton Centre for BrightonSEO on April 7th 2017 in the ‘Link Building’ session at 16:10pm, shortly after Alexandra Lever’s talk on how partnerships and sponsorships can help your search marketing efforts.


How to Incentive Bloggers Without Buying Links. April 7th 2017, Brighton Centre  at BrightonsEO

The presentation  focuses on how to forge relationships with influencers, and how to build links without spending a penny. It’s packed with actionable takeaways for developing a killer link building strategy.

Duration: 20 minutes
Session: Link Building
Category: Speciaist, Hands-on
Moderator: Kelvin Newman

YouTube video coming soon!

Download BrightonSEO 2017 Presentation Slides – How to Incentives Bloggers Without Buying Links


We’ve been told over and over again, that if we create great content people will naturally link to us. I don’t know about you, but this seems like an awfully slow way to build the amount of links I want to secure for my clients.

I’m not going to go into too much detail about my professional career today, instead I’m going to speak to you about my experience from a bloggers perspective.

In a nutshell, I’ve been working within the digital industry (specifically organic search and content) for the past 6 years. Working both in-house and in agencies, I’ve been involved in over 100 B2B and B2C campaigns, from Fortune 500 brands to startup companies. Last year I took the plunge and quit my job to start my own business, Float Digital, with the goal to educate small business owners and make SEO accessible to everybody, regardless of budget constraints.

One day I’m working on an outreach campaign for a technology campaign when I was in a junior link building position many moons ago. It was a giant campaign for an enterprise company, and the majority of the activity on the account was securing product reviews with bloggers. You know the drill, you send a product in exchange for a review (bear in mind this was a good 4 years ago now!).

At the time I was working on tablet campaign, so I was sending out dozen of iPads on a weekly basis to all types of bloggers. I opened up my inbox and found a message from one DA20ish website that said: “I receive 50+ emails a day like this, therefore I charge a fee of £200 per post plus the iPad.” Firstly, I thought she was cheeky. Secondly, I didn’t believe she received more than 50 similar emails a day. Thirdly, how can I be on the other side of this exchange?

In 2013 I launched my very own blog so that I could flex my creative muscle, learn how to use Google Analytics a little better, develop my SEO skills and make some some money on the side. This isn’t anything new though, we know that the amount of blogs have sky-rocketed in recent years, and everybody want to be the next Zoella.

Mission accomplished. Over the past three years I’ve done more than made a bit of money on the side. I’ve been on a private sailing on the largest ship in the world, I’ve been on photoshoots with famous interior designers, and cooked for by celebrity chefs. Not to mention, the blog has been paying my mortgage for the past two years. What’s my point here? I’m a greedy blogger and even I have been convinced into giving away free links, and here’s why…

The blogger was right – you really do get flooded with outreach emails every day. Reading other brands and agencies outreach templates was so interesting and gave me an insight to hundreds of companies across the globe. There were some examples of awful outreach but there were also some really great ones that worked. I started to notice that my inbox was packed full of brilliant outreach examples and creative campaign ideas from competitors.

So today I’m going to share to you, those emails that made to dish out free links, thanks to good outreach:

#1. Source bloggers with press pages and create content about them on your blog.

I’ve used this strategy so many times – it’s really one of my favourites. It’s really simple and I’ll talk you through how you can do this yourself when you get home. All the instructions for this piece are available on my blog, and I’ll be sharing a link to the post at the end of this presentation.

In this case I will use lifestyle bloggers as an example.

  1. Head to Google and type “intitle:lifestyle blog inurl:press”. You’ll be presented with a list of lifestyle bloggers that have press pages. You can search any type of blog, depending on your campaign target.
  2. Open the results that look relevant and then see how they’ve link to existing press in the past.
  3. Outreach to these bloggers and ask if they’d be interested in taking part in an interview. If they’re happy to go ahead you just need to send across 10 – 15 questions and they’ll write your content for you.
  4. Once they’ve responded with their answers and you’ve published the content on your website, they’ll link to your website within their press page and share it with all their followers.

This is when I learnt that ‘building relationships with bloggers’ had nothing to do with saying you enjoyed an article on their website. I’ve forged some really strong bonds with bloggers through interviews and they’re usually open to discussing more links in the future. Quality (free) content, extra shares and a free link in a couple of easy steps.

#2. Outreach as usual but incentivise bloggers with extra content instead of money.

After money, what’s the next most important thing? Time. I’ve always got this imbalance of either not having enough time or not having enough money. Luckily I’m getting to the point where I’m kind of nailing it, but there are still days I’d wish my content would just write itself. This came about when I knew I wanted to write a piece of content about HMRC for bloggers because after competitor analysis I knew it would be popular with search engines and users.

To be quite frank, although it’s something that people want to read, it’s a pretty dry subject. I kept putting it off and avoided writing a long article for my website because something more important always came up.

I was approached by a rug company that said if I posted a piece of content about choosing a rug for your home, then they would write any unrelated article that I wanted for my blog. They wrote a 1,300 word post for my blog which now appears on page 1 of Google for multiple relevant terms, and drive quality traffic to my website. Win win.

#3. Offer advice or resources and support bloggers to improve their website.

This is a similar idea to the previous concept. You don’t need to be a writer to jump onto this idea. Whether you’re an SEO Consultant, a Graphic Designer or a Web Developer – you’ve probably got some skills or knowledge that you can trade for a link. Take it from me, bloggers are always doing whatever they can to make their blog look more professional and drive more traffic – so have a think about what you have to offer to negotiate with.

For example, if you’re a social media guru, offer a 20 minute consultancy session on how they can grow their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter following. I know I’d be interested to hear a Social Media Manager’s two cents on how I can improve my reach on social.

#4. Create an ego bait infographic of 30 of the best bloggers and share it with them.

I have perhaps some shocking news for the SEO industry. Please accept this as a formal notice from the blogging industry, that nobody wants to host infographics; they’re usually ugly, generic and *surprisingly* readers don’t engage with them. I’ve not sure why I receive so many of these still or why anybody would thing they’re a good idea.

I extend my apologies to anybody that has had success with them in the past, but from my perspective I don’t like to post them because they are never personal, they look spammy and almost never suit the style or the rest of the imagery that is on my blog. For me, and all the other bloggers I’ve spoken to, these are a big no-no.

However, there is one exception that I’ve seen, and although it was still ugly, it worked. I received an infographic that I was featured in, as being one of the top beauty bloggers. This tickled my ego, was completely relevant as I was actually in the infographic and they provided a little bit of content, so I ended up sharing it. To protect their identity I’ve not included a picture of the infographic as I feel like this is a bit of a backhanded compliment.

Overall though, it’s a really great idea and would work even better if more personality could have been put into the post by including little illustrations of the bloggers. Of course, creating this content isn’t strictly free if you don’t have in-house designers but if you log onto Fiverr or People Per Hour then you can get an infographic really cheap and still place the link completely free to a bunch of popular bloggers.

#5. Promote blogger’s content on brand social channels or company newsletters.

This is a great idea although unfortunately something usually goes wrong and these collaborations often fall through.

I’ve been approached multiple times with this strategy in the past, and I love the concept of sharing bloggers content on social media or through newsletter. The brand get the link and content they want c/o of the blogger, and the blogger gets a rush of traffic to their website and potentially gain new readers. Another win, win situation.

One thing I will say is, please don’t offer this if the account you are willing to promote it on has less followers than the blogger has. This is one of the reasons I don’t usually go ahead with these campaigns – it can be pretty insulting when somebody offers you this but you have more than 10 times the amount of followers they do!

Also, if you agree to promote the content through a newsletter or social media channel(s) then keep your promise – don’t go silent once the content is published. This happened recently and it was incredibly frustrating as I’d put a lot of time into the content and trusted that the brand would keep up their end of the deal. I simply removed the brands name and any links to their website, but I know other bloggers wouldn’t be so kind and would ‘name and shame’ on social media – so be warned, don’t mess with bloggers!

Blogger outreach tips

I’m going to briefly share some outreach tips, from the blogging community. I notice these coming up time and time again in my inbox, so I feel like they need to be addressed to save everybody time for smoother, successful outreach:

  • Never pretend to be somebody you’re not: This is my biggest pet hate. You wouldn’t believe how many e-mails I receive where people claim to be a ‘mummy blogger’ or ‘freelance writer’ looking to build their portfolio. We know it’s bullshit, and if you’re hoping we don’t notice, we definitely will when we receive the article.This strategy might have worked years ago but if I receive something like this now, I find it incredibly offensive and automatically have a negative image of the brand. I actually know of cases where people have maintained social media and WordPress personas to trick bloggers into thinking they aren’t who they say they are. It’s really not okay.
  • Don’t be afraid to tell us what you want: This is a tricky one, because there is a fine-line between being blunt and not wasting somebodies time. I’m not saying open with ‘we want a link’, but too often I receive emails that talk about a brand or a campaign, but don’t actually ask for anything and as a result, I don’t know what they want. Perhaps this stems from not wanting to appear to blunt and trying to build relationships… Be upfront about what you’re expecting out of the collaboration, we aren’t mind readings.
  • Keep emails short and to the point: The other day I literally received a 3,000 word email. We don’t know when the company was founded, who the chairman are and where the products are made. Keep your email concise and to the point. We really do have a lot of emails to work through, so the quicker we can respond, the more likely we will!

What we’ve learned today

  • Target bloggers with press pages – really quick and easy way, and they’ll create that content for you and share it.
  • Incentivise with content instead of money. – you are saving peoples time, and time is so important. this applies to the next step as well.
  • Offer website support to a blogger. you can save people time or offer services to important their blog, these are equally valuable things to money.
  • Create ego-bait infographics to share with bloggers – make it pretty though, people don’t produce ugly content
  • Play nice when it comes to outreach. – Follow these simple rules and you’ll probably be on the right side on whoever you outreach to.

The end 

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