4 steps to find quality blogs to pitch

The following item is cross-posted on Jackson Spalding‘s blog, JSThinkstand.com:

While leading a recent training session with the marketing team at Chick-fil-A, a client raised his hand and asked what seemed to be a very simple question: How do you find the best blogs?

It seemed simple until I tried to answer it. Well, uh, you search for them. Right?

While it’s not complicated, searching for blogs that are relevant to your business, hobbies, customers or trends requires more thought than that. Any business should think through the process like any other marketing tactic, especially with the intention of building relationships with specific bloggers.

Feeling that I shortchanged my answer in person, and hoping that others may benefit from a more thoughtful answer, I present The Best Way To Find The Best BlogsTM.

There are four simple steps.

Use a blog search engine.

Using a basic Google search can help you find a blog, but it will also generate about 3 million other results that may or may not be relevant. A search for blogs requires a special tool. While there are dozens of websites that claim to search for blogs, there are just three that I recommend:

I’ve seen consistently good results from all three search engines. Many sites that claim to be search engines for blogs are merely RSS scrapers that bring back anything that can be found on feeds, including lots of junk and articles that aren’t safe for work.

Each of the search engines recommended above use a unique algorithm to return relevant and ranked results.

Search like your customers.

Think about your core audience and imagine what terms they may search for today.

Sure, go ahead and search for your products and services, but don’t stop there. What else motivates your customers? What are they searching for when they aren’t eating a Spicy Chicken Sandwich?

You should search for your competitors by name and by product. You may want to search for terms that merely compete for time or mindspace with your customers. If you know that a portion of your fans also likes a non-competing product or service, search for those terms, too.

After repeating multiple searches, you’re likely to find some repetition or a few headlines that stand out from the rest of the pack.

These will guide you as you explore further.

Read the blog, read the About page.

At this point you may be overwhelmed with blogs. It’s time to pan for gold.

Despite the large number of results you’ve seen so far, you’re only looking for one or two blogs now. And quality counts.

Click through the search results to evaluate each site. Does the site make a good first impression? How is the writing? Does the blogger write about topics that interest your customers? Do readers respond in comments? Is there an active Facebook Page or Twitter Feed?

If you don’t like the site as a marketing professional, chances are your customers aren’t spending much time there.

You should beware of automated sites and keyword monsters. Some web publishers create sites to trick search engines for traffic. They will pull RSS feeds from other sites or write articles that read like gibberish. A string of related keywords may fool a robot but it won’t fool human readers.

If first impressions are good, go to the About page and read what the blogger has to say about themselves and their website.

Your goal is to find at least one site that you feel comfortable contacting.

Visit the Blogroll.

Once you’ve discovered that one shining example of a quality blog that may interest your readers, the rest is easy. Find the blogroll on the homepage or visit a page labeled Links. These are the sites that the blogger you’ve found cares enough about to share with his or her readers. There’s a good chance that you’ll find them useful, too.

After that, treat the blogger as you would any journalist. Give them a call and say how much you like their work. You can honestly say that you’ve been looking for a blog just like theirs.

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